Melee drilling and a Question

This week was all about melees (well, mostly about melees). On Sunday, we hit up the local practice in Iron Bog (especially since we recently moved into the barony). We met up with some friends from the Carillion and Bhakail practice (Caoilfhionn, Kara, Alesone, Declan, Wentlyana, Collin, Larry, Eldrich, Lorenzo, Lucy, and a few others) The practice started out with some pick-ups and then we moved on to melee drills and tactics. One of the most important parts of fighting in a line in a melee is making sure you stay as a line. It’s not always easy especially when everyone takes different sized steps but gaps in the line make easy targets and that leads to holes and the collapse of the entire line (ok, that’s worst case scenario but still). Moving as a unit in a line is important as is being able to lead said line and moving as a group when receiving the orders. We all took turns leading the 5 man lines against another with one team being the aggressors and the others reacting. We cycled through and some lead better than others especially since some have had experience leading units before. Rachael and I used our training as camp counselors to be loud and direct with confidence which really helped us successfully lead our units.

After the 5-on-5 line drills, we switched into groups of 4 with teams of 3 in a line and the fourth acting as the “rabbit” who was to be chased. We each took turns leading and being the rabbit and pointing out holes in the defense of the line. When I played the rabbit, I noticed and pointed out that I could get the line to shift apart so that I could slip through. Since we didn’t have swords at the time, it was pointless to do so especially since swords would make the hole needed a lot larger but it was definitely something to keep in mind. When it was Lucy’s turn to rabbit, she did make a break through the hole and I tried very hard not to stab her especially since it would’ve ended as a punch because we were unarmed.

Lastly (at least in terms of melee drilling), we set up house out of cones with an entrance big enough for one person, in essence creating a kill pocket. The idea was to teach us how to work a kill pocket and how to work against one. It went really well back and forth until, at one point when Rachael, Lucy, Eldrich, Lorenzo, and I tried to attack the house. Lorenzo and Eldrich led the attack but were killed. I tried to give commands (when your commander dies, the first one to give orders is the new person in charge) but the other team could easily hear my plan. I had us back up out of the house and tried to give a general plan involving me committing suicide on their blades in hopes of creating an opening (not the best plan but 3 new-ish fencers vs 5 experienced fencers was not going to end well regardless without a bit of crazy and a lot of luck). Unfortunately, I made a very very stupid mistake and turned my back to the house. Rachael kept her eye on them and noticed when they came out but by then it was too late and we were all dead. It was an incredibly stupid move on my part but it’s a mistake I’d rather make in a practice than on the field of a battle.

Afterwards, I did some pick ups with Lorenzo which was a blast (I’d never fought him with sword and dagger before and it was awesome) and then we all headed to the diner. Overall the practice was really helpful, really fun and Master Larry (former rapier commander of the southern region) said I’m scary but in a good way. I don’t think he expected someone who’d been fencing for 2.5 years to be  as competent at melee tactics and stuff but I was thrown into the deep end when I started in Atlantia and tend to have an apt for strategies. I know for a fact I’m not experienced enough to lead any size group of people at this point but I’m willing to step up in the moment when it’s needed and that’s something that’s always useful.

Yesterday at Settmour Swamp’s practice, we had more people than I think we’ve ever had on the fencing floor at the practice. Mistress Elizabeth, Mistress Alys and Dutchess Caoilfhionn came instead of going to Carillion and we had our usual group of myself, Orlando, Malcolm, Niki and Jonathan as well as our newer fencers (Rachael, Lucy, Erika, Olivia, Ilea, Kelly, and Dominico) all joined us on the dance floor. Orlando ran the drills this time and we all paired off in groups of two then groups of four. I worked with Erika, Elizabeth and Jonathan on different things each (all have a lot of potential but we all have our own things to work on) and we all had fun with it. Afterwards, I fought Owyn with rigid parry (I had my cane, he had his leather wavy shield called a targa). We went a few rounds before he let me try the targa out and I gotta say I really liked fighting with it. I fought him and Firebow (who had shown up late because he works far over 2 hours away) with the targa and I really liked how it moved and especially how I could block blades with it. Owyn is going to help me make my own which is going to be an awesome tool to add to my growing arsenal.

The last thing we did were a few melee scenarios. We did everything from 5-on-5 line battles to bridge battles to capture the flag (which ended up with Elizabeth tackling the basketball pole with the flag). It was a lot of fun and all the fencing I’ve done since Saturday really reminded me how much I love fighting in melees. Whether it’s fighting as a unit or as a skirmisher, I love fencing toward achieving a purpose rather than to just beat my opponent (which is why I like teaching). It helps that many people, especially in Atlantia (where the blue scarf I wear is seen as the symbol fencer they see as a grunt instead of the symbol of a cadet under the guidance of an OGR) tend to ignore me or see me as not a threat. It is a mistake I rather enjoy capitalizing on when I can and I can’t wait to keep learning more and fighting in new scenarios.

I leave you for now with a question Orlando posed on all of us before we started drilling this last Tuesday. Why do you fence? Why do you drive sometimes hours at a time just to work and sweat and get poked and sometimes bruised? For some, it’s for exercise or for fun or to get better. Personally, I feel blessed by the teachers I have had over the years in Atlantia, the East Kingdom, and through people I’ve met and fenced all over and I fence so that I can learn more so that I may one day pass on what has been taught to me. I know I won’t be able to fence forever but I want to be able to help guide the next generation of fencers to be more than they thought possible. I want to help inspire people to pick up a blade and have it feel like an extension of their arm that they can use with skill that they never thought possible. Knowledge that is kept to oneself will one day fade away but knowledge that is passed on may live forever.

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