Blog posts of '2014' 'June'

Punch Blocking

Punch Blocking

“Punch blocking is asking for injury. Proper mechanics is to catch the block above the hand, and is not difficult to teach. The problem lies in people wearing mma/lacrosse gloves learning and teaching people how to injure themselves because its easier than blocking in a safe manner.

I have been playing since 1996 and have made hand to hand contact twice, both times was from throwing high crosses and meeting in the middle. One of the many reasons that is not a shot in my rolodex anymore.”


I see this one come up from time-to-time. The general argument is “punch blocking is unsafe” or “punch blocking is unrealistic”.

From a safety standpoint punch blocking with appropriate safety gear is less dangerous than blocking with the handle of your weapon (which isn’t exactly awful, but not optimal necessarily). If you block your opponents sword aggressively with the handle of your weapon you are introducing a large amount of combined force into a very small cross-section from your weapon handle. Call it a square inch. If you punch block with appropriate safety gear (lacrosse gloves, hockey gloves, MMA gloves, whatever) you’re impacting their weapon with a much larger surface area (probably six square inches). That means you’re doing far less damage to their padding, meaning that your opponents next swing is way less likely to be cored out. Imagine the sound difference between a block on your handle and a block on your hand; One of them makes a sound like foam on foam, and the other makes a sound like core on core. That’s because a handle block is blowing through the foam padding to the core, meaning there is now a distinctly less durable spot on that guys sword.

From a realism standpoint, punch blocking with appropriate safety gear is completely reasonable. Late-period steel gauntlets were designed to take full-force shots and deflect or absorb them; They were so good at it that basket hilts felt entirely out of favor as a hand defense. The primary focus of late-period crossguards was to enable you to control your opponents weapon, not as a defensive measure. If you accept that our foam weapons are steel replicas, then having our foam and leather protective gear be period steel gauntlets isn’t exactly a stretch. Moreover, for safety reasons a lot of the high-contact games just don’t allow steel gauntlets. In that case heavy gloves are the closest they can possible get.

So the next time you see somebody saying “punch blocking is bad/unsafe/stupid” just smile, nod, and whoop that ass.

How Do I Get Good? - Brennon

Something I get asked a lot is “How do I get good?” Few people really ask it like that, though. Most of the time it’s “What should I work on” or “do you have any pointers for me?” When you boil it down though, it’s all a variation on the same question: “How do I get good?” Here, then, is the answer to that question.


1: Be honest with yourself. Self-improvement in fighting is like self-improvement in anything else; Unless you are brutally honest with yourself about where you are weak, you will never know how to improve. The guy who goes out every weekend and talks about how awesome he is and how much he tools up on everybody is probably not very good, and is definitely not going to get any better.


All of the top fighters I know are some of their own harshest critics when it comes to their fighting styles. That self-awareness and the humility to know they aren’t perfect is what allows them to become great fighters. It’s okay to say “Man, I really need to work on such and such, it’s just not clicking for me” or “Bob was beating my ass this weekend, I just couldn’t get past his static defense.”


Honesty is the tool we use to evaluate ourselves. Having an unreal sense of your own abilities can only lead to stagnation.

2: Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Start by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Working from that list, identify some components to each of them that you feel make you strong or weak in those areas. It should pretty quickly become obvious where you need to work on things and what concrete steps you can take to get meaningfully better. Some of the basic areas you can use to start your evaluation are:


  • Footwork

    • Your ability to change directions and make quick movements in combat without falling the hell over.

  • Stance

    • The way you stand should minimize your available attack surfaces to your opponent while offering a good, stable platform for attacking. Good stances make defense and offense easier. Bad stances make defense and offense harder.

  • Guard

    • When you’re not doing something with it, where is your gear hanging out? Your passive guard should block your opponents primary lines of attack without requiring you to make a special effort to intercept them.

  • Shot Selection

    • fighters need a minimum of three safe openers for every combination. A safe opener is a shot you can use to hit your opponent, or get a reaction from them that you can exploit, without much risk of being hit yourself in return. Aside from that, more shots in your toolbox is always better.

  • Sword Control

    • When you play stick-on-the-body, if you can’t get your stick on the body, you can’t win.  Strong accuracy is critical to not only strike your opponent in minute openings, but also to keep your defensive structure sound.  

  • Reading

    • Professional baseball players do not guide the bat onto the ball mid-throw, but analyze the pitcher’s body movement before the ball ever leaves their hand.  Similarly, fighters must intuitively draw meaning from a fighter’s shoulders, hips, hands, and feet before shots begin.  

  • Feints and Fakes

    • Using an opponent’s reading against them is more complicated than rehearsed motions that vaguely look like shots - it also requires an understanding of the opponent’s ability to read.  Strong feints can transform an opponent’s strong defense into a weakness.

  • Fight Control

    • Do you react to your opponent’s game, or are you forcing your opponent to respond to yours?  Fight control is more than just fighting aggressively - actively steering the fight according to your terms.  

  • Strength

    • While foam-fighting doesn’t require a huge amount of strength, there is a minimum level of power necessary to fight effectively.  Weak fighters often lose control of the weapons and have fragile guards that are easily exploitable, especially in games with a minimum weapon weight.  

  • Cardio

    • Much like Zombieland’s first rule, cardio is crucial - winded fighters not only move slowly, but also have trouble employing their mental faculties in combat.  fighters with poor endurance also perform especially poorly in many-on-one situations.  

3: Improve on your weak areas while playing to your strengths.  All fighters favor certain techniques, and enjoy some methods over others - however, many fighters spend too much time polishing their strengths instead of bolstering flaws in their game.  How dangerous can lightning-fast hands be, if the fighter’s footwork is too poor to get them into a strike zone?  Conversely, it is important for a fighter to understand the limitations of their bodies and use their strengths appropriately - particularly short fighters are not going to get big returns out of practicing a sniping game.  Be cognizant of your strengths, but work to become a complete fighter by working on weak areas.  


4: Set short term, achievable goals.  Long term goals like “be the best” are weak because they lack specificity.  Goals that better serve the aspiring fighter are concrete and measurable.  Examples of good goals are, “practice five hours this week,” or “work on defense at the Saturday park by blocking three times before retaliating.”  A critical component of these goals is that they have an internal locus of control - goals like “win this tournament” are untenable because they hinge on external factors like who shows up that day.  Goals like “practice footwork in the garage every other day” depend only on your own dedication.  

5: Go back to step one.  Be honest with yourself.  Don’t lose focus.  It’s easy to get carried away by short-term success, and extrapolate to the long-term.  Continually reassess your fighting by looking for new weaknesses, and by making new goals and plans.  Truly excellent sword-fighting is an unending road - honest self-assessment and reflection is the key to making sure you stay on the right path.