Berenger’s Fighting Guide

Right handed sword and shield for The Barony Of Rowany

By Berenger Of Nancy

FIGHTING

I write this not as a how to do manual but as a series of tips. In training I found it frustrating and continue to finds it frustrating when fighters who are training newer fighters say “this is how a snap is thrown”. In fighting I find that the best technique is the one you find by experimenting. Try everything that people show you and keep what YOU think will work for you. Everyone’s body is different and you know your own body better than any one else. Also I only include fighting. The rules of the list, honor, chivalry and all that stuff can be found elsewhere. Other than the rules want you regard is honourable is up to you, don’t let anyone force their views on you.

Fighting in my opinion is about 25% physical and the rest mental. I find myself amazed that at most fighter practices we train at the physical without training or discussing the mental aspect of fighting. Practicing shots and movements are necessary but useless without thinking about how they can be used. Apart from having a lot of fun practices to me are a strategy session on discovering new shots, adapting shots and practicing body movement.

In writing this I am hoping to encourage fighters on thinking of what they are doing and helping to achieve a better fighting style. If anything in this doesn’t work for you than please do not do it! I hardly expect people to fight like me and it would be boring for me if you did. My fighting is an amalgamation of my knight, my brother, my squire brothers and a whole lot of other people who I have met and trained with. In the end it is my own distinct style. If I had tried to fight just like someone else I don’t think I would be as good and I wouldn’t be as happy.

I have been fighting for two and a half years and it is probably arrogant of me to attempt to write a manual of fighting. My defense is that as a relative newbie I can still remember what it was like to start from scratch, with all the doubts, crazy ideas and enthusiasm for fighting.

In the end I hope that this helps your fighting! In writing this it has helped mine.

A final note, this is all about having fun, I hope you all enjoy heavy SCA combat as much as I do!!

– Berenger of Nancy

A FEW THOUGHTS ON FIGHTING

The first thing that I think that is critical in heavy combat is that there is no limitation on who can do it. Any healthy, able bodied person can do this and do it well. The only limitation that a person has is the limitation that they put on themselves or let others put on them. Certain people have natural advantages when they start such as size, strength, reach, stamina or co-ordination. Not one of these cannot be learnt & surpassed by practice, determination and technique. Believe that by practice you will be better and by practice you will be better.

It is my belief, that as a fighter, people get better until either:

  1. They think they can’t get any better.
  2. They think they won’t get any better.

They first is caused by believing that they have reached there own personnel pinnacle and that there is nothing else they can learn. I think for the very few that may be correct but for the majority there is always some improvements that can be made. I have spoken to some of the best fighters in Lochac and they still think that there is a lot for them to learn.

It is no coincidence that they have this attitude and that they have achieved so much with there fighting.

The second is caused by dissatisfaction, doubt or despair in there own fighting. This can be caused by a lack of belief that they aren’t getting better or that they will never be any good. If you start thinking this I think it is important to remember that everyone advances at a different pace. Some people may get better quickly but that doesn’t mean that they will advance further. By been positive, a determined person will always go further than a less determined ‘natural’ fighter.

Size, Strength and sex are no limitation.

FIGHTER PRACTICES

I have been to numerous different fighter practices across Lochac and the thing that I have noticed about new fighters is that they have this huge desire to hit their opponent. I applaud the aggressiveness and enthusiasm of this & recommend it … for some of the fights. However I think it is important to remember to do some practice at fighter practice. For the first 6 months at fighter practice I fought every fight like it was the last I would have. I would try to win and would only throw the shots that I knew that I could do well (which weren’t many at that stage). In hindsight it would have been better to have actually practiced technique and style. The killer instinct was great and it was a lot of fun but I could of done the same and still at least practiced a little every time.

Now at fighter practice I have a few fun fights and a few full pelt fights. Most of the times, now however I go to a practice with an idea of a certain facet of fighting that I want to improve. This can be anything from shots, footwork, defense or anything I think is lacking in my style.

At the end of a fighter practice, ask someone you trust and respect on your fighting. See if they can give you any pointers on anything that you can improve. Also find out what you are doing well. It is also good to know what your strengths are as well as weaknesses.

