Monthly Archives: August 2013

Fighting on the Dark Side

If you’re uncertain about a term used in this post, please check the Terminology page.

Someone recently asked me if there was ever a reason to attack the shield side when fighting a right-handed shield man. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Many people avoid attacking the shield side because reaching it is a slow, risky and difficult process. To reach the shield side the lefty must throw cross body, which requires the sword to travel a fair distance. During this travel the sword is out of position to block the left side of the body, leaving the lefty exposed to a counter attack or riposte. The opponent’s shield is blocking off easy access to the shield side, making hits more difficult to achieve.

All of these objections are valid, but there are several excellent reasons to attack the shield side anyway. Shots to the shield side keep the opponent honest. The vulnerability of attacks to the shield side can be exploited to gain control of the fight. Some shield-side attacks just look cool, and looking good is important.

Attacking the shield side keeps an opponent honest. I’m not referring to the opponent breaking the rules, I’m referring to them cheating (aka shifting) their shield over to their sword side, weakening their shield-side defense in the expectation that you won’t attack that side. Attacks to the shield-side force the opponent to keep their guard in a more balanced position, which in turn leaves the more vulnerable sword side less protected.

Additionally, attacks to the shield side keep them mentally honest. Not only do they have to physically protect that side but they must mentally be prepared for attacks in that area. This opens the opportunity to throw more fakes and baits; throwing actual shots to the shield side lends verisimilitude to fakes to the shield side. By expanding the mental space of shots they have to consider you make their defensive choices more complex and difficult.

The vulnerability of shield-side attacks can also be exploited. Knowing how an opponent will counter to an opening allows you to fake that opening, baiting them into making the “sure-fire” counter, and then you can exploit the attack they have made. This enables you to force your opponent to act in a known matter, which makes you the one controlling the fight. For example, when an opponent knows they can chop your ribs when you high cross, you can bait the high cross by throwing a short chop to the shield instead (which can look a lot like you’re starting a high cross), catch the rib chop with a sword block, and now, having the inside lane, kill your opponent. This is, in fact, one of my default baits.

Finally, shield-side attacks can just look cool. Throwing dark side hip-wraps is a visually impressive way to kill people. I’ve actually had people give me money to kill other fighters that way. I’ve thrown dark side shoulder chops on tall people just for the humorous response when they get hit in the shield shoulder from under the shield. Even the much-maligned high-cross has a place in your fighting toolbox. All this demonstrates another important element of truth; shield-side attacks can work, and killing the other guy is the point of the game.

Learning shots to the shield-side is an important part of building your lefty game. These shots force your opponent to defend all areas of their body and make their defensive choices more difficult. Shield-side shots make your feints and baits more believable and give you more feint and bait options. Most importantly, shield-side attacks work, which expands your options as a fighter and makes you a bigger threat on the field.



Before I can meaningfully talk about fighting concepts with people, I need to ensure that we are using the same terms with the same meanings. To that end, I have put together this initial list of terms I use in discussing fighting:

Attack: A strike with intent to hit the opponent.

Bait: A deliberate opening in a fighter’s guard with the intention of encouraging the opponent to perform a specific action or type of action.

Beat: A sharp, controlled strike to the blade of the opponent’s weapon, intended either to provoke a reaction or create an opening. A beat may also be done to the opponent’s shield or hand.

Body Alignment: Where your center line is relative to your opponent’s center line.

Center Line: An imaginary line projecting directly ahead from your center of mass.

Chop: A type of attack. A chop is a slashing cut with the edge of the blade moving in a straight line.

Compound Attack: An attack that incorporates one or more feints.

Counter-Attack: A counter-attack is an attack in the middle of an opponent’s attack without bothering to parry. See also tracing and riposte.

Darkside: Any shot thrown under and around the shield. For a lefty, this means that the sword passes under your shield and to the outside (right) of your shield to attack the opponent from the outside (your right) of the opponent.

Disengage: A type of feint. It consists of a feint to one side of the opponent’s blade, followed by a tight circle under the opponent’s weapon to the opposite side, where the attack is prosecuted. A common example is a feinted stab to the outside lane shoulder, followed by a dip under the opponent’s weapon which is turned into a stab to the torso.

