Tag Archives: Lefty

Video: Ten Shots

This is a longer video, about twenty minutes, so it’s embedded via Youtube. It shows ten different shots for striking your opponent in their sword arm. These shots are shown lefty on righty, but most of them work in any hand configuration. The filming is done with a digital camera, so, as always, the appearance of sword bending in some of the shots is an artifact of the camera’s CCD scanning during high-speed motion and is not due to actual bending of the swords.

I encourage you to watch this video in the 1080 HD it was originally recorded in. If you have questions or comments, come visit us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/LeftyCombat/

Ask the Champion: Dealing with Tracers

Dear Champion:

How do I deal with tracers? With some fighters, as soon as I throw a shot, they throw a shot. So I end up with a lot of simos. Sometimes I kill them and just lose an arm, sometimes they kill me and I just wound them. If I don’t throw a shot, they just wait for me to throw.

Tired and Traced

Dear Tired:

Excellent question. Tracing is a common problem that fighters have to deal with. People who trace can end up being difficult opponents to deal with for mid-level fighters, despite the tactic being a dead-end for fighting development. There are several approaches you can take to dealing with opponents who trace.

Initial Assessment

Before you can develop a tactic to deal with someone who traces, you need to know they’re a tracer. If you’ve fought them before and already know they trace, then you can skip this part entirely. However, you’re eventually going to be in a situation where you’re fighting someone new and you don’t know if they trace or not. There are three methods for detecting tracers.

Die. You can just hope they’re not a tracer, throw some random shot, and get killed if they trace. Most people who are tracers do it incessantly, so now you know that they’re a tracer. Also, you’re dead. Sadly, this is known as “losing” in Amtgard, so I can not recommend this method.

Feint. If you throw the beginning of any traceable shot, which is to say a shot that a tracer has an opportunity and opening to counter-attack into as soon as they see you start to move, a tracer will immediately twitch and start their counter-attack. They usually won’t finish it, but that twitch reveals their nature.

Play Safe. Throwing a safe shot, where you can cover yourself against the primary counter-attack, allows you to expose a tracer without getting killed by their counter-attack. This usually means throwing a low probability shot that you don’t expect to land, but your goal was to determine the nature of your opponent, not to win.


Once you know you’re facing a tracer, there are many strategies for killing them safely. The biggest weaknesses of a tracer are that they are both predictable and controllable. It is typically apparent what the tracer will throw when you make your attack. Additionally, you have complete control over when the tracer will attack; they will throw their shot the moment you swing, and not a moment before. With these two factors, you can select from a variety of strategies to defeat the tracer.


Block with your secondary equipment. In situations where you have a second piece of equipment, you can block the primary return with that equipment as you throw your shot. Not all shots are safe to accomplish this with, nor are all primary returns blockable this way.  If a sword-side hip-wrap is going to be the primary return, you can’t effectively block that with a shield. Conversely, while lunging florentine, it is fairly safe to guard your sword arm with your non-attacking hand.

As an extension of this idea, a single sword user can block the primary return with their off-hand instead of using their hand to guard the secondary return. However, this is a poor choice for facing a tracer, as this will result in the loss of a limb, leaving you an arm down against the next opponent.

Defensive Transitions. An alternate method to block a tracer is to throw a shot that has a quick transition into a block of the primary return as part of the return to guard. (Remember that in general, when you throw a shot, you should almost never be recoiling through your outgoing weapon path to return to guard. Returning to guard along a path that leads through or begins a block against the primary return is usually the best practice and allows you to quickly block ripostes. If the opponent doesn’t throw the primary return, you do not need to complete the block and can continue back to a guard position or transition to block the slower secondary or tertiary return as needed.)

If you choose a shot that has a very short motion between the completion of the shot and the beginning of the block of the primary return, it is possible to both land a shot and block the tracer’s counter-attack. This is a high-risk option, however, as most tracers throw a shot that lands almost instantly in time with yours. An example would be throwing a back-handed chop to the top of an opponent’s arm through the outside lane, ending with the palm rotated upwards and the blade parallel to the ground. This leaves you under the opponent’s weapon, inviting the tracer to throw a quick downward chop as the primary return. The return to guard begins with collapsing the elbow with the elbow pointed down, which immediately puts your weapon in place to block the primary return as soon as the elbow begins to bend.

