Wistric’s Weekly Warfare 38: Melee Contratempi

About a year ago I asked a throwaway question in a discussion among the Atlantian Rapier Army’s eager beavers: Can you attack into tempo on the melee field?  I admit, at the time, it was a lot of Wistric saying “Hey, look how insightful I can be!” (and, let’s face it, this blog is all about that, too, but I’m trying to change).  The question, though, stuck with me.  Now, of course, in any sort of one-on-one situation that evolves on the melee field you can attack into tempo, but if tempo, line, measure, and judgment are fundamental principles of all combat, not just one-on-one rapier, then they must have application on the melee field.  But how?

 

How do we Define “Tempo”?

Well, if there’s a definition that works in Italian rapier, then it should pretty much work for melee, yes?  The time between two moments of stillness, or two moments of action, should work.  Or, at least as I conceptualize it, the duration of a continuous action or inaction.  And there’s plenty of that on the melee field, so this should be doable.

If we’re talking about melee tempo as something distinct from the individual tempi of the combatants, we start to talk about the collective actions of units in maneuver.

 

And what about measure and line?

I’ll follow Giganti’s example for conceptualizing measure: Measure is where you can hit them.  But it may deserve some tweaking for melee: Measure is where you can be placed in obedience.

Why does this change in definition matter?  Well, there’s a distance where you might be individually out of measure, but where any maneuver on the part of your opponent has to be replied to in some fashion.  Even though you can’t wound, you can affect behavior.  Take the example of sliding left.  Your opponent will slide right, because otherwise they expose their line.  Of course, do it very far out and your opponent will slide right without danger, or just wheel slightly, or have enough time to pull a left-flank guard over to their right.  But do it close enough and your opponent will have to slide right, creating a tempo during which you can successfully attack.

Line comes down to field position (slide left to access your opponent’s right flank, or divide and flank, that sort of thing), and changing your line of attack forces your opponent to maneuver in response which, when done at measure as with the example above, creates a tempo to attack.

 

Wistric, you talk pretty, but what are you actually saying?

So far I can imagine a handful of attacks into tempo on the melee field (in addition to the line-sliding example):

There are the tempi of enacting an order: From the start of the order to the end of the order, the end of the order to the start of the action, and the start of the action to the end of the action.  All together they are actually a pretty sizable chunk of time when your opponents’ attention is not focused as much on you as it is on executing the maneuver.  And, vulnerable to a stesso tempo counter, like, say, a charge.

Another moment of “inattentive action” that could be exploited is that tempo between coming to engagement and settling into guard.  Again, an attack that launched at the moment of coming to engagement would have the same feeling on the receiving end as a lunge received during a change of line.

There is also a moment of stillness in many plans I’ve seen executed that can be exploited: When a plan is laid out as “We’re going to close distance with them, and on my order run right” there is the time between distance being reached and the order being given.  Again, a counter-charge (or flank run, or whatever) launched while the opponent is prepping for that order, would be closely parallel to the abuse of tempo in personal combat.

How about a feint-cavazione?  Say Wistric, with his pale-pale scarf flapping, runs up to reinforce a line on the left, making “oogity-boogity” sounds, just enough to draw the attention of the enemy line to him (on their right flank).  And in that instant of inattentive inaction, the right flank of Wistric’s line attacks.

 

Nice Theory, Does it Work in Practice?

No fricking clue.  I haven’t had these thoughts crystalized until just recently, and something about cold and dark means no melee practice.  I’m waiting for the next time there’s a melee event where I can set up one group against another and take a counter-tempo strategy and see how it works:
“We have no plan except to engage with them, and the first one of them opens their mouth, charge”
or
“When their feet stop moving forward, run left”
or
“We’re going to slide right, briefly, and when they pick up their feet to move, we charge”

Train up a unit that, instantly and automatically, engages to disruption when an opponent starts a maneuver, and you could brutalize a good many fighters.  Maybe.  If you get to try it before me, let me know how it works.

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