How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

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How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby Ninetails1985 » 20 Jun 2014 14:41

Warning: Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 4 tv show
Hi guys,
So watching the latest Matt Easton's videos got me thinking that you cannot do a lot of the disarming techniques against a much larger opponent. Though fantasy based battle, the Mountain vs the Viper in GoT has some truth in it. For example, from my Judo years I remember that a light push from a much bigger opponent can send you flying away. Also, just like in the show, you have to avoid a direct punch/kick at any cost or you are done for. (and yes, it is scientifically possible to crush a human skull with bare hands). Although as Matt Easton said in another video strength is not crucial for swordfighting, as all weapons are equalizers, some are more so than others (it doesn't matter how big you are against a Sig Sauer). Furthermore in HEMA there is a lot of wrestling with swords in my observations so strength is definately an advantage. Especially when there is a very big difference as in the Mountain vs the Viper fight. Me being 5'7", I can tell you for sure that I cannot hit someone as tall as the Mountain with the pommel after we cross swords. Also, locking such big and heavy hands is out of the question too.
Obviously being a "powerful man with a heavy sword" has its advantages, as Matt Easton recently gave example with the British soldier that killed 11 guys in India. So what do you want to do if you are fighting against a guy like the Mountain and you are armed with lets say Oakshott type 16a longsword??? With my limited knowledge and experience I would guess: keep your distance, try to circle around him, hoping that being shorter and thinner you are more nimble and flexible and get a quick trust in before he can react, but I want to hear what you guys think? I guess some of you can even have sparring experience vs a much larger opponent.
“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend”
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby admin » 20 Jun 2014 17:01

Essentially yes, that's it. Use superior skill, if you have it, to keep distance and find openings for the sword. Regardless of size, hands and forearms are easy to wound without armour protecting them. Speed and skill are the most important attributes for a swordsman. Also remember that stamina can play a part - being massively strong but unfit is not good news - more muscle and size requires more energy.
However, if fighting in armour then it is trickier - you cannot snipe extremities if someone has limb armour (well you can, but it won't do much). At some point, with armour, you'll have to get close enough to stab gaps in the armour. Though thrusts can be given conventionally from quite long range - they just won't be as accurate or forceful as halfsword thrusts.
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby admin » 20 Jun 2014 17:02

p.s. I would add that a short person can be a better wrestler than a big person. Low centre of mass can sometimes be an advantage - if you can get the taller person on the floor, then they may be an easier target for your sword point, if in armour.
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby Ninetails1985 » 20 Jun 2014 18:08

Yes yes, lower center of mass can be an advantage when wrestling, I've seen some jiu jitsu martial artists that capitalize on that, but I didn't think of that because I thought that attacking the legs with a sword opens you from a strike from above by the taller person with the longer reach.
However, if a really big guy puts heavy armor on, doesn't that capitalize on his weaknesses? I think that a lightly armored (like the Viper) opponent can run from him until he is tired and then attack and defeat him, similar to how the Crusaders were defeated in the Battle of Adrianople (1205)
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby Barbatus » 20 Jun 2014 22:54

In my sport fencing days, some of the best sabre fencers I fought against were pretty short. Aside of above average skill, they compensated shorter reach with explosive footwork and aggressiveness.
This might be the way to do: if your opponents allows this, always be the attacking side and in control of the fight. Take the initiative and dominate your opponent with fierce, repeated attacks, so that all he can think of is defence, which sooner or later will get him tagged.
If your big guy is a charging bull type then it's a different story. Some manuals from different periods offer advice on how to deal with such an opponent. In addition you can watch how sport fencers work with body fakes, feint counters, and distance control to disrupt opponent's offensive actions. One of the things from sports fencing that works well for me with historical weapons.
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby Batfink » 22 Jun 2014 13:28

One thing from my experience of fighting people significantly shorter than me with longsword- Whereas in lower guards or central positions it can be easy to cut over to the head against a shorter opponent, short people working well into/from high guards (Ochs, Fenestra) can be very difficult to deal with- it's easy for your sword to run off over their head if you try to thrust, more difficult for you to disengage and strike under their sword because of the height difference. Similarly they can very effectively cut under your guard whilst maintaining a strong high cover. Explosive footwork to close the distance can help create that situation for them, likewise so can excellent defensive skills with the sword holding the centre and offering a threat.

To illustrate- two particular opponents I've fought-

1. Keeps on edge of distance very well, then either opens with an extremely explosive attack or attacks into my attack to find my sword. Goes to high guard then extremely rapid switch to attack my right side head, still in a high guard (zwerch), with explosive closing footwork so he's almost passing me as he delivers the cut. Risk for him is if I keep my cool, field the second cut and collapse to grapple where I have a slight advantage. Or I can try to hit him on the way in and move off. I move backwards very quickly but still generally I only get one shot at that cos he's so explosive- he presses the attack, not allowing me space to get out.

2. Less explosive footwork but excellent parrying skills at all ranges, whilst consistently pressuring with the point or tight cuts in the centre. Tends to draw me on to his blade either by offering an opening or feel I have to counter his threat... I make a play for his head, he snaps to a high guard, lifting my weapon over his head, snaps a cut under into my arms, whilst keeping his blade covering high. This is effective at multiple ranges and can interrupt an attempt to crash to grapple as well as to cut/thrust to his head. I have to stay on his weapon and keep my hands very low or disarray his defence by movement and feinting to gain an advantage in first contact, before he comes to the high guard.
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Re: How to win swordfight vs much larger opponent?

Postby Dave B » 23 Jun 2014 15:51

I suspect that in your specific example, the best way to win would be to make sure that you are more valuable to the plotline alive than dead?

in the more general case I think excellent use of measure is the main thing - there are ranges where the big guy has the advantage, particularly where he can reach and you can't, so you have to cross that distance explosively, take your shot and cross back out if it doesn't work. I'm a little guy, and I always like to be very clearly either well in measure or well out, never hanging around on the edge of measure.
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