Batleth Practice Concepts

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          This paper is to discuss where rubber meets pavement, or rather, weapon meets body. I am going to attempt the difficult task of describing how to accomplish actually using the weapons. In reality, I will be able to describe some basic holds and theory, but personal experience will be the true Master to teach you this. After discussing the most basic concepts about using the weapons, I will move on to other ideas for operations of the Practice Event itself.

          This paper assumes that you have already read "Batleth Basic Concepts". That paper provides the understanding about legal issues, armor, how to hit, how to pad weapons, etc.

          Again, the most important Rule behind that of safety is to have FUN. This is where Warriors attitudes and Honor will truly begin to show. Good Attitudes are required. Honor is required. Good humor is required. It is very important to follow Yoda's advice about anger. Any combatant who ceases to be having entertainment, but begins to bear malice must be disqualified and removed immediately. Any dishonorable combatant who will not concede their "injuries" becomes immortal. These dishonorable combatants need to be removed because they ruin the fun for everybody else.

          Remember, noncombatant observers and combatants must be kept apart. Children are the real problem here as they will walk out to talk to "daddy" (mommy) and get stepped on or hit. This is where the Security Officer has his most important job on the ship. Protecting the children from themselves. But remember, he/she is not a babysitter. When families arrive together, one parent should observe while the other fights. They should not both fight leaving their children unattended until the children are truly (be real about this) old enough to leave unattended. The ship is not a nursery and it is not fun to be expected to watch somebody else's children.

          Armed observers and judges need to remember to always bear arms when near the fighting. Without a Ring, the combat can move swiftly over many yards. It is not unusual to be a judge caught in the middle of a slugfest that moved faster than the judge could. When fighting in a very open area, manuvering is possible. With Team fighting, envelopement is real. In a Circle of Honor, those not immediately fighting are the perimeter Ring. They assist the combatants in remaining in the Circle. They are always in harm's way.

          How do you hold a Batleth? Watch the episodes a bit and then temper what you see with real world wisdom. The episodes are choreographed with a known winner and known loser. In the real world, the most effective grip is with the hands opposed. If both hands are on the same side of the weapon, the Warrior cannot maintain control of the weapon. Next placement question is about "strong arm high" or "strong arm low". That is the Warrior's choice. Most of our Warriors fight strong arm high / weak arm low. Personally, I fight strong low. Given that I am also left handed, fighting strong low actually matches the most common strong right high configuration.
          The practical comparison is this. With strong arm low, you are using your strong arm to make an extended jab. With strong arm high, obviously, your weak arm is making the jab. However, most Warriors still fight strong high because it offers the advantage of single handing the batleth with your strong arm if you must use your weak arm for something else.
          The most effective "en garde" position for rookies is vertical or near vertical directly in front of you. This allows a simple pivot at the waist (no arm movement) to block motions from either side. Mere rotation of the blade to horizontal blocks most overhead or under slashes. Even direct thrusts can be blocked by a small hip rotation. This position allows the most defensive blocking with the least amount of energy spent. Once a fighter is more experienced, the angle of the "en garde" increases with confidence. Experienced Warriors generally hold at about 35-40 degrees and employ all kinds of misleading holds to trick their opponent into making a mistake.
          Consider the basic moves of the Batleth as being the same as the sword. You have your vertical slashes down and up. You have your horizontal slashes left and right. Finally, there is the direct thrust (jab). Of course this is simplifed, but to start handling the weapon. It is important to keep it simple until the Warriors are practiced enough to avoid injury. A very useful training exercise to do with new Warriors is as follows.. Stand them "en garde" with the understanding that this is NOT combat and that they will not need to move their feet. Have an "aggressor" make slow motion slashs and thrusts at them after calling off where they will land. The new Warrior is then warned that the slash will be for (for example) his left arm before the slash begins. After doing this slowly for a while, speed up little by little. When confidence and blocking ability have increased to the point of apparent survivability, start this process over from the beginning, but without the warnings. This exercise teaches blocking without real combat. They do not have to run or attack. Merely stop each blow. Eventually, the unwarned blocking will equate real survivability. This is something that it does not hurt to do now and then as experienced Warriors. It helps to remember the basics sometimes as we get clouded by finess.
          In combat, sometime the Warriors will close and attempt to brute force each other. This "sumo" approach will usually cause the weapons to go flat against each other instead of blade to blade. This is important. The flat weapon is an uncontrolled weapon. Whoever does not go flat retains control and will ultimately defeat the other. Never let your blade go flat. You have lost at that point. This requires wrist strength, or for those of use without wrist strength, avoiding the "sumo". Spinning off of your opponent's blade and body is a very effective breakaway. Smaller Warriors such as myself can spin into a larger Warrior and slice them in the back with a controlled blade. Flat is uncontrolled. Uncontrolled will lose.