At fighter practices another thing to watch out for is information overload. The thing about the SCA is that every one is prepared to help; unfortunately this can be a problem. Everyone has an idea on how things are done and if ten people tell you everything they know than you are going to end up confused, dazed and daunted. If possible try to have a look at the various fighters, how they fight and how you interact with them. If you like that persons fighting style and you can get on with them than ask that person for pointers. After a while you should get help and ideas from others (I still do) but for the initial couple of months it is a good idea only to have 1 or 2 “tutors”.

Training

The Dreaded Pell

A pell is a large log used to practice your various shots on. I find that the ones put in the ground are better as they don’t swing or move. Also get some old carpet and attach it to your pell, it will stop your practice swords from smashing apart quickly.

When I started I spent about an hour every day hitting that god damned pell. In between bouts of striking I would sit and think on what I had just done, would it work or not and how to improve that strike/movement.

Just about everyone who fights has a differing opinion of the effectiveness and best technique for a Pell. I will always be of the opinion that a Pell is the best option for practicing shots and also discovering new ones. I use a number of techniques for training on a Pell that I believe has been effective for me.

My Pell has had certain areas taped off. These are one inch above knee, Hips and eye level for an average sized man (about 5 foot 10). When practicing your shots it is a good idea to know how accurate your shots will be. After all there is no use in perfecting a shot that will come in low!

When practicing on a Pell I think it is a good idea to use your shield. When you fight you will have to throw your shots around and over your shield so when practicing you should do the same. Also when you throw your shot watch what your shield does. If you throw a shot your shield should not swing with your body movement.

Another thing to remember when practicing is not to remain stationary and at a constant range. In a fight the range will vary consistently and will (usual) not be static. Practice from long / medium and short ranges, while stepping in and out. Practice closing in and stepping around the Pell.

Most fighters I have spoke to have a preferred range in which they like to throw shots in but in my opinion a great fighter is one who can adapt to whatever range is necessary to strike their opponent.

Something I was told to do was to cordon the Pell into 6 zones. The snap head, body and leg, offside head body and leg, you could also add that zone 7 was head wrap and zone 8 was leg wrap. What I would do then was to list various three hit combination such as 7 1 2 or 4 2 8 and write them down and then either just do them or get someone to yell them as I did them. Then I would had left and right steps in and do them at different ranges. This technique also allowed me to find the different step feints and feints that worked for me.

Another technique that I would recommend is to throw shots without actually looking at the Pell. In a fight I watch the opponent’s basket hilt wrist and arm as much as possible. This means that I am not actually focused on the spot I am trying to hit my opponent. Therefore I am throwing semi blind. To throw these semi seen shots accurately you need to practice quite a bit. Try putting something behind or to the side of the Pell and let that take your focus from your shot place. (I use my idiot dogs as a distraction).

In closing I would say that for someone starting out in fighting the Pell is a great learning curve, I practiced on my Pell about 3/4/5 days a week. For the more experienced fighter I would suggest that the Pell is still an instrumental tool in training.

Drills

At the moment there is a quite a lot of fighter practices around the barony, which is fantastic. However I have noticed that they run along the same lines of go out there and hit them. I must admit that this is great fun but there are other ways of training that are fun and which I found useful and productive to my fighting skills.

The first drill is the 5 shots for one. One fighter gets to throw 5 shots. The other fighter only gets to throw one. This drill is good in practicing fast, quick, crisp combinations against a defensive opponent. It also allows the one shot opponent to practice timing and picking the moment to throw the critical shot.

Another drill in which I think is the most productive is the 3 shot each repeat drill. In this one fighter throws three quick shots. The other fighter than throws three shots immediately back. This goes back and forth. The purpose of this drill is to throw a quick attack and then be able to assume an effective defensive posture immediately after your flurry. If you can go from attack to defense and then back to attack than you will win many a bout.

The critique circle is another drill that can be useful. All the fighters at a practice get together and one fighter fights everyone 2 or 3 times. Than you stop and talk about that fighter’s strengths and weaknesses while the memory is fresh on the mind. Than repeat for everyone there. I find that after a training session you can never remember the details of any fight apart from the last few that you had. In this way advice and comment can be given before it is forgotten.

