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Phases of combat in Longsword - Some thoughts on the middle measure and withdrawl

"a serious over emphasis on defense before closing and a serious lack of emphasis after closing -- either one will get you mauled, if not killed." - Marc 'Animal' MacYoung

I have previously suggested that how longsword practitioners approach the onset phase of combat could be improved to make the system work better. Working with this has also been generally successful but it's also led to me refining my approach to the middle measure.

Middle measure should be the killing zone because unless you are being spectacularly masterful or your opponent is being particularly unskillful it is extremely unlikely that your attacks from the onset will land. This is simple geometry/body mechanics: an onset attack involves stepping and cutting which is a far more complicated and therefore slower action than simply cutting without needing to step. Within middle measure, where there is no need to step, you can crack out your cuts faster than your opponent should be able to react and parry.

My theory was that launching through a guard in onset would allow you enter middle measure where you could then "feel" the correct actions to perform. So I've been working on blasting through onset without all the squaring off in guards guff, then maintaining middle measure to launch attacks and not getting sucked into grappling. This has seen a dramatic improvement in my onset fighting much closer to the treatises, it has reduced the number of double hits in onset and it has improved my success in landing good solid blows.

However I've found that once in middle measure while I'm delivering decisive killing blows to openings, usually the head, I'm still receiving defensive blows to my forearms. The issue is this:

"What few people realize is that a wild defensive flailing ... is just as dangerous and damaging as an intentional strike. In fact, it is often more dangerous because of its unpredictable nature. If you are indeed tearing someone up, his defensive moves can hurt you badly -- especially if he is flailing around trying to stop your next attack." - Marc 'Animal' MacYoung

That once in middle measure if your opponent chooses to engage with you irrespective of what you are doing then double hits are difficult to avoid as their attacks will be equally fast beyond your ability to parry. So the key "learnings" I'm thinking for working on improving my middle measure are:

1. "Maintaining" measure in middle measure is actually more subtle than I currently understand it. It's about being able to extremely quickly cross that line between in your measure and out of their measure.  This means being able to enter measure for your blow and withdraw as quickly to evade theirs. Which is what I believe all Meyer's half-stepping is about and I need to work harder to master this.

2. Do not enter middle measure without the initiative and a plan, do not linger in the middle measure without the initiative and a plan

The "and a plan" bit is important, it is essentially the absolute beauty about this diagram:

This allows you to have an automatic routine of up to four cuts that should exploit your opponents openings without you having to think. Because in middle measure stopping to think will loose you the bout.

Of course not lingering is really about withdrawing. Because if you stay in middle measure too long you will get hit.

I need to work on immediately withdrawing, resetting and the launching again.

3. Binding is a great tool to stop your opponent flailing around. Once they are bound then they will usually work to free their blade, which is great because it means they are not working to hit you at the same time that you are trying to hit them. So, the skill to perfect is getting them thinking about binding while you are thinking about landing your technique.


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