Trompe  L'oeil 2nd Edition

(Trick of the Eye) 
Advanced techniques in SCA combat Second Edition
Written and illustrated By
 Duke Sir Patrick Devilin Of DarkWrath Keep 
(original copyright 1999)
See the bottom of this page for an upgrade offer to those that have the first edition.




This book now contains over 230 pages!

Read original and unusual methods to dissect and analyze  the art and science of heavy weapons combat.

I have adapted concepts from disciplines such as the magician's sleight of hand, juggling, physics, psychology, and data from various sports scientists

From this body of work I have developed the fundamentals of what I consider to be my TECHNIQUE ENGINE. A system for combining principles to generate new trick shots and new fighting moves. 

Many of the esoteric models I developed years ago were considered to be the "wrong way" back then. These days some of the same ideas are being accepted by more of the main-stream  as cutting edge concepts. Get a jump past  conventional thinking before these methods become  common knowledge. 

Furthermore, this book does not contain the traditionally vague  and flowery language to explain the hows. 

Together with practical analogies and examples to real life parallels, this book contains the technical data and the illustrated geometry so that you will know the WHYS and not just the HOWS. 


Subjects include
(but not limited to)


About the book:

I have been professionally published with a previous book called the Haunted House Halloween Handbook published by the McFarland publishing company. (Ask for it in your public library). 

However I am not making a living by writing.  It was very stressful and time consuming for me to write both these books, I am by no means a “writer” nor what I would call an “author.” My mental attributes are mostly based in geometry (the relationship of shapes and space) and not journalism. So I wrote this book the way I talk, and not as a professional writer would have written it. 

My first book was handled by professional editors and copy checkers. However this book was written for a very small market. It is not yet practical to produce it through professional channels. Thus, this book must stand on what it has to say and not how it is said. 


Following are mostly text samples from the book. However I feel many fighters learn best from graphic examples, so in the book the subjects include over 60 illustrations of object lessons and visual analogies to help in understanding the principles.


On page #3:

From age five, I have always been interested in how things work. I would often take apart appliances, tools and toys to see how they did what they did. After a while, I got good at rebuilding them with improvements or new functions. As I came across new systems, be it body language, card tricks or computer programs, I found that thoroughly learning the procedure of any system would not really allow me to completely master it. 

Discovering the basic concepts of the system is the real secret. A single system is only one branch in a tree of possibilities. Normally, I would not get very far by continuing to climb up from where I was at. But once I backtracked down to the trunk of the tree, I could then find my way back up to various new branches that had existed but were previously unknown. I found that once you truly understood all the fundamental information about a system, then combining those basic building blocks into new amalgamations was easy. 


On page #20:

For the purposes of SCA combat, we will take a Newtonian approach to physics. Newton's laws only breakdown at an atomic level or at a planetary level. For movement of swords it is extremely accurate!


Energy is exchanged into force to perform the work of Momentum.

Speed is distance traveled per unit of time. The combination of distance and time together make up speed! Changing the distance traveled changes the speed or changing the time it takes to travel also changes the speed. This is important to understand when dealing with rotational physics.

Velocity is the combination of speed and direction together. It is how fast something is in a particular direction without concern to whether it is slowing down or speeding up. 

Acceleration is a combination of how fast something is AND how fast it is getting faster.

Mass is not weight. Weight is the measure of gravity on mass. But to simplify physics people often refer to weight as if it was mass.

Force may be thought of as any influence which tends to change an objects  state of motion. Force = acceleration times mass.

Work Refers to the activity of moving an mass in the direction of the force. Momentum = mass times velocity.

Energy is the capacity for doing work. You must have energy to accomplish work, it is like the “currency“ for performing work.  

Power The rate of energy used to perform work. (The rate of exchange.) 


Friction makes it difficult to understand the laws of force and motion.  People are used to seeing moving objects slow down when the force pushing them is removed. For sword combat friction is a nuisance and may obscure Newton's rules, but it will not change the laws of physics.  


Remember that Kinetic Energy is exchanged into force to perform the work of Momentum.

Kinetic Energy is needed to create momentum. But Kinetic Energy is NOT momentum. Kinetic Energy cannot be directly applied to moving your opponent’s helmet in a sword blow. Like electricity that powers an electric motor it has to be converted into physical movement before it can perform physical work. 

Kinetic Energy must first be converted into momentum, then that momentum can be passed on to your opponent’s helmet. Kinetic Energy is not nearly as important a consideration as is momentum when we are talking about the end result of moving your opponent’s armor!

Momentum is the quantity of motion of a moving object measured as a product of its mass and velocity.   Momentum = mass times velocity.

Kinetic Energy is a very important concern when dealing with  deformation of mass such as crushing bones or smashing flesh.

However momentum is the important concern when performing the work of moving the mass of the amour into the fighter wearing the armor.

Unless the sword blow hits in an unarmored location, Kinetic Energy is not what you feel when a sword blow hits your armor. 

You feel the Momentum from the armor which came from the momentum of the weapon. Therefore Mass and Velocity are of equal importance in determining the physical effect on the target as a result of the weapon blow and how the weapon “handles” while getting to the target.


