Essay Disc: Silver on Dagger Play

HI Guys,

Here is the next essay- The Dagger section from George Silver's Brief Instructions. Of the single dagger fight against the like weapon.

Cap. 15.
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.

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.

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 forewards 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.

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.


Discuss. I'll post my thoughts later.

Well, we're not done with the Martinez essay (at least I'm not), but what the heck, we can do two at once! :)

I'll start by saying that I like Silver's advice.

And he's an advocate for the ol' FMA "defanging the snake" deal.

In fact, it might be useful to do a three-way comparison between Silver, FMA, and the Biddle/Styers method of knife combat...

And they say GrandMaster "Tatang" Ilustrisimo was hard to learn from........sheesh!!

Silver's words are filled with common sense and good tactics.

Silver has stepped aside and gutted the correct, and YL has stomped on the body to make sure it stays down ;)

Hi Martin,

Which bits don't you understand?

Here is a little commentary. The interpretation here is mine and may well be erroneous.

1.A Ward is a guard or parry. You can "lie" in a "ward" or "ward" a blow. A grip is a grappling move that consists of taking hold of your opponent's weapon arm. Silver says that you can only grapple offensively if your opponent is disordered or incompetant however if he tries to take the grip of you, you may safely take the grip of him (and in this case perhaps strike up his heels). This is the first paragraph in a nutshell.
2. Silver is saying that you must keep moving here in order to try and gain "the place". The "place" or "true place" is not actually necessarily a physical location and is simply just a moment in time where you can hit the other guy and he can't hit you. Eg. By your continual motion, you have disapppointed him of his distance (ie he has just fallen short on an attack). This means that if you attack now, you are attacking from the true place. This is especially true if you move outside his weapon arm where his off hand is useless.
3. Is pretty obvious
4. This is pretty obvious too apart from the bit about governers. Silver says: "The four grounds or principals of that true fight at all manner of weapons are these four, viz. 1. judgment, 2. distance, 3. time, 4. place."Through your judgement, you keep your distance, through your distance you take your time and through time you win or gain the place so that you may act safely. *This passage is useful in all arts as is Silver's discussion of true and false times.
5. Silver is basically saying that the dagger fight is dangerous because the dagger is too short to parry with and because the single dagger fight has no buckler or second dagger to make it more secure. He finishes by basically saying that if you observe your governers and the true times this fight can be as safe as any other.


Having read through the Silver manuscripts on the web, I agree that his writings contain common sense and good tactics. But his advice on the whole seems very general, at least to my layman's eyes.

How do people come up with such detailed recreations of his system? Is it simply that this stuff is much more descriptive to those that already have a solid grounding in fencing?

Hi P4P,

Silver's brief instructions are actually a pretty good guide, especially for the basket hilted shortsword. A good knowledge of fencing theory coupled with some experimentation can yield a system that *likely* looks something like what Silver was doing. Silver also gives us the grounds, the governers, the distances, and the three actions. This framework allows for a lot of scope.
If anyone has any specific questions about Silver, I am happy to answer to the best of my knowledge. Paul Wagner is hanging around here somewhere too and would only too happy to pitch in.

Hi Owen,

This is a big ask. It is probably best that you read the online versions and then ask questions.

Hi Owen,

Here are links to a couple of online versions of George Silver's treatises.

As for supplematary material and an interpretation, Stoccata provosts are working on it.