Tag Archives: Concepts

Control, Not Aggression

I can’t count the number of times I have heard someone told; “You need to be more aggressive.” The result of this advice is that the fighter starts to close distance with other fighters and swing more.

On the surface, that doesn’t seem too bad; the fighter is getting into range and throwing shots. Those seem like much better options than not being in range and not throwing shots. The problem is that “be more aggressive” does not fully define the problems that need to be addressed, what is causing that problem, nor does it offer the optimal solution to those problems.

There are two specific problems that tend to be defined as “not being aggressive enough.” The first problem is range control. The subject fighter is not controlling range and is ending up at the worst possible range. The second is fight control. The subject fighter is ceding control of the fight to the opposing fighter and allowing that person to set the timing and pace of the fight.

Range Control

When the subject fighter fails at range control, he or she is getting trapped at a non-optimal range, usually within the reach of the opposing fighter and outside his or her own reach. This can be due either to the superior range control abilities of the opposing fighter, or, more commonly, due to both of them being bad at range control and the subject fighter not making any effort to alter the default range the encounter happens at. In the second case, this can be due to ignorance of the correct range, or a disinclination to get any closer to the person swinging sticks at them.

Telling the subject fighter to be more aggressive results, at best, in him or her charging closer, where “closer” is a nebulous undefined thing that is simply “nearer than he or she was fighting at.” Identifying the actual problem and the cause allows the fighter to be educated and understand what they need to do to improve. Failure to do so results in a fighter who charges recklessly forward to “be more aggressive.”

The correct answer in this case is to discuss ranges and range control. Explain the concepts of “out of range”, “in range of one fighter but not the other”, and “in range.” The second choice is usually the one the subject fighter is making; they need to be taught that this is the range you never want to be hanging around at*. This discussion usually brings to light why the subject fighter is unwilling to close to “in range.” This reason could be fear of getting hit, fear of running into the other person, simple ignorance that they should be closing that far, or some other reason. This reason can then be discussed and resolved.

For example, a fighter I worked with recently was hanging out in my ideal range and allowing me to hit him at will. This happened even when we started out of range and I allowed him to close and set the range. I stopped our sparring, demonstrated that he was unable to hit me even if I stood completely still, and that I could still hit him. I then stepped back to where I could not hit him, and indicated that this was his “out of reach” range. Then I stepped forward until I was just in range of him. Comparing these three ranges allowed him to see where he should and should not be fighting. He had been unwilling to get closer because he was concerned he would get hit. Illustrating that he was already close enough to get hit from where he had been stopping, and that stopping there just meant he couldn’t hit me back, encouraged him to choose his ranges more carefully.

Fight Control

The second problem that gets hidden under the bushel basket of “be more aggressive” is ceding control of the fight to the opposing fighter. The subject fighter allows the opponent to choose when to attack or throw shots. The subject fighter is then told “be more aggressive”, which is translated as “throw more shots.”

The issue with this solution is that “throw more shots” is not the same thing as “control the fight.” Throwing shots, simply for the sake of being “more aggressive”, does not mean the fighter is taking control of the fight. It means the fighter is acting, but does not specify the reasons for the action, different choices for taking action, or how to choose specific actions. In the very worst case, the now “aggressive” fighter falls for the baits of the opposing fighter and is “aggressively” ceding control of the fight by doing exactly as his or her opponent wishes.

This highlights the difference between “fight control” and “aggression.” Controlling a fight means that the fighter determines not only his or her own action, but also provides the stimulus that the opposing fighter reacts to. Ideally, this gives the subject fighter control not only of how he or she acts, but also how the opposing fighter acts. This control is not as simple as “throw a shot”, nor does it often take the form of throwing a shot; a fighter could bait a shot from the opposing fighter, controlling the fight by controlling the shot the opponent throws. This would then be used as a setup for a block and a specific riposte that the opposing fighter’s attack opened up. Given that it is all too often fighters with less range who are being told to be more aggressive, and that drawing a specific shot is an excellent way to close range safely, telling these fighters to “be aggressive” can actively hurt their success rate.

The correct course of action is to tell the subject fighter to take control of the fight. If the opposing fighter acts in a way he or she is not ready for and has not chosen to invite, the subject fighter should disengage so the fight can proceed on his or her own terms. When the subject fighter is ready to engage, he or she should engage with purpose and with a specific intent. That plan may not work out; no one wins every fight. Taking control of the fight is what is important and what will lead to long-term success.

