top of page
  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Roll For Initiative

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

I visited a local HEMA school (Baer Swords) and I watched a class. It was really interesting and entertaining and cool.

Afterwards, the instructor asked me, "So, is it very different?"

No, no it wasn't. The basic principles are nearly identical. It's kind of amazing how very similar it all is, actually, given how old and how removed from each other European weapons training, Filipino Martial Arts, and Okinawan/Japanese weapon arts are.

I did not title this post "Yet Another Post About How It Is All The Same and Remy Presas Saying So Was Genius", although that may come some time in the near future.

The reason it's called "Roll for Initiative" is that one of the principles they teach at Baer Swords, and one I think most of us teach, is that they let the opponent attack first. Baer just said it a little differently than I've heard it before which got me thinking hard on the topic.

You see, when you attack, you have to commit a specific technique. When you defend, it simplifies what your own options in defense and counter-attack are. From a self-defense point of view, when you don't make the first move, you can more reasonably claim self defense and put yourself in a better legal light.

All good reasons to let the other guy come at you first.

As I've thought about this, I remembered that I have many friends in the martial arts - especially combative sports - that do NOT always follow this principle. There are good reasons for THAT also.

When you attack, the other guy goes into reaction mode and you limit HIS choices in counter-attack. When you attack, you choose the timing, angle, and target of attack, but the defender has to be prepared for an infinite number of attacks and they might guess wrong about what's coming. From a self-defense point of view, sometimes attacking first in the face of incoming violence is the best choice because the other guy is working himself up to it. You see this a lot with people who are being threatened or bullying taking that first shot and ending the fight.

Either way, there's a choice you make: initiate the fight first, or wait for it to come. The choice you prefer is usually dictated by context, circumstance, and the choices your style prefers to make as a part of its overall strategy.

If you attack first, you're taking the initiative. If you defend first, you don't.

I know many of you out there have more than one set of these. Image by Armando are from Pixabay

I'm going to have to think about this more, looks like.

Does your style teach you to take the initiative? Why? Or do you wait for the other guy to move first? Maybe your style teaches both, based on context? I'm interested in what YOU think!

83 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page