          How do you hold a Mekleth or DaQtag? These are more conventional items with real world crossovers. A Mek is like a cutlass. A short range, short sword for close combat. Hold accordingly. DaQtag's are knives. We use military rubber Fairbairn training knives. Hold like knives. Some prefer the icepick grip, others prefer a dagger grip. You will learn to fight against both regardless of your personal grip. We generally fight these weapons as twin Mekleths, but single DaQtag during practice. It is a good idea to learn the doubles of both.
          In the case of the dual Mekleths, some approach the idea that they possess two offensive weapons. Other consider one Mek offense, and the other Mek defense, a shield if you will. Either way, they are both in action and capable of striking if opportunity arises.
          With these medium and light weapons, disarmament is very real. Besides having a Mek knocked out of your hand, or loosing your grip, using the free arm to block or grab your opponent's weapon is just another day at the office.

          Since this is not Tournament, the object is to simulate "real" combat. The explanation is that the Judge will not declare "break" if contact is made any more than they would in a back alley or bar fight. The combat lasts until there is one Team or one Warrior standing. This is assuming that a MAD did not occur. The Mutually Assured Destruction is a very real concept. It is very possible for both Warriors to impale or slice the other at the same time. In this case, they are both dead. In the real world, this is how it happens. Not like the artificial world of Olympic Fencing or a Batleth Tournament. Each Warrior must be honorable and accept his "wounds" or "death". If an arm is hit, then the Warrior must fight without that arm. If a leg is hit, the Warrior must limp and avoid using that leg. Hands are not counted when using any weapon other than DaQtag. They are counted with DaQtag. Sometimes the only way a smaller Warrior can defeat a long armed larger Warrior at DaQtag is to take that larger Warrior apart, limb by limb with the "Sister Mary Elephant".

The most basic combat is the Duel. Two Warriors only in combat. Both Warriors enter an agreement of weapons and Rules. They decide the Rules that they shall fight by. Sometimes a Warrior may have been injured at work and ask "no leg shots" or something. They can select same or different weapons. Singles or doubles. Basically, these two decide the entire Rule set for their fight within the Safety and Fun Rules. Each and every duel can have a different Rule set. Two go in, one walks out unless it was a Mutually Assured Destruction.

"There can be only one."

But sometimes, you don't get that either.

The Circle of Honor is a wonderful practice tool and concept. It allows all participating Warriors to fight any and everybody. There are some Warriors who avoid others by design or luck of the draw. Some Warriors appear to always meet each other. The Circle of Honor is a device to level the playing field a bit. And it will do so over time.

          The way that it works is that all of the fighting Warriors form a Ring of about 20 feet in diameter . They are the outer perimeter and must remain armed to avoid being collateral casualties. Their function is to spectate, cheer, keep the combatants inside the Ring, and to learn. Once the Ring is created one Warrior volunteers to step in. That Warrior picks a first opponent who also steps in. The Ring is adjusted to fit the missing Warriors. They fight with the defeated taking the place of the next Warrior in the logical line from the arbitrary starting point. The combat continues around the Ring. One Warrior might manage to fight everybody in the perimeter Ring and keep going. He will certainly have fought every available Warrior at that point. Some Warriors are defeated on a first try. Ultimately, over time, every Warrior will have an honest shot at every other Warrior via the Circle of Honor.

          The Circle of Honor is a great training tool whereby movements are viewed closely by all. The spectators can critique and assist each other to improve their skills. They also have a chance at everybody. Large, small, fast, slow. Every Warrior of every type shall ultimately be faced in the Circle of Honor. Thus each Warrior shall learn to fight all types of opponents. It is also a binding element. It is hard to be a part of the Circle, and not feel a Brotherhood with those around you.

