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Comrades in Arms: Gathering of the Blades 2024

One of the great things about going to a HEMA workshop event is getting new perspectives on things that you kinda know. Someone else’s perspective on Fiore, or a different approach to rapier.

But occasionally, you get to try something that is really outside of your existing experience. Such was the case with Callum Carmichael’s session on Group Combat.

This workshop explored some smaller scale scenarios (two or three on one) but also some work with a full line of combatants.

The ‘two on one’ scenario was interesting for one of its most obvious learnings. That, unlike the movies; if you’re part of the larger group, rather than wait your turn (for dramatic reasons) you should attack simultaneously. In the workshop we explored two possible approaches. The first, was to try and surround your opponent. But if you were the one outnumbered, and had a good flow, you could actually defend yourself surprisingly well (for a little while). Especially if your got your back to a wall.

What I found to be more effective was being shoulder to shoulder with your partner, then attacking just out tempo to your of your partner’s attack. So the victim opponent was killed while parrying the first attack.

However, if you were outnumbered, some parries would serve you better than others. Apparently Fezzik was right, fighting groups is different.

The mass formation was a fascinating demonstration of how utterly impenetrable a single line of combatants could be. If you were a sole fighter, or if you were a small group that was outnumbered; the only way to take out someone in the line seemed to be a reckless and suicidal attack.

So, my suggestion — should you ever face a pike line alone, pray for cannon.

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