How to Watch a Fight   7 comments

Thanks to Dame Roz, videos of fighting from Midnight at the Oasis are available on her blog. I’ve been puzzling over a bit of instruction (recall that this was, originally, supposed to be a vaguely instructional blog targeted at my students, for whatever limping mutant it’s since become) on the topic of how to observe other fighters, or at least how I go about it. I’ve actually had this topic brewing for a year, and now have a chance to do so, with the assistance of some object lessons in the form of the videos provided by Dame Roz. Of course, videos of fighters are insanely useful, as you can (and should) watch a single action at a time, focusing on the pieces of each fighter (feet, hands, form, guard) and then the fighter as a whole. On the list field there’s less leisure, but no less information available.

In general, I watch for the principles of combat:

Guard: Is it aggressive/defensive? Are there openings, and are these traps or valid availabilities?

Measure: where do they setup? where do they want to fight? how do they control it?

Tempo: do any actions habitually precede their attack (aka Tells)?

Line: Where do their attacks tend to originate and end? How do they close their opponent’s line (sword, off-hand, void)?

Form: Are there any overt flaws in their form that impede particular actions?

To start with, Celric (Green Pants) and Connor (Black Pants):

Celric, armed with what I believe is a 45″, initiates the action by stepping into long measure and attacking with two quick thrusts, probing shots to judge Connor’s defensive response. He attempts to interrupt the tempo of both fighters’ recovery to guard with a rising strike from Lazy Man, and here’s where it starts to get interesting, because this is the first real attack, and Connor changes his defensive response to a void of the head instead of a retreat. Celric strikes for Connor’s foot, but half-heartedly; a feint to draw a counter-attack from Connor, who does not oblige. Instead, he waits for Celric’s next attack, which is slightly more extended, and instead of voiding or retreating, Connor parries with his off-hand and enters to close range in the same tempo, where has the advantage. Both bind the other’s guard, and they break.

And that’s the first 15 seconds.

Then, because Celric and Connor are both peacocks, they BS for thirty seconds.

Celric resumes his pattern, and now Connor uses his sword, in large sweeps, to parry and beat aside the blade, and in one of these passes takes Celric’s sword hand. Celric, apparently unable to strike as quickly and smoothly with his left hand, instead tries to rush into close range. Connor’s response is to disengage by voiding back, and parry with his off-hand and close (as above), this time with a thrust to the stomach that ends the fight.

But how much of this can you see just watching from the sidelines?

Both Celric and Connor alternate between a Lazy Man guard to offer a false opening, and a presented sword prior to their direct attacks. Celric likes to throw quick strikes from long measure, and Connor can stay at the edge of measure and close quickly against long weapons. Celric’s less confident of his left hand. Connor has a good stesso tempo off-hand parry/close action that he uses against any over-extended attack.

Now, let’s look at Letia (Purple Pants) vs. Mateo (Red Pants):

Letia opens with a gathering step to close range, and it’s hard to tell but I think Mateo reacts by changing his blade to a more defensive position, followed by Letia’s hand snipe.

Both fighters maintain measure as Letia approaches and attempts another hand snipe, but the first real attack doesn’t materialize until the 30 second mark, at which point in watching the tape Letia, I believe, said “Ohhhhhhhhh that’s what you called ‘interesting’.” She feints a bind with the sword, an extension of the buckler, and crosses over but stops in the middle of the step as Mateo backs out, leaving her squared up and her feet together.

They reset, and Mateo attempts a few hand-snipes (leaning forward so that his back foot comes off the ground) before Letia throws another cross-over attack, this time with more of a sword bind and a much larger action from the buckler. In her third attack, Letia lands a blow on Mateo’s upper arm as she brings the shot in from above.

Though Mateo takes pride in being ambidextrous, his fight changes noticeably as he fights left handed, his footwork becoming more active, his body more upright, and his upright body unbalances when Letia launches her fourth attack (a feint- same pattern as the first), forcing Mateo to scramble backwards as Letia presses forward and, eventually, delivers a killing shot.

But how much of this can you see just watching from the sidelines?

Both fighters’ use of hand snipes as shots of opportunity and means of blocking movements to close measure are pretty apparent, as are Mateo’s almost totally defensive form and Letia’s tells (gathering step, large motion with sword, large motion with buckler).

These fights show two White Scarves against each other, and two Free Scholars, and yet from the “sideline” observations some pretty clear strategies can be derived:

Against Celric, know that he will attack at the edge of his measure, and your success will require taking this tempo to close aggressively inside his point.

Against Connor, know that if you over-extend your attack you will suffer for it.

Against Letia, watch for the tells and the pattern of her attack.

Against Mateo, relax and don’t attack into his well-prepared defense, instead making him come out of it. Be ready to spring on his recovery from the hand-snipe-with-his-back-foot-in-the-air.

Okay, so, in all fairness to my friends whose honor may have been offended, I am trying to find video of me fighting in a tournament to take apart the same way (or perhaps let Letia do it). If you know of any, please let me know.

Posted November 30, 2010 by wistric in Musings

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