Failure to differentiate between “be aggressive” and “control the fight” will also often mask the underlying reason that the fighter is not taking control of the fight. Often the reason is either an ignorance of how to proceed, specifically not having any idea of what shot to throw, or an unwillingness to proceed. “Nothing is open” is the most common phrase I hear when discussing why a fighter is not taking control of the fight. This opens the door for teaching the fighter something they can do, which will often begin to resolve the lack of fight control.

An unwillingness to proceed is often accompanied with the explanation, “If I do X, I will get killed by Y” , and expands into an endless loop of option and how that option could fail. This indicates that the fighter has begun to think about fighting in greater depth, but has gotten locked in an endless cycle of move and countermove. This provides an opportunity to teach the fighter more about controlling the fight. “If X will get you Y, then why not fake X to draw Y, block Y, and do Z? Controlling the fight is not about hitting the other fighter first, it is about making the other fighter play along with your plan.” It may also be a chance to remind the fighter that every move has a counter, and that getting stuck in the endless cycle is a good way to do nothing and cede control of the fight. I’ve sometimes had to tell fighters, “If you get locked in the cycle, force yourself to execute your third plan, even if it seems likely to get you killed. Sometimes breaking your mental lock is more important than finding the perfect plan, especially since there is no perfect plan.”

Be in Control

Fighting well does not require aggression. Fighting well requires control. A fighter who charges in instead of controlling range, or who just throws whatever shot looks inviting, will definitely find some success if previously all he or she was doing was just standing at the worst possible range or soaking shots without ever throwing any of his or her own. However, this is a limited success that will ultimately stunt his or her growth as a fighter. Control, choosing to always be at the best range and choosing to control the fight rather than react to it, is the ultimate path to success as a fighter.

*I make the assumption that the person being told to “be more aggressive” in the range-control scenario has less reach than his or her opponent. Since that is what always happens, I find this to be a reasonable assumption. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to deduce how to teach range control to the fighter with greater reach.

The Role of Speed in Combat, Part 1: Perception

“So Fast.”

This is one of the most common compliments I hear about top fighters, but it is also one of the most inaccurate. Most top fighters do not have reaction speed any greater than that of the average player. Some are even slower than average. Yet the perception of “so fast” persists. There are a number of reasons for this. Today we’ll look at the first one.

What may be the largest factor in this perception of speed, ironically, has to do with speed of perception. As a fighter becomes more skilled, they are able to perceive more information about their opponent more quickly. As a fighter grows more practiced, he builds up a “language” of body movements. By “chunking” the individual information components of opponent position, muscle movement, and balance into the “words” of this language, the fighter is able to rapidly process and understand a large body of information. Whereas a novice unschooled in this language might have to read the individual letters of “elbow lift”, “slight torso rotation”, “sword shoulder pulled to the inside”, “hand back”, “weight shift”, and a host of other letters, the experience fighter reads “beginning to high cross.”

This is something well documented in all areas of expertise. Chess players learn to read boards so that they can instantly recognize a pattern of play. (1) Tennis players learn to read opponent position to predict where a return will land. (2) Mostly, this is a subconscious learning process that the expert cannot easy verbally express to those who do not have the language. To demonstrate the utility of this type of language building, there is a classic example from natural language. Consider the letters “oeos ni mts tmhh eaglndse“. Without looking back, how many do you remember, in order? You don’t have a “language” for that. Now consider the letters “glen is the most handsome“. Now how many letters can you list off, in order? All of them. Because you have a “language” for that that let you chunk the data into manageable chunks. Same letters. Fighters have, over much time, built up a language of movement that they’re reading when they face an opponent.

There are a number of important implications of this language. The first one is that, the better someone knows the language, the less information to have to provide to convey a message. This is due to the anticipatory nature of expert perception. (3) Because the expert has tools for chunking their perceptions into manageable numbers of data elements and they have an ability to predict what the message will be. As a side effect of this, they will focus on the area where they expect new activity or information to occur. In fighting, better fighters understand the language of fighting better, so they can predict what the message will be with less information. Which letters are missing from this: “sf_e l_ _j as_i” How about now: “jle_ i_ s_ fas_“? Having the language makes it easier to get meaning before all the information is in.

A second implication is that the anticipatory nature of expert perception makes is susceptible to being misled. When you are trying to sell a feint to another fighter, the better the fighter the more minimal the feint has to be. It also can make it easier to sell fakes in some cases. If you’ve heard “jlee is so fast!” enough times, you’re going to jump to that conclusion when you see “____ i_ so ____!“, when this time I was tricking you and the message is “tato is so huge!“.

