Friday, August 1, 2014

Theory "Thursday": Aggression

A good number of fighters play the wait and see game, filling their spot in the line, but waiting for someone else to break the stalemate. It is a very defensive mindset that can work in some situations, like while defending a bridge or other choke point. The problem is what happens when the enemy breaks the stalemate. When that happens a vast majority of the sport wants to back up, letting their line get pushed back. There are definitely times when that is okay, but why let them dictate the tempo of the fight?

Before I go too far and forget to mention it, remember that aggression isn't blindly flinging yourself at the enemy in hopes of scoring a hit. There are times when a well placed rush can have great effect, but trading your life for a small chance to take a limb or piece of armor isn't a good trade for your team. Diving into a group of enemies has a low chance to succeed, especially without armor and support. If you feel the need to just go in, try to look for a gap, rather than going strait up the middle.

Aggressive fighting can be as much about forcing the enemy to consider you as a threat as it can be about rushing. In considering the range game, we see that fighters will add some margin of error to how they perceive your range, including how far you might lunge or step. Top tier fighters will allow just enough margin to let them react to your aggression, but newer fighters will underestimate the range. Once you have entered this zone, they are forced to pay attention, at least to divert some from whoever they may have been fighting.

This notion of threat range means a single fighter might be able to support more than one person merely through their presence by being a threat to multiple enemies. In the case of equal numbers, a skilled fighter might choose to take on a little extra risk, from the person across from them, in order to apply extra pressure on a second enemy. With some luck, the extra pressure might allow an ally to rush in with a little extra safety.

As far as targets go, often spears become a target that has to be rushed or allowed a wide berth. The key to rushing a spear is timing. The two main openings left to you are either while in the process of deflecting a stab, or as soon as they have switched to a different target. Ideally, the spear will be between you and the shieldman guarding it. Remember, though, to keep your guard as you rush. You may need to swing at the guard first, before engaging the spear directly. The goal being, at the minimum, keeping their weapon at bay until you can hit the spear user.

One advantage you will find in being the aggressor is that many fighters will lock up when rushed. While they might maintain their guard or rotate to counter you, many of them will fail to move their feet. This is especially true if you change direction mid-rush. I'll look at offensive footwork in more depth on a later post, but for now just remember to play the angles.

Sometimes, all it takes is a gentle (or not so much) reminder from one of our allies to get us to spring to action. As the new school year approaches, I'm reminded of all the times I've heard "swing, swing, swing!" yelled as some form of encouragement to new fighters. All too often, it seems, even us veteran fighters might need to remember that very thing.

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