Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 34: Calibration

War of the Wings flowed so smoothly (please disregard any apparent grousing on my part which may be interpreted otherwise) that I, as RMiC, had damned little paperwork to do.  No marshal’s courts needed, no blade breaks, no inappropriate behavior, no thrown masks, just a long day of killing.

All of which makes the two comments I do have to record on my marshal’s report stand out.  Both are for calibration issues, and it makes me realize that I the Warfare is full of my mental sputa on matters of tactics, theory, and psychology, but almost devoid of safety considerations, except for the whole “there is no such thing as an unsafe tactic, only an unsafe fighter” mindset, and of course The Beer Rule.  Screwy calibration is, of course, the number one way to trespass against the Beer Rule, and as such is nearly unacceptable.  That the two fighters in question are also Windmasters only saddens me further.

Lord Tiernen has a saying, and I’ve found it to be true: Melee is where all your bad habits come out.

Any flaw in your reactive form gets exacerbated by melee into a total loss of control.  You’re wired, overstimulated, and exhausted, restraint goes right out the window.  The woods, with more stimulus than other field and a larger are requiring more exertion, are just about the worst magnifier of all bad habits.

I may be able to throw a pretty, pretty shot on the tourney field, but all too often in the woods I end up looking like an octopus in a blender on a merry-go-round.  And if a Ninja-ass SOB like me loses a step in the Woods, then surely everybody else must have the same problem.  Right?

How to kill gently, part 1

It’s worth starting from a review of how to maintain good calibration in one-on-one fighting.

Measure. The closer the range from which you deliver your attack, the more likely you are to hit hard.  The body contortions required to thrust in close range  mean more motion comes from the hips and shoulders, creating more of a punch, than a lunge at range would (where the arm has finished extending before the touch lands).  Launching your default full-range lunge from anything less than full-range will also mean that your body is carrying too much momentum when you arrive.

Control of Line. Even though you may be able to control your measure, your opponents may get it into their fool heads to lunge when you do.  There’s nothing you can do to stop them from lunging, but you can discourage them by shutting down their line of attack.  And, hey, that’s good strategy anyway.

Body Mechanics.  The shot generation mentioned under Measure, using too much of the hips and shoulder, is a big part of the body mechanics involved in landing a controlled shot.  The rest is in maintaining relaxation even in the midst of action.  When joints lock or muscles tense, the body’s springiness vanishes and you turn into a steel rod.

Having learned all this stuff, we can then go about battling in the middle of the Pennsic woods with no risk of striking eachother hard, right?  Well, no.
Because while measure, line, and body mechanics will get you there, the woods fuck up judgment, which undoes all of your mastery of other principles.

How to kill gently, part 2

Exercise – Fatigue and adrenaline shut down the brain’s inhibition and judgment faster than anything legal, except a fifth of Jack.  And we’re taking that fight or flight response, skewing it towards the “fight” end so that we think we’re invincible, and then exercising our perceived invincibility with arms and legs that are soft and twitching.  So the more endurance your body has, and the more experience your brain has coping with adrenaline and endorphin floods, the better able you’ll be to keep control.

Practice – The more you experience a target-rich environment changing at high speed, the more your brain gets used to the high stimulus environment.  The first time a fighter goes into a melee they either end up bouncing from excitement or looking slightly shell-shocked, both are standard responses to having more asses to kick than you’ve got feet (lock up or over-compensate).  Of the two fencers in question, one is “feral”, hasn’t made a practice in a year, and the other hasn’t made an official practice in a few months, or been able to practice melee.  I wonder if we can ban fighters from WoW who’ve never practiced melee.  Probably too extreme, but…

Slow down – In the middle of all that giddiness and exhaustion, our over-compensation often takes the form of charging right into battle without much forethought.  Pausing short of the line to review the situation, catch your breath, and pay a little more attention to the range from your unit to the opponent.

I’ve already talked to the fighter who actually shows up to practice, but man I hate doing that sort of thing.  On the other hand, I do want the Kappellenfechters to get beer.  And if the feral ever shows up, I may actually have to talk to him about it.  Or let the Baby Freescholar do it.

5 comments to Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 34: Calibration

  • Gawin

    You know, practicing awareness and handling adrenaline in a fast-moving target rich environment seems like a perfect application of first person shooter video games. Perhaps an Atlantian fencing LAN party is in order? If only my LAN facilities weren’t in EK.

    If you are concerned about sending newer melee fighters into the woods as their first melee, perhaps the event schedule could be modified to put the woods after a short, more controlled melee situation. This is probably more relevant for larger events (Pennsic, Sapphire, WoW), but this is also easiest to carry out at those events. It shouldn’t be anything too long and it probably shouldn’t be a rez battle to keep people from getting tired, but for instance, at Sapphire, the 5 man melees were before the woods, and at WoW, the ruins battle could have come first (aside from scheduling snafus) to allow the newer fencers to adjust to melee fighting before sending them into the wilderness. Something like that also gives a lot of side time (teams not fighting or waiting for the battle to end after dying) to allow more experienced fencers to take aside the new folks and teach them something without holding up the event schedule.

    • Mattheu and Dante also suggested FPSs for some of those same reasons, which is why I tell Sunneva to blame them when I’m playing Call of Duty: World at War.

    • I recall running the quick field battles at Drums of War, also. Not a bad idea, though WoW’s schedule is really a PITA to fit anything extra in to, and there’s something to be said for starting in the nice, cool shade rather than out in the sun.

  • Girard

    I think we’re lucky that our practices tend to be large enough that you can get at least a quick bit of melee experience before doing so at a large event. I know other places aren’t as lucky, and sometimes people slip through and find themselves on the field without that benefit.

    I can say that handing me an RBG in my first melee helped me a bit here. I had an excuse to hang back and see things develop rather than being on the line and trying to kill from 4 feet away. I could get kills that way, and not worry about trying to lunge at my opponents.


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