The logical question from those seeking to join the ranks of top fighters is, “how do I learn this language?” The answer is simple: effort and immersion. First, the student of this language must make an active effort to learn it if they want to accelerate their learning. Focus on why your opponent is doing as well as what they are doing. Make an effort to predict your opponent. Fight in a manner that requires you to predict your opponent’s actions, as opposed to the manner that just lets you “win.” Talk to your opponent about what happened and what they did and what you noticed them doing. Expert instruction that highlights key aspects of reading an action can also be extremely beneficial.

Second, do a great deal of fighting. Developing proficiency in reading this language will take thousands of hours of practice. Just being told about it is not sufficient (4), and too much explicit instruction can impose a cognitive load that can actually decrease performance. (5) In simpler terms, if you give people too much to think about they’ll botch it because they spent too much time thinking instead of doing. Guided practice is the best approach. Lots and lots of guided practice. However, it is still important to ensure that you have the fundamentals of fighting down before you start trying to work on your perceptual skills. (6)

Top fighters are not particularly faster in reaction time or movement speed than other players. They are benefitting from superior skill. Foremost among those skills is an ability to rapidly perceive and anticipate what their opponent is doing. This is due to the expert having built up a “language” that allows them to process information about the opponent’s movements in a smaller number of easy-to-process “chunks” of information, rather than having to process every element of the opponent’s action separately, which would impose an impossible cognitive load. Developing this language is the result of long hours of exposure and effort at reading an opponent. This development can be accelerated through the use of guided learning with an expert who can highlight key cues as the student practices perception and action.

(1) Chase, William G., and Herbert A. Simon. “Perception in chess.” Cognitive psychology 4.1 (1973): 55-81.

(2) Shim, Jaeho, et al. “The use of anticipatory visual cues by highly skilled tennis players.” Journal of motor behavior 37.2 (2005): 164-175.

(3) Ferrari, Vincent, André Didierjean, and Evelyne Marmeche. “Dynamic perception in chess.” The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 59.2 (2006): 397-410.

(4) Williams, A. Mark, et al. “Developing anticipation skills in tennis using on-court instruction: Perception versus perception and action.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 16.4 (2004): 350-360.

(5) Smeeton, Nicholas J., et al. “The relative effectiveness of various instructional approaches in developing anticipation skill.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 11.2 (2005): 98.

(6) Ward, Paul, and A. Mark Williams. “Perceptual and cognitive skill development in soccer: The multidimensional nature of expert performance.” Journal of sport and exercise psychology 25.1 (2003): 93-111.

Ask the Champion: Overcoming Overthinking and Uncertainty

Dear Champion:

I often find myself not doing anything because everything I can think of will get me killed. I have been taught a number of different shots, but I avoid throwing them because I’m terrible at them. What should I do?

Overthought and Outfought

Dear Overthought:

The answer is really simple: throw a shot. Like most simple answers, though, this one isn’t very useful without some context. So let’s look at the different scenarios when either overthinking or a lack of confidence is causing you problems; being unable to choose a shot, lack of confidence in a shot, and a lack of confidence in your strengths.

Being Unable To Choose a Shot

The most common form of over thinking leads to freezing up in combat. Ironically, it often starts to afflict fighters as they become more knowledgeable and skilled. The fighter begins to think through their attack plans and anticipate the responses of his or her opponent in place of raw newbie aggression. However, it turns out that there is a counter to every move. There is no such thing as a guaranteed shot. So the fighter gets locked into a loop of, “If I do X, he will counter with Y and then hit me with Z. So I better not do that. But if I do A, he will counter with B and hit me with C. So I better not do that.” The fighter will enter an endless cycle of this, since every move has a counter, and end up doing nothing.

The short term solution to this is to give yourself a count; after your third discarded plan, you have to do the third one. You don’t get to try to figure out a fourth plan that will ensure your victory. You don’t get to pick one of your earlier plans (and then procrastinate longer while you try to pick one of those three.) You just execute Plan Three, even if it seems doomed to failure. This will accomplish two things; first, it keeps you from standing there until the other guy decides on his plan, and kills you. Second, it teaches you the important lesson that just because a shot has a counter, doesn’t mean the other guy is going to do it, or do it correctly. You will find that your “discarded as a doomed failure” plan sometimes leads to victory.

That second lesson is the long-term solution: learning that you are not seeking the guaranteed win (because there isn’t one), just the plan with a good chance of leading to victory or survival. This lesson is something that is easy to understand intellectually but hard to internalize so that you can act on it. Doing something, anything, is usually better than doing nothing.

