Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Swordplay: Attack and Defence

Right, so your hero has a sword, is holding it properly, and has moved about a bit. Now, he or she is happily trading parries and strikes with the villain, going back and forth, correct?

Well, no. Probably not. The thing is, the business of parrying and then riposting is very much something to do with modern western fencing. It only really works when the distance is right, when the weapon is light enough, and when the rules more or less force you into that mindset anyway.

Certainly, very few sword masters, or indeed experts in other areas of martial arts, have recommended a ‘parry first and then come back at them’ approach. They know that when you wait around for something to happen, or when you make a parry with no attacking component, it merely invites the other person to attack again and again.

So what should your hero be doing? Option one comes when they have a second weapon or a shield, or simply some way of parrying unarmed without losing a finger. They parry with the off hand, and strike with the main weapon in the same movement. It’s simple, fast and effective, though you do have to keep track of far more angles.

Option two is to move to a safe spot while making an attack. That could mean stepping back out of range while making a stop cut to the arm. It could mean moving inside the strike while counter attacking. It could simply mean ducking and sticking a sword out (and the number of times I’ve run onto that…) Whatever it is, it requires good reflexes, plus usually considerable telegraphing on the part of the opponent.

The final option is the attack in opposition. That comes when someone takes the opponent’s attacking blade, not as a separate parry, but simply as a part of their own attack. It could be a circular bind of the oncoming attack as part of a thrust, or shoving it out of the way with the guard on the way to a cut, or even just making a cut into a cut, while adjusting the angles so that you hit and your opponent cannot. That last one is very big in longsword circles.

So the next time your hero fights, remember, back and forth is not the way. Attack is.

1 comment:

Francine Howarth said...


Great wordy demo - could picture it all beautifully! ;)

Bit of a bugger, though, when you're on horseback sword in hand on the attack with one-on-one opponant, and another cavalry officer comes at you from behind and does a kebab strike. It happened to my second leading man, poor sod, in the back and he didn't survive. He wasn't meant to. :o