Basic Offhand

The purpose of the Basic Offhand lesson is to learn how to use your offhand, or non-dominant hand, when it isn’t holding anything.

For Teachers

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For safety concerns, it is not permitted to grab your opponent’s weapon in any way, either the guard or the blade. Grabbing a weapon includes any time your fingers close around the blade or lock the blade in a position that can’t be wiggled out of. 

When using your Offhand it is best to use the palm of your hand to control your opponent’s blade. While still legal, using the back of your hand is not recommended because it is painful due to lack of padding. 

As a point of honor in our group if you accidentally grab your opponent’s weapon, you can voluntarily lose your hand or take it as a kill. This helps remind us that Safety is our top priority.

Basic Offhand

Unlike Olympic Fencing, we’re able to use our offhand in our fights. Your offhand will always be used to refer to your non-dominant hand whether it’s holding something or not. Learning to use your offhand is a critical skill because it can be one of the most useful tools during a fight. Dedicate time in developing your offhand skills and remember the following principles:

Hand Position

Where you position your offhand will determine how effective a tool it is. Usually it is best to have your hand in front of your chest, your elbow pointing slightly down and out with your elbow bent a little. Refer to the Basic Stance section in Basics of Dueling to see how your offhand fits in with your basic stance.

Your hand is a defensive tool and it needs to be in a place where it can provide protection to your more vital areas like your head and torso. If you find yourself forgetting that your offhand is there, try wiggling your fingers throughout the fight. Moving them will remind you that your hand is there.

Your Offhand is a Windshield Wiper

The most basic method in using your offhand is to think of your hand as a Windshield Wiper. It’s going to move in an arc and it’s going to push sword blades away from your body. 

From the starting position, it’ll either move in an upward arc to push incoming blades away or it’ll move down. Your offhand is always going to try and push blades out and away from you so they can’t stab you. Do your very best to not push any incoming attacks across your body.

Maintain Contact

When you use your offhand, you don’t want to smack the blade away. You want to push it. You’ll be able to feel their blade against your hand and push it wherever you want. By maintaining contact, you’ll have more control and be able to defend yourself better.

Beware of Draw Cuts

Using your hand to control an opponent’s blade is a great advantage, but you risk losing your hand if your opponent attempts a Draw Cut. A Draw Cut happens when your opponent uses the edge of their blade to “cut” instead of stab. 

If your opponent attempts such a maneuver, you can attempt to follow the blade with your hand and prevent the slicing motion or push the blade away from you to eliminate contact.

Ready to move on?

You’ve completed Basic Offhand! Now with your offhand ready, let's learn how to go on the offensive with Multiple Attacks.

How to teach

Basic Offhand


Basic Offhand skills are fundamental for any fencer and over the course of this lesson, you should help your students become both comfortable and familiar with using their offhand in a fight. You can use the following EDGE Method lesson summary to guide you along.


Over the course of the lesson, try to hit upon each of the following principles. Use your own words and check for comprehension along the way. You may need to reexplain as you demonstrate the principles.

  • No Grabbing with Offhand
  • Use the palm of your hand
  • If you grab, take an arm or forfeit the fight
  • Hand position
  • Your Offhand is a Windshield Wiper
  • Maintain Contact
  • Beware Draw Cuts


Demonstrating allows your students to visually see what you have explained. Go slowly and clearly point out what is happening in the moment so everyone can see. Give examples from your own experience or find an assistant to help demonstrate each principle.


Break up the explanation/demonstrations with simple activities that allows your students to try the skills for themselves. Give each person a chance to perform specific skills and provide immediate feedback. A good example is to allow each student to push an incoming attack with their offhand.


Once you have covered all the principles and the students are feeling confident, it is time to enable your students with a drill and/or challenge. Watch over the students and continue to provide immediate feedback as they perform the drills themselves.

Basic Offhand Drill

Have each student line up, facing the Teacher. The Teacher will slowly attack various targets on each student, while the students tries to defend themselves using only their Offhand. Increase speed as students become more efficient.

Basic Offhand Challenge (Look, Ma! No Sword!)

Each student should pair up with only one student holding a sword, as the Attacker. The other student, the Defender, will not be armed and will need to defend themselves against 10 attacks from the Attacker using only their hands. Keep track of how many attacks are successful. After 10 attacks, the pair switches roles. This should be tried multiple times in an attempt to improve individual scores.