Another tool you can use is to talk things out with the other fighter. Go ahead with your plan, even if it seems horrible. If it works as planned, hooray! If it does not, ask the other fighter about his thought process. What was he expecting, what was his reaction, why was that his reaction, whether he has any alternate suggestions, and what would he have done in your place. This discussion can help you reach the long-term goal of understanding that there is no perfect plan, give you confidence in your planning, and help you devise better attack plans. Good fighters love these sorts of theoretical discussions.

Lack of Confidence in a Shot

Fighters often artificially limit their shot selection to shots they are good at or that they know will work. This is a fine thing to do in a tournament and a terrible thing to do anywhere else. The fighter believes that he or she is unable to throw the shot correctly, and, rather than throw it incorrectly, the fighter chooses not to throw it at all. Often this is done under the reasoning of “not wanting to practice it wrong.”

There is no way to learn to throw a shot correctly without first throwing it wrong. Many, many times. There is no shame in screwing up a shot; every single good fighter has completely botched every shot they can throw. It is how they learned in the first place. A fighter needs to practice throwing a shot, failing, and trying to figure out what went wrong, over and over and over and over and over. That is how you get good at something.

When you are sparring or ditching, that is precisely when you should be throwing the shots you are bad at. Do not hold off on throwing a shot until you feel you’ve perfected in on a pell. Do not avoid throwing a shot because you know it won’t land simply because you’re bad at that shot. Throw it and get some practice in! If you are doing it wrong, or think you are doing it wrong, ask someone to give you critique on your shot. The more you have practiced it, even “wrong”, the easier it will be for you to understand and incorporate their feedback.

People also sometimes avoid throwing shots they think they are bad at in order to avoid being embarrassed, especially in front of their instructor. If someone has taught you a new shot, throw it on them the next time you fight them, even if you’re still awful at it or haven’t had a chance to practice it much yet. That’s the best way to show them that you valued their instruction and advice. If you get it wrong, this also gives you grounds for asking for help refining it. No one expects you to master a shot the first time, but they do expect you to keep trying it out.

Lack of Confidence in Your Strengths

Fighters often talk themselves out of victory by convincing themselves that the other person is better (which may be true) and then failing to play to their own strengths. Often a fighter will change their fighting style.

The most common way this manifests is in switching to a passive, rapid-retreat and arm-snipe fighting style. I recently saw an up-and-coming fighter, who had just fairly conclusively demonstrated that I could no longer get one-shot kills on them, at all, due to rock-solid primary blocks and counters, completely abandon this hard-earned skill-set in favor of trying to keep the range open, evade shots rather than block, and then trace arm snipes at the opponent. I wanted to jump up and down and scream.

There is no easy solution to this, except to remember to always fight like you and not suddenly change your style just because you’re facing someone who you think is better than you. It is perfectly acceptable to adapt your style because you have an alternate skill-set that will better defeat theirs, or because you are testing out something new or learning new stuff. It is not okay to change your fighting style out of fear of defeat.

The best way to do a self-evaluation and check if you are doing this is to decide if you have ceded control of the fight. There aren’t any hard and fast rules to this, but there are several scenarios where the answer is “you are probably letting uncertainty rule you.”

If you’re being passive instead of using a specific concrete plan (not get hit and snipe arms is not a specific or concrete plan) to control the fight, you’re letting uncertainty rule you. Figure out a plan and put it into action. Even if you want to snipe an arm, you should have a plan to control when they throw a shot, what shot they will throw, how you will avoid getting hit, what shot you will use to hit the arm, and so forth.

If you are spending all your time retreating and evading instead of engaging and blocking, you’re letting uncertainty rule you. There are definitely times to open range, and there are times when evading is better than blocking, but if that is all you’re doing then you are probably avoiding the fight instead of participating in it. Sometimes a fighter will be doing this in order to maneuver into more favorable positioning, but often the fighter is telling themselves they’re “maneuvering” but they don’t have any plan behind their maneuvers except “don’t get hit”.

If you normally fight a certain way, but not you aren’t doing any of the things you normally do, you’ve probably let uncertainty change your fighting style. If the person you were fighting was a low-skill fighter, would your overall style be different? If so, you’re letting uncertainty control the fight instead of yourself. Pretend the person you’re fighting is a fighter who is just a little bit less-skilled than you. Now do what you would do in that situation. You will probably find more success than you were having.

