Brandywine of Combat
The Way of the Body
You whole body should move your shield. You whole body should move your sword. Your arm and hand should provide only fine guidance to both. Your body has the strength to manipulate both simultaneously for an extended period of time. Your arms do not. Your body has the strength to help your shield withstand many heavy blows while allowing you to maintain your balance. Your arm does not. Your body has the power to throw crisp blows for several minutes. Your arm does not. The way of combat is the way of the entire body, not the way of the arm.
Don't Fight Your Equipment
Find the right equipment for your body and your fighting style. Admit all your weaknesses, and while you are correcting them permanently through training, make up for them through equipment that does not challenge them. Rig your shield so that it is in good defensive position while your elbow rests against your side. Find a sword that best translates your particular generation of power to your opponent. Find armor that allows you to move freely. Think about how you can help yourself, and design your equipment appropriately.
Square the Stance
The more square your stance, the greater variety of offense you can generate. Standing in a linear "reverse fencing" stance will seriously limit your offense. Jump in the air and land with your knees bent. Your body will tell you, if you listen to it, what is the on-balance position. Now drop your sword-side foot back just a little, so that your sword-side leg is at a different range than your shield-side leg. Now you can block both legs and throw blows to both sides of your opponent. Your hips, legs, and torso are now free to move in any direction you wish. Free yourself.
Control the Range
Your weapon has a range which is made up of the length of the weapon and the length of your arm. In addition, the range may be manipulated by leaning back and forth, stepping, or drawing the elbow in during a blow. All these conditions exist for your opponent as well. Learn to manipulate the range of both your weapon and your opponents' to gain an advantage.
Apply the Sweet Spot
Every weapon has a sweet spot. This is about three inches down from the end of the weapon, and runs for about six inches. This point delivers the most force of any given blow to your opponent's armor. By reaching forward or pulling back the elbow, you can control your weapon so that the sweet spot always strikes your opponent. Take time to consider and learn this.
Step to Strike
Learn to drive your onside strike by stepping with the foot on the same side as the blow. Learn to drive your offside strike by stepping with the foot on the same side as the blow. This way, even when standing still, your hip will move forward appropriately and your blow will be crisp. Add walking and pivoting to your repertoire, and your attack will be flexible and strong. Remember, right strike/right foot: left strike/left foot.
Hands Move in Straight Lines
While the end of the weapon describes an arc as the blow develops, your hand should not. Hands should move in straight lines. Those straight lines should be directed at your opponent. If the hand is not moving toward your opponent, then it should not be moving in any other direction, but providing a pivot around which the arc of the sword is described. While executing a blow the sword hand should never move in any direction away from your opponent. It should always move in straight lines toward the opponent.
If you weigh 100 lbs. and I drop you on your opponent's head, he will take that as a good blow every time. If you learn to bend your knees as you deliver blows which have as part of their trajectory any downward element, you will drop your body weight on the target. This will ensure a good blow every time.
If your opponent has a defense which is difficult to penetrate, think about putting the tip of the weapon solidly in one of the small gaps which are there. By drawing the elbow back during a blow, or changing the height of your body by bending your knees as you strike, your can deliver the tip of the weapon inside a triangle of defense. The hand must grip tightly at the end of the blow, and you must rotate your hand so that the thumb moves toward the opponent and your little finger moves toward your body. You must be committed to striking solidly with the tip of the weapon. Using the body drop principle will add crispness to this blow.
All Things Move Toward Your Opponent
You cannot properly execute an offside attack without moving your body to the offside. Nor can you properly execute an offside attack if your offside hip or foot is not moving toward your opponent. Nor can you properly execute and offside attack if your hand does not move toward your opponent. All of these things are necessary to proper delivery of an offside attack. Make sure you do all of these things. Realize that all hold true for onside attacks as well, it's just that we fail more often to do them all correctly during offside attacks.
Let Your Stance Be Your Defense
Learn to neutralize your opponent's offense by taking a stance and position which cuts off their best and quickest attacks simply by the position of your body, shield, and sword. This reduces their possible viable attacks to one or two, and you know they are coming, so they are easy to block. Study your opponents to know which blows of theirs are quickest or best. Block them before the fight begins, and the fight will be much easier for you.
Blocking Is a Last Resort
There are many ways not to be hit by a blow. You can step backwards out of range. You can duck the blow so that it doesn't hit you, you can move forward toward their arm so that their arm hits you and their weapon doesn't. You can block the blow. Always do more than one of these at a time. Causing your opponent's weapon to miss you is the most desirable. Causing your opponent's weapon to glance off your shield or weapon so that it continues in its arc of movement is next desirable. Solidly blocking the blow is the least desirable. If you can keep their blade moving past you and cause them to become off balance, they will be vulnerable to your blow.
Movements of Vulnerability
During any combat, there are vulnerable moments for your opponent. Some of them are moments of thinking, shifting focus, confusion, fear, being off balance, starting an offensive technique, just after the lay on is called after a hold, or when their attack is over and they are in a transitional moment. During these moment they are vulnerable to fakes, will block their vision, and will not respond quickly enough to your attack. Study these and learn to recognize them. Attack decisively within these moments.
Practice techniques slowly. Think about them and how your body can deliver them. Do not be in a hurry. You can hurry later when your opponent is swinging at you. You have time to contemplate and analyze now. Use it. Employ whiffle bats, yardsticks, or light wooden dowels to practice as slowly as you can. Then find a partner with a shield, and move SLOWLY. The body learns techniques faster this way, and if you repeat the motions enough, they will become reflexive. Then you can turn the forebrain off while fighting, and let it send through only the information you need.
Think During Practice/Do During Combat
When in actual combat, use the forebrain as little as possible. You have an on-board computer that has been shaped to handle your body though millions of years of natural selection, and if you have practiced your fighting movements slowly and with enough repetition, your brain stem and body will execute the movements without your having to think about them. If you have successfully blocked your opponent's blow while striking at him cleanly and crisply, and you don't know how it happened, you have just experienced the incredible efficiency of this system. Trust it. Use it.