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?


Paul McRedmond said...

"The shorter the range of the weapon, the shorter the dead zone and the safer it is to cross." I would think it it would be more dangerous the closer you are, initiative, speed or first strike abilities notwithstanding. Please clarify.

Maija said...

A long weapon means the distance between you and your opponent in longer to start with. The 'action' can occur all the way from the tip, along the edge, to the pommel/punyo. Obviously with tip only weapons this might be different, though still the live hand, feet come into play once past the tip.
A short knife can only reach so far, so you are much closer to your opponent to start off with. And yes, it's certainly dangerous, like you point out, but it takes less time to cross the 'bridge', so one decisive move is 'safer' in some ways. It's harder to effect one decisive move with long weapons because more options are available for movement/evasion, and weapon manipulation.

That's what I'm thinking. Makes sense?


Paul McRedmond said...

Makes sense, thx.

considerphlebas said...

I also developed a strong counter game, especially in fencing, because I tend to be a thinker (Maestro Stawicki: "Is, ah, two kinds of react. The first is simple, no choice needed, just react. This kind of react takes, eh, usually, X milliseconds. The second is you make a choice. This takes 2x milliseconds. So... if your first kind of react maybe always takes longer? like 1.5X milliseconds? You should do second type of react, and you must learn to create the situation.")

anyway, as I developed my counterattack and moved up in the fencing world, I started breaking more blades. The upper tiers of epee fencing are dominated by taller, faster fencers. To cross the deadzone, they would more and more often do a higher-speed, full-commit attack, especially against a shorter/slower opponent (which I would play myself up as to draw that response). If I were doing a simple reaction, I would be slaughtered. but if I had set up the situation? and it was my choice? then my blade would be fully extended and already into the dead zone as they started their high-speed, bigger person attack. So they'd get hit immediately and my blade would bend and bend as they couldn't stop the movement they thought was need to clear the dead zone.

If the dead zone were shorter, from a shorter weapon, they wouldn't have had to commit as hard.

Snowlyynx said...

George Silver talks about measure and distance. Also about the speed of the hand that is greater than the eye can interpret and react to.

So if your weapon is long enough, and the opponent is far enough you have time to parry/deflect.
But if the weapon is short, knives for example and both people are in measure (in the dead zone), offensive tactics along with avoiding attacks are the only things you can do - and basically expect to be hit.

Perhaps some interesting questions to ask are: How big a dead zone can you create with the shortest range weapon?"

Taking a real low stance can extend your range as well as extending your arm, so those two actions can extend the dead zone. Then attacking with a step or a pace can easily change your attacking dead zone by around a meter. But as with all things there is give and take. A step is fast (think shuffle) and a pace/cross-step is slower. Having a real low and extended stance is tiring and strains the muscles a bit, so your explosive power will be slowed down.

"And to what extent can you decrease the dead zone you need to cross to get to an opponent using a long range weapon?"

Explosive moves to try and be faster than the opponent's reaction. Or using feints to put their weapon point off line. Or as for knife vs spear, wait for them to attack, avoid and use explosive speed to stay ahead of the spear tip.

"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?"

Footwork footwork footwork. The faster you can move the faster you can get your measure back. Sticking your weapon in their face can help slow them down enough to get some measure/distance back.
For a long weapon, like a spear, there are methods to go from the end of the spear to the middle of the spear with your hands if you can't get out fast enough so the opponent doesn't get past your spear tip. For single/short swords, pulling it back behind your hip and then thrusting.
To make a short weapon longer, explosive movement if you want to attack, and leaning back and extending the arm/hand when defensive.

Just some thoughts imho :)

Maija said...

Thanks for the comments :-) All your tactics make sense to me.

I'd add another idea though, this time less physical and more psychological perhaps.

The zone narrows whether you move towards them or they move towards you. You can disguise range by dropping the weapon not only down, but off line completely. This can encourage an entry if the zone looks open. It works much better going round than standing still or staying on a straight line. LOOKS open ... isn't open.

You can expand the zone by countering the opponent's intent, either through verbal counters, closing any openings they see through movement, or screwing with their timing using movement.