What is a Main Gauche?

Also referred to as a parrying dagger, main gauche swords were used in juxtaposition with traditional rapiers during the late Middle Ages. The main gauche, which is French for left hand, was used to deflect incoming attacks while the rapier was utilized for offense. If the opportunity presented itself, the main gauche could also be used for offense, of course.

This combination of weaponry was particularly popular with the Schools of Fence in Renaissance Europe. As the sport of fencing evolved, the use of the offhand weapon fell out of style. Although the main gauche isn’t used in contemporary fencing, it still is a prized item for historical collectors.



‘Caesar was stabbed with twenty-three dagger thrusts and uttered not a word, but only a groan at the first stroke, though some have related that when Marcus Brutus rushed at him, he said in Greek,”You, too, child?””  This is how Suetonius the author of “The Life of Caesar”describes his death.  Nero, the most evil of Roman Emperors stabbed himself in the throat with a dagger.

This hidden weapon has resulted in the death of the unsuspecting friend, husband, or statesman.  The sharp stab is a startling blow, because it came from a woman’s bosom, or from a friend’s hand.   In Caesar’s case the daggers came from most of those he thought he could trust.  From ancient ages to the present day the knife or dagger is a popular weapon.

stiletto-daggerIn Rome and Greece the short sword was the weapon of choice.  In the Medieval and Renaissance eras the dagger was used to penetrate plate armor.  One of the most well-known daggers, the stiletto, was developed particularly for this purpose.

During the late Renaissance period, a different style of sword fighting developed in Europe.  The dagger was held in the left hand and the sword in the right with the dagger being used to deflect sword thrusts.  One of the most well know of these left-handed daggers is the Main Gauche.

scissors-daggerThe scissors dagger is a utilitarian weapon that can be used to cut and make clothes or to just as easily stab an unsuspecting soul.  This weapon was usually concealed in a woman’s bra.