Linear Momentum = Mass x Velocity  

This means that a sword that is twice as heavy but swung half as slow as sword that is half as heavy but swung twice as fast will each hit with the same momentum, in other words they both hit just as hard to perception of the SCA fighter, as long as the IMPULSE of both are within a particular range. IMPULSE will be discussed later in this document.



On page #30:

Most SCA sword blows are like catapulting a small boulder from a large siege weapon.

Remember that force is acceleration times mass. The lever in a typical catapult is a mechanical device that transfers and transforms kinetic force. This first class lever uses a slow large force on one end to move a small load fast on the other end.

Like the catapulted bolder, at the moment of impact the sword blow is no longer being pushed by your body, it is flying with its payload of kinetic force. IF you throw a blow that is still being PUSHED at the moment of impact you will not have transferred the maximum kinetic force that you could have. Any PUSH left in your body should have ALREADY been transferred to the sword.

This brings us to another aspect of physics called IMPULSE. 

Impulse is defined as an object's change of momentum with respect to the time the transfer takes. The basic principle of impulse physics is that the force of a collision will diminish proportionately with the amount of time that the collision is in contact with the target at the very moment of momentum transfer. Or put another way, the force will become less with the more time it takes to complete the collision.

Bullets bouncing from a steel plate produce a greater impulse, and a greater transfer of force. The plate will be moved back more by bouncing bullets than by bullets that stick.

Consider a hardwood pole and soft foam rubber padding.  We could make a spear with the hardwood pole and soft foam on the tip. Now if you punch this SCA spear at your opponent's helmet the foam first comes in contact with his helmet and transfers some of the total force into the metal.  As the foam compresses, more and more of the total force is transferred. 

Finally the foam reaches the point where it will not compress anymore. 

This entire process takes MUCH longer then if the tip of the hardwood spear had no foam at all. If no foam was used and the bare hardwood hit your opponents helmet the momentum would be transferred almost instantly and thus the impact would feel harder because the force would be greater.

Impulse = Acceleration x Mass

Remember acceleration is not exactly the same as speed nor velocity. It is how fast something is speeding up (or how fast it is slowing down.) 

So you could also say:

Force = momentum divided by Time 

This means that, in regards to impulse, force and time are inversely proportional. The longer the time it takes to transfer all of the momentum, the less force is produced in respect to impulse. 

Consider the weight of water as if it was momentum. Now Imagine a container held above your head by a rope. The container is filled with 10 gallons of water. If you cut the rope and allow the 10 gallons of water to hit you all at once you will be hit harder than if you poke a hole in the container and allow the water to pour down on your head over several minutes of time.

When striking an opponent with a weapon, the longer the weapon is in contact with the target DURING THE MOMENT OF THE TRANSFER OF MOMENTUM, the force of the strike is dissipated over the length of the impulse. 

This dose not mean that you PULL the weapon back before or during the point you land the blow, as this may promote truncating the transfer of momentum from your body to the target. 

You must BOUNCE the weapon on a reverse motion path, or you can BOUNCE the angle of your strike into a slightly different path. 

You want all the momentum transferred into your weapon from your body just at, or slightly before the moment of impact. And you should ALLOW the weapon to bounce off of the target with the natural elasticity of your arm, your grip and the elastic characteristics of the weapon and the target you hit. 

Keep in mind that we are not using real weapons. Even the purists amongst us who say they want to make it as close to the real thing as possible will use physical "cheats" such as bounce back combinations were each blow starts by bouncing off the shield from the preceding blow.

A real sword cannot be used this way as it would BITE into the shield and all but stop dead. Real swords are PULLED back away from the point of contact and turned for a new swing, They are not bounced around like a super ball!

If we were using real blades to cut into our opponent, “follow through” (such as is used in board breaking) would be more important than impulse. But we are not using blades we are using wood sticks that either bounce off of or will stick to the opponent, and is judged “good” or “bad” based on the percussion force it produces!


On page #36:

When the simple flat snap is thrown, the standard sword fighter starts first with his legs, then his hips, torso, shoulders, arm, wrist and fingers. As each part approaches full extension, the next part in the sequence begins to move, transferring momentum from the ground up. This cumulative effect will eventually produce a faster final tip speed than twisting all your body levers at the exact same time. 

However this course of action takes MORE time to get up to that final speed. Therefore this procedure can easily telegraph your blow to an opponent. 

Power can be devastating when you properly rotate into the direction of contact as long as you time the strike exactly right. This has led to the erroneous belief that rotating more gets you more! 

You actually need to do far less rotation than most people use in order to accelerate your sword faster. If you over shoot the rotational distance that is required, friction dominates to slow down your rotation and your sword.  When you over rotate the body, the force of the sword arm pulls the body around past the required rotation point and not the other way around.

It is possible to transfer the momentum from your body WITHOUT rotating your body even for smaller, weaker men and women fighters. 

A simple short movement from the body will provide plenty of energy. It takes a more complicated movement from the arm to transform that energy into a “hard” weapon strike! 


A 100 pound girl fighter moving her body a few inches at 3 miles an hour creates 300 units of momentum (mass x speed). If all of that momentum could be transferred to a 3-pound sword the blade would travel 100 mph. (300 units divided by 3 pounds). 