Conclusions

Overall, the answer to all of this is “be yourself” and “just do something.” You do this by accepting that you can not win them all and that there is no shame in failure. You ultimately need to learn to embrace failure (which sounds easy but is ultimately very difficult) because failure is an inevitable side-effect of learning.  So go out and try those new shots. Mess them up. Bop people in the head. (But not me!) Accidentally fling your sword across the field. Lose ingloriously because your plan failed. These failures are the hidden fees and surcharges that you have to pay in order to become truly good. It will all pay off eventually.

As always, if you have questions for Ask the Champion, send an email to glen@malletofprovidence.com and I will answer them in my column.

The Rules of Combat, Part 1

Everyone who has ever had to take an English class has heard about the rules of good writing; don’t end a sentence with a proposition, don’t split an infinitive, don’t begin a sentence with “and” or “but”, and so forth. These are hard and fast rules for beginning writers, but experienced writers break them all the time. Writers do this because they fully understand the rules, why they’re important, and break them specifically and intentionally to achieve some literary effect.

Amtgard has rules of good combat. These rules are hard and fast rules for beginning fighters, who should only break them as they become more experienced and are fully aware of the reasons for and against breaking them, and who choose to knowingly violate the rules to achieve some specific combat effect. Today I’m going to go through the rules of combat and explain why they make good rules of thumb and then offer some instances when breaking the rules is a good idea.

Don’t throw to the outside. This is often stated more specifically as  “Don’t throw to the outside against a lefty.” Making an attack in an outside lane typically puts the opponent’s weapon between your weapon and your body. This makes your shot easier to block and, if it is a weapon instead of a shield that is between your weapon and your body, you are much more open to a riposte. As a righty against a lefty, you are throwing the single-most common shot the lefty encounters and he will often aggressively block your shot and riposte into your arm or shoulder. For a lefty, since righties are dumber, you’re at less risk, but a higher-end righty will punish you the same way you would punish a normal righty.

Once you are aware of these risks it is permissible to break this rule. Throwing to the outside can still be successful, either because you created an opening with a setup feint or because an opening exists already. A shot thrown to the outside can also be used as the first part of setting up another shot, as it will draw a predictable counter. Alternately, a shot thrown to the outside can be pulled through, allowing you to end the shot on the inside lane.

Don’t move your shield. This is one of the simplest pieces of advice given to newbie shield users. They often are holding their shield in the wrong place or flailing their shield all over the place, making greatly exaggerated blocks that leave them wide open. additionally, moving your shield can make it easier for people to fake you into moving your shield out of position. So it is not uncommon for a more experience fighter to help them place their shield in a decent guard position and then tell them not to move it.

Moving your shield allows for a greater variety of shots. A static shield will become a hindrance as your shot selection expands, so moving it will become necessary to throw some shots. The Darkside is a classic example of this. Additionally, shield movement can be used to disguise body movement. Finally, moving your shield expands the area it can cover, so moving your shield intelligently will increase your defensive options.

Block sword side with your sword. This advice is related to the previous advice. If you move your shield over to block your sword side, you not only open up your shield side to attack but your own shield gets in the way of riposting. Conversely, if you block with your sword you can open them up to a strong and fairly safe riposte.

The most common instance where you will want to break this rule is when you are doing something else with your sword. If you are in the middle of attack you may not have a good option for blocking a strike beyond your shield. If you are fighting a tracer, using your shield to block your sword arm as you strike may be a viable tactic. Some pocket stabs (stabs to the sword shoulder) are more effectively blocked by rotating and taking the stab on the shield instead of clearing the stab with your sword. Still, if your sword is not doing anything else at the moment, it ought to be blocking your sword side.

Your hand is too high. I suspect this is a legacy of sword-blocking high-crosses in righty-on-righty combat. Many, many people have a sword-and-board guard where their sword-hand is too high. This not only exposes the hip, ribs and the forearm to strikes of all sorts, but the response to strikes to the hip area are often responded to by rapidly jerking the hand down to catch the block, which is difficult to reverse rapidly and leaves the shoulder open after a fake to the hip.

This rule is harder for me to find exceptions to. The only time I will raise my guard is when I am fighting sword-foot forward against another lefty, and even then the rise in guard is minimal. Florentine is a totally different ballgame, though; then your hands are usually too low, but I’ll leave that discussion for another time.

