Dueling Tactics: How to scam a break during an épée duel

Based on the historical record, a duel with sharp épées was an unpleasant affair. Chances were that three feet of needle-pointed steel might transport you from the terrain to the Happy Hunting Grounds with considerable pain and suffering.

So who’re you to judge the little “trucs” that might get you a breather during your affair of honor…

—by J. Christoph Amberger

For private affairs of honor, the advice sure was not particularly private nor particularly honorable. If you’re a stickler for things, that is…

But if you’re inclined to apply true antagonistic tactics to an antagonistic fight scenario—we spent WAY too much time making that particular point right here—the January 1909 edition of the French sporting mag La Vie au Grand Air had just the kind of advice that might come in handy.

Let’s say you’ve got yourself slapped across the cheek with the glove of some titled low-life. Assume the 10 minutes of actual fencing time that some duels consumed might’ve been just outside your physical endurance comfort zone. (Hey, yer French, you drink, you smoke, you eat too much unappetizing foods, it’s not really a stretch!) You anticipate the frog legs and unshaven salope shins to catch up with you, oh, say two minutes into the affair

So here you are, undergarments soiled, and painfully short of breath. You need a break. Here’s six subtle “trucs” of Steampunk Sagacity from the éditeurs of La Vie on how to go about procuring one when you need it most:

(Click on the image to enjoy the full splendor of the picture!)

1.) We like to call this the “Dirty Truc“: When exhausted, let your point drag across the dirt. Since a contaminated point would inevitably procure an infected wound (should you be lucky enough to hit), the directeur will be bound to interrupt the bout and confiscate the weapon. Enjoy the break until a replacement épée is procured.

2.)  A variant on Swords to Plowshares: Dueling épées were sharpened to the famous “needle point”—that’s just a couple of steel molecules stacked up to hideous if unstable sharpness. If you hate intravenous vaccinations, you’ll despise getting your lower arm or gut pierced by this kind of pointed steel. To scam a breather, try to hit the steel coquille (bell guard) of your opponent full force. Your fragile point will be blunted into a hook, the director will interfere, and you may enjoy a rest until a new, sharp weapon is brought to you.

3.) This should be called The Lesser Evil: Just give up. You realize that your opponent is better and stronger than you. Continuing the bout could have terrible consequences for your physical well-being. And your social standing depends on you not running like rabbit. But you could finish the damn thing simply by feinting a low attack and “unfortunately” getting clipped on the lower arm. There’ll be blood, honor’s served, and you can wave your bandaged lower arm at your groupies…

4.) Slip and Slide: You might just “slip”, digging your pommel into the ground. Fancy that your opponent might continue to advance… accidentally embedding your point in his gut…

5.) Stop Action:  Since a corps a corps is illegal based on dueling rules, how about creating one AND stepping on your opponent’s foot… that should get the Monsieur le Directeur going again.

6.) Dead Drop: Your opponent is likely to prepare a serious attack with a serious beat. Drop the blade in response and all the advantage is yours. And I mean, oh my, there it goes, I DROPPED it! The director will interfere on your behalf, your weapon will have to be cleaned or replaced… the works. All the while you get to catch your breath.

Would you like to read this article in Russian? Well, of course. (Click here!)

Old Reliable, the Quintessential, the Psychedelic

(ALSO: Check out our examination of Eight Dueling Épées… it’s not like anybody else is writing about this kinda thing.)

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2 responses to “Dueling Tactics: How to scam a break during an épée duel

  1. Very interesting article. Thank you! It might be even use in practice of historical fencing :). Here is my translation with some adaptation on Russian lahguage.

    http://onfencing.livejournal.com/46216.html

  2. Pingback: Дуэль на шпагах: некоторые тактические хитрости… | magazine | On Fencing | журнал

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