However the human body is not a perfect machine, so only  a percentage of the momentum will actually end up in the sword resulting in a slower swing for the novice and a faster swing for masters of this kind of movement. 

This is NOT done by pushing against the ground with your legs and against your opponent with a ridged arm. In fact it is completely the opposite of that.

It is a specialized kinetic chain technique designed to transform linear momentum into acceleration. This will be discussed in complete detail in this book.


On page #54:

Shield characteristics

Shield size and shape
Duke William of Houghton has said that:

 “There are two shields out there for you to use: yours and his!" 

Some opponent’s may use very large shields or an unorthodox or strange-shaped shields. Understanding the pros and cons of both your shield and your opponent’s will help you to overcome difficult obstacles rather than fear them. 

Up to a limit, the larger the shield size (relative to your body size) the more targets (on your body) it is possible to cover all at one time. But of course it also becomes heaver, harder to reach around your own shield dynamically, and harder for you to see around it. 

The best shield size is the one that covers the most targets on your body at one time and without crossing the point that the shield interferes with your required level of movement and visibility. 

Any shield can simply be thrown (quickly moved and held) to your side or behind you as your throw a blow. This can alleviate most of the problems of movement and visibility. However this almost completely destroys the purpose and advantages of the shield at that moment. 

Instead you must have a shield that you can work around without being forced to move it out of it’s most defensively efficient positions. 

Corners on a shield allow you to increase how many targets (on your body) your shield can protect against swinging attacks with less additional increase to its actual mass or surface area, and with less additional disadvantage to your vision.

Corners force a weapon that is swinging close to the shield edge to make a hard (improbable) change of direction. A hard change in direction close to the shield edge normally results in the blow being deflected. So the more corners with hard angles a shield has, the harder it is for your opponent to throw a blow that can slip by the shield edges. This is an important consideration when fighting belly to belly as these “slip by the edge” shots become more prevalent up close. However this also means it is harder for you to throw more dynamic blows tightly around your own shield without moving the corners more radically out of your own way.

However large or elongated shields with corners become very mass-to-defense inefficient as they are rotated and slanted out of your way so that you can throw your own blows tightly around your own shield edges. 

Also corners are not as mass-to-defense efficient against thrusting attacks. The round shield family tends to be the more “mass efficient” class of shield to use against thrusting attacks. This is because the thrust only needs to travel past one point of the shield edge. Where as a swinging attack normally must travel past many points along the edge of the shield. The corners on a large shield that extend past the silhouette of your body are a waste of shield mass and not weight efficient when used to defend against most thrusting attacks. 

Six corners is about the geometrical limit before the angle of the edges become so slight, that it is too close to being an easy curve and not a hard corner.

Always try to move the corners of the shield to cover as many protrusions of your body at one time as possible no mater what you are doing.

As you move your head, elbows or legs, move the corners of the shield to cover them.

For example when you take a step swing the bottom point of your shield over to cover the leg that has moved out toward your opponent.

When you fall back you again swing the shield corner to guard the leg that is closest to your opponent.

When you throw your arm out away from your body (for what ever reason) try to use the corners of your shield (side top or bottom corners) to cover that arm if possible.

In most cases you should use the corner of the shield that will be the closet to your limb at the point that your limb has moved to its closet position to your opponent’s weapon reach. For example you use the bottom corner of your shield to cover your arm when you throw a low shot to you opponent’s leg.

Shield shapes fall into 7 categories dictated by the number of corners the shield has. Most weapons fall into the 2-corner family of shields because there are 2 points around a weapon that present a hard turn to a swinging attack that is close to the edges of the weapon.

Shield shapes and families

No corner (Round shield family) 
One corner (Teardrop shield family) 
Two 2 corners (Bunny shield Family)
Three corners (Heater Family)
Four corners (Square shield family ) 
Five corners (Kite shield family) 
Six corners (Coffin shield family)


Because of the perpendicular relationship of our bodies to the ground we stand on, when the shield can easily be held with the widest part from head to toe, the more targets (on your body) it is possible to cover all at one time. 

In this way it is possible to use a shield more effectively relative to its size and weight (i.e. its mass).

For example 2 by 4 foot shield that weighs 11 pounds can basically cover the same number of targets on the average size man as a 4 x 4 foot shield that weighs 17 pounds.

However, this forces the shield to have a “proper” orientation. When that proper orientation is not or cannot be achieved the shield becomes inversely counter efficient relative to its size and weight.

Any basic shield in a family can be “stretched” to increase its elongation. Such as a square shield that is “stretched” into a rectangle or a round shield that is stretched into an oval shield. This Elongation characteristic is the basic tactical difference between different shields in the same family. 

Otherwise shields in the same family such as the lozenge shape shield and a square shape shield are really geometrically the same thing with very little tactical difference. They have the illusion of looking very different only because of the rotational position that they start out in and the slight difference in the lengths of the edges. 

However the unfamiliarity of a strangely shaped shield can still be used against fighters that do not understand the geometrical truth of the shield shapes. Facing an “usual” shape shield can hamper the typical angles of attack travel (the swing) for most of the shots they have practiced throwing.



Shield displacement 

Shield displacement is a major component in Breacher shots. Shield displacement is exactly the same thing as wrestling. However you are doing it with shield-to-shield contact not body-to-body contact.