Another drill is the throw a shot and stop drill. This is better to do at three quarter to slow speed. One fighter throws a shot and stops. He/She than discusses what they are going to do next. The other fighter than throws a shot and stops. Continue until you want to stop. This is good for finding holes and just thinking about fighting.

The final drill that I find of use is the range drill. This could mean a rope on the ground that means you cannot close on your opponent but have to strike them at a certain distance. This was good for me as I always used to close and strike at very close range. You can also practice short range by placing a shield on the ground and the opponents cannot have one of the feet leave the shield. This is good practice especially for fighters who become a bit stuck on a certain range.

OPENING STANCE

When in opening stance there is a few factors that should be considered. The opening stance should be comfortable and well balanced. You should be able to throw a number of shots straight away. You should be able to step forward, back. Left or right with ease. Also you should be able to react quickly to any attack your opponent throws at you.

My stance during a fight always changes depending on range and my opponents stance. However my opening stance is always similar for what shield I am using.

Sword & Heater – The sword is resting over my right shoulder cocked ready to throw just about anywhere. My head is reasonable open so I take care in been able to block with the corner of the heater. The offside is easy to throw and the snap can come in quickly. This is my favourite combination. The shot selection is broader and it is suited to as offensive fighter

Large Round & Sword – This I have the lip of the shield around my chin level. To protect my face and head I have the basket hilt at the side of my head so the blade runs horizontally just below eye level. Very defensive stance, it is hard to throw a leg snap or a fast rap from this position. The offside is easier to pump in however.

Small Square & Sword – This stance is with the sword vertical near the body. This is so you can flick it out to block the various parts of your body. The sword is mainly to defend offsides and deep raps. The shield is out in front of the body and stops shots at the early stage of the shot. The disadvantage of this stance is that the sword is in no mans land for shots as offsides need to come up and over and therefore are slower. The snaps and wraps need also to come back a little to be thrown and therefore are a little bit telegraphed.

Once again experiment! Whatever your weaponry combination there must be at least a dozen different stances to take at all different ranges. Find out what feels right and where in the fight it is right.

THE BASIC SHOTS

The way I see it there are 11 Places to hit some one legally.

They are as follows:

  1. Snap Head
  2. Snap Chest
  3. Snap Leg
  4. Offside Head
  5. Offside Body
  6. Offside Leg
  7. Rap Head
  8. Rap Leg
  9. Thrust Body
  10. Thrust Head
  11. Slot

Of these there are 5 basic shots. Snaps, Offsides, Raps, Slots and thrusts.

With all these shots there are some aspects that are necessary to make the shot as effective as possible. They are power, speed, timing and deceptiveness. In my explanation of how I throw these shots I will state how I try to do this.

SNAPS – When I throw a snap I try to make it come in quick to beat a shield or deceptively slow as to come in slower than the shield. Either way there are some basics I try to do. Firstly I try to have a slight bend in my knees which helps with balance. Depending on which way I am moving I put my weight either on my front or back foot. When I throw the snap I use the arm to place the shot and my hip and body to power the shot. If throwing a head snap I try and use the basket hilt and blade of the sword as a defense by extending the hilt in front of my face so it can block any shots coming in that area. The snap I usually try and have as horizontal as possible so it can beat the corner or lip of a shield. Also I dip it up or down as to deceive the opponent in which angle area the shot is coming to.

OFFSIDES – Offsides are a basic reverse of the snap. The hip goes a different direction. Against right handed opponents I put a big hip twist as to get greater depth and get past all their defense. Offsides, in my opinion, are a lot harder to block than a snap, as a well delivered offside has to be blocked by a right handed weapon. Some people will be able to get their shields on a offside (especially wide shields like a Viking round) but most heaters, bunnies or narrow shields need to put their weapon defensively to cover this shot. My offside is still thrown in front of my body so as to protect my face and shoulder while in mid flight. I try not to throw the offside behind my head or start it from behind my body as it slows the shot down and comes in with less power and timing.

With snaps and offsides I practice getting the hip rotation right with the arm. When this is right you can throw quick, powerful shots effortlessly all day. I haven’t got it right yet so when you do please tell me!

