|This is a Zombie not Dan|
After my weekend excursions of Fighting and Zombie related activities I have been thinking alot about larp Fighting again. One of the people who I emailed asking for tips came back to me slightly after my last post but his response was interesting and detailed enough that I asked him if I could post it here.
Dan is the Raptor as featured on This blog occasionally and also plays in the the Jackals faction of the LT (http://www.lorientrust.com/Homepage.aspx).
Me: Hi Dan
I am writing a blog post about Larp sword fighting (and trying to get better.) If you have time please could you answer these questions for me.
Wasn't sure how much you wanted...let me know if this isn't what you're looking for or also when/where it goes up. Tried hard not to sound too know-all about it (faux modesty of course).
As a disclaimer though, I'm a moderate fighter who used to be better. However I
have had the opportunity to learn through structured regular practice away from events and the pleasure of having my ass handed to me by a variety of excellent fighters, many of whom were kind enough to point out how they did it.
It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of people don't like how I fight. It can be considered 'tappy' or 'unheroic' by some, but for me the competition elements of this style are more important than my opinions on what faux-medieval combat 'should' look like. I'd also like to be clear that opinions are my own and not necessarily those of anyone who's taught me over the years. Finally, I would in no way say that my style is definitive - there's loads of different stuff out there that works well and I think it's important to find what works for you.
What do you do that you don't see other people doing?
Thinking about fighting in terms of discrete moves and sequences. I think this lets me plan
things a bit more if I'm trying to open up a difficult opponent/fighting several rounds. At the
very least it’s a great way of reminding yourself that you've become a little too static in your
current fight and you've got a lot more things you could be trying.
What tips would you give a rank novice?
I'd say there are 4 main things for a beginner to try and get their head around:
- 'L' parries
Nearly all basic shots can be parried by a surprisingly small range of motion on the part of the
defender. From a basic ready position, with a small sword movement right you can block shots to your sword side, quickly move your sword a foot left and that side is covered. Finally you can push your sword arm up with a twist of the wrist to lay the sword horizontally flat above your head to guard shots coming in from above. If you were to use all three, your sword hand would be drawing roughly an L from your opponents view.
With practice, this can quickly make most of your blocking automatic and it can really give a confidence boost to those just starting out as it shows results with only an hour or so of practice. For clarity - don't parry shots to your legs, step back.
- Punch attacks
A lot of my techniques have little to do with real sword use. In larp I don't have to worry
about penetrating armour, weapon grabbing and well-timed kicks. I do have to worry about the speed and the safety of my blows though. A lot of people naturally want to swing a larp weapon when they first pick it up. This can be slow or hard to control and takes time to get back to your guard. Instead, the basic strike should be a flat punch starting from midway between hips and shoulder. You're trying to cover the distance as quickly as you can so make that punch as flat and fast as you can. When you reach the end, your sword will naturally drop downwards so its easy to anticipate and pull the blow for the opponent with no loss of speed. Just keep throwing shots out like this, make them as simple a motion as possible and you will speed up immensely.
- Let them come to you
Patience is probably a great thing to learn when you're fighting - you need to be calm and in
control so you can assess the situation more accurately. One of the best ways to rack up some early kills is by letting people attack you. Attacking often leaves you very open so a quick riposte will often work if your parries and shots are fast enough. In an average fight,
advantage will generally be with the person responding to an attack. This doesn't just mean
against you - in a line fight you can often end up attacking people 3 down to your right if they
aren't paying attention. Learn to snipe when you get the opportunity and attack to your sides
in a line fight.
- Fight Everyone (but don't listen to everyone)
This one seems obvious but its very important. People have very different techniques,
peculiarities and tells - you really want to experience as many of them as possible. One of the
difficulties of trying new techniques or sparring against new opponents at events is that
everyone watching is inevitably an expert. Many will offer pointers, convoluted anecdotes about how great they are or complete misunderstandings abut what is going on. Learn to ignore most of this - stick with your instincts about what you're doing wrong and focus on fundamentals rather than assuming every random spectator will be able to give an insightful critique.
The ideal though is finding someone you trust and knows a bit about fighting - someone to spot where your technique is falling off, what you might like to try etc. Try it all and keep what works for you.
What tips would you give someone who is good but trying to get better?
- Lateral motion
I remember one revelatory session in Durham where I was shown how I was actually fighting
someone in a massive field rather than the 1 metre wide strip I was restricting my movement to like a fencer. Remembering to include sideways motion in your fighting (particularly sword and shield) can really help you crack a difficult opponent or just loosen you up if your style is
becoming too stiff. There's lots you can do around passing moves, more involved feints and
wraps around the opponents guard - its something to experiment with. Not always recommended if you're currently part of a shield wall as your buddies won't necessarily appreciate you running off.
- 1 hit per contact
It's easy when doing a lot of sparring to end up doing just contact/1st touch style, where you
each point out when you've been hit. A lot of combat bears no resemblance to this though, so
it’s important to keep throwing in variation - mainly setting arbitrary rules such as 1/2 hit per
location. This totally changes the dynamics of a fight as you now have more valuable locations to protect and you can't commit as much to each attack - you'll need to be able recover much faster. This can really sharpen things up and help you practice cutting down the hordes of one hit goblins all players desperately wish to face at least once in their career so they can feel like Conan.
Why are they different?
I think a big chunk of gaining confidence at fighting or any sport is getting to the stage where
lots of it becomes muscle memory and reflex. When you can trust that you'll handle the basics
without thinking too much about it then you're free to start exploring more complicated and
Who is the best 3 sword fighters you know?
I'm only going to give 2 because they've been my tutors.
Si Wright - he teaches fighting to Durham University students through the Northern Fight School. Not only a magnificent fighter, he's also a great experimenter with technique. Critically for me though he is an extremely perceptive teacher, capable of explaining a technique in a dozen different ways until it clicks for the student. He has a predilection for naming his moves
which does help you sound like a ninja when discussing fighting which is no bad thing. His
book: http://www.lulu.com/shop/simon-wright/the-sword-book/paperback/product-4815377.html is a great explanation of his larp fighting and he makes a great job of explaining very complex
moves. It is specialised to larger UK fest events and competition fighting (rather than
'heroic' styles) and has a bias towards single sword and sword and shield (but so do I).
I learned under Mark for some time and he's another brilliant fighter. His style is very
different, very fluid and comfortable engaging at all distances - his head-shots are also
supernaturally fast. He runs The Riddle of Steel fighting club near London. One of the traits
he instilled in me was an understanding that teaching was a great way to learn and that you can
always take something away from each fight.