Remember that the difference between a blow that is parried and a blow that lands can be as little as 1 inch of space and or 50 milliseconds of time. 

Anything you can do to move or torque your opponent’s shield 1 inch at just the time your sword needs to pass their shield can result in you landing your blow.

Anything you can do to prevent your opponents shield from moving into a parry for as little as 1/20 of a second, at just the time your sword needs to pass their shield, can result in you landing your blow.

Use surprise movement and or leverage to overcome stronger opponents. Remember that a center grip shield offers less leverage to the user then a strapped on shield.

Use your body weight and body strength against their arm strength.

Use all parts of your shield including any protrusions (such as budging shield edging, bolts or basket hilts) flats, edges and corners of your shield to contact your opponent’s shield. 

Attack all parts of their shield including any protrusions (such as budging shield edging, bolts or basket hilts) their flats, edges and corners to monetarily torque, pull, push or immobilize their shield.

Combine pull and pushing forces one after the other without delay to trick your opponent into helping you move their shield. Suddenly truncate your press, hook or drag and move away in the opposite direction so that their over reaction monetarily moves or torques their shield!

Sneak in your shield displacement by parrying first, then use your shield against theirs depending on what part of your shield is closest to what part of their shield. 

Like in wrestling, you can slip out of your opponent’s shield hooks and reverse the situation by pressing their shield depending on what part of your shield is closest to what part of their shield. 

Five fundamental tools for shield displacement 

Your shield pushes against theirs to monetarily torque, push or immobilize their shield.

Your shield is used to snag theirs to pull the part of the shield you have snagged back toward you to monetarily torque, pull, or immobilize their shield.

Your shield is pressed against their shield and moved sideways monetarily to immobilize, or drag their shield out of the way sideways, up or down or to torque their shield.

This is a kind of “inside out” slide. Your shield is overlapped behind their shield, interlocking the two shields to immobilize, or drag their shield out of the way sideways, up or down or to torque their shield.

Your shield is “whacked” into theirs in a quick short move to generate impulse force against their shield to monetarily torque, push or immobilize their shield.

Use your shield as normal when practicing your sword strikes on a pell. Hit the pell with your shield Press, Hooks, Slides, Slaps and Drags 

On page #60: 

Good footwork is a covert balance of non-committed movement with sufficient power.

In other words, you must use body momentum, leg articulations, and patterns of egress that offer the most options to change your actions at any time without reducing your leverage and force to the point that your actions are ineffectual.  Second only to developing enough power to be effectual, avoid telegraphing information to your opponent.

The basic strategy of all footwork is to move through locations and positions relative to your opponent which most favor your attacks and parries while at the same time most hinder your opponent’s attacks and parries.


Favoring your attacks and parries includes:


Hindering your opponent’s attacks and parries includes:




On page #75: 

The Zone of Focus

It doesn't matter whether you kick a ball, bat a ball, lift a bag of groceries, block a blow or hit your opponent’s helmet, all of these actions preferably take place in a common zone of strength, leverage and balance. 

This common zone lies between the widths of the feet and within your reach. 


For example you don't stand sideways to a box and try to lift it, you stand facing it where the box is between your feet and your feet are parallel to each other. Normally you wouldn't try to turn your body off center to the box before lifting it!





This zone need not be exactly in the middle between your feet, simply in the area between them and not to the outer side of either one.

Even in professional sports such as baseball, tennis and kick boxing were a sideways stance is used, they will wait for the ball to move into their zone of focus or turn to place the ball or opponent into the zone of focus right before the moment of contact where they actually throw the ball, hit the ball or hit their opponent.


However you must also consider your agility to make a fast change in direction for locomotion as an important aspect of your stance.


So what is the proper stance? 

The basic answer is; IT DEPENDS!

Stance is part of a complete system. You must use the stance that is necessary at the time depending on what you are doing.

In fact I use EVERY kind of stance depending on the situation. I just normally start in my sword foot forward stance because when you start out of range this stance has more advantages than disadvantages.




My universal rule for stance depends on which side the attacks will come in at you. You also want your opponents weapon and your opponent in the zone of focus as much as possible to support your parries and strikes! So as you and your opponent close range your foot positions will change!



Example against a right handed weapon and shield fighter when you are right handed

Your stance depends on which side the primary attacks will come in at you.  But you also want your opponent’s weapon hilt and your opponent in the zone of focus  when possible to support your parries and strikes!  So as you and your opponent close range, your stance will change! 

Far range (R1) Far range is where your opponent must take one or more steps before he could reach you with his weapon. You will want reach, first strike initiative and speed, as much clearance as possible to strike anywhere on your opponent including his offside locations that are in reach, and greater capability to move forward and dodge out of range. The rear left foot can turn to about 90 degrees or less to the right front foot. And the front foot is more or less at a 45-degree angle to the opponent, this allows for greater body rotation for swings. If needed you can point the front foot at the opponent for maximum reach with your weapon but at the cost of some freedom for the rotational swing.


