Oh, the dagger. One of the most popular and effective side weapons in a fencer’s arsenal. The dagger, historically termed the “main gauche” which means “left hand” in French, is an offensive side which means it can kill as well as defend. That said, as you learn to incorporate the dagger into your fencing, keep in mind that it is a supporting tool. Not your primary weapon. A dagger cannot replace the sword, but it can take advantage of situations that a sword may miss.

Points of safety

With a shorter, stiffer blade, and a tendency to get in close, safety with a dagger relies on how you control yourself and its use. As cool as a dagger may feel, we can’t lose sight of how we can be safe and keep our fellow fencers safe too.

  • Stiffer Blade: Daggers are shorter so their blades are stiffer. This means they are less flexible and hit harder.
  • Hand Becomes a Target: Your hand becomes a prime target while wielding a dagger. Be prepared to protect it accordingly and know how to call a hold when/if your blades become entangled. If you are striking at an opponent’s hand be mindful to gauge your shots.
  • In Close Kills: While in Close Range, your attacks become more about pressing the tip into your opponent than throwing a strong shot.

General Points

The standard use of a dagger is not far off from how you might use your Basic Offhand. It stays out in front of you, it’s primarily defensive, and it helps control your opponent’s blade as you close in for the kill. If you start with that in mind, you can slowly build more and more depth like different positions or how techniques to block/trap an incoming blade.

  • Defense First, Offense Second: Even though it is an “offensive” side it’s primarily used for defense. Your sword should still be the primary striking weapon.
  • Wiper Blade: When blocking with your dagger it’s more about pushing your opponent’s blade and sweeping their blade out and away from you like the windshield wipers on a car.
  • Refused Stance: Standing with your offside side and back leg forward is considered a Refused Stance. This positions your dagger forward and gives your dagger maximum range.
  • In Close Kills: While In Close Range, your dagger becomes your primary weapon because it more easily maneuvers within those tight spaces. Try to keep your dagger free and use your sword to defend yourself.
  • Fighting Against a Dagger: An opponent using a dagger will attempt to sweep your blade away and close distance. Try to keep your opponent at range and your sword free. Remember that their sword is still their primary weapon.

Training Ideas

  • Dagger Defense: With only a dagger, defend yourself against an opponent for as long as you can.
  • Getting In Close: Similar to Rush Attacks, practice closing distance, addressing the blade, and moving in for a kill.
  • Sticky Dagger: Before the fight begins, place your dagger on your opponent’s blade then attempt to keep it there throughout the fight and push the sword away from you.


What we’re looking for are fencers who can put a dagger to good use, but do so safely. That dagger is so good at controlling blades that it can leave your primary weapon, your sword, free to strike and attack. It will be tempting to pour everything into getting that super cool dagger kill but lean into using the dagger to support your fencing. Not overtake it. We want to see fencers who show a defense-first mindset and are using that dagger to block, control, and support their approach past an opponent’s defense. When facing a dagger, we hope fencers will keep it in mind, but not be afraid of it.