Weapon Manipulation

Weapon Jamming: Instead of blocking the attack of a tracer, it is possible to preemptively interfere with their weapon before they begin their attack. One option is to jam their weapon as part of your attack. This allows you to control the opponent’s weapon and prevent them from launching their tracing counter-attack. An example of this can be seen in hand-matched single sword, by throwing a flat horizontal chop to the opponent’s torso through the inside lane. As part of the chop, the aggressor closes range and strikes the blade of their weapon just above the handle against the middle of the opponent’s weapon, with the blade parallel to the opponent’s chest. The aggressor then uses this weapon as a fulcrum, continuing the motion to strike the opponent in the chest while pushing their weapon towards them and slightly to the side. Obviously, this will only work against opponents whose guard leaves their sword somewhere close to vertical.

Weapon Beats: A less aggressive form of weapon manipulation is to make a beat at the opponent’s weapon. The intent is to disrupt their reflexive motion, forcing them to spend a portion of a second regaining control of their weapon before they can counter-attack. The aggressor then uses this time window to land a strike without being hit. With a beat, the attacker’s blade should stop as soon as the defender’s blade is struck. You are knocking the blade aside, not pushing it aside. It should be noted that the tracer will often still attempt to counter-attack, even though the resulting shot will be late. An example of this is a standard lefty attack against a sword and board righty. The attacker beats the opponent’s blade two-thirds of the way up with a backhand beat (palm facing to the attacker’s shield side) to the inside (shield side) of the blade. As the defenders sword is knocked to the outside, the attacker changes the strike to a vertical chop to the defender’s sword shoulder or upper sword arm.


Partial Shots: The fact that a tracer is going to start their counter-attack as soon as they detect that you have begun your shot gives you a great deal of control over the fight. By beginning but not completing a shot, you can force the tracer into action. The degree to which you complete the partial shot will also give you additional control over whether the tracer completes his counter-attack or attempts to abort it partway through. Often a simple but pronounced twitch will cause the tracer to start his counter-attack, abort it, and then reset. By preceding your actual shot with this sort of feint, you can often land your shot while the tracer is still resetting from his aborted counter-attack. A more pronounced feint, where you complete more of the shot, will often draw the tracer into completing his counter-attack. In this scenario, since you did not commit to the shot, you are in position to either open range to avoid the shot, or, preferably, block and riposte.

Off-Target Shots: Another method of drawing the tracer into premature or inopportune action is to throw an off-target shot. In this scenario, instead of striking the opponent, you will deliberately miss. This allows you to keep the motion of your strike and use it to either continue moving out of the way or to flow through the attack into a block. An example of this can be seen in hand-matched single sword. In a scenario where the tracer is going to counter-attack with a vertical chop at your arm when you attack their sword arm (a common tracing tactic), you can swing just past their arm on the outside lane and continue moving your arm down. In this case, you will be dropping your arm at the same time the tracer is swinging at it, allowing you to keep moving your arm out of the way of their sword. You would then roll your wrist in a loop, transitioning from palm to the inside to palm up as you bring your hand back up after evading their strike, landing a back-handed strike to the tracer’s sword arm or sword-side body.

Noncommittal Shots: Another way to draw a tracer into action is to throw shots without committing to them. Such a shot has little chance of landing effectually, but it looks a great deal like a real shot while providing the advantage that the attacker has not committed themselves to the shot and is therefore less exposed. A classic example of this is a strike to the back of the hand. In the scenario where an attacker is facing a florentine fighter, it is a given that crossing the body to strike the unmatched arm will draw a strike from the florentine fighter’s hand-matched hand to the attacker’s sword arm. If the attacker instead strike at the back of the florentiner’s unmatched hand, the attacker does not expose as much of their arm by reaching for the arm, nor do they get as close to the opponent. The attacker can instead bounce his strike off the opponent’s unmatched hand and immediately transition the motion into an aggressive block against the matched hand’s expected vertical chop counter-attack. Blocking this vertical chop aggressively will open the florentiner’s hand-matched shoulder for a riposte by the attacker.

Overfeint: Feinting can also be taken to an extreme. Instead of making one or two feints and then throwing a shot, continue feinting different shots until the tracer’s brain short circuits. This does run the risk that the opponent will elect to stop tracing and just hit you while you’re throwing your eighth feint. This sometimes has the benefit of breaking the tracer out of “trace mode” so they stop tracing and become a more interesting opponent, but most tracers are monomaniacally dedicated to tracing as a fighting style and have no other modes.


