What I learned this week about Medieval dagger fighting

I’ll not get into why I needed to know this…just trust that it made sense at the time. And it wasn’t because I myself need to wield daggers.

Fine. It’s because this year I am actually planning ahead of NaNo. I can’t say why. It went ok last year, when I had a flimsy sort of outline. Maybe this year I have a storyboard. Maybe this year I started researching things before they come up in the story, and I lose precious writing hours to watching YouTube videos.

YouTube videos about dagger fighting.

And one thing that kept coming up is the Arte Athletica by Paulus Hector Mair and the manuscripts of Joachim Meyer.

Arte Athletica is a manuscript from 1545ish, written by a German fencing master (Mair), and it’s generally considered one of the most complete manuals available today of fighting styles from this time period. It’s technically made up of two codices, each building off of an earlier body of work and updated to fit those more modern times. And it has waaaay more than daggers; have nothing hand but a sickle? My man Paulus has you covered.

Joachim, on the other hand, made treatises that were compiled into Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens, or as I like to call it “how to royally destroy a dude’s day.” Where Paulus compiled what was there, Joachim decided to reinvent the wheel. Kind of.

Regardless, each of these sources provide thorough instructions, and in some cases, pictures, that have been used by SCA enthusiasts looking for that authentic Germanic medieval feel.

Daggers were not meant to be a primary weapon but used in conjunction with (or as a backup to) a sword. Ironically (perhaps) one of the only games I’ve played where a rogue in fact fights with a sword and a dagger, instead of two daggers, is Dragon Age: Origins. So kudos to BioWare…even more kudos to them. They brought me Mass Effect.

The bulk of blocking came from the concept of aiming at the wrist, but given its size, more often than not, a fighter would miss, and so the follow through movements of blocking over or under (too soon or too late) make up a good portion of the maneuvers that one would use.

To avoid slicing through your own arm during a fight, a common dagger of choice was a Rondel, a three-sided blade that was only sharp toward the tip, used for puncturing. As one video I watched pointed out (ah ha!), it was the ice pick of daggers.

I learned that the techniques for dagger fighting, as with any martial art, come down to basic principles, the same basic movements upon which one builds.

I also learned that in today’s world, it’s still primarily white dudes who seem to be worrying about this.

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