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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Handedness - The Left-Handed Fencer


The left-handed fencer is always tricky. This is the case for both fighting against them, and also teaching them. Due to the dominant presence of right-handed fencers, the left-handed fencer is one that we will only run into on relatively rare occasions. For those groups who have left-handed fencers present, you have an advantage over those who don't as you will become used to facing them. From the teacher's point of view teaching the left-handed this presents some issues in their teaching. This blog will be a discussion of the issues associated in both teaching and combat against the left-hander.

Teaching a left-handed fencer while you are right-handed is always a tricky situation. It requires a switching over in your mind about how to teach the fencer. For some of the demonstration you may have to switch hands in order to demonstrate the technique so that they can understand what is happening. This will also assist you in learning about fighting with the left hand yourself, which is to your advantage. The best way to do this is to think of the left-hander as a mirror image in all cases.

The lines are opposite, but also the same. The outside line is still to the outside of the weapon, in the case of the right-hander this is to the right, in the case of the left-hander this is to the left of the sword. Obviously the inside line is the opposite side also, but the same principles apply. When teaching a right-hander it is sometimes more effective to stand next to the student in order to show them the technique, in the case of the left-hander it may actually be more effective to stand opposite them and thus use the mirror effect of the position. In the case of companion weapons in rapier combat the companion weapon will be on the "wrong side" this will require some adjustment for their effective use. It may require the crossing of the hands and devices in order to be able to use them effectively. Another method for achieving this is to change the on guard position and movement in order to promote the off-hand, this will take a great deal of practice in order to achieve effectiveness.

The combat against the left-hander is an interesting prospect, just as with teaching the left-hander the combat against the left-hander takes a change in perspective. For some it makes no perceivable difference to them. In most cases there is a difference but the change for them is subtle enough that they do not consciously notice it. There are differences that should be made especial note of in how to deal with a left-handed opponent. These changes will assist you to deal with the change in perspective.

To start with you need to change your on guard position slightly. You need to stand more profiled in stance, this involves moving the feet slightly. This position should remove the inside line away from the opponent. The guard should be pused more toward the outside line due to the position of the left-handed opponent. Further importance of the outside line with regard to the left-handed opponent.

In the case of the left-handed fencer, he will seek the outside line as it is the easier target due to the on guard position. The most important thing is that the easier target for the right-hander against the left-hander is also the outside line. This makes things most interesting for the combatants. You should seek movement toward the outside line in order to be more effective in the attack. The inside line of the left-hander is far away and puts you in a position where you could be easily struck by the opponent. The only way that the inside line should be approached or attacked is when you have blade engagement with the opponent. This engagement needs to entirely close the line against the opponent in order to be effective. The essence here is that the line needs to be closed entirely in order that you are protected.

An interesting point that should be made in this discussion is that the left-handed fencer will usually be facing right-handed opponents rather than left-handed ones. This is an important consideration as it often results in the left-handed fencer having problems with facing other left-handed opponents. This is due to the change in position that results from facing a left-handed opponent. Ironically, the left-handed fighting another left-handed comes down to the same situation as a right-handed facing a right-handed opponent. In this the left-handed opponent should consider examining how right-handed opponents deal with other right-handed opponents and apply the same principles, but in a mirror image.

The left-handed fencer is an interesting prospect from the point of view of the combatant and also the teacher. In all cases, much can be learnt from both situations. In order that we become better at both facing and teaching left-handed fencers, we should endeavour to seek them out and learn as much as we can from them. This goes for both right-handed and left-handed fencers. Hopefully this blog will have given some ideas about how to deal with the left-handed student and opponent. The important thing to note is that both teaching and fighting against the left-hander requires a slight change in perspective in order to achieve the goal that is sought.



Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to see it in a book format? I am in the process of putting a selection of my blogs into a book entitled Un-blogged: A Fencer's Ramblings. If you would like to assist me in producing this book and others of a historical fencing nature please donate here: