Dueling for Dummies
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Surviving Your First Rapier Duel
In any given encounter, there are three possibilities:
1. If your opponent is your superior, he lives, you die.
2. If you are your opponent’s superior, you live, he dies
3. If you are both equal, you both die.
Therefore, you have, at best, a 33% chance of survival. As Shakespeare advised, “beware of entrance to a quarrel.” Speak gently. Treat others with respect. And grow a thick skin. Become one who neither gives offense, nor takes offense easily, if at all.
If that should fail:
1. Select as your seconds, from your closest friends, those with the most experience as seconds, or lacking that, the coolest heads. It is best to select gentlemen to whom you owe money, as they will be the more keenly interested in your survival. Do not choose someone whose wife, fiancée, daughter, sister, mother or other object of affection you have slept with.
2. Be certain that your seconds understand your preferences.
3. Arrange for the most distant date possible. Hot blood tends to cool over time. By affording yourself and your adversary an opportunity to contemplate your mortality, you may maximize your inclinations toward reconciliation.
4. Whatever the insult or offense you gave, apologize.
5. If you gave no insult or offense, apologize, anyway.
6. If your opponent insulted or offended you, forgive him.
If all earnest efforts at the above should fail:
1. Bring your own surgeon. Be sure it’s one whom you trust with your life. That’s what you’re doing. Make sure he’s sober.
2. Do not eat or drink much within 12 hours of the event.
3. Be sure to completely empty bladder and bowel before you arrive on the ground, or you will likely do so afterward.
4. Suck on a hard candy or slice of lemon or lime. You mouth will be dry.
5. A shot of brandy may help steady your nerves.
6. Make a last attempt at reconciliation. “I’m satisfied if you are, Sir.”
If that should fail:
1. Disregard everything you’ve seen on stage or in the cinema.
2. Disregard everything you’ve ever seen (or done) in the “sport” of fencing, historical “re-enacting,” and/or fantasy role-playing.
3. Powder your hand. It will be sweaty.
4. Bind your weapon to your hand. Your manual dexterity will be severely compromised.
5. Take 2-3 deep, full, slow breaths. (Repeat this whenever there is a “break” in the event.)
6. Take your ground as far from your adversary as possible.
7. Assume a relatively tall stance, knees slightly bent, so that you can move backwards quickly and with ease.
8. Keep your arm well extended, not quite fully extended, and behind the guard as much as possible.
9. Train your point on your opponent’s centerline at the level of his throat.
10. No matter what your opponent does, smartly extend your arm to its fullest extent, putting your point in line, aiming at his centerline, and step back -- as many steps as needed to regain your distance. Don’t attack. Don’t parry. Don’t feint. Don’t twiddle with your opponent’s blade. Stick your arm out and step back.
11. This disposition will not only discourage your opponent from attacking, it will encourage him to attack, if he does, your forward-most target, the wrist and forearm, where a wound is least likely to be fatal, but sufficient to end the encounter.
12. If you should wound your opponent, even the merest scratch, immediately withdraw, handing your weapon to your seconds (who should by now have come between you,) and declare to the President du Combat that you are satisfied.
13. If you should be wounded, even the merest scratch, withdraw to your surgeon, handing your weapon to your seconds, and declare to the President du Combat, “Thank you, I’ve had enough.”
There is no guarantee that this plan succeed. It is, however, better than any other plan, and much better than no plan at all.
If you should survive:
1. Have your seconds immediately approach your adversary’s party with several bottles of the best brandy you can afford as a gesture of reconciliation. Any intelligent gentleman, given a choice, would rather imbibe than fight.
2. Go for a short, casual walk by yourself. This will allow you to vomit discreetly.
3. You can expect to be extremely thirsty, soon ravenously hungry, and afterward incredibly libidinous.
4. When you finally succumb to sleep, you can expect to sleep through the next 12-24 hours, possibly longer. You will have nightmares.
5. The next day or so, you may experience an adrenaline flash-back: you heart will race, you will perspire, feel off-balance, mouth suddenly dry, stomach queasy. Breathe deeply. It will pass.
6. Have your closest friend over for coffee and implore him/her give you a good, swift kick in the ass for having been such a fool, and firmly resolve never to do anything that stupid ever again.