A Point About Stabbing

There are two main ways to hold a knife,
One point up, and one point down.
Now, in a knife fight, the prize is your life,
Not just having no slit in your gown.

You've got to get it right, this is a fight,
So, which is the better way?
Well, perhaps it might shed some light,
To read what the treatises say.

They seem quite clear, they favour by far,
The downward or ice pick grip.
True they do not the other way bar,
But they never talk of the flip.

It's of the rondel they seek to teach us,
It's thin and stabby and long,
But what other techniques have failed to reach us?
Perhaps the choice of the rondel is wrong.

I learned my knife fighting with a dagger like this,
It's shorter and fatter and cutty,
A foe using this is just taking the piss,
Against me with this he'd surely be putty.

I'd learned through re-enactment and kung fu,
And not from late medieval sources,
I know that complacency will never do,
So I took some HEMA courses.

I went along with I hope an open mind,
With a wooden dagger for safety's sake,
Tried out their moves to see what I'd find,
And boy! The next day I didn't half ache!

Anyway, my first suspicion proved true,
The ice pick grip limits your angles,
There's really just one thing you can do,
I'd like more options when my life dangles...

by a thread. I'm this close to death,
I can hear my heart beat's hard drumming,
This could be my last pain-free breath,
With just one opening move, he'll see it coming.

It's a good stab I'll grant you,
Hard and downward and deadly,
But one stab is many too few,
Hold this way, and you've got a medley.

Try this: try to stab ice-pick on the outward side,
You get here and you're weak and in pain,
If half-decent force here is applied,
Down you go, unlikely to rise again.

It's feeble and slow, and so easy to block,
To attack this way spells doom,
Look, you've nearly got me in an arm-lock,
And you're not even in the same room!

The treatises do show some attacks,
Coming low and then up like so,
But try that and I'll feel relaxed.
A big move like that is so slow.

If you offer your elbow like this to your foe,
One push exposes your back and your head,
And so, I know, you won't land your blow,
Before that thththththp! Forget it: you're dead.

So almost everything starts from here,
And after the block well, what next?
Assuming you can overcome your fear,
You can carry out what it says in the text.

Typically, you grab hold of the blade,
It's long so it makes a good lever,
It's length serves as a disarming aid,
And it's thin so not much of a cleaver.

But it's often at least a bit sharp,
So mightn't you cut your finger?
The alternative is you start playing the harp,
So grab it, there's no time to linger.

But I'll choose something shorter and sharper,
And I'll hold it my way, and we'll see who's the harper,
And while you try to go in for a twist,
I'll slash, it's quicker, and put a gash in your wrist.

I'll cut through your tendons in elbow and underarm,
Reduce your limb to so much slack rope,
I have faith in the speed I do harm,
You dope to pin to ice-pick grip your hope.

There are other ways, as shown by the likes of Fairbairn-Sykes,
Of stabbing and slashing in a hundred strikes,
So, come our dagger duel, I'll grip this way,
You grip yours, we'll see who carries the day.

Ah but having taken pause to reflect,
Maybe I wouldn't 'cos that's just what you'd expect.


This was written for a YouTube video I made. I thought it would be amusing to do a video in which I discussed some aspect of medieval fighting techniques - something my channel is known for - but did it in verse. I deliberately performed it without drawing attention to the fact that it was all in verse, but was still a bit surprised to learn that many viewers had watched the entire thing without noticing. I had imagined that by at the latest the third or fourth stanza pretty much everyone would have twigged.

Because of its intended use, it has in it things such as "like this", which were intended to accompany my showing the camera something. It is very much a performance piece.

The video turned out to be my most controversial ever, and I ended up having to do a second, much longer, video to clarify my position to those who seemed to feel that I was saying that HEMA or re-enactment were rubbish. It's almost as though ABAB rhyming scheme verse isn't the clearest way to discuss combat skills. Who knew?


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