Instruction for the individual fighter
The fundamental concept of melee is to act in concert as a single body:
Melee is not something to be taken lightly. It is different from single combat in variety of ways. The most important, is the safety factors inherent in any melee situation. If you’re a nice safe fencer in single combat, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can just jump into a big melee and maintain the same level. If you have never meleed before, you may want to consider watching one first. Take the chance to see the confusion and energy before you’re standing knee deep in it. Melee in small groups first, 2 on 2, 3on 3 etc. Get a feel for what melee is before you jump into a big battle at war.
In melee conditions the probability that both sides of your calibration will go up is very high. Recognizing shots and calling them properly becomes much tougher. In melee you get bumped and shoved and quillioned by your partners etc. All of this has to be separated from real shots and where they land. The other side of calibration gets harder as well. With the increased excitement and adrenalin levels you will tend to start throwing shots harder. It is a natural reaction to the conditions of melee. That’s why being aware of your actions are so important. Take your calibration awareness in single combat and triple it. Another safety consideration unique to melee is your footing. You cannot move about in melee as you would in single combat. Tripping or slamming into someone is a real possibility. Often melee scenarios have obstacles or structures set up that need to be watched for as well.
A melee is not a bunch of single combats going on simultaneously. Thinking in this manner will get you and your partners taken out fast. In the context of a melee the individual disappears and becomes a part of the larger whole. What does this mean in real terms? Leave your ego and thirst for personal glory at home. As part of a line your movements and actions no longer affect just you. The simple strategic movements that you readily use while in single combat now can have a disastrous effect on your partners. Conversely your actions can become a great assistance to your partner helping him take out the enemy and survive the fight. The simple act of stepping back, a movement common and sensible in single combat, can now place your partners in a bad spot. This means that your focus must expand beyond the opponent directly in front of you. The same concentration that you place on your opponent must now be spread to everyone in your reach and the larger fight going on around you.
Your range of defensive and offensive actions include your partners on your immediate left and right. You must become offensively and defensively aware of everyone within your reach. Typically this means at least three of your opponents. The one directly in front of you, and the opponents directly to that persons left and right. It is these three people that will make you dead. While this may seem a bit much for one person, take heart, your partners are doing the same. This creates an overlap of coverage that is the strength of a good melee unit. If done properly each and everyone on the opposing line has at least three people to worry about.
The more familiar you are with your melee partner the better. The only way to gain this familiarity is to practice. You don’t have to have a large group of fighters to practice melee. Ideally I preferred to have two teams of three, but that is by no means necessary. Many of the elements on melee can be practiced with just three fencers (two on one). All the necessary aspects of melee combat can be practiced as a group of two opposing two. If you can get just 3 or 4 people in the same place you have it made.