Musings on Suriving a Sword Fight

Why the FUCK are you in a sword fight?

As antiquated weapons, replaced mostly by handguns in our current age, we see very little of swords, or any blade longer than a meter in any widespread use, offensive or otherwise. The closest analogue that most people of this age will use and keep around as a common tool is a kitchen knife or a machete. More traditionally styled swords are still found in ceremonial roles, as decorations, or for practicing martial arts / historical recreation (which may be the most functional of the three examples.) There have been cases of people fending off robbers or assaulting others with such pieces, but these are isolated cases. For simplicity and basic concept, we’ll consider a machete length blade the most likely you are to come across or use. This information applies the same across most single handed swords designed to chop effectively. These could include falchion, grossmesser, katzbalger, cleavers, long kitchen knives, wood / plant cutting tools, a stick, pipe, or even a piece of rebar. Rapiers, two handed swords, or katana are different animals, and special cases, so won’t be discussed yet.

To examine the basic idea, a sword fight would imply some form of duel. Both opponents, for whatever reason, have agreed to fight each other with similar weaponry. Outside of such “controlled” circumstance, two people rarely meet in a mugging or home invasion, pull long blades and square off. This is about as anomalous and odd a circumstance as the mythical “knife fight”. More likely two people will meet under such circumstance, and one of them has such a tool as their intended weapon, or one is close by and is grabbed as an available weapon. When a fight with matched weapons and supposedly even terms does occur, it’s often a very touch, squirrelly occasion. If for some bizarre reason you’re forced into a ritualized duel, look for ways out of it other than winning by the sword. Likely your opponent will have people there who will kill you if you win, so a way out other than fighting may be best.

No advice or pointers will make you a master swordsman; it takes practice, study and improvisation, like with any art, but a few basic ideas help make it less daunting.

1. SWING. Can you swing a stick? Answer yes if you can move your arm; trust your author on this. Good, in THEORY, this means you can use a sword. A sword is a metal bar with an edge, but don’t let the edge distract you. It will cause pain or damage no mater WHAT side you hit with.

2. MOVE. Do not try to stand in one place and act like a chef chopping meat. You need to move, circle fade in and out on your opponent. Even a stick is only good at a certain distance from your arm to your target, so while you play kung – fu with the hands, you need to play chess with your feet to get your opponent into your optimal striking range, an keeping yourself clear of your opponent’s.

3. You can hit with more than one part of that thing. Though frowned upon by more rigid “honorable” forms of fighting, smashing with the base of the handle, punching, grabbing the blade and using the sword like a short staff, or abandoning the sword to grapple are ALL valid techniques. These can shorten your effective striking range almost instantly, and can catch many opponents off guard.

4. Don’t block when you can avoid. This will help you learn to MOVE in a hurry.

5. Keep your defense / offense ratio balanced. Assuming matched weapons you don’t need to attack with suicidal abandon. Keep offensive, but don’t commit heavily, and hit targets of opportunity. If you can thrust with the blade you have, use it for quick jabs as distraction.

6. Go for more than the kill shots. Strikes at arms, legs, hands, or face are great for distracting and keeping your opponent back. They won’t rush at you so quick if you can spank or gash the first appendage to come into range.

For more specific development, look around for local Renaissance sword “Guilds”, a new fad in martial arts, historical recreation groups, or martial arts studios that train in stick fighting (Filipino martial arts specifically, have a VERY good curriculum on the subject)

Good luck otherwise. While training specifically for the possibility of a sword fight on the street is fairly useless in this time period, the training and general fitness of martial arts is ALWAYS a good thing, and you can meet some truly interesting folks through it.

6 thoughts on “Musings on Suriving a Sword Fight

  1. I don’t want to even THINK how many cards (penalty notifications) you’d get for a pommel strike or Mortschlag. Olympic fencing would be fastastic practice for all those fights that happen in narrow alleyways with Iocainne – tipped radio antennas. (On a serious note: it IS good training for point control and parrying theory.)

    See the final duel in the film “Rob Roy” for the proper response to anyone menacing you with a smallsword.

  2. Excellent article, Richter. I eagerly await future helpful installments in the series, such as Musings on Suriving a Laser Gun Battle, Musings on Suriving a Robot Revolution, and Musings on Suriving an Anime Convention.

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