Fightng-Small-art - 2/19/99
"Fighting for those of Small Stature" by Centurion Romanius Vesperanius.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Subject: ANST - A contribution to small stature fighters.
Date: Mon, 08 Feb 99 10:24:44 MST
From: "Christopher D. Baran" <rrhms at texoma.net>
To: "'ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG'" <ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG>
I wrote the following piece to try and help fighters of my size
throughout the Known World. Please forward this piece to any applicable
list. Reading it may also help larger fighters understand smaller fighters
Fighting for those of Small Stature
By Centurion Romanius Vesperanius
This essay is addressed to those who are of relatively short height
(under 5'5") and of lighter weight ( under 150 lb.). I decided to write
this because it has come to my attention through my years in the Society
that there is a stunning lack of information and technique for the fighter
of small stature. I cannot count the number of people that have approached
me saying that until they saw me fight they did not believe a smaller person
had a chance on the field. I feel that this is due to the fact that the
majority of fighters are big, burly guys. Never mind the fact that the
Romans who conquered the majority of the Known World were considered tall at
5'3", today's Society fighting is based on a bigger person's mentality. To
cut to the heart of the matter, a small stature person simply cannot do the
same things someone twice their size and mass can do. On this same note,
someone 6'4" cannot do what someone 5'4" can. I will take this time to
admit that not every smaller fighter will be a "great" fighter, but then
very few fighters of any kind ever become "great". With practice and
diligence and dedication I believe any fighter of smaller stature can be as
good or better than any average size fighter. Since the purpose of this
essay is to give smaller stature fighters some hints on how to fight better
I have decided to present it in the fashion I would teach a newer fighter.
The first area is weapons and armor, second stance, third movement followed
by a series of "essential" shots for the smaller fighter, and finally a few
tips that don't fall into one of the other categories.
Weapons and Armor
Your gear is one of the most important aspects of fighting. From
your helm to your boots, it is important to have the right equipment for the
job. For first time fighters I would recommend a helm that is fairly light
and unadorned. When you make your helm (or have it made) pay particular
attention to your vision. As a smaller person you are going to be looking
slightly up more often than not. Until you learn to look at your opponents
body with your eyes, rather than tilting your head, your helm is going to
pull your weight off backward. This can be minimized by including a clear
path of vision slightly upward rather than just straight ahead. I would
also recommend making sure you have plenty of air circulation in your helm.
Having a bar faced helm or large breathing holes is a big plus.
Moving down the body I would suggest using as much leather for your
armor as possible. Metal looks very pretty but weighs you down, is hot and
costs more than other types of armor. Metal knees are one part of armor I
do recommend including. I, and other shorter fighters I have talked to,
have a chronic problem of being hit in the knee people try to
overcompensate for height and swing too low. As we are smaller in stature
than the normal fighter we have less natural "padding" than others. To even
the odds I recommend using thigh protection of some sort. Leather with blue
closed cell foam padding glued to it is very good. Leg armor does not
restrict your movement if made properly and doesn't slow you down either.
Being able to walk the day after practice is an encouragement to get you
back out on the field next practice.
Boots! Get a pair that fit you well! Finding good fitting boots
was the biggest problem I had with getting my armor together. Larger people
have no idea how hard it is to find a really good set of fighting boots in a
mens size 6 1/2. Lace up, buckle on, or slide on the important things to
remember are making sure your foot doesn't slide side to side or front to
back and that they don't weigh you down. For starters combat boots are O.K.
but you will find you may want to move on to something that looks more
period. NO NO NO to tennis shoes! They have terrible ankle support (like
none) and look like tennis shoes. Lastly, make sure that your boots have
good traction. One of the advantages slight fighters have is being able to
stop on a dime, even in poor weather conditions. Don't give that advantage
away by having slick soled boots.
Always wear a cup. Even female fighters. Nothing hurts worse than
getting cupped by a 300 lb. fighter without a cup on. Trust me on this one.
Swords vary from person to person but a good rule of thumb is when
grasping the handle of the sword the tip should just touch the ground.
Beware of heavy rattan. You don't need to use a log to hit harder. With
the low profile thrusting tips now available I will say use them if you want
but, don't over use them. I prefer to use a sword that is weighted towards
the hilt. This allows the sword to do more of the work and allows for a
quicker recall of the weapon.