Close range (R3) Close range is where your opponent is so close that he could reach around to touch your back with his weapon. In other words, close enough to perform a wrapping shot. The opponent will more frequently cross his weapon over to your right side.  These will not be able to reach as deeply as his shots to your left, but your parry weapon is inherently more protective on your left. So your stance shifts on center to incorporate both his left and right side.  Also, you need a greater capability to move in circles around your opponent.


Medium range (R2) Medium range is found in-between far range and close range as defined above. You need a better combination of ability to move in circles around your opponent and to change your range to your benefit. As most of his blows will be on your left side you want him and the weapon in the focus zone located there.


If your opponent’s weapon choice is designed for ambidextrous attacks such as a Florentine fighter or his weapon is designed for straight on attacks at your center but cannot easily be used to wrap shots to your back (such as a thrusting spear or a two handed axe) you will use a square foot position where both feet are an equal distance from the opponent.   


Important note: the above is only a sample of the text from the chapter about right handed fighters against a right handed fighter. It will be different if you are fighting a left handed fighter or if you are left handed your self. This is explained in detail in the book.



On page #100: 



For years we have been teaching specific directions for foot placement in order to maintain balance through out the entire process of movement. However effective SCA footwork is very unique compared to other sports and martial arts. I have discovered that I (and many great fighters in the SCA) do not actually use some of the KEY footwork principles that we were teaching.  


Unlike sports such as football and martial arts like Kick boxing, attacks and locomotion that temporally require the feet to cross or that otherwise put you in a “balanced challenged” position are possible in the SCA. The small risk of tripping can be well worth the freedom from the inflexible rules and “canned” footwork that make other sports and martial arts opponents predictable.  


Whether you want to admit it or not you must take some risks as long as the odds are with you!  


I do still have some general rules, but they are subordinate to my universal rule of foot placement which is:


Place your feet in whatever positions you need in order to move around your opponent, as long as after TWO STEPS you are in a proper stance relative to your opponent and as long as you take measures to prevent your death by using cover, range, dodging or surprise!


Cover means parrying or blocking your head and body (plus as much of your limbs as you can).


Range and Dodging of course means starting and or moving your head and body (plus as much of your limbs as you can) out of the likely attack.


Surprise means only exposing your head and body (plus as much of your limbs as you can) for less than 275 milliseconds. It is almost physically impossible for your opponent to SEE, THINK, DECIDE and COMPLETE an attack in less than 1/3 of a second. Most people can spin almost completely around in less than 1/3 of a second! But even professional athletes must have more than 275 milliseconds to see, THEN think, THEN decide and THEN complete a selected physical reaction to any surprise opportunity that suddenly presents itself without warning.



Cross Steps (moving left or right or diagonally or forward or backward) One foot side-steps past the other foot (legs are now crossed), then repeat with the opposite foot in the same direction to uncross the legs. This is the fasted way to circle your opponent and still maintain your Morphic stance in two steps. 

A Standard Step (moving forward or backward or diagonally) is really a type of cross step as well. One foot steps past the other to take a step forward or backward or slightly diagonal, and then repeat with the other foot to “cross” the legs again. This is the fasted way to move toward or away from your opponent and still maintain your Morphic stance in two steps.

Because cross steps are faster, they also can add more “impulse force” to your actions.


Shuffle Steps (moving left or right, forward or backwards or diagonally) One foot lifts up and moves without crossing the legs. Then the other foot moves in the same direction in the same way without crossing the legs. Normally the foot that is closest to the direction you want to go in is the first foot to move. Moving the further foot first is less balanced but offers you a longer stride for the second step.  Shuffle steps offer more balance than cross steps, but they are also a much slower way to move. It is most useful when you only need to change stance . Or when you need to shift a little and slightly turn such as when you are repositioning your Morphic stance to match your opponent as he drifts around you throwing blows. Because Shuffle steps have more leverage and are more balanced, they can add more “push” to your actions.


Drag Step Slide or drag the foot across the ground. This produces a much slower movement, but offers the most balance, leverage and options to change your actions at any time during the 2 step.


Gallop Step You hop your body weight a little into the air and land in the proper stance rather then hold your body weight up using the other foot. Such as is used in the fencer's lunge. Another name for this is kind of step is a “skip”. It can add speed to a Shuffle or Cross step with only a little additional lose of stability.



Remember that through out the maneuvering process, within two steps you must be in a proper Morphic stance depending on your range from your opponent and depending on if his primary attacks come in on your left or right. Below are 6 fundamental maneuvers. The arrows show how your center of gravity is moving relative to your opponent, NOT the way you face during the maneuver.


 FAST and powerful ....................... Evasive and enigmatic

Combine Cross steps, Shuffle steps, Drag steps, Gallop steps with fast or evasive maneuvering to produce varying accords of speed, balance, impulse force, pushing power, confusion and dodging.

For example: one of the fastest maneuvers would be to charge straight forward using Galloping standard (cross) steps. In other words, running forward!

One of the most balanced and powerful maneuvers would be to push straight forward using  Shuffling drag steps. 

The best way to charge at spearman would be to use a Zigzag maneuver with Shuffling Gallop steps. This gives you a fast and evasive maneuver with quick advancing but balanced steps. 

To reposition in response to your opponent drifting around you to throw a wrap, you would use a shuffle step with a reverse circling diagonal maneuver for a versatile, evasive step that is leveraged to block the incoming wrap. As you will not need to traverse much distance, speed is not as important as balance.  



