How to be the one in a 2v1 part 1: Initiative and Obedience

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

I came across this quote following a baronial fencing practice, and it seemed oddly fitting to one of my observations from our 2v1 practice that day. The 2v1 drill we were working was focused on training the two to defeat the one as fast as possible. Likewise, the one was trying to stay alive. We set a 15 second time limit and kept the field narrow and restricted to prevent a whole bunch of jogging around (We were within the goal box of a peewee soccer field) and if the one survived (or killed the other two), then they “won.” With the exception of Ruairc and myself, the rest of the fencers at the practice are relatively new, but have had some good melee practice. They have all been trained in 2v1 melee drills before, so this wasn’t anything new to them, it was just a little more difficult, due to the time limit. We rotated all of the fencers through all of the positions several times over the course of the afternoon, which gave me a good opportunity to watch their strategies. Ruairc seemed to be focused on what the two were doing, so I focused on the one.

My methods were simple. I was mostly watching to see what sorts of things Ruairc and I did compared with our scholars, and what struck me immediately was our reaction to lay-on. The one thing that all of our scholars had in common was that they all stood still or moved backwards at lay-on. In contrast, both Ruairc and I started moving forward immediately.

This brought to mind a phrase that is often thrown around during melee practices, but is often poorly defined or discussed; “Seize the initiative.” It also reminded me of a tendency I have noticed in tournament bouts. If you can get your opponent moving backwards at lay on, they often continue to do so until you stab them.

Interestingly, the instruction that Ruairc subsequently gave to the 2-man team was to advance more quickly, with a purpose, and it made it clear that what the two man team is doing is seizing the initiative, or perhaps more usefully, forcing the 1 into obedience. To help explain what I mean by this, consider a game of chess. At the beginning, there are a very large number of possible moves and outcomes.With each subsequent move, the number of possibilities is decreased until check-mate or a stale-mate is achieved (i.e. there are no more moves). Likewise, forcing your opponent into obedience reduces their options and forces them to respond according to a set of finite responses. If the two can force the one into obedience (which is easy to do since their numbers make them intimidating), then it will be easy for them to run them down and kill them.

In order to achieve victory, the one must instead be fearless and the first step towards victory is a step forward at lay-on. In other words, the one must force the two into obedience so that their responses are limited and predictable.

1 comment to How to be the one in a 2v1 part 1: Initiative and Obedience

  • Ruairc


    The 2 have the advantage not because they are directly intimidating, but because two people can more effectively limit the options of a single fencer simply by pointing swords at him. (Taking this back to the principles of melee, the 1 must close off BOTH of his opponents’ threats. Until he does so, his options are limited to the suicidal or the dilatory.) The connection to the concept of obedience is pretty clear here: keep the threats intact and maintain cohesion, and the 1 will be forced to act as you wish.

    Pressing the attack limits options because it forces a choice, often made under less-than-ideal circumstances. This is attention/awareness, and the connection to obedience is murkier. I’m not so much forcing him into a particular action as I am forcing him to act and hoping that this action breaks cohesion with his buddy.

    The vast majority of the time, the 1 can take advantage of the latter much more easily than the former (maintaining cohesion taxes attention/awareness, so that’s what you’d want to attack).

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