The last item you will take onto the field is the shield. This is
the most important piece of gear that you have. If your shield is not right
for you nothing you do will increase your skill on the field. For slight
fighters I recommend using a large shield. While round shield are period
for some, they require quick reflexes, a long reach and fast feet. After
becoming proficient with a large shield I would say to try one but not at
the beginning. I would say to use Kites, coffins, Roman Cavalry and big
Which ever shield you decide to try, stick with it for at least a
year. Each type of shield has to be hung and used differently requiring
your body to retrain its responses to a new system of defense. Each type of
shield has its advantages and disadvantages for the smaller fighter. Kites
and coffins are long and protect your side and front well but leave your
face more open to the slot shot. They also leave your head more open to the
wrap shot if you opponent chooses to close. The Roman cavalry shield is a
good all around shield but tends to leave the very top and upper sides of
the head exposed due to the way the shield must be hung and the flat top
edge. The heater is the best shield for protecting the upper body but lacks
in leg protection. The standard heater measures 2' wide and 3' long through
the center. The bottom half tapers to a rounded point. Whichever shield
you decide to use stick with it for at least a year before deciding to move
I cannot overstate how important good fitting, comfortable armor is.
If it is ill fitting or uncomfortable then you wont want to put it on and
get out on the field to fight. Once you have your basic protection fit to
your specifications you are ready to move on to your stance.
After watching my brother slight fighters on the field, I have
noticed that the most successful ones carry themselves in a similar manner.
Being small is a definite advantage when it comes to a standing defensive
stance. The most important part of your stance is how your body weight is
distributed. The feet should be about 2 feet apart measuring from the
center of the fore foot to the center of the back foot. The leading foot
should be the shield foot. Point this toe at your opponent while keeping
the rear foot at a 70 degree angle pointing away from your body. Keep the
knees slightly bent. This should drop your body weight down through your
groin area directly towards the ground between your feet. Next, hold you
upper body erect. No slouching forward! If you want to lean, lean slightly
backward out of the range of your opponent. Leaning forward destroys your
balance, places your weight on your front foot, and keeps you from moving
Shield and sword position will vary from person to person according
to what shots you like to throw and where you need extra protection. To
begin with, the shield should be held with the forward edge splitting your
body down the center line. You will know you've found the right spot when
you can see your opponent out of your sword side eye only. The front edge
of the shield should be held about 12" away from the body. The bottom edge
of the shield should be knee height or a little lower while the top edge of
the shield should be even with the top of the helm. An important note here
is to make sure the shield is hung so the weight is transferred down the arm
and not all on the wrist. This will keep your arm from getting tired as
quickly. With your shield in this position your entire shield side should
be protected while you are in your standing guard.
The sword should be held in a defensive position to protect the
sword side of the head. To do this, hold the sword so that the top of the
hilt is even in height with the bottom of the shield basket. Next move the
entire sword away from the shield to the side about 10". The business end
of the sword should angle in front of the face towards the top edge of the
shield as if you were making a tent. Don't rest the sword on the edge of
the shield, but keep it about 1" from the surface. The entire sword should
be cocked (or lean) slightly towards the face allowing you to throw shots
without loading the sword first. This position should guard your face from
the slot shot, protect your sword side head, and if held correctly, protect
your arm from shots. If you find your sword arm is exposed, drop your arm
about an inch or so to use the basket hilt as protection. For a small
stature fighter a good stance and defense is the best friend they can have
on the field. The reason that a good defense is important is that many
larger fighters rely on their offense to win the battle. The majority of
large fighters I have watched will attack a smaller fighter in an initial
flurry and then step back to survey the damage they've done. They tend to
get frustrated after a few of these bouts. It is then that the smaller
fighter takes the offensive. By NO means am I suggesting that the smaller
fighter stand their ground and take the attack directly on their defense,
but a well built defense will certainly confound your opponent and keep you
alive long enough to strike back at your opponent. In short, regardless of
how good your offense is, if you don't live long enough to use it then it
Being able to move quickly is a key part of stance. Movement keep
our opponents from targeting gaps as easily and opens gaps in their defense.
Not to mention it tires them out. To stay as mobile as possible keep your
weight evenly distributed on the balls of your feet. Try not to put too
much weight on the front foot as this will effectively keep you planted for
that critical moment as you shift weight to move. Too much weight on the
back foot allows you to be easily pushed about and keeps you off balance.
This latter problem is the one most commonly encountered by slight
and smaller fighters since we tend to fight while moving backwards. Try to
move in an arc towards your opponents shield side, never in a straight line
backwards. Since smaller fighters are generally more nimble than larger
fighters, moving in an arc disrupts their flow of motion while not affecting
yours. The tighter the arc, the better. This type of movement does several
things for you. By moving to the shield side, right handed fighters are
protected by both their and their opponent's shield. Smaller fighters also
"disappear" from a larger fighters view by ducking behind a larger fighter's
shield. Moving in an arc keeps a larger fighter form using their weight and
height to their advantage. A final advantage small stature fighters have is
better footing in poor weather due to a lower center of gravity. Try to
make a larger fighter move as much as possible if the footing is poor or
wet, gravity likes them better. Don't be afraid to use this advantage when
you can. Again, I cannot over stress the importance of good movement for
the smaller fighter, it is the difference between winning and losing.