On page #156: 

Timing and the “Magic Moment”


All combat with any melee weapon will abide by the following universal formula of 

“Time and Place”.




Maintaining the optimal distance just out of the effective striking reach of your opponent, but close enough to take advantage of opportunities such as openings in their defense.


Defense Geometry

Positioning yourself around your opponent and positioning or moving your weapons relative to his to deny angles of attack for him to easily pass (his limb, body or weapon) though to strike you.


Offence Geometry

Positioning yourself around your opponent and positioning or moving your weapons relative to his to achieve angles of attack (openings) on him.



This is the moment when you may easily strike your opponent without him being able to effectively respond with his own attack. This refers to an opening in his defense. Either a physical opening such as when he drops his shield or some other opening such as when he is so involved in other actions that it hinders his parry. This can happen for example when in the case of single sword combat your sword blow is coming in on him while he is still winding up for his own sword blow. His sword will be too involved at that moment to be used to parry your shot.


Close to attack

Once you have the opportunity you immediately reduce your range and/or move your weapon to reach (strike) your target with your weapon. Preferably you “close to attack” (strike your opponent) at the same moment that “Opportunity” occurs. This can happen with luck, or from a good sense of your opponent’s movements. Successfully predicting your opponent’s actions (rather than waiting to see what he will do, and then finally attacking based on your observation) is one way to accomplish this. You can force him into a predicable action with the use of fakes, feints or other tricks. The fighter that is best able to decrease the time between the Opportunity phase and the Close to Attack phase will have an overwhelming chance to win.


Retreat to start over

Failing your “Close to attack” phase will not necessarily mean you will be hit with a counterstrike if you used and maintain good Defense Geometry. Good Defense Geometry can give you the chance to “Retreat to start over”. However you must also understand that you can create a new Defensive Geometry while Closing to attack at the same time. 

“Retreat to start over” may not necessarily mean you move away from your opponent. It could just be the act of moving your weapon in the opposite direction to perform your next action such as another strike. 

To summarize, you try to win Range to earn good Geometry, win the Geometry to earn Opportunity, wining the Opportunity with a successful “Close to attack” earns you the right to avoid  “Retreat to start over”!


The Magic Moment 

The time it takes starting from when the Opportunity appears (or is created) and then the completion of your action to take advantage of that Opportunity is what I call the MAGIC MOMENT! This “Magic Moment” and how to be able to use it before it vanishes is what timing is all about!

Long lived Opportunities, that is Opportunity that exists for more than a brief time in the fight are very rare. So the more efficient you are at using these Magic Moments the more likely you will succeed at your action.  The faster you are at recognizing the Opportunity the faster you will be able to use it. 


If you are fast this will be a great advantage for you. 

However expertly executing a relatively slower action to climax at the same time that the opportunity occurs is really what GREAT timing is all about!



In researching timing in sports and other martial arts I found it to be an elusive subject often described holistically and not scientifically. The following is my attempt to quantify timing using music as the analogy. As music has been quantified by many great minds and over thousands of years I discovered the tools used to dissect and measure music worked very well for combat timing. I feel this could be one of my best contributions to the science of combat. However I also feel there is still a lot of room to expand on my original work.


Rhythm is the duration, tempo, meter and measure of combat actions, weapon attacks and countermeasures.

Beat is one or more attacks, actions, blows, feints, fakes, countermeasures, etc. that will affect the opponent in the same moment.  For instance, the actions of shield hooking with the left arm and landing a slot shot to the head with the right arm in the same instant is one beat. The act of a raising your shield to parry a head blow is one beat, moving the shield back down to see again is another beat.

Duration is the time it takes from start to finish of one beat.  For example the time it takes to move the shield up for a head parry. Or how long it takes to move the shield down from your face after a head parry.

Tempo is the rate at which each beat starts, the time in-between beats.

Meter is the pattern of high energy beats (fast or strong body movement such as killing sword blows, a quick charge to close range, shield smash, snapping the shield to parry) and low energy beats (slow or weak body movement such as a stance change, slowly falling back to increase range or slowly lowering the shield after a high parry.)

Keep in mind that your counter rate will be dictated by your opponent’s attack rate. This means you could be moving your parries at one speed and moving your attacks at another preferable faster speed. Together the two rates make your combat “Meter.” 


Measure is the number of beats that are combined into one series, such as how many blows your opponent throws at you in a combination shot.

To round out this analogy consider different combat actions as different NOTES.  A wrap shot, a shield parry and a flat snap are all different NOTES. Like musical notes combat actions can be played at the same time as other notes and can clash or be in harmony with each other.


Watch your opponents and other fighters from the side lines while keeping the components of timing in mind. When you analyze fights, utilize my components of timing. Soon this language of timing will be second nature and you will have a valuable tool in developing your own fighting skills.


Trying to keep track of the dozens of possible body movements in the  attempt to look for patterns in their Rhythm would be mind boggling to do consciously. This is one of the main reasons great timing tends to be learned subconsciously over many years, a little at a time. To make this process faster and more deliberate, we will need to consolidate the types of movement to keep aware of while you are watching fighters to analyze their rhythm.



