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David Butchee




Location: Houston Texas
Joined: 15 Jul 2009

Posts: 28

PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 4:17 pm    Post subject: Left handers and fighting         Reply with quote

Since I'm left-handed I was wondering, in the middle ages was everyone forced to fight right handed? So far I've found no evidence for left-handers anywhere except for the maciejowski bible, the guy hacking through someone with a "warbrand" as i've seen it called. Can anyone help me out on this subject?

Edit: Here's a link to the picture, is that not a left handed way to grip a sword?
http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...&b.gif


Last edited by David Butchee on Sun 06 Sep, 2009 5:00 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 4:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Short answer. Yes. Nobody would train someone to fight left handed. For formations to be effective everyone had to fight right handed. It isn't difficult. I am left handed and it took very little time for me to get used to fighting right handed. Now I feel uncomfortable when fighting left handed. I wish I spent more time training to fight both ways.
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David Butchee




Location: Houston Texas
Joined: 15 Jul 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 4:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But I'm extremely left-handed, I don't think I could ever get used to fighting the other way. You say that they wouldn't train them left handed but what if they were like me and couldn't fight right handed, would it really matter if they were an archer or knight and didn't have to be in tight formation?
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Andrew Maxwell




Location: New Zealand
Joined: 03 May 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 5:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you were fighting in formation, then you would probably have to fight right handed. However, in Liechtenauers Zettel (c. 1389) it specifically says that right handers should strike from the right and left handers should strike from the left, where each is strongest :

"Hear what is bad, fight not to left, if you are right, and if you are left, the right is very limiting" Liechtenauer's Zettel

"This lesson is intended for two people, one right handed and one left, and regards how you should strike, that one is weak when he strikes the first strike not to engage, and this is shown thus: when you come to him in pre-fencing, and are on the right, then undertake not to strike the first strike from the left side where he is weak and does not want to engage again and he strikes strong with you, so onward strike from the right where you will engage strongly and work at the sword. Similarly if you are left then strike the first not from the right side, as it is wild for the leftie to drive" Goliath Fecthbuch

Of course, this is intended primarily to teach single combat, not battlefield formation fighting.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 5:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Butchee wrote:
But I'm extremely left-handed, I don't think I could ever get used to fighting the other way. You say that they wouldn't train them left handed but what if they were like me and couldn't fight right handed, would it really matter if they were an archer or knight and didn't have to be in tight formation?

I'm extremely left handed also. It takes months of practice to get even a little proficiency with a weapon. If you started out relearning how to fight right handed then you might extend that time by a few days at most.

As stated above, fighting left handed can be useful in a one-on-one situation. I learned fencing with a left-handed foil. But in group fighting, no way would a left hander be permitted anywhere near the formation.
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Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
Joined: 20 May 2004

Posts: 599

PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 7:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is another image of left handed fighter in Paulus Kal.

http://daten.digitale-sammlungen.de/~db/bsb00...;seite=122

Enough evidence has been presented in this thread to show that people did fight left handed historically. It is likely that left handed people were cross trained to fight right handed in formation. It makes more sense for a commander to make good use of his lefties and put them all on the right edge for his formation. That move strengthens the classical phalanx formation on its weak side. I have no historical evidence that this was ever done, buy why wouldn't they have done so. Its just logical.

David, I am ambidextrous. I fight as both a lefty and a righty. In singles combat, Lefty vs Lefty is the same fight as Righty vs Righty. Righty vs Lefty is a completely different fight. In the case of Right vs Lefty, neither opponent has a natural advantage, except that a lefty is use to fighting rightys. The righty is often not so use to fighting lefties. This is why the lefty usually wins against otherwise equally experience opponents. Their is no reason to give up your advantage as a lefty in a righty dominated world.

David, I don't know if you are strictly looking for historical documented techniques. I do not believe there are any documented that have been found to date (pre 15th century). If you want to kick some righty ass and will accept lefty techniques that just work, I can help you.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com


Last edited by Bill Tsafa on Sun 06 Sep, 2009 10:45 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Jim Mearkle




Location: Colonie, NY
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 8:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Capo Ferro has a plate describing a cut to a lefty's face (pl 38). The mirror image of the movement will work against righties.
Jim
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David Lewis Smith




Location: NC
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 8:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i am right handed and train both ways, primary right handed but now and then I do pell work and train sword and shield left handed
David L Smith
MSG (RET)
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 10:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A number of fight books and sword fighting treastises talk specifically about fighting left handers and some deal with fighting left handed. The penicuick sketches (much later in the 18th century) show a suprisingly large percentage of left handed fighters.
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Antonio Lamadrid





Joined: 17 Apr 2008

Posts: 91

PostPosted: Sun 06 Sep, 2009 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is almost certain that there was no place in a phalanx or legion for a leftie. However, lefties came in handy sometimes. Having your cuneus or svinfylking with the right side formed by lefties is an obvious advantage.

