Continuing with the theme of the aggressive attacker, I decided it was now time to practice how *not* to be so aggressive. Sounds simple, right? Alot of students get (quite literally) “jumpy” in sparring, and in their haste to clobber the other guy, launch themselves straight forward and lose any sense of measure. The result: Closing at the hilts, from which they are not quite sure what to do, since that wasn’t quite their intention to begin with. Couple that with the fact that they are off-balance, and you see the problem here…
So we went through a series of exercises meant to explore what happens with different stepping patterns. First in line: stepping offline to the right. This opens up a line by going around the center and forces the opponent to re-align themselves or get smacked. It also conveniently keeps you at sword distance, since you’re not closing measure quite so aggressively. Fiore, of course, thought of this one, and his solution of stepping out and into the blow deals with this quite nicely.
Stepping straight in is the quickest way to get to the opponent, but it’s fraught with danger. Step too deep, and you have the situation described above (unless, of course, you wanted to close outright…). I find stepping with the balls of the feet helps remedy this problem, keeping you in proper measure. Regardless, the goal of the exercise was to step straight in, claiming the centerline aggressively, but maintain proper measure with the sword.
Finally, we practiced the aggressive option once again, to give people a feel for what’s going on. This exploration should help students figure out why things go so unexpectedly wrong in sparring and help cure it. Simultaneously, defenders can practice how to deal with each stepping pattern. Step into the attack, don’t move, step offline against an aggressor.
We ended with one of my favorites to practice against someone closing fast – the stop thrust. It’s so easy and so much fun, why not?! Seriously, though, even with masks, helmets, the whole shebang, a good stop thrust to the face will rock your head back. Careful, necks are difficult to replace.