RAPS – Basically thrown as a snap but turn the wrist so you strike with the back edge. Key points to remember is that this shot is a little bit slower but is also deeper. The longer you can hold off the wrist turn the more deceptive the shot but don’t forget that if it isn’t turning right than you are striking with the flat off the blade. When throwing this shot I don’t move my hips at all or if I do it is the same as an offside with one twist to my right. I have no suggestion for which way to move the hip as some say to do a counter twist and some say left and some say right. I say practice and see what works for you. Remember to keep your elbow a little bit bent so it doesn’t jar.

SLOTS – Pretty easy. Crunch your body down and throw your shoulder down at the same time while throwing your shot at your opponents shoulder/arm/head. Or to strike the offside follow the diagram below. (I can’t explain this).

THRUSTS – Stretch out with your arm and put your balance forward. A common thrusting mistake is over commiting and leaving your arm and body out there to be hit. A better practice is thrusting from in close and jabbing at the person. Remember to follow throw with the shot. Some people seem to resting the sword on a person and then pushing. Unless this is on a faceplate and is representing pushing your point through someones face than I don’t think that this is a good idea. It would be very hard to push a point through assumed armor. That is why I think that a good thrust follows through and gives a good thwack.

Remember, even when throwing a shot you can still defend. A snap can be thrown with the hilt and a part of the blade going in front of your face providing an effective defense. If an opponent throws a shot at you can throw a shot at their weapon.

These are of course just the basic shots. There are so many variations, feints, angles, dips and other stuff you can do that the amount of shots are endless. Try different stuff. Try ducking as you throw an offside leg or stepping left when throwing a leg rap. Or standing on tiptoes when throwing a skyrap. The only shot I discourage is ones that will hurt you or your opponent.

BASICS OF COMBAT

Despite all the long winded explanations of style, technique and shots I think one sentence rings true for me. “Hit Them where there shield ain’t”. Strength & Speed will carry the day sometimes but will not win every fight for you. At some stage during a fighters career they will encounter someone who is faster and/or stronger than them. It is my belief that the most economical, consistent & definite way to defeat a person is to deceive them into committing there defense into a spot and than striking another spot. Deceit is the key to unlock the soundest defense. There are a number of ways of doing this.

BLIND THEM AND HIT THEM.

This is using either your shield or your opponents shield to blind your opponent. Feint or strike high with a shot. Some opponents will obscure there own vision with their shield. When you can’t see, you can’t block so strike them on the leg or rap them.

Another way is to use your shield by obscuring there vision. Put your shield in front of there eyes (Without hitting them with your shield) and throw shots while they are blind. Timing is the key to this. By moving your shield about you are creating a hole in your defense. It is better to do this movement whilst in the action of punch blocking or sweeping with a block. Make sure that they are not in a position to hit you if you try this move.

FEINTS

A feint to me is any movement that gets an opponent to react/commit before you actually throw your shot. This can be a twitch of an eyebrow, drop of a shoulder, cock of a hip, a shot half thrown or even slight balance shifts. The number of different feints that can be done are legion and each fighter seems to have a few that are particular to them.

Most of the feints I do involve a “pump” of the sword. This in its basics is where I swing the sword a quarter or a half of a normal shot and then return it a little towards me and then throw my actual shot. This pump allows you to see the reaction of the opponent and then capitalize on any mistake that they make on over committing to a defense.

A few that I do I will list –

Leg feint snap – leg shot snap : Half shoot towards the opponents leg or even cock your sword low. There defense will hopefully come down and then go back up as they register that a shot hasn’t been thrown. As the are getting there defense up throw a full shot at there legs. They will have to stop there upward movement and go back to defending their legs. If timed right your opponent will find it hard to get their defense back in time to stop your shot from landing. Your shot should be a quicker action than the movement of a shield.

Head Feint Snap – Head Shot Snap: Is the same as above but at the face. Flick your sword out and they will put there defense up. As it goes back down throw your shot quickly at their face. I usually throw the shot from further out from my body so it comes in quick. When I throw the fake I don’t return the sword the whole way back. Instead I only bring it half way back and then really pump it straight at my opponent.

Head Feint Snap – Leg Snap Shot: I pump a shot out to the head and then throw the shot straight at the leg with a snap or snaprap. The opponents defense goes high and then I put the shot right on the leg.

Head Feint Snap – Offside Head/Body Shot: Throw out a shot like a snap. In the middle of the shot you turn your wrist over and redistribute your body movements to come over there defense to hit on an offside position.