Open Range: While any fool who says “the best block is to not be there” should be ignored until they stop getting their fighting advice from Karate Kid (part 2, at that), evasion is still a valuable tool in any fighter’s toolbox. Opening the range as part of your shot allows you to complete a shot out of range, which makes it harder for a tracer to strike you. The classic example of this is the retreating chop. The attacker begins with a simple chop from within range, and as part of his strike retreats. The weapon should make contact with the opponent while the attacker is in retrograde motion and is at the very limit of effective range. This means that, the moment after the strike lands, the attacker has left effective range. The tracer is left to strike empty air as the attacker opens the range and returns to guard. This type of action can be difficult to pull off and requires good footwork and range control, but opens up a variety of new attack options.

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.

Ask the Champion: Choosing Something to Work On

Dear Champion:

I have a laundry list of things I need to improve; footwork, stance, guard, shot accuracy, shot selection, feints, baits, combos…. I’m overwhelmed. Where do I begin and how do I go about improving in a smart and logical fashion.

Overwhelmed in the Wetlands

Dear Overwhelmed:

That is an excellent question. The answer is not going to be the same for everyone, but hopefully I can give you some guidance that will help you find the best answer for you. There is a general hierarchy that will serve as your framework for deciding what to work on next; guard, stance, footwork, shot accuracy, shot selection, feints and baits. However, you can’t simply work through this linearly, developing the perfect guard before learning anything about your stance, then perfecting your stance before you learn anything about footwork. That just doesn’t work. It would also be intensely boring to spend months practicing your guard instead of fighting. Instead, there are a couple ways to decide what to work on next; the “what am I doing wrong?” approach, the “what am I not doing?” approach, and the “what should I be doing?” approach. We’ll look at all three.

When a newbie first shows up, you show him how to hold his sword, how to stand, and show him a couple basic shots. Then you turn him loose. When he comes to you for help later, you are generally going to have one “biggest mistake” he is making, and fixing that will give him the best improvement for his efforts. He may be only throwing one shot, he may be throwing his one shot incorrectly. He may be holding his shield far too low. After he fixes that, you find the next big problem, and so on.

This is one method for finding where you need to improve; find a flaw and fix it. What is the one thing that gets you killed most often, or what is the most common way you get killed. Isolate that and you’ve found the next thing you need to work on.

As you become more skilled, you need to start finding gaps in your fighting instead of flaws, i.e. figuring out what you’re not doing at all. Do you only throw shots to certain quadrants of the opponent? Then you need to develop some shots that attack the quadrants you are neglecting. Do you always move around to the shield side of your opponent? You need to develop some moves that require moving around to the sword side. Analyzing what you do, then comparing it to the set of “everything it is humanly possible to do” can help you find gaps in your skills.

A third method in deciding what to work on is to take a holistic approach and figure out what your fighting development path should be. That is no one true path, and I’ve never actually sat down before and charted out a full fighting development path (and I’m very glad your question got me thinking about this!), but here is a rough estimate of what your progress path should look like. If you’re behind in something, that is probably the area you should work on next. This isn’t a hard and fast ordering; if you start doing great stabs as a newbie, awesome. That just means you don’t have “shots” as an area that needs tons of work until you get your other areas up to speed.

  1. Level 1 Fighting
    1. Basic Stance/Guard: When you are standing still, how you hold your gear, where your feet go, and how you hold your body.
    2. Basic Shots: The three basics of chop, high cross, and wrap, plus the straight stab. Throw and return to guard. Nothing fancy.
    3. Basic Blocks: Sword blocks sword side, shield blocks shield side. Nothing fancy.
    4. Basic Movement: Moving forward and backwards without dropping out of guard.
  2. Level 2 Fighting
    1. Basic Ripostes: Learning to throw a good basic shot as an immediate riposte after blocking a shot. The goal is to exploit people’s failure to return to guard.
    2. Basic Range Control: Keeping out of the Danger Zone and controlling when the opponent is in yours against static and near static opponents. Basic footwork drills like two-step are useful.
    3. Intermediate Stance/Guard: There is more than one guard and stance. You should be trying others, and returning to your guard through the highest probability return after throwing a shot. (Hello, Block-Strike)
    4. Intermediate Shots: Stabs and other more complex shots, such as the darkside. These shots require more precise weapon control (pocket stab) or have multiple motions that need to be done in order to complete the shot (darkside).
    5. Intermediate Blocks: Blocks that violate the sword-side/sword-block rule. Aggressive or weapon controlling blocks, blocking in the opponent’s space or other opportunity-specific blocks.
    6. Intermediate Movement: Moving laterally while maintaining stance and moving at angles. Transitioning from one stance to another while moving without exposing yourself. Footwork drills composed of multiple movement types are really your friend. You should begin experimenting with cross-steps and lateral movement.
  3. Level 3 Fighting
    1. Basic Feints and Baits: Start with the more obvious baits: exposed shield shoulder, cross both feint, et cetera. These should be fairly safe moves and only require a few basic movements.
    2. Intermediate Counterattacks and Ripostes: Counterattacks that jam the opponent, Throwing more complex shots as ripostes, how to draw attacks you can riposte from. (Overlaps with feints and baits)
    3. Intermediate Range Control: closing on fast retreaters, keeping range open on fast closers. “Follow the Leader” and “Close on the Wall” are good drills.
    4. Advanced Shots: You start building new shots that fill in holes in your attack space repertoire. You may start wasting time with spin shots. “Shots”, “movement” and “feints and baits” start to blend together.
    5. Advanced Range Control: You should be able to move rapidly in any direction and be able to control range control to within an inch or so. Partner stop and go drills, “Follow the Leader” with multiple movement types, laterals, angles and cross-steps.
  4. Level 4 Fighting
    1. Elite Fighting: You don’t need a roadmap at this point. You should also start teaching at this point, since teaching will force you to develop a better and more cerebral understanding of your own fighting, which will in turn make you a better fighter.