Ditch: (Also Trench) A type of group combat the consists of only melee equipment, with no armor or projectiles. Players are divided into two teams, engage in combat for a single life, and the first dead player from the winning team joins the losing team. New players joining the game may be substituted for first dead. A new round of combat then ensues. Also known as “First Blood” in Dagorhir.

Feint: An offensive movement that resembles an attack in every way except completion. A feint is intended to draw a reaction from the opponent.

French Grip: (Also Sabre Grip) A method of holding a weapon that places the handle diagonally across the palm, with primary grip accomplished by the pad of the thumb and side of the forefinger, with the later three fingers coiled around the handle for control and stabilization.

Guard: The default hand and foot placement of a fighter that is used when the fighter is not actively engaged in offensive or defensive action.

Hammer Grip: A method of holding a weapon where the handle is gripped perpendicular to the palm, much like a hammer is held. The thumb is wrapped around the handle in the opposite direction of the fingers.

Hand Block: Using an empty hand to intercept an attack, sacrificing the limb to avoid a killing strike.

Hand Matching: Hand matching is the act of mirroring the opponent, typically in a single-sword situation. This means that, when faced with an opponent wielding a weapon in their right hand, the hand-matching player would fight with their weapon in their left hand.

Italian Grip: A method of holding a weapon where the forefinger and thumb (or forefinger, middle finger, and thumb) grip the cross-guard or blade of the weapon.

Inside Lane: The direction in front of the body. (The right for left-handers.)

Lane: (Also Lines) A lane is a quadrant of the target player’s body, with the dividing line being the sword (or in some cases the shield) of the target player. Lanes most often are divided into inside and outside lanes. The outside lane is on the side of the sword away from the body, while the inside lane is the space on the “body” side of the sword.

Lunge: A type of attack that involves footwork. The sword-side leg is extended in a forward in a step while pushing off with the opposite leg.The sword-side leg ends with knee bent so that the knee is above the toes and the opposite leg is at full extension. Simultaneous to this movement, the sword arm is extended in a strike, typically a stab, and the opposite arm is extended backwards as a counterbalance.

Outside Lane: The direction away from the front of the body. (The left for left-handers.)

Perpendicular: When two lines are at a right angle to one another, making a ‘T’.

Primary Return: The primary return is the riposte or counter-attack to a shot that is the quickest shot to throw that has a reasonable chance of landing. This leads to it being the most common response to that particular attack. An example would be a straight vertical chop being the primary return against a horizontal inside chop in a hand-matched single sword fight.

Punch Block: A type of block. The weapon hand is advanced aggressively to intercept an incoming attack, allowing the opponent’s weapon to strike the defender’s weapon hand or the weapon just above the hand.

Punch Shield: A shield that is attached to the player by the means of a single centrally-placed handle. Also known as a “Center-Grip Shield.” Despite the name, the shield is not especially intended for striking.

Riposte: An attack made immediately after parrying an opponent’s attack. See also Counter-Attack and Stop-Thrust.

Secondary Return: The secondary return is the riposte or counter-attack to a shot that is the second quickest shot to throw that has a reasonable chance of landing. This leads to it being a less common response to that particular attack.

Simple Attack: An attack that contains no feints.

Slot: A slot is a chop that strike’s the opponent’s shoulder, landing in the “slot” between head and the opponent’s weapon.

Sluff: (Also Slough) The act of illegally refusing to take a hit that resulted from a valid attack.

Stop-Thrust: (Also, Stop-Cut) A counter-attack that allows the fighter to attack an opponent as the opponent attacks in such a way that the hit from the stop-thrust disrupts the initial attack. A stop-thrust differs from tracing in that the stop thrust is intended to and is capable of preventing the initial attack from succeeding.

Strap Shield: A strap shield is a shield that is attached to the player by means of a strap around the forearm and a handle. Strap shields can have the straps centered in the shield (“Center Strapped”) or in the bottom half of the shield (“Bottom Strapped”).

Tracing: A method of fighting that relies on counter-attacks. The player does not launch initial attacks of his own, instead choosing to wait for the opponent to begin a strike and then counter-attacking instead of parrying or dodging. This differs from a stop-thrust in that tracing attempts to merely land a hit when the opponent does so. See also Stop-Thrust and Counter-Attack

Wrap: A type of attack. A wrap is a rotational motion of the weapon along the plane of the weapon that causes the tip of the weapon to move through an arc perpendicular to the length of the weapon.