I am a big believer in basics. Before working on any "specialty"
shots, have the five basic shots down pat. Those five shots are: Shield
side head, Slot, sword side head, Shield side leg and sword side leg. If
you become proficient at these five shots you will win 90% of your fights.
All of these shots should be thrown in the same manner to let the sword do
the work rather than your arm. The sword moves through many stages during a
shot. To simplify how to throw the shot I will describe the sword's motion
step by step. Hold the sword hilt firmly but not too tightly. Imagine you
are holding a hard boiled egg you don't want to crack. Next, throw your
shots from a pre-cocked position as I mentioned earlier. This gives power
without having to telegraph the shot. Throw the blow using your upper body
and shoulder, NOT your wrist and forearm. This allows you to throw many
more blows before getting tired. Directly before you blow lands allow your
wrist to slightly loosen or break. This gives your blow greater power and a
whipping motion. By breaking your wrist you also get the most "bounce" or
rebound that your sword will allow. This bounce is helpful in recalling the
sword into a defensive position or to move on to the next shot of a
If you find that you are having trouble getting enough power into
your blows, there are three ways to get additional power into your shots.
First of these is to only hold the sword with the thumb and fore and middle
fingers when starting the blow. Directly before the blow lands grasp the
handle quickly with your last two fingers. This puts a great deal of power
and speed (or snap) into finishing the blow. This can also be accomplished
by adding a "trigger" or leather circular strap to the handle of the sword.
The trigger should hold the fore and middle fingers. The trigger also helps
with the control of the sword. This last can also be accomplished by
carving your handle to better fit your grip.
A second way to gain power is to put you hips into the shot. By
this I mean rotating your upper body into the shot as it is thrown. This
gives great amounts of power but if used improperly will telegraph all of
Third is to step into the shot as it is thrown. To do this, set up
for the shot and take a half step forward as the shot is thrown. I rarely
use this method and hesitate to recommend its use except on the thickest of
fighters. By stepping into the shot, all of the fighters weight is behind
the blade as well as the power generated by the arm throwing the blow. All
in all this could injure someone if it lands unimpeded. A second reason to
not step into the shot is that it opens your defense and places your weight
on your front foot leaving you immobile if your opponent charges after
blocking the blow. Lastly, stepping forward is a sure sign to your opponent
that you are going to attack.
Remember, the power of the blow comes from the technique of the blow
rather than the muscle behind the sword. Relying on brute strength alone
will tire your arm out leaving you without an offense.
The longer you fight, you will identify which shots work best for
you. Find what you like and use it, but again, don't over use it. Only
when you are comfortable with the basics should you move on to the more
advance shots. Practice your jumping shots as well. Some may laugh at the
beginning but changing your angle of attack suddenly will take you opponent
off guard. The next series of shots to learn would be: The Wrap, Shield
side body, Center body (or gut) shot, Shield hooks, Sword hooks and the
Scorpion. These add variety to your offense and will keep your opponent
guessing. Don't be afraid to try something new or a "big fighter trick", I
guarantee they will not expect it from you. You will use the Scorpion shot
the least unless it is against someone on their knees or another smaller
fighter, but knowing it will help you guard against it being used on you.
Various and Sundry
The most difficult fight I encounter is one against another small
stature fighter. We become so accustomed to fighting people two feet taller
and 150 pounds heavier we forget how to fight someone our own size. I
compare it to two left handed fighters on the field. My advice is: Stick
to the basics, don't attack the slot or top of the head and use your
defense. Resign yourself to a long fight and enjoy!
An important note is the attitude you may encounter while on the
field. Some larger fighters feel differently about smaller fighters than
about someone their own size. Including how hard they feel someone should
be hit or how hard the smaller person has to hit them. Don't let others
call your blows for you. If the shot is good by YOUR standard call it,
otherwise let them know it wasn't good. They aren't in your armor so they
don't know how the shot felt. This tends to be a common problem with
smaller fighters. Many larger fighters tend to feel that since we are not
as big as them our shot calibration should be lower. If someone calls your
shot for you, gently remind them this is a game of chivalry and that you are
quite capable of calling your own blows.
Finally, have fun and enjoy yourself on the field. This is
something we do for fun and is a hobby. Chivalry first and foremost to our
opponents and ourselves on and off the field. Just because you are small of
stature doesn't mean you have to watch all the fun from the sidelines!
Centurion Romanius Vesperanius