And on and on it goes… The pell exercise of combination’s in the 6 quadrants can be altered to practice the different feints. Feint one quadrant strike another.

Body Movement Feints

This is based on using your bodies direction to mask and deceive your opponent. One example of how I do it is by approaching at opponent. When in range I step to the left of them and put my balance and body as if I am throwing a deep offside. Whilst doing this I throw a quick leg rap and the same time. The opponents defense sometimes sees my movement and reacts by moving their shield and sword up and to the right which means that the left leg is open and very vulnerable. (Only works on right handed opponents)

Another one I do is stepping to the right of the opponent and throwing an offside over my head at the side of my opponents head. My opponent sometimes believes I am throwing a rap and will not block the offside section of their head.

ANGLES & DIPS

Your weapon has different angles it can come in at from vertical to horizontal. Generally I have found that the more vertical a weapon comes in at the easier it is to block. There is more surface of the weapon to be able to put something in front of. Most Snaps I suggest to come in at the horizontal. However sometimes it is very useful to put an angle on your weapon. For example if you want to throw an offside body shot it is good to come in high with your basket hilt high and flick the sword blade into your opponents body. Or when shooting at an arm it is good to have the hilt low and let your blade go vertical towards the opponents arm.

A dip is where you dip the sword lower and then bring it higher as your shot comes in. Very effective for a snap. I start by dropping the shoulder and bringing the sword low as if it is a leg shot. As the shot travels I bring the shoulder and wrist up so the shot ends up hitting around the face plate area. If the opponent misreads this than there shield will be too low and will not come back up in time.

Another good dip type shot is the rising rap. It starts by seeming to be a leg rap. As you turn your wrist bring your shoulder and elbow up so instead of been a leg rap it hits the shoulder/head region.

Mullay’s – This is where you throw a snap or offside and midshot you turn the wrist and swivel the hip and the shot manages to turn into the opposite shot. An offside turns into a snap. A snap turns into an offside. Very confusing to defend against especially if you wait for a shot to block it. Not so effective against punch blocking.

HOW I DEFEND

With any defense it is important to remember one guiding principle. The shield is for blocking and the sword is for hitting. If you block to much with your sword than how can you hit your opponent? Sometimes a sword is necessary to block but practice using your shield for most blocks.

Heater

The heater is my favourite shield type. It has corners that you can economically block shots. It is light and strapped to the arm. It can be used to punch block and its leg defense is good due to the lower point. Against right handers I stand in stance with the right hand corner of the heater around my right eye. The bottom of the shield is usually out toward the opponent so you are staring down the flat of the shield. I look over the corner with my left eye. The tactic of blocking is to put the corner of the shield to block my opponents weapon.

Round

The round is a massive shield that is centre gripped. Most of the strain of the shield is focused on your wrists and forearm. This I have the lip of the shield around my chin level. To protect my face and head I have the basket hilt at the side of my head so the blade runs horizontally just below eye level. The round is really big so your body is covered from the size of it. To cover the legs just rotate your wrist down. This causes the shield to spin and drop down. Or you can just drop the wrist.

Small Square

I use this by holding the square out so there is a shadow between it and my body. My sword is generally out vertical in front of my body with my elbow tucked in so it isn’t a target. The main idea is to be aggressive and put the shield on the opponents basket hilt and follow their weapon around denying them any shots what so ever.

With all shield blocking I try to use my body as well as my arm. If a rap is coming in I try to twist my hip to the left as to help my shield along to block it. Also I will use footwork by stepping into a shot with my shield or stepping away. Also remember that you can punch block by thrusting your shield out to catch the shot halfway and stopping the shot before it can dip or turn into a rap or countless other things.

SHIELD – OFFENSIVE

Although the shield is your primary defense it should not be overlooked as been part of your offensive arsenal. Your shield can be used to push. Hook or press your opponents defense.

Shield Push

This technique is used in been able to put your opponents balance off. I have found that a lot of people raise their defense high when they are going backwards, especially if it isn’t their plan to go backwards! Push your opponents shield or large weapon with your shield and as they are off balance throw a shot at their thigh area. Usually their defense will go high opening up a hole. Don’t push to hard as they will fall over and hitting a falling opponent to me is bad form. If you don’t push hard enough they won’t go anywhere and you will be in a bad defensive position.