Block Forward. This advice is tied to the Rogue-propagated concept of the Cone of Defense. The central idea is that blocks towards the point of origin of the attack (opponent’s sword-arm shoulder) can be smaller movements and therefore are faster. Having the arm forward instead of back also speeds the riposte after the block is made. Additionally, blocking forward can disrupt an attack and stall the attacker’s movement, leaving them exposed for a longer time to a riposte. Finally, if the defender is drawing the arm back to avoid the attack instead of blocking it, a movement commonly referred to as “chain-sawing”, a simple stutter can push the defender’s guard out of position for the real attack.

The primary time not to block forward is against deep wraps or other wide-angle shots where a forward block is going to be ahead of the pivot point of the wrap or inside the arc of the pivot. This really just gets to a refinement of the original rule, though; block forward, but don’t overextend your blocks. In practice, though, this can lead to blocks that are nearly even with your hips against the deepest wraps.

Never throw the same shot a second time in a row. Repetition of the same shot is one of the surest ways to lose a fight. First, the shot has already failed; the other guy has demonstrated that he can block the shot. Worse, it creates a pattern that effectively tells the other person, in advance, what you are going to do. Winning is much easier if you know exactly what the other guy is going to do.

I tend to modify this for experienced fighters to “don’t throw the same shot three times in a row.” Throwing the same shot twice does establish a pattern, and the first person to break a pattern tends to win. If you set up the pattern so they expect a third shot in the same area and then change things up you may catch them falsely anticipating you and therefore out of position to block your actual attack. A second reason to break this rule is that many people will reset to a standard guard between attacks, and a double attack can hit them when they’re still thinking that attack has been handled and is over with. This is mostly effective against lower-end fighters. It is important to remember that higher-end fighters are better at reading these patterns and will often read and murder you for the second attack.

Tune in next time for part 2, when we take a look at some more combat rules.

Body Alignment

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

Revised 09/18/2013

As a lefty, there are some concepts that apply to the majority of your combat that do not apply to the majority of righty combat. One of these concepts is body alignment. Body alignment is the term for where your center line is relative to your opponent’s center line. Your center line is an imaginary line projecting directly ahead of you from your center of mass. How this line matches up with your opponent is something which can be manipulated not just in dynamic combat but in static guard positions.

There are a couple important caveats that need to be made. I am assuming both fighters are fighting shield leg forward. If they are asymmetrically, with one sword leg forward and one shield leg forward, the dynamics change drastically. The changes in alignment discussed are also specifically lateral; changes in rotational alignment, such as by switching between sword and shield leg forward, are an entirely different issue.

Righty Aligned Center Lines

Righty Aligned Center Lines

When righties line up, they tend to off-set their center lines slightly or match them up. This gives them better defense against the other guy because his sword is within their shield borders, but since the other guy is doing the exact same thing he gets the exact same advantages.

Righty Offset Center Lines

Righty Offset Center Lines

If the righty decides to offset his center line, he gains the angle on his opponent, giving him better access to throw shots around the outside of his opponent’s shield. Unfortunately, his gives the exact same advantage to his opponent.

For the righty, manipulating how his center line interacts with his opponent’s never gains an him an advantage. It is still worth doing and being aware of, since it changes the dynamics of combat, but these changes are always a zero-sum game.

Lefty Aligned Center Lines

Lefty Aligned Center Lines

For the lefty, however, manipulating body alignment is a useful tactic for gaining an advantageous position in combat. In the default case, where both the lefty and his righty opponent have matched center lines, there is no advantage to either player. Both players have the same angles and the urge to foolishly high-cross is theoretically equal in both fighters.

Lefty Offset Center Lines

Lefty Offset Center Lines

Altering body alignment for the lefty provides a substantial combat advantage. By offsetting his center line, the lefty gains a better angle to throw to the righty’s sword side and simultaneously denies the righty a good angle to attach the lefty’s sword side. The righty is given increased exposure to the shield side, but this side is already well defended by the shield. The righty might even be more tempted to throw a high-cross to the shield shoulder, which is a low-percentage option.

Conversely, the lefty can shift his center line in the other direction. This creates an extremely attractive opening for his righty opponent by giving his opponent a good angle on his sword side while simultaneously making his shield side considerably less available. This can be used as a strong bait to encourage the righty to throw a specific, known shot to a known location, giving control of the fight to the lefty.

The alteration in body alignment can be subtle; even a slight shift gives the advantage to the lefty. Subtle alterations have the benefits of being less noticeable, and it can frequently happen that the righty is not even aware of the now altered body alignment and will attempt to throw the same shots, now with notably less success.

The core concept is that, for a lefty, lateral motion against a similarly positioned opponent creates unequal combat advantages and disadvantages, while for same-handed people it does not.