New guy (Hi D!), just started training with us, and told me that one of the reasons he wanted to look more in to our Eskrima was that our training looks very similar whether we are drilling or free fighting.
He said he would watch clips on youtube of different martial arts, and see drills and exercises, techniques and partner practices, and then compare them to how the practitioners of the systems actually free fight/spar/duel. More often than not, the fighting does not resemble the training at all.
One of the most common things that gets thrown out of the window is the body angling and the footwork which seem to disappear when the fight is on.
We started talking about why that is, and amongst other things we started discussing 'exits'. All systems teach entries or techniques, but I'm not sure how many, if any, consider the exit as a very important piece of the puzzle.
Exit, meaning getting out of range, and your opponent no longer able/wishing to continue, or getting into such a position that your opponent cannot do harm to you and gives up.
I learned a while back that it is a huge, perhaps KEY piece of the puzzle in dueling, as I do not consider a glorious double death as a desirable goal .....
So, what are the pieces you need when you take the exit into account?
In dueling with swords - Footwork, body angle, timing, defensive structure, a good offense, and the ability to tell lies.
How do you train it?
Avoid training facing square to your opponent.
Do nothing tactical standing still, do very little on a straight line, and do as much as possible moving around.
Fights/dueling are dynamic, they can move in any direction, and staying in front is rarely a good idea. Training for the exit, or to be in safety, has to be worked from the get go or there is little chance of it manifesting when things get a bit exciting .... or if you've never thought of it as something to do .....
Rory Miller had an interesting observation that might play in here about why people have this tendency to stay in front of each other - He noticed that when teaching his one step drill at seminars, which is basically a one for one partner practice, most people end up standing in front of each other. The one step is not sparring, but the tendency to turn it into something similar seems to be common. There's apparently something innate about standing in front of the opponent, especially if you are winning, probably because it gives a very strong dominance message - It is not good enough to just win ... your opponent must see that it is YOU that beat them - classic 'monkey brain' behavior, but tactically not a good idea if the stakes are high, especially with edged weapons.
A constant lesson Sonny instilled in us that might be worth adding is that you don't wait standing still - you, as the target must be moving BEFORE things kick off, or at least already spring loaded to move, instantly. (If you doubt why this is a good idea please read Mac's latest post about exploiting hesitation in his opponents on Quantum Donuts.)
I suspect that if you are already moving it's easier to keep moving (as long as you don't freeze), whereas if you start standing, you are already on the center line and perhaps also behind the timing. Bear in mind that it is extremely difficult to gain a beat when you are already a beat behind, especially if you get hypnotized by the monkey dance, and it starts playing you. Dueling may be a classic Monkey Dance in style ... but with swords it is 'lethal', which puts it far from any empty handed dominance games. And this is a tactical problem that many may not consider when learning only their entries and techniques.