Shield Hook

A shield hook is where you use your shield to hook your opponents shield or weapon and forcefully maneuver it to where you want it to be. The shield Hook I do is in conjunction with a blow in the area I push the shield away from. Usually this needs to be done in conjunction as the gap will only be there for a little time and I am hooking I am unable to block as effectively as normal.

E.G. I grab a right handed opponent’s heater with my shield corner and hook it to my right. At the same time I throw a shot to the opponents offside. My opponent’s only option to block is to use their weapon to block which is a poor choice as I can continue to rain a few blows down as they try to disengage.

Different weapon combinations and left and right handed opponents all need different methods of shield hooking. Experimentation and practice will help you learn when to do it and how!

Shield Press

A Shield press is where you press your opponents shield/weapon in “place” so they can’t react as quickly to your shot. It differs from the push as you are not actually trying to move your opponent but trap there shield against yours and their body/arm. As with a shield hook your defense will be vulnerable at the time so it needs to be timed right.

FIGHTING ON YOUR KNEES

You have been legged. They have the advantage of reach and mobility. You only have to defend four quadrants now. Naturally you probably will go more defensive. Most people will overdo this. I try to throw at least one blow for every two that is thrown at me. Pick the gaps but don’t allow to many shots in or you will get hit.

Practice firstly in getting a good position on your knees. This is the same as your opening stances requirements in balance and comfort. I usually go 45 degrees to the opponent with my feet out the widest so I can rock back on my knees. Also I have been trying to move a lot more by rotating on my knees. Just because you have been legged doesn’t mean you have to be static and people really do not expect you to move at all.

Now practice throwing shots on your knees. I always try to leg my opponent. When they come in I do a quick offside at their right leg and then block two or three shots and then go a few raps at their legs and a few slots and snaps at their arm. If your opponent is on top of you then usually they will be leaning with their arms and back of legs outside their zone of defense.. Throwing shots on your knees is harder to power and needs more skill.

A lot of people think that once you are on your knees than you are gone. If that is your belief, than you will be hit. The most satisfying victories I have ever had is the ones from my knees.

FIGHTING PEOPLE ON THEIR KNEES

Firstly don’t underestimate your opponent. Don’t just stroll in their thinking its over or it will be. For you!

When I leg someone I try to check they aren’t looking into the sun, then I face up sword in front of me with my right foot facing out. My first step is in with the left so they can’t pop my offside leg and when I am in it is in one step not a few. I use my shield to move their defense around. Try not to overbalance them and you must allow them the ability to get up. I move my opponents shield around around by throwing raps deep offsides. If this doesn’t work I keep throwing them and wait for their shield to lift to high and I Throw a real quick body shot in.

Whatever way you do it the best tactic is to get in quick and throw shots that will really move their defense around a lot.

FIGHTING WITH ONE ARM

? You tell me I have no idea. Go in I suppose its not like you are expected to win.

THINKING – TACTICS

When entering combat against a fighter a few things should be observed off them. This will determine the most effective way of fighting them. I generally check the following.

  • What hand is your opponents weapon in? It is amazing how many people forget this. If you face a left hander with a right handed stance than they will blow you away.
  • The capabilities of your opponents weapon and shield mix will determine how they will fight you. E.G. a mace kite shield combination will not sit back and snipe long range shots at you. Most heater sword people fight hand mid range.
  • If they have fought you & beaten you before than in a serious tournament they will probably try to beat you with the same shot again.
  • What range and series of shots will be most effective in defeating your opponent. Will you go defensive or offensive?
  • The stance of your opponent will show you what types of shots than can initially throw. An over the face horizontal stance limits the speed of snaps and raps that they can throw but an offside faceplate is easy to throw.

TAKING THE INITIATIVE

After sizing up the opponent, looking at their stance, offensive weapon/s, defensive capability and hand we can determine a strategy of defeating them. We can either sit defensively and wait for them to attack us and riposte at any gaps they leave or we can take the initiative. When I fight I generally go straight on the attack aggressively. When I go on the attack I try to remember the following points.