For the purposes of studying a fighter’s rhythm, you need only be concerned with tracking the 4 points of momentum in a fighter’s elbows and hands, and/or when they move to try to put you into or out of their effective range or close range. Thus a beat has occurred that you should take note of if the fighter changes direction with his hands or elbows and moves across a high, low or the center line. And/or moves to significantly change range.


The high line is approximately located at the fighters armpits. His low line is approximately located at the bottom of his ribcage. These lines are intended to represent the levels his hands and elbows would be near when in a ready position with his weapons. Crossing these high, low or center lines with even just one hand or just one elbow would mean he is abandoning that ready position for some reason. For the most part, the only reason to cross theses lines would be to perform a necessary action of some kind.

If he significantly changes range and/or either of his elbows or hands cross the high, low or center lines he will have performed a fake attack, a real attack, a type of parry, a change in offensive geometry or a change in defensive geometry.

If neither of his hands or elbows cross any of the high, low or center lines, he will have performed a feint of some kind.

Remember to look for a change in direction where the momentum had to be turned abruptly or even stopped and reversed. So a slash where the hand and elbow swing through the high, low and center lines is just one beat. But when he reverses this to go back to his guard position or to swing a new blow that would be another beat.

Keep in mind that the centerline is down the fighters CENTER. So even if his elbows and hands do not move at all relative to his own body, if the fighter turns his body 90 degrees from your point of view his elbow and hand both cross the center line.

If he moves his body, limbs or weapons to increase or decrees range (distance from him or his weapons to you) but has not tried to move you in or out of his effective range or in or out of his close range he will have performed a feint of some kind.


This simplified analytical tool will not cover it all. For example it will not cover circling actions that he may use to change the attack or defensive geometry. It will also not cover some types of “wrist flick” shots. An example is a fighter that holds his sword in a high guard with both his elbow and his sword hand to the right of his center and above the high line. From this position he could possible throw a high wrap that may not cross any of the lines. This would only work if he had the upper arm strength to "wrist flick" the shot in hard enough. However if you look for patterns in his rhythm concerning significant range change and his limb movement across the high, low and center lines you will cover most of the important probabilities.


The Three Branches of Timing 

Timing can be organized into three basic branches depending on whether you act in the beginning, the middle or at the end of your opponent’s beat Duration.  Each category relies more or less on a different set of tools, and also attempts to take advantage of opportunities that are of different size and longevity. 

Almost without exception, you will not see large long-lived opportunity unless your opponent is very bad, makes an enormous mistake or is just a beginner. It is possible that a great fighter may do so as a trick of some kind, but it is very unlikely! Normally you will only get small but long-lived opportunities, large but short-lived opportunities and small short-lived opportunities.



The Tools of Passive Timing 

Passive Timing is where you act in the end of your opponent’s duration to take advantage of small but long-lived opportunities. This category requires more dedication and practice than mental or physical skills. These are the most obvious of the opportunities and thus are the most commonly utilized by most fighters.



The Tools of Synchronized Timing 

Synchronized Timing is where you act in the middle of your opponent’s duration to take advantage of large but short-lived opportunity. These opportunities are most used by counterpunch fighters who were born gifted with speed from fast twitch muscles. If this is not you, do not let this stop you from trying to use Synchronized Timing anyway. Remember there are other ways to increase speed with motion efficacy.


The Tools of Proactive Timing: 

Proactive Timing is where you act in the beginning or before the beginning of your opponent’s duration to take advantage of small and short-lived opportunity. It is the most cerebral category utilizing more mental skills than physical skills.

This will not necessarily require raw speed; you may be surprised to know that perception is not even very important. This is because you are not watching him for clues to his movement and then reflexively responding to that clue. Instead you are imposing a calculated rhythm on him. Knowing how and when to act is the most important part of Proactive Timing.

It requires a very good understating of timing plus  ingrained knowledge of people’s rhythms. Thus Proactive Timing has conventionally been the domain of very experienced (older?) fighters because of the complexity of the subject and the holistic manner it has been studied in the past. I hope to change this somewhat with my work on the subject.


On page #230: 



Duration Prolepsis
The attack changes its duration (faster or slower). 

Tempo Prolepsis
A perceivable rate in a series of attacks is set up and then broken.

Attack Prolepsis
The apparent attack (angle and part of the weapon) changes into (or turns out to really be) another type of attack.

Target Prolepsis
The apparent target is a feint; the real attack’s intended target is slightly or drastically in another location.

The attack opens a trajectory by physically reorienting the opponent’s weapons, limbs or body with an unexpected or powerful or leveraged pushing or pulling force. This either directly moves the opponents protection out of your way or tricks them into over compensating by reflexively reversing and moving their protection out of the way. 

The weapon navigates through a narrow, angled, winding or obscure slot.

The attack is thrown at an unusual angle that is not easy to match or is not usual to complement with the parry weapon.

The attack starts and/or passes through areas that are visually obscured.

The attack starts or passes through deceptive and unthreatening positions to create the illusion (mental or optical) that there is no attack until it is too late to counter it.

The attack uses a blend of the above principles.


I will explain how I was able to apply these wonderful concepts to defeat opponents that were bigger, faster, stronger and more athletic than I was. Then you will be armed with the tools needed to innovate instead of copy.



