Chapter 6 - Basics

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Standing in the middle of the line, Codi watched Vasco intently as he paced back and forth, examining his team with a critical eye. Max stood on her right, hands thrust awkwardly into the pockets of his loose black trousers, while on the left the twins – intentionally or not – struck identical poses; arms folded as they waited for the instructor to speak.

“Okay then,” Vasco began. “This morning we start on the real grit of what we’re training for: combat. Now, I’ve reviewed your application files and I know everyone’s got their own preference, but before you specialise in anything there is a basic bloc of attacks, defences and stances that every Gauntlet fighter needs as their foundation.”

Codi bit her lip. The others had applied for this? More importantly, if she interpreted Vasco correctly they already had some kind of fighting experience. And what did she have? Brawls in the school corridors.

“Once I’ve shown the initial techniques you’ll work in pairs,” the instructor continued.

“But there are only five of us,” she interrupted.

“Six, including me.” He flashed a wily smile. “First things first, I’ll need a test dummy. Anybody?”

“I’ll do it,” Max said instantly, his voice soft and quiet, and Codi realised that was the first time she’d really heard him speak.

“Alright Mr. Lannigan, step up.” Vasco gestured for the young man to stand opposite him. Max obeyed silently, and when the pair faced each other they stood eye to eye. Codi hadn’t even noticed Vasco’s height.

“Alright,” he said. “Max, I want you to punch me.”

“You…huh?” Max’s face creased with confusion.

“You heard. Punch me you lumbering excuse for a fighter.”

The lanky teen bristled at that, dropping his stance with knees bent and hands held up, his left tucked close to his chest and the other out in front. Then, with speed that belayed his ungainly frame he darted forward and lashed out. Vasco’s left arm moved like a blur and he deflected the quick right-handed jab with a flick of his elbow. Max hesitated.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Vasco demanded. “What’s the matter, you don’t want to hit an old man? Son, I assure you I can handle it, so get you’re thumb out of your ass and start working! Punch me!”

Whether galvanised by the insult or by Vasco’s hammer-blunt tone, Max did as he was bidden. His fists flew out from all angles, left and right, pressing forward with each swing. And every time he did Codi watched in amazement as their instructor blocked every single swing, jab, swipe or haymaker with effortless movements. Eventually Max stepped back and simply stared, his brows creasing into a perplexed frown above narrow green irises. After a moment, he glanced at his team mates.

“Anybody else want a crack at this?” he asked. The others exchanged looks but said nothing.

“Not surprising,” Vasco chuckled. “Alright, Max, good work. Back in line, kid, and I’ll explain.”

As the Max stepped back into the line, Vasco faced them and held his right arm out in front of him. “This is the most basic and essential block you will ever use during the Gauntlet. It’s simple, and mastering it is a necessity.” Then he patted the outside of his right elbow with his other hand. “This is a point on your arm that, if you move correctly, can withstand a lot of impact. Keep the arm crooked and distribute the incoming attack across the broadest area of your arm.” Then to Codi’s surprise, he beckoned her forward. “Come on up.”

“Me?”

“I’m looking at you, aren’t I?”

Jaw tight, she walked forward and took up the position opposite Vasco, acutely aware of the eyes of the others following her. Although Codi had no real training she knew how to stand in a fight, how to keep herself coiled to spring, ready to attack or defend in the blink of an eye. Accordingly, she dropped into a similar stance to Max: arms up and knees bent as she faced her instructor.

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