  • Don’t stop throwing shots until it is a disadvantage to throw them. If you have been outmaneuvered, off balance or tied up. Then try to move away to set up another assault. This off course takes practice to determine when this is.
  • Don’t get frustrated if you don’t succeed at first. If you get frustrated you might throw shots that are repetitive and easily countered.
  • Doesn’t mean charging in recklessly. Most chargers are easily defeated.
  • Remember that you can move left and right as well as moving forward and backwards.

DEFENSE

Opening Your Opponent Up

There is always a gap, hole or weakness to your opponents defense. When first facing up it seems that some people are completely covered. However as soon as they move gaps appear. When your opponent throws a shot than a gap will appear somewhere in there defense in that moment. The ability to coordinate your shield to block there shot and throw a shot simultaneously should not be underestimated. E.G. If an fighter with a round shield throws a offside than there offside protection is limited as they will have to throw there shot over the shield. If you can block that shot while throwing an offside than you should be able to strike them. An offensive fighter will use their attack as their defense. If you are too busy blocking than how can you throw a shot? By riposting as soon as you block than you should be able to open them up.

A defensive/static fighter usually will wait till you have thrown a shot and riposte. I find the best way to open up these defenses is using feints, movement and shield hooks to get their defense from been set.

Whatever the method of fighting your opponent some things remain constant. Skill & timing will defeat any defense I know of. Also patience is important. If you get frustrated with a defense, than you might just flail away at it ineffectively. In which you might throw continuous predictable shots, Stopping & thinking in which you lose any initiative or momentum or giving up mentally and waiting to get hit.

Patience! No defense can withstand continual pressure from an aggressive opponent who is using all their options.

FIGHTING DOUBLE HANDED WEAPONS

Most double handed weapons such as glaives, halberds and great swords have general characteristics that are similar. Firstly they have at least one thrusting tip if not two. They all will have a striking blade that can strike at a much longer range than your weapon. Basically they are giving up defense by not having a shield by having a greater range than you. When fighting double handers I try to remember the following.

  • They will want to keep some sort of distance between themselves and you. I try to lock there weapon up and get in close where they are least effective. When in stance I put my sword out in front of me and try to push on there weapon. Then I step in pushing there weapon with my sword, then I put my shield on the opponents weapon so it frees my sword for a strike at them.
  • When coming in it is just as bad to rush in madly than to step in slowly. Quick balanced small steps are what should be done. If you go in to quick an experienced opponent will just roll to the side while throwing a shot at you. Going to slow allows your opponent to back pedal while throwing shots and thrusts at you.
  • Most pole weapons will throw mainly at your head with thrusts and snaps and at your legs. They will throw a lot of feints with the thrusts. A classic is to feint with the thrust and while your defense is high they will hit at your legs. The reverse is true as well.
  • Throwing raps around the pole is a good idea once in close. They have a far smaller blocking surface than a shield and have less chance to push off you.
  • Take out their legs and they are as good as gone.

FIGHTING AGAINST SHIELD TYPES

Fighting Heaters – This shield type is strong on blocking snaps, not so well against offsides and slots and alright against raps. I usually try to push a corner with a shield hook or do a leg snap than head offside combination. The heater is strapped on to the arm and can table up so a quick leg shot after moving the heater around can work as well. The heater’s main weakness is it is narrow but not as movable as a bunny shield. Its strength is that it has corners to block and good on side leg and head blocking capability.

Fighting Kites/Scotums – Against these massive shields I like to get in close the size of the shields against the opponent. These shields offer massive defense but usually at the cost of limiting the shots that the opponent can throw at you. I like to get in the shadow of the opponents shield where they can see you as well as at range and throw raps and offsides around the shield. Using your thrusting point in close here is a good idea as well. The only time I alter this is when the opponent is using a mace as well as a large shield. Then I strike and move away coming in close throwing a shot and then moving hopefully staying out of the way of most of what my opponent is throwing at me.

Fighting Big Rounds – These shields are very wide and are hard to get around. They however have a few weaknesses. They have no corners and just have a lip so most round shield fighters have there weapons inn front of there face. When they throw a shot or prepare to throw a shot they lose there head defense unless they move there shield. Against these shield I completely forget about throwing shots at the body and concentrate on raps at leg and head. Also I use a lot of feints to get round shielders to move their weapon and bulky shield around and then pick the gap.