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.

Video: The High Cross Feint

A short video on drawing a known counter by feinting the high cross. The core concept is fairly straightforward. People like to throw the high cross. A lot. Eventually people, even silly righties, learn to capitalize on this and kill the foolish high crossing people. Once people have learned to counter the high cross, which is dead simple, you can bait them into throwing the counter, which you can then block and riposte. When you know what shot someone is going to throw, blocking it should be simple. This video breaks down how it is done. Enjoy.

High Res, for those who really want a high-res copy: High Cross Feint

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.

Throwing to the Outside

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

Someone recently asked why throwing to the outside is wrong. They correctly pointed out that throwing to the outside on a lefty draws a somewhat predictable return and that there is potential to capitalize on this predictability; the righty can throw to the outside, block the predicted return, and riposte for victory. Therefore, let me address the question of “Why is your default advice to righties not to throw to the outside?”

There are a few answers to this question. The first, and most basic, is that “Don’t throw to the outside” is good beginner advice, like “Don’t start a sentence with a preposition.” Good fighters, like good writers, learn the rules, and then actively choose to break them for specific, intelligently-chosen reasons. You can throw to the outside, but you’re breaking a basic rule so you better have a good reason for doing it.

The second is that it is simply dangerous. Reactive actions are faster than initiative actions[1]. Worse for you, the lefty is accustomed to this exchange and likely has it drilled to a higher degree of skill than the rest of his game. You’re throwing his favorite combo. Generally you want to avoid giving people their best-case scenario and look for weaker areas in the fighter. So you shouldn’t just do it willy-nilly. Of course, as you get higher-skill lefties, the skill-variation between this shot and other shots narrows as they equalize their skill at all areas of their game. Likewise, as the righty grows in skill, this becomes less risky simply because he knows it is risky and has planned accordingly.

The third answer is that you can use people’s habits and reflexes against them, and in that scenario throwing to the outside is acceptable. This gets into the “chess game” of fighting, where it is not just a matter of physical ability, but of mental preparation and planning. You plan to throw to the outside, draw the inside return, block, and riposte for victory. That works, until the lefty plans to draw a shot to the outside, block, counter to the inside to draw a riposte, block, and then riposte for victory. That works until… you get the idea. Of course, the other guy may not follow into your plan, so mental flexibility remains important.

So, in brief, “don’t throw to the outside” is a “combat rule.” It is permissible to break a combat rule, but you need to know what rule you’re breaking, why you’re breaking it, and what the repercussions of breaking the rule are.

Addendum: Brett pointed out the value of off-timed shots, and made an excellent point. I have included his comment, slightly edited for terminology.

I don’t think you take into account off timed shots. Assuming I am sword and board, I usually throw outside to trigger a predictable riposte and kill them in the riposte. I’m talking about an outside beat into a counter attack. I don’t want to block and then exchange; I want their reactions to be automatically wrong.

[1] Andrew E. Welchman, James Stanley, Malte R. Schomers, R. Chris Miall1 and Heinrich H. Bülthoff.  “The Quick and the Dead: When Reaction Beats Intention“. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2010 Jun 7;277(1688):1667-74