The sword, used alone, as Capo Ferro said, is the queen of weapons. There’s not much point in trying to use TWO weapons, if you’re not capable of using ONE.
That said, I have two hands. Would I use only ONE of them in a fight?
When it’s a fight, and not an “athletic contest,” there are no rules, and you use whatever you have available. That includes both hands and both feet. And it doesn’t hurt to use your head a little, either.
Back in the day, most everyone carried a dagger as an all-purpose tool, and of course, some were made en suite with rapiers. Whether it’s a dagger, a cloak, your scabbard, a wine bottle, or chair leg in your left hand, or just your empty hand, it pays to think past the solo sword.
As our exemplar of the left hand, let’s use the dagger as our left-hand weapon because so many fancy themselves “rapier and dagger” fighters, and so few are correct.
The dagger has several functions.
1. Preparations. The dagger can be used to engage, beat, press or trap your opponent’s blade in order to facilitate your attack with the sword.
2. Parries. The dagger can be used to deflect, divert or obstruct the opponent’s attack
3. Opposition. The dagger can be used to apply opposition to your opponent’s blade.
4. Offensive actions. The dagger can be used to cut or to thrust
Opposition may be the most critical of all these uses. Having parried your opponent’s attack, you oppose his weapon with your dagger while you make your riposte. I’m a great believer in controlling the opponent’s weapon at all times, keeping it where I want it, not where my opponent wants it.
Parries are the second best use of the dagger. This allows you to execute your parry and riposte simultaneously rather than consecutively. Indeed, you could say that you’re now executing a counter-attack with opposition rather than a riposte. Because the counter-attack happens during the opponent’s attack, and because it’s very difficult for your opponent to go forward and backward at the same time, your counter-attack is extremely difficult to defend against – unless, of course the attack itself was a ruse to draw your counter-attack, in the hope of a contre-temps.
While the dagger can be used alone to parry, it can also be combined with the rapier to effect a “double” parry or “crossed” parry. In this use, you surrender the simultaneity of the parry and the riposte, but you gain opposition with the dagger, freeing the rapier to do its work.
Preparations. Never make a frontal assault against a fortified position unless you have already neutralized your opponent’s offensive capability. That’s the job of the preparation. The dagger occupies your opponent’s sword so that you may attack. Often, the preparation is combined with opposition.
Offensive actions. While seizing your opponent’s sword with your own sword, you can close the distance and strike with the dagger. Against a same-handed opponent, you close and move to your dagger side, that is, to his (now) unprotected rapier side. This use doesn’t work as well against an opposite-handed fighter.
The dagger is only useful for offense when at close quarters, as we’ve seen so many celluloid villains try to prove. Another good reason to control distance, and keep your opponent on the end of your point.
It’s possible to throw your dagger, but unless you’ve developed that skill in particular, forget about it. It might as well be a crescent wrench. Even folks who throw a knife pretty well, generally don’t throw it well with their non-dominant hand. Then too, if your opponent didn’t have a dagger of his own, you may just have provided him with one.
You can use your empty left hand in much the same way, even for offensive actions – though personally, I’d use my elbow to strike with and not my hand. Some people balk at using the naked hand for fear of getting it cut, to which I reply with the very first rule of fighting which states: You’re going to get hurt. A cut to the hand, or a thrust to your heart? I leave the choice to you.
A cloak, coat, or blanket is good, too. Wrap it around your left hand and forearm to provide some protection. Some people have said that you should hold it loosely, and flail it around like a matador, but I personally find that more awkward than helpful, though, lord knows, there’s nothing like a good veronica.
A bad Veronica
Of course it’s possible that you could throw it over your opponent’s head, but unless you’re starring in a Tom & Jerry cartoon, I consider that one of those things to be “imagined, rather than practiced.”
As always, it’s important to know the difference between a “fencing match” (an athletic contest with specific rules) and a fight, and to know which one it is that you’re doing at the moment.
When you’re in a contest with a weapon, you use the weapon.
When you’re in a fight, you ARE the weapon.