Fighting Bunnies/Small Squares/Small Rounds- There legs are defenseless HIT THEM!!! Well maybe not defenseless but if you can make them concentrate their defense high than you can throw a shot at a defenseless leg. The average small shield punches out and catches shots before reaching close to them. This makes them very susceptible to feints that change direction quickly. Most small shield fighters are aggressive. Try not to let them in too close or they can smother your weapon and offensive abilities. I like to fight them at mid range and when they go to go close I throw some leg shots to stop them in their tracks.

Fighting Against Left Handed Fighters – Well you have started well in recognizing that they are left handed. My shield has to be at a different spot has the angle that the lefties shots come in at is completely different to a NORMAL persons. I normally look down the corner of my shield. The corner against a leftie normally sits near the corner of my right shoulder. My stance is with my right foot further back and my left leg further out to the right. A lefties raps are very hard to block. I do not even try to get my shield to them . I normally step in to them and sweep my sword to block them. They have the same problem with my raps though which is the only saving grace ( however they get more practice in fighting righties!) I tend to throw a lot of raps and slots and get in close and shield hook a leftie as you push there shield away from your quick snap rap and slot areas.

Fighting Against Florentine Weapons – I have two schools of thought on this one. Firstly I like to go in and smother both there weapons with my shield and hit them. One way is by rushing them and going straight in. The other is waiting, playing defensively and when they have both weapons on one side of there body then your shield takes both weapons out and you hit them. Another one I think of is making their weapons go high by pattering high and then taking their legs out. Either way sits pretty well with me. Most Florentine fighters still favor one hand or another and will mostly strike with that hand. The true ambidextrous fighters are fearful as they have two weapons and you only have one set of eyes! Against good Florentine fighters I get in quick before they get me.

MELEE AND WAR FIGHTING

A sword and shield in formation is a defensive frame of mind. Some of the time you will be piked and glaived at without any chance to strike back. Most times people will charge into you and it will be a wrestle and free for all where people will kill you from behind pike you shoot you and everything else under the sun. However there is a little bit of skill involved in wars (and a lot of luck). Firstly I see the sword & shield fighter in two different circumstances at war. The first is as a skirmisher (which I enjoy). You can be behind or beside a large formation or in the middle of no mans land. As a skirmisher I try to roll to the side of a formation, kill their flankers and smash into there pole weapons. It is the ultimate revenge for all those pikes smashing into you in bridge and fort battles while you can do nothing. Other skirmishing can involve chasing down archers, killing generals or just harassing large formations.

Secondly a shield and sword fighter can be in a shield wall, wedge or another tight formation. This usually involves charging and receiving charges. In both cases I find that putting your shoulder behind your shield, putting your head behind your shield and leaning forward and pushing forward at the point of impact is the best way to go. When formations meet and blows are thrown at sword range I find a good technique is to throw the blow at the man next to the one you are facing. Especially if that person is throwing blows at someone else, probably the person next to you. Of course this means blocking one person and throwing at another but I find it works well with a bit of practice.

CALIBRATION

I am reluctant to include a section on calibration but it does seem necessary. A few things I have to say about calibration: Most new fighters are either way too hard or way too soft on calibration. Most people will be lenient on newbies and take into account this when discussing any problems with the fight with you. Some people will have a sulk or accuse you of cheating or carry on childishly. Ignore there antics. The only way of improving calibrations and ironing out any problems is by discussing any perceived problems like adults. There are many reasons why people don’t take some blows. Armor design, too much adrenalin or some shots are just too weak to get through any sort of assumed armor!

I don’t think that any of the fighters I have met have consciously cheated. Over the past 6 months I have tried to put my calibration down as it was too high (in my and others opinions.) I can’t be sure if it is alright at the moment but no-ones talking to me so I assume it’s alright. I know for sure that I have never deliberately cheated.

Different areas seem to have different calibrations on what they take and how hard they hit. Some areas won’t take some of your shots and some will say that they are excessive.

There is no real way of saying what a good shot is and how hard you hit people but I suggest that you don’t hit at full or make people smash you as hard as they can.

The only way of getting your calibration in the middle spectrum is by experience and discussion with your opponents.