Friday, May 27, 2011

distract, confuse, freeze, stutter

Variations on OODA loop interruption. All of these only provide a brief, half-tempo hesitation, and as such have to be done immediately (i.e. you can't freeze someone, see that it works, and then start the action. Waiting to see the response negates the effect. Targetting is still possible, though)

Distract: Make the opponent observe, orient, and possibly decide about some irrelevant stimuli. Easy example of this is dropping something before entry. The opponent sees it drop and has to process what that means. The fact that the stimuli gets into their brain means you at least steal some of their brain processing time even if they decide to ignore it. Fails if they don't notice it at all, which is possible depending on their tunnel vision. I file the "am I hurt?!?" reaction in this category, where people feel contact and attempt to decide if they are seriously injured, or if the hit was sufficient for scoring or what have you. Can get a bonus confuse effect too, as in the showing a weapon, brandishing it, dropping it and attacking with something else. 

Confuse: Make the opponent fail to complete the orient phase. Basically, this is a hesitation you get when the opponent simply cannot understand what is happening and, instead of ignoring or acting, attempts to figure it out. This is what makes a wide variety of "tricks" work- they're just so weird the opponent doesn't have a response. Guru Mike demonstrates this by suddenly making like he's gonna kiss the guy he's fighting while grappling, then unleashing a flurry of elbows as their brain shuts down.

Freeze: Interrupting the loop by providing new information just before the opponent is about to act. Requires being able to read body language and thought process. Usually I do this by amping threat- often just bending knees. From the outside, it appears as if I simply attack and the opponent does absolutely nothing. What is actually happening is they have prepared to attack, and, the instant before they start to move, I suddenly appear to change. They abort and try to figure out if this change is important, and get hit. Good fencers can do this to inexperienced fencers almost at will. I've seen coaches who don't get it yell at their students, "Don't just stand there! Do something!" as a more experienced fencer does this to their student over and over again. It's something that's being done to them, the more they try to do the "right" thing the worse it gets. Can be defeated by the opponent not caring what you do, so it won't work on the threat-blind.

Stutter: Like the freeze, except you initiate it. You start moving, the opponent sees the movement, interprets it correctly, begins their reaction, you stop moving, the opponent sees the stop and starts trying to abort their reaction, you restart the motion, they're still trying to stop, etc. Basically compounds the idea of "action beats reaction", messes them around until you're well ahead. Depends on the opponent reacting in a way that they can recognize as nonoptimal- for example, moving the blade to block, when they realize that doing so would create an opening. If they don't recognize a problem, or if the reaction is safe no matter what (retreating instead of blocking, for example), stuttering doesn't work.  Opponents who have been trained that there is one correct on-guard position that they should always be in are particularly susceptible to this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

double sword sparring IN SLO-MO

I'm in a ridiculous total chamber position, but it's cool, because i've got plenty of distance. Dagg starts an attack, i don't want it yet, so i step back, and he stops, seeing that it's got no chance. He starts forward again, i hold my ground, but this time he's hesitating. My first swing does nothing but swing short, but stops his attack. My second swing is for real, so he changes his oncoming attack to stop it. My third swing would've hit shield, so i don't throw it. Next two swings are a block for his followup shot and a shot to his forearm that he catches near his hand.

He's falling back, so i launch a standard hi-lo sinawali attack. 1st swing is high, slows down as a roof block to monitor his weapon. Second swing is low, if he had dropped to attack under the roof it would've come across to catch it, but he's still up high so it hits the leg. His attack is stalled, so the roof speeds up again and hits him in the armpit, then rebounds around behind my back to make another leg shot.

The next exchange, I'm looking to attack his preparation, so i make the distance slightly closer. Closer distance=less reaction time, so instead of a double chamber i take a more forward guard position.

on being charged

part of the difficulty here is misapprehension of what this charging is. We're sort of preconditioned to think of charging as charging for effect- like a bull, or someone trying to tackle. In those cases, the person charging is at full speed or still accelerating at the moment of contact. That's not really what's going on here. What this is falls more into the category of marching attack- putting tempo pressure on you in order to force the timing of striking distance. A marching attack is effective because the attacker can slow, speed up, or change direction in order to adjust the timing of the engagement. The main goal of the defender is to spoil this control.

