In my recent book review of “Slash and Thrust” the knife fighting instructions of George Silver were mentioned. It is only logical that today’s blog is about these. Silver’s chapter on knife/ dagger fighting is very brief, but very informative.
To make things easier for readers who do not have English as a first language, or those that just have trouble with archaic English I have used a version of the text rendered in a more modern form taken from this site. My own comments and clarifications in green.
Taken from Brief Instructions Upon My Paradoxes of Defense” (1599)
Of the single dagger fight against the like weapon
1. First know that to this weapon there belongs no wards or grips but against such a one as is foolhardy & will suffer himself to have a full stab in the face or body or hazard the giving of another, then against him you may use your left hand in throwing him aside or strike up his heels after you have stabbed him.
Here Silver tells us that the single dagger cannot be used to parry/block (“ward”), nor is it advisable to try and grapple or hold (“grip”) a knife armed foe. To attempt this is to invite an injury. “your left hand in throwing him aside” seems to suggest striking with the free hand. “strike up his heels” is interpreted by some analysts as a low kick to unbalance the foe.
2. In this dagger fight, you must use continual motion so shall he not be able to put you to the close or grip, because your continual motion disappoints him of his true place, & the more fierce he is in running in, the sooner he gains you the place, whereby he is wounded, & you not anything the rather endangered.
“place” is used by Silver to mean a position or location from which you can strike an enemy without needing to step forward.
3. The manner of handling your continual motion is this, keep out of distance & strike or thrust at his hand, arm, face or body, that shall press upon you, & if he defends blow or thrust with his dagger make your blow or thrust at his hand.
4. If he comes in with his left leg forwards or with the right, do you strike at that part as soon as it shall be within reach, remembering that you use continual motion in your progression & regression according to your twofold governors.
A Twofold Mind (“Twyfold mynd”) is Silver’s term for the mental state that allows you to be prepared to fly back (retreat) as you advance and vice versa.
5. Although the dagger fight is thought a very dangerous fight by reason of the shortness & singleness thereof, yet the fight thereof being handled as is aforesaid, is as safe & as defensive as the fight of any other weapon, this ends my brief instructions.
For more information on self-defence, see my books.