Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Static Guard: A-Frame

This guide is for newer fighters. Some concepts below are simplified to allow more immediate comprehension and application.

Photo © Tiffany Tyler-Tyson
The A-Frame guard is often the first taught to new fighters who fight sword and board. It is relatively simple and provides a solid static defense when executed properly. As your footwork, speed, and understanding of combat become better, you'll be able to branch out into other methods with more success.

This guide assumes you are using a blue sword and a round shield.

Your Sword

The sword is the outer slant of your A-Frame. It usually isn't at a very severe angle, but the tip should be at enough of a diagonal to prevent your opponent from easily dropping their sword in the slot between your sword-tip and your head. Your hand should be fairly low in front of you, such that a decent portion of your blade is in front of your body, not over your head, and angled such that your elbow isn't sticking way out.

Why do you do this?

Without moving, your sword in this position takes away most straight upper-body shots. If you look in a mirror, you'll see that there are no obvious targets on your sword side without wrapping around the blade, moving it, or powering through it.

How do I block shots on this side?

Most shots can be blocked by moving your hand from side to side and keeping the tip stationary. You'll want to block all shots on this side with your sword, not your shield. Make sure your hand, arm, and blade snap back to your guard if you are not actively blocking or swinging.

Mistakes to avoid

  • Holding your sword too vertically. This opens up the slot on your shoulder.
  • Popping out your elbow. This allows opponents to more easily snipe your arm.
  • Keeping your hand too high. This will require you to move further to block strikes to your torso. It also offers little additional protection because the head is an illegal target in most cases.
  • Forgetting to reset your guard after swinging. It's easy to get sloppy when you're focused on attacking, and that may create openings that are not normally there.

Your Shield

Keep your shield relatively close to your body and up high enough to just cover your shoulder. If you are using a centered strap, you can try keeping your hand over your heart to start - that will help you avoid the temptation to drop your shield over time.

Why do you do this?

This keeps your entire shield side from being an easy target, without hindering your own range. If done correctly against an opponent of equal size, they are forced to wrap your shield or make you move it.

How do I block shots on this side?

Try not to move your shield much unless necessary. Many shots can be blocked simply by rotating your torso slightly. Practice with a friend to see exactly how much you can stop without letting your shield shift.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Letting your shield drop. This will happen naturally over time if you aren't paying attention, or may occur if you're moving your shield too much, and opens up your shoulder for an easy kill.
  • Shifting your shield too far when you block or swing. If your shield is moving, you are likely creating openings in its wake. This movement will also cause you to take extra time to reset your guard.
  • Holding your shield too far from your body. This changes the angles cut off by your shield and also reduces your own attack range. Depending on your opponent and shield, it may also make it easier for them to manipulate your shield out of the way.

Your Body

The torso is held upright, often square to your opponent if you aren't moving. Your weight should be distributed between your feet to allow you to move quickly. Footwork is a large topic, and it can be done in many ways, but a good place to start is with one foot slightly further back than the other, resting on the balls of your feet.

Why do you do this?

Your torso is being used to help you block and throw shots with the aid of your feet. The torso being upright also prevents your opponent from easily wrapping over your shoulder. Remember, your shield doesn't cover the top of your shoulder or your back, so leaning forward will make some of its protection useless.

Keeping your weight distributed between your feet allows you to both attack and retreat with more options than if you put most of your weight on one leg. This means you are able to slide or step your legs out of the way if necessary, effectively protecting your lower half.

Mistakes to Avoid

  • Leaning over. This happens most often when going for leg shots and opens your shoulder to your opponent. Instead of leaning, bend at the knees to bring you down to the correct level.
  • Putting too much weight on one leg. This will get you legged often once your opponent realizes you're rooted in place. Also, you'll have a hard time moving around, away from, or through your competition.

Other Considerations

Although the above covers the basics, there are many other circumstances that can change the effectiveness of this stance. A few examples are listed below, but you'll find more as you gain expereience.

Height differences

If you're far taller or far shorter than your opponent, the shots both of you throw will change.  For example, short fighters can expect more wraps over the shoulder on average, while a tall fighter can expect their legs to be a prime target.

Range differences

Effective angles of attack change as you swing the same, straight weapon from different distances. Someone right in your face is going to have different options than the guy fighting at the edge of his range.

Weapon you're fighting against

You can expect different kinds of strikes from different weapons in the line, especially polearms. Make sure you take time to fight against many different styles and work on any weaknesses you find. Most likely, those weaknesses will be centered around footwork once your basics are solid.


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