In the Bayeux Tapestry huskarls are shown to handle the Dane-axe left-handed, in order to avoid the enemy’s shield.

In single combat being a leftie is something of a mixed blessing. In many cases it has advantages, as for example, when with sword and buckler an unawared right-handed guy, with no previous experience with us lefties, attacks you from the 5th guard. That is fun!.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 1:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A couple of observations:
I'd be very wary of using illustratilons to determine left-handed fighters. They aren't photo realistic. There are illustrations of Greek hoplites holding their spears and shield the wrong way round. They aren't fighting left handed. The artist simply wanted the viewer to see the relevant parts of his subjects.

Just because a fighter changes hands to deliver a left-handed blow around a shield doesn't mean that he is left handed nor that he normally fights in that manner.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

With staff weapons used in individual fights both hands are almost equally important and one might switch the lead or dominant hand due to a mid fight need to change grips.

There seemed to be some variance also even for right handers about should the right hand be the forward hand or not on a staff weapon according to different master in period ?

With twohander sword I find that there is not much of a difference in technique if one uses the right or left hand closer to the guard or not: It does make a difference about when the arms are crossed in left side or right side versions of guards and attacks: The uncrossed positions tend to be easier and more natural and/or powerful.

I'm left handed but I started training longsword 3 years ago as a right handed swordsman and it's working out for me, my lefthandedness makes me a lot more ambidextrous I think and the few times I got distracted and trained or bouted left handed I found that I only noticed the change of hands midway or at the end of an exchange. Wink Confused WTF?!

Now, I wasn't as effective switching to the left hand near the guard because I don't regularly train this way but I could by just concentrating on the actual movements of the sword translate my right handed training into a left handed move i.e. a Zornhau from the right is still a Zornhau from the right except that my left hand was closer to the guard instead of my right hand the basic move was the same but the right Zornhau using the left handed grip feels like the left Zornhau using the right handed grip.

On the other hand if I wanted to throw a spear right handed I would need a lot of practice as it does feel very odd: But practice fixes everything if there is enough of it.

By the way my sword instructor/teacher is left handed and teaches to right handers with no problem.

Sword or buckler and sword is weirder if one learns it left handed but this also works for my instructor surprisingly well but for formation tactics I think any left handed swordsman would have learned to do both and revert to left handed use when and if it was advantageous tactically and maybe as a nasty surprise to a right handed opponent.

Because of anti-left hander prejudices/stigmas many left handers might have played the part of being a right hander most of the time in period(s) and place(s) where showing oneself to be lefthanded would have been " dangerous " to one's health, life or social standing.

Today, I would say that you can train as a left hander if you wish but some practice as a right hander might be a good idea or chose to train as a right hander and persist during the initial period of feeling very much at a disadvantage.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Jeff A. Arbogast





Joined: 16 Oct 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For what it's worth-
I am extremely left-handed, but the shield feels more comfortable in my left hand. But at the same time, I am almost as comfortable with it on my right arm. As for swordplay, I think my right is stronger, but my left is more agile but weaker. I personally feel that I could wield a weapon well enough in either hand, which could be pretty advantageous if you were disarmed suddenly and had to grab whatever you could with whatever hand you could reach it with and be halfway competent.
For instance, when I played softball as a kid, everyone thought I was a freak, because I threw with my left, batted right-handed, and caught with either hand. If I caught a ball with my left hand, I had to fling off the glove to throw the ball.
So I guess I could at least confuse the hell out of someone opposing me, and the more he overpowered me the weirder I would get. That could be considered an advantage I suppose, at least in individual combat.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This reminds me of an interesting passage in Frans G Bengstsson's The Long Ships, where the protagonist Orm - who has been rendered partially left-handed after prolonged work as a galley slave - is to duel against another viking. It's then explained that battles between a right-handed man and a left-handed man is tricky for both parts, because the shields do not cover the corresponding angles of attack as well. (I'm not sure how much Bengtsson knew about fighting with sword and shield, but the theory seems to make sense to me.)

As for the issue of using your off hand - I was forced to learn how to use my left hand after my right was incapacitated by De Quervain's Syndrome for several months. In the handling of swords and such, I found that the tricky part was to reverse all movements, as opposed to just doing the same movements with the other hand, and also keeping track on what is "front" and what is "side", since one will try to think of the right side of the body as forward out of habit. Once I figured all that out I ended up relatively ambidextrous, and today I tend to switch hand back and forth all the time, though I don't have the same fine accuracy with my left as with my right.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
Joined: 20 May 2004

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PostPosted: Mon 07 Sep, 2009 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One thing that has been noticed consistently is that when people learn to fight with their off-hand they develop a more clean technique with the off-hand. This is usually because they focus more on details that they take for granted with their dominant hand.
No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
Roger of Hoveden, 1174-1201
www.poconoshooting.com
www.poconogym.com
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