Bad options:

1. Continuous retreat. This is instinctively tempting, but disastrous. When retreating against a marching attack, the typical reaction is to retreat at or near the speed the attacker is coming forward. This turns the situation effectively into two fighters standing their ground or slowly coming together, except that one person is defending. The fighter with the longer reach has several advantages in this situation.

2. Stand your ground. This leaves all the control to the attacker, and so the defender has to entirely rely on being able to read the attack. Marching attacks also usually involves lots of feints- the attacker wiggles the weapon and can variously speed up and slow down to feint commitment. Makes it difficult to read and solve passively.

3. Waiting then sidestep/rolling/lateral movement. This instinct comes from that initial misapprehension. If the other person were really charging, this would be a good option. They are not. Their actual intention is to come to a stop right in front of you. They're already decelerating hard at the moment when you would sidestep. Foam weapons have a minimal weight commitment. There is some advantage in causing retargeting by sidestepping, but it's about the same as for a normal engagement.

Somewhat better:

4. Advance one step as the attacker is coming into range. The advantage here is that at the critical moment things accelerate for the attacker. They have to launch an attack sooner than expected. If you have previous knowledge of their favorite/instinctive swing, that's probably what they will fire. Still, this is happening when they are likely paying the most attention to you, so depending on your timing/telegraphing, it will not be that surprising.

5. Retreat one or two steps, fast, as the attacker is about to swing. Done properly, this making their attack fall short or causes them to lengthen/slow/re-evaluate. In general, makes it easier to deal with.

More better:

6. Feign continuous retreat, sudden stop. This starts to return some control to the defender. Moving backwards continuously makes the attacker comfortable and gives them some commitment. Stopping gives the advantages of option 4, with the additional advantage of being able to choose the moment. The biggest mistake with this one is when people think this is what they're doing, but in reality they're just retreating and stopping when they realize they can't get away, which is just about the worst thing to do.

7. Instant forward movement at the start of their charge. Sort of like a counter-charge. Has to be done from very large distance, or it becomes a weaker version of 4, where the attacker has more time to adjust. Instead, what you're hoping for is the attacker to slow or abandon the charge, expecting a typical defensive engagement. You can then either give them this, or stop/retreat and make them start their charge again. Stopping and starting is tiring for them, and thus good for you. If they continue and you continue at speed that's going to turn into an uncontrollable situation. Not my thing but if you're outclassed or into chaos it might work.

8. 7, stop, then engage. The goal being they start to charge, slow/stop when they you're coming to them, then they start accelerating again thinking you're not, and then you're there while they're still getting up to speed. Tricky, but you get all the goodness of an opponent coming towards you while not actually prepared.

best, of course, is a combination of all of the above, with the general goal being to cause stutters, hesitation, exhaustion, and regain control.

guard position

"Guard position" is a conflation of the topics of distance awareness, proper position to close a line, and framing. Beginners lack all of these skills, and it makes sense to teach them together. Not being aware of the time and distance an attack requires, they need to keep their best possible guard at all time.  The small variations between large, medium, and close distance are hard to determine, and vary for each individual. However, as skill increases, gradations need to enter in. There is conflict between readiness and giving the opponent knowledge of your defensive intentions. Ideally, no defense would be presented until the last possible moment, to deny the opponent the ability to react or plan a compound attack. There are many difficulties with this, including reaction time, variable speed attacks, and ability to read the opponents target. Stepping back from that, presenting a guard only as you enter medium distance serves as a framing device, limiting and prompting the opponent's options. Another step down is to maintain a guard in medium distance. Maintaining distance gives the opponent time to think- whenever possible the distance should be closed immediately or only for chosen windows of opportunity.

A strong tactical path should constantly improve your position until you win. The stronger the path is, the longer it could be. So a weak path goes maybe one tempo, "I am in distance, the target is open, I hit you", while a stronger path would start from out of distance. The infinitely strong path would start something like, "I woke up this morning."