Picked my dagger up last night. I’ve been fighting single sword exclusively for maybe three or four years now. I made the decision to stick to sword alone because I wasn’t happy with my fighting habits. I had come to depend exclusively on a baiting and tricking game. Add to that some very poor initial instruction in swordplay, and I was hitting a solid plateau I couldn’t get past.

Plus, getting older means you don’t get better without taking a serious look at your own building blocks. You either do a complete rebuild and shore up the foundation, or get content with slowly fading away and reminiscing about how you used to be able to do so much more.

I did learn some interesting things over the last while. Off-hand weapons do offer an increased challenge against single sword, but not as much as you’d think. I fought lots of people using sword and dagger or sword and buckler, and they were just as difficult to beat as they were without a secondary weapon. Overall skill level is the main challenge when fighting someone, not the weapon loadout.

When I’m beating someone who is using a secondary, I’m making sure I’m the first to move. Not the first to attack necessarily, but the first to move. It’s important to not let the opponent set up a game plan, or the offhand can wind up smothering you in options.

If the offhand is being held forward, I’m going to try to remove it. I orient myself to the offhand, and select my measure against it. I work angles and attempt to strike at, or through, the opposing limb. I want their sword to have to travel past the offhand to get to me while I’m in that vulnerable attack measure, so that I have more time to react if I’ve made a mistake.

If the offhand is held back or is covering the main hand, I’m working on fouling the sword on the offhand. I will use movement and strong actions on the opposing sword to move it’s line across the offhand, so that I can drive them together and remove the immediate threat of both. In the time I gain with that action, I have the opportunity to follow up effectively.

When I’m using a secondary, I want to move first and keep up a constant threat on my opponent. I will use the offhand weapon to keep them guessing and off-balance. And as much as possible, I’m going to be patient without giving the outward appearance of patience. I’ll move, shift, give attacks of preparation, but nothing serious. I want to hang just out of the point of measure and wait.

What I’m looking for is major mistakes on my opponents part. If I see minor mistakes, I will work to compound them but will not otherwise exploit. I want my opponent to blunder so badly that my attack, when it comes, will be a simple extension from a well covered position…no risk at all. And that’s the only time I want them to know they have been making mistakes.

If I move early, I’m going to overreach and leave myself open to counters.

It’s a good game for me to work now. My biggest remaining issue as a fighter is impatience, and adding the dagger back into my game will help me overcome that issue.