Design by

Hammertertz Forum
Open International
Dagger Tournament Rules

The Hammertertz Forum Open Dagger Self-Defense Challenge is designed to help participants test and demonstrate unarmed self-defense skills against a dagger-wielding attacker in a competitive environment, in an effort to draw out techniques shown in historical treatises.  This challenge assumes a very specific context, and it is critical for all participants to recognize and understand this context as it frames the desired behavior for both the Armed attacker and the Unarmed defender.

Participation in this event will be limited to a maximum field of 32 challengers.

The challenge assumes a scenario where the attacker launches a committed and repeated assault to fatally stab the defender.  As illustrated in numerous modern and historical examples, a number of patterns emerge and can be summarized:

  • Attackers focus on overwhelming the defender with the weapon, throwing strong direct committed attacks repeatedly.
  • Defenders often have very limited time and space to react, and do not always have the luxury of escape as an option.

To simulate this context and provide a test of unarmed self-defense skill, the challenge will begin with a basic scenario, and add complexity in subsequent rounds as organizