The European Historical Combat Guild

Investigating Europe's Historical combative methods and behaviours

Friday, 21 June 2013

Some observations on historical dagger interpretations

There are a number of video on the net of people interpreting historical dagger techniques.
Generally they start ready with weapon/s drawn and out of distance  Both facing each other. Then an attack is made, most occasions with a wind up of preparing the dagger for use, and there by signalling the attack to the patient. The agent then generally closes distance with their body leading and make the "attack" with the arm rather than the weapon presented to the patient who then niftily pulls of the technique from the fight book.
Or we see two people in mask sparring with daggers, try to score hits on each other, occasionally getting in to grappling/infighting range and generally we don't see anything that looks like a historical technique

It could be said that these are training constructs, that this is a way to begin learning the techniques or other concepts through the use of the dagger. This may be true in some case and it is one use.

However much of we see is intended as interpretations of what is seen in the sources, not as training methods

What we need to remember how and when a dagger is intended to be used.  The reality is that the dagger is the weapon of last resort, when other weapons have failed or have become a hindrance because of the distance one is engaged. As such one would not be "ready", would not be out of distance and would be unlikely to be facing your opponent.

Granted there were aspect of formal challenges etc. where the combatants would make a certain number of passes armed with daggers alone. In this case however they would be armoured, which would make the need to to close to grappling infighting range essential.

If one is to training/interpreting historical dagger techniques, one needs to consider the factors that would influence their use in the historical context, it seems this something that many overlook.

Words are a shorthand...

Language is tricky, the same word can mean different things to different people or the same thing but in different contexts. This is more true when it comes to teaching, especially teaching something physical or movement based.

 A word or the words are what use to try to describe a context etc. is a short hand, the problem is that to truly understand the short hand you have to have seen the picture or felt and understood it to get it.

It's why students will eventually turn around and say something like... "You know.... I should do such and such" with a slight sound of accusation in their voice. Of course what they are telling you is something that you have told them time and again since their first lesson. The difference now though is that they have finally gotten it, it has clicked inside them and the concept has been revealed. The first thing they then need to do is tell someone about it. In this case it's the teacher who has been telling them all along.

I have also noted with people how have physical skills but who are new to teaching, that they use too many words when they start teaching and try to explain too many things at once. They have had their aha! moments and are keen to pass their revelations on, and think that if only someone could have revealed all this stuff to them they would have gotten it much quicker. They have not yet realising or remembering how long it took them to get there. They haven’t understood that it’s about saying the right things at the right time, speaking at the right time and doing things at the right time.