In George Silver's Paradoxes of Defense he makes the following comment:

And again, the thrust being made through the hand, arm, or leg, or in many places of the body and face, are not deadly, neither are they maims, or loss of limbs or life, neither is he much hindered for the time in his fight, as long as the blood is hot.

Blows to the leg are frequently remarked to be either life-threatening (esp. for slashes) or, essentially, trivial (esp. for thrusting).

This indicates to me that when training realistic targeting for a court sword (blades similar to an epee) the legs should probably be avoided in the entirety, but I wonder if that is necessarily true for a broader rapier blade or a thrusting weapons in general if narrowing the focus to something smaller than "leg"? Are there effective targets in the leg for these, or are the actual life/limb-threatening targets sufficiently small and mobile that they should generally be eschewed as actual attacks for the thrust in favor of higher margin targets?

  • At the risk of being redundant, could you indicate explicitly what your 'purpose' is? Is it to win a duel, to survive, to win a tournament, to maim, to kill, or something else entirely? I believe the answer will depend on this.
    – Anon
    Apr 5, 2013 at 0:45
  • Any situation where life and death are at issue, rather than points. Apr 5, 2013 at 16:19
  • You might also like to ask this on the ARMA forums at thearma.org/forum/index.php
    – Wudang
    Apr 6, 2013 at 19:16

3 Answers 3


While the femoral artery is a potentially lethal target, Silver is not discounting that. There are artery's in the arms, and every place he mentions. He points out that a thrust may not do the damage one would expect from a cut. He's telling you to not rely on thrusts at all, but rather rely on cuts.

As for avoiding the leg, Silver, all the Bolognese authors, most of the German authors all depict what to do against a leg attack - Slip the leg back and hit the head (or hands/arms). It's one of the few universal defenses. Most of the time you have to lean forward to hit the leg, unless you are close enough to grapple. Leaning forward means leading with your head.

As for applying Silver to court sword, I would be very careful. Silver's techniques and theories are oriented towards a heavier sword, with a basket hilt. The weight of the sword has a huge impact on what you can do. A lot of Silver carries over to Side Sword, but the lighter side sword doesn't handle the same, it's faster, more maneuverable. I've gotten caught doing Bolognese while fighting English basket hilt and vice versa, and rarely with a good outcome.


My understanding is that damage to the femoral artery (in each leg) would be very serious. Here's an ESPN story about a death from femoral artery damage, (albeit from a gunshot wound, so that's a pretty severe injury).

My understanding is that severing either of the femoral arteries would cause and immediate drop in blood pressure that would cause the sufferer to pass out very quickly, followed by exsanguination.

I've several years experience with pointed weapons (such as an epee), and I'm confident that it would be of low probability (ie, not worth the risk of trying) that one could damage that artery with a pointed weapon. However, I believe a deep cut on the upper, inner thigh would not be very difficult to accomplish with a bladed weapon.


The quote indicates that in some situations (we nowadays would probably say something like "when adrenaline runs high"), there are wounds that sometimes go unnoticed. As extreme examples go, it is easy to find news articles regarding people getting shot multiple times while under the effects of PCP and continuing as though nothing had happened.

In a situation where a strike/hit/thrust/cut is an expensive action, that is, it requires significant commitment and/or leaves you open for a significant lapse of time, this simply means that a strike that does not have significant chance of ending the fight is generally not worth the risk.

The only meaningful targets in this case would be very small targets that would cause significant disruption, like the tendons. I'll let you do the rest of the math.

  • 1
    -1 This is a Q&A site. Don't leave "the math" unsaid; answer the question. Apr 6, 2013 at 1:54

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