At the beginning of the year, I sent out the 2018 Fencing Survey to all of our current members at the time. We’ve grown a lot since then and I would encourage anyone who hasn’t, to take it. But in that original set of surveys, I found a very interesting trend.
Of the 34 submitted surveys, 23 indicated that the Cloak was one of their least favorite sides. Apparently, we have a near universal hatred, or at least a dislike, of the cloak within our group.
There has always been a lack of people specializing in defensive sides, but cloak is the least used and most misunderstood side we have. My hope is to shed some light on the Cloak that may inspire you to pick one up and begin using it more regularly in your fighting. Check out the dedicated Novice lesson if you want to learn more about the Basics of Cloak.
Cloaks are Distracting
The very first thing I want to point out is that Cloaks are distracting. In a good way. The beauty of the cloak is that it draws the attention of your opponent away from where it should be: your sword. Whether your fanning the cloak or just holding it in place, your opponent’s eyes will naturally be drawn to it. They may even try stabbing your hand to get rid of the cloak when they could be trying to stab you and win the fight altogether.
Fanning the cloak is where this is most evident. As soon as you start fanning the cloak, watch your opponent’s eyes. Almost without fail, they will begin to track the motion and time their attack with the opening of the cloak. This is a beautiful thing for you because you can now see exactly when they intend to strike and can prepare for it. If you want to be more offensive, try striking them while they are timing the motion of your cloak. They will be so focused on the cloak they may forget about your sword long enough for you to land a strike. If nothing else, you’ll catch them by surprise.
However you use the cloak, try to distract your opponent from where they should be focused.
Cloaks are Unfamiliar
As sad as it is that few people utilize the cloak, it does provide an interesting advantage. Cloaks remain an unfamiliar challenge to many fencers just because they don’t face it very often. This allows a certain element of surprise or confusion against your opponent. Use that to your benefit.
Many fencers will be wary of a well controlled cloak and will give you plenty of time and space to set up how you want. It can discourage Chargers from getting too close or Blockers from staying in one place for too long. It can also hide your intentions long enough for a Runner to wander too close.
I would encourage anyone to take advantage of the opportunity to learn the cloak before everyone else. Being the first to master cloak will give you an uncommon edge while everyone else is learning the same things.
Cloaks are Versatile
In my opinion, when you pick up a Deathstick or a Buckler you can kind of assume how to use it in a fight. They’re defensive uses are implied with what they are. Not with a cloak. When you pick up a cloak you have a world of possibilities.
You can use it offensively to bat your opponent’s weapons and force them to keep their distance. You can be defensive and let their sword get tangled and trapped within the folds. You can fan it, twirl it, flick it, drape it, wrap it, or use it to conceal your weapon and intentions. I’ve wrapped it around my forearm and used it to defend myself against draw cuts. It can confuse your opponent’s sense of range and their ability to aim properly. All of those and more are available when you pick up the cloak.
When you pick up a cloak, don’t hesitate to try new things. Force yourself to think outside of the box and how you could use a simple piece of cloth to defeat your opponent with a sword. Either way, we should change our universal hatred of the cloak into the drive to understand this misunderstood tool we’ve all just left in the bottom of the loaner gear.
Pick Up a Cloak
In the past Woodland Watches I have always tried to challenge you to do things relating to the article and put them into practice. So, with that in mind, I challenge each of you to pick up a cloak and work with it. Even for just a couple fights. If you realize that you like the cloak, ask around and find someone who is more experienced with it and work with them. Record it in your journal and set a goal for the next time you will try it.