          Team fighting is where the concept of being more than just one Warrior really sinks in. In the real world, as in our pretend world, there are times that organized and recognized groups must apply force to further a means. Fighting as a Team adds completely new dimensions to the Batleth Practice. Team fighting requires additional planning and organization. Leadership and the discipline to follow orders will quickly show results. If two Teams are fighting and one Team allows itself to fall into a series of duels, then it will be defeated by the Team that remains a cohesive fighting unit. Discipline and Leadership will rule the battlefield.
          For starters, simply divide your Warriors into two Teams and have them face each other. In the early days of Practice when Warriors are scarce, the Teams may simply be two teams of two Warriors. Thus each learns to fight with one partner. Each guards the other's back and they learn to fight together without being fratracidal. All of the other general Rules still apply. The Teams can fight over terrain and use terrain for defense and offense. A tree or concrete column can suddenly become your "back". By manuvering around them, an opponent is hampered in their attack. Use natural features to defend your self, Team or Grounds. If you can manage Teams of three, be prepared to abandon a line and fight like Sardaukar.
          Once the numbers start to add up, life gets more interesting. Our standard Team is squad sized consisting of 5 Warriors. When two squads or sections fight, the new tactics available are fascinating. Each capo de squadra plans with their members assigning them Targets. "Kron takes Jkok, Kern takes Krud...." Each Warrior on a Team generally targets a near equal with the Walking Dreadnoughts targeting each other and general weight classes doing the same. There must be some planning to make sure that the smaller Warriors are not grossly outclassed otherwise they will die early. Each death shorts the Team one vitally needed Warrior. Teams generally fight with any legal weapon except DaQtag. So the fighting can be with mixed weapons.
          Weapons combinations are an interesting approach in practice. When fighting in Team fighting as opposed to the more structured Tournament, Duel, and Circle of Honor, weapons combinations make sense. When the goal is to defeat the opposing Team, smaller Warriors may be tasked to face really large Warriors. A large, strong, long armed Walking Dreadnought can simply standoff any smaller Warrior. One solution is to carry a Mekleth as a second weapon. I will assault a Walking Dreadnought and tie up his Batleth with my own Batleth. At that point, the Mekleth is free to make the kill. Some of the really large Walking Dreadnoughts will carry twin Batleths and command a very large piece of real estate that is very hard to take.
          Likewise, any Warrior may be tasked to "occupy" multiple targets. In Team fighting, my goal is not to survive, but to "occupy" as many opponents as possible while my stronger mates kill the rest. The math is simple. In 5 on 5, If I occupy 2 targets, then the odds are then 4 on 3 in my team's favor. The sacrificial Warrior(s) must not take chances by fighting to win. They must merely keep their Targets busy until their Team mates relieve them of their Targets. Usually, these sacrificial Warriors die in the process, but they have bought the time necessary for their Team to overwhelm their opponents. It is still an Honorable Death to die fighting for your Team.
          Another tactic is to use the "Runner". This is another assignment type. In a proper "line battle", the fastest running Warrior will be assigned to leave the Team and circle around to attack the opposing Team from the rear. The limitation here is that "sneaky back shots" are not Honorable by klingon standards so the Runner must announce his presence in order that his Target have the opportunity to face him. One or both Teams suddenly find themselves sandwiched between two sides. Even if the Runner does not attempt to actually kill an opponent, he can merely "occupy" the attention of the Line so that his Team can kill them.
          Evenly matched Teams cannot surround one another, but an overwhelmed Team can be surrounded. As one Team is whittled down to three, those three need to drop the line formation and return to a Sardauker formation and attempt to use trees or terrain as additional "Warriors" to aid in their defense.
          The combat and planning can be very impressive when two section sized Teams are facing each other. When 10-12 face an equal Team, separated units may fight like Sardauker until they can return to the safety of their Team's Line. There can be 2 Runners. There can be more "sacrificial" Warriors. The planning gets much more intense as does the fighting.
          Three Teams, however, is a bust. The smart Team will allow two to decimate each other, then swoop in to finish the survivors. We never tried 4 Teams though we could have (in our greatest days) fielded 5 Teams of 5. So I don't know what would happen there.
          The concept of Team fighting is important for Tournament purposes, too. With the four basic divisions of Tournament being Batleth, Mekleth, DaQtag, and Freestyle, we often will have a ship on ship event that may or may not count towards the Tournament scoring. In a ship on ship battle, to be a better fighting Team is very important to win.

la'Hom Salek Sutai
Ship's Brewer
Commo Officer IKV Melota

Batleth Tournament Operations


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