Saturday, January 30, 2016

Crossing the Dead Zone

I have always been a defensive fighter or a counter fighter. It's just my nature. I like to assess a situation, learn about my opponent, before charging in. This may be to do with the fact I have never been able to rely on muscling my way in, or imposing my will by strength and size alone.

In any case, this tendency has definitely helped me in understanding tactical thinking and its probably why I enjoy sword play more than empty hand fighting.

Dueling with swords gives you the opportunity to test, investigate, and decide how to play it. This is why it is the perfect forum in which to learn about tactics, how people move, what their triggers are and how to manage them.

The reason why is that there is this distance, this dead zone, that stands between you and your opponent. It is a dangerous space to get caught in, and the price of choosing or acting incorrectly will end the game before it has even begun. Neither party wants to enter here undefended or behind the curve on the OODA loop ... And this creates time.

The size of this dead zone is generally determined by the length and the lethality of the weapon, along with it's unwieldiness. These will dictate how much time you have, both to decide what to do, and how much time you need to cross that space and gain the advantage

So how about with a shorter weapon? The shorter the range of the weapon (note that this can be different from the actual length of the weapon itself), the shorter the dead zone. Thus the safer it is to cross. Less is at stake by crossing and closing as fast as possible, and being the one with the initiative is what you want.

Does this mean that all the tactical stuff you learned with sword goes out of the window? Maybe not.
The same danger remains once in range, and the dead zone exists on the way out as it did on the way in, it's just the geometry that is different.

Perhaps some interesting questions to ask are: How big a dead zone can you create with the shortest range weapon? And to what extent can you decrease the dead zone you need to cross to get to an opponent using a long range weapon?

And if you are caught behind the curve, how short can you make a long weapon, and how long can you make a short one?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Tools of the Trade

My favorite picture of Sonny is of him standing in front of a wall of weapons, blades mostly, but some sticks too. Apparently he thought he looked like a shopkeeper in the picture and did not really like it. Ah well.

Every blade on the wall was something he had made or modified, and he had a wide assortment of blade shapes for us students to play with.

Sonny thought that every weapon had a personality because of it's design. More specifically that the balance, the curvature, the re-curve, the width, the size of the tip, the flare along the length, and the handle design, all played a part in the way it moved.

Most classes would start off with one blade shape, but over the course of the next hour, he'd switch up blades maybe 3 or 4 times, returning to some later in the lesson.

Why did he do this?

He thought particular blade shapes would give the student particular insights when used. For instance, curved blades slice better/easier, than straight ones, just because of the way human arms are attached to the body. Narrow blades with long tips move faster in space and feel more nimble, 'flicky' even. Long blades 'turn corners' better than short ones, even more so with a curved back tip. Handles that turn down at the end move the tip differently than straight handles.

Every blade changed the way you cut, the way you blocked, and so how you moved with it. Basically, the whole geometry of the interaction, where was safe, unsafe, in range, out of range, would shift dependent on the blade design.

But instead of inventing different systems for every blade, he used them interchangeably to teach concepts, with the idea that eventually you would be able to use any blade to do anything. You'd begin to feel the curved slice in the straight edge, the fast tip in the wide blade, the fulcrum in the straight handle.

He wanted you to understand that it was the body movement that changed, not just what was in it. So not only would changing the blade make you move differently, but that by moving differently, you could effectively change the shape of the blade in your hands ....

And just because I'm throwing some old posts back up, here's one about context and blade design.