Each person brings an array of assets to a fight. These include mobility, perception, technique, speed, strength, endurance, ferocity, focus, etc. Many fighters, who are gifted with one or more of the physical assets, generally speed and strength, may achieve considerable success by emphasizing these gifts. However, often such a person can only achieve a certain level of mastery before he or she finds that opponents possess similar physical assets, and have supplemented them with other assets that have been developed through training.
My emphasis when developing my style was to enhance speed and power while focusing on the 'developed' assets, primarily perception and technique.
The style of fighting described in this text is a "power" style. This does not mean that it is meant exclusively for the use of large, powerful people. Rather, the style is constructed such that it develops power, and with that power, speed. It is actually a style for people who lack power and speed. If a person already has power and speed, so much the better, but for the rest of us, it is quite useful.
The power is developed in several ways:
- A twisting motion of the body, making use of a sequential tightening of the muscles, provides power to the weapon or shield as they move away on a tangent, or are drawn through curves which are parallel to the body's motion.
- Changing the moment arm (see glossary). This technique makes it easier to move the sword from a standing start, and can multiply the force of a moving blade.
- Shifting the body's weight forward at the proper time.
- Pushing with the foot opposite the direction of motion of the weapon or shield.
- Using the muscles on the opposite side of the body to pull around, while the muscles on the weapon (or shield) side push.
- Utilizing techniques that provide a 'whip' to the weapon.
- Focusing the strikes to a point, rather than sweeping through the point.
- Using techniques that are as efficient and simple as possible. The idea is to avoid unnecessary motion, or motion which bleeds power from the weapon.
When I refer to technique, I refer to specific sets of motions that are used to move the weapon and shield. The "Bellatrix Snap" and the punch block are techniques. Perhaps equally important are the side and overhead returns. I design or adopt techniques for the style with several criteria in mind:
- The technique must be efficient in applying power, and in moving the weapon or shield. Unnecessary motion reduces speed. Improper motion can interfere with the application of power. Some motion can even bleed power or speed from a blow.
- The technique must fit in with the other techniques of the style. Some techniques, while valid, interrupt the flow that I wish to maintain in my fighting. Personally, I use the edge exclusively when fighting with a broadsword or with two broadswords. I don't use a point, because thrusts don't go well with the rest of the style. My son, Duke Stephan, often uses adaptations of the style that emphasizes point or edge, alternatively. My younger son, Sir Brion, fights a sword and dagger style that uses both in the same combinations. There is a lot of room for personal choice.
- The technique must work against the best possible opponents. I won't waste my practice time on techniques that work against inexperienced fighters, but are useless against those of the top rank. To do so would be limiting to my development.
When I refer to perception, I am speaking of several things. These include:
- The ability to "tune in" to the flow of the fight, as if it were a dance, such as a waltz. What I mean is to feel and notice the sequence of interacting motions that have occurred up to the present moment, and extrapolate them into the near future. In this respect, what has come before suggests what will come next. This allows a degree of accurate anticipation to occur, which will enhance the effective speed of defensive motions, (by giving advance warning when and where they will occur) and direct offensive techniques to the proper targets (by suggesting when and where that an opening will occur.) This anticipation can add to the effective speed of a fighter who does not possess physical speed of arm or leg.
- The ability to notice focus and patterns. Noticing a focus can also aid in anticipating attacks, and can suggest possible targets that become more attractive. A gross example would be if your opponent was leaning to his or her sword side, looking towards your knee, and leaning forward and down, this might suggest an impending attack on your shield leg. It also would suggest that a step-in, overhead wrapping shot might have a good chance of success, since the opponent's attention is clearly on the opposite corner. These foci and patterns can include:
- Sequences of motion, such as a particular pattern of steps during an approach, "bobbing" up and down while walking, alternatively raising and lowering the sword, rhythmic feints, etc.
- Lack of motion that, over a period of time, creates a pattern. This may lead into a focus of attention to the intent of not moving.
- A shifting of a part of the body that signals the commitment of the fighter to a direction or a mode of attack. For instance, leaning forward will likely signal a commitment to a forward motion. Drawing back the sword elbow at the same time will suggest an attack that will accompany that motion.
Another important concept is commitment. The art of armored fighting, like the other martial arts, relies heavily on commitment. By this I do not mean the commitment to train hard, to beat ones opponent, or to excel, although these are important. Rather, I refer to commitments to a movement, a lack of motion, a pattern, an attack plan, or the anticipation of an attack.
A fighter must strive to avoid commitments, except when making a conscious choice to commit. At that point, the commitment should be total.
For instance, after the salute, many fighters start a fight by raising their shield and sword, and letting their weapons and body settle down into the proper position to start combat. However, many fighters commit so thoroughly to that starting position that they are unable to easily move out of it for a few seconds. This commitment to a position can allow an alert opponent to launch effective attacks during this short time period, since the fighter in question has committed to have his or her shield stay in that starting position rather than blocking.
On the other hand, a half-hearted attempt at a punch block is not only ineffective, but commits a fighter to having their shield away from their body in a position which only guards a limited area. This might allow an opponent to launch an effective combination from the initial blow, since the recovery of the shield may be delayed. This is assuming that the blow was blocked in the first place.
In another example, one occasionally sees a fighter swing a blow to draw a response from his or her opponent. This is useful only if the technique is performed properly. A quick swing towards the opponent's sword shoulder, followed by a fast, well-executed return can often lead to an effective second blow after the opponent's riposte is blocked. If the initial blow is slow and lazy, due to lack of commitment, and the return is similarly performed, this may leave openings that the opponent can exploit.
Readers should note that all figures show the techniques they demonstrate in the exaggerated motions used in slow practice. Motion moves in as speed increases.