No one ever got anywhere by being normal“

Pictured Above: (Crown finals) Duke Patrick in the weapon foot forward position with a small square shield.  Both the stance and shield were unique in the Kingdom at that time. 


Email/comments I have received regarding the book:


Hello Your Grace,

Seeing that you had new material, I was definitely interested in trying it out. I look forward to reading & trying out the new material.

As an astronomer, I appreciate the physics grounding you provide. I've yet to fully get a handle on some of the principles (manipulating the OODA loop, for example) but many have worked quite well. The ones I have had the most success with are the range cavity, movement efficiency, and the combination of vectors to produce shots like a rising diagonal backhand. This last one in particular has proven invaluable for harvesting not only non-shielded torso areas but arms, legs and even the occasional back.

What I like best is how "portable" the techniques are - my LRPG group essentially uses the SCA combat model (powered down and shifted down a foot - no head shots, but shins are OK) and these techniques work amazingly well there also.

Lord Jotun-Eirikr Bjarnason


Trompe  L'oeil  helped me with interpretation of movement and
lead to a better understanding and different perspective on fighting.

John Wolfstan


The book arrived today and I must admit that it is more than I expected!   I have already read through the first two chapters and I am seeing so much that I can improve upon. I look forward to not only finishing your book, but incorporating your principles into my own fighting style. Thank you again, this information is invaluable to anyone serious about SCA combat.

Yours In Service,
Khalil Abd al-Rahman


Greetings Your Grace,
My friend and I have both greatly enjoyed your book, Trompe l'oeil. My friend is doing quite well in Meridies utilizing your techniques and is surprising his teachers with new moves.

Richart de Sunderbach
mda Richie Rogers


The book was absolutely wonderful. Your book is the only one that has the tools in it to enable an experienced fighter to improve.

Lady Eichling von Amrum



All I can say is that it is great. 

Gwydion ap Kynwric, Shire of Lost Moor, Calontir



I've really enjoyed your book. Thank you again. It has helped me with my defense and I'm sure it will do more for me as I apply more of the principals in it.

Erasmus MacBaine AKA: Randy Ullon



......I must admit I was skeptical when I first heard of the book. Now that I have read it I am pleasantly surprised. I will be encouraging people to get it from you. I hope all goes well with it.....

Lord Gulliver Blackrune



I had the pleasure of seeing your book this last weekend when Sir Rustam showed it to me. He was very complimentary of it and, when I had a few minutes to look at it, I could see why. I think there are many things fighters out here could learn from you. I myself am particularly excited at the prospect; I suspect some of the observations and tricks I saw in your book will be very productive to incorporate in my style. I will be buying a copy and reading it avidly.

King Conrad BreakRing ( As of June 10 20010, congratulations your Majesty! )



Hi Your Grace.

I received your book in the mail today and spent most of the day reading it.

In a word, I thought it was excellent. I found a few things that were entirely outside of my experience.

...... you did a very good job of quantifying and organizing that usually hazy world of fighting that is beyond how to club harder, faster and at more angles.

Sir Rustam


This is a serious work on the subject of fighting for the serious student who is willing to spend the time and mental effort to extract and understand what is offered. I am using some of his principles, in much more simplified forms, with several of my own students. As for the impact on my own fighting, I have already seen some subtle differences.

Master Korwyn Ariannaid


“I have to give you credit, after reading your book and applying some of your ideas to my own fighting, I have really noticed a difference in my defense.

I have always been a more offensive fighter, but as I am getting older I am finding that the defensive concepts in your book are working well for me.“

Duke Dietrich Von Vogelsang



There is some very interesting material in there which anyone of mid-range skill would find useful whether or not they're ready to dedicate their lives to winning Crown, or just want to get advice on how to get up into the third or fourth round of tournaments.

Duke Guillaume De Belgique


Hello Your Grace,
Just through skimming (the book) there appears to be a wealth of information I haven't
sat down to actively think about and I am looking forward to doing so.

In February I am giving a talk on shield hooks and shield presses and I am
greatly anticipating translating some of what you have to say about movement
& positioning into my talk - adding another dimension if you will.

Anyhow, the book upon a preliminary cursory glance looks great and I will
certainly give you more feedback as I get deeper into it.

All good wishes to you and yours,
Viscount Sir Valerian (Kingdom of Lochac)


I loved this! It was very well thought out. Your chapter on timing is some of the most profound information about fighting I have seen put on paper.


(Please note, Benjamin Welch is a mundane mixed style martial arts fighter not connected with the SCA. I asked him to read the book for feedback from an outsiders point of view.)


Your Grace:
I have received your book and after a quick look over and a short review I just wanted to say YOU ROCK!!!!!

I will be finishing up the issue of The Eric this weekend. your complete book review will be in it.

I think that our own Duke, Sir Conn seems to use some of the same tricks. Again you rock!

Uthyr (editor for THE ERIC)


Please note: 

This book is priced to make the novice fighter think twice. The information in this book is privileged because the psychological techniques in my system are based on the sleight of hand secrets of stage magicians. If you are a beginning fighter who is not yet sure how serious you will be, or if the SCA fighting is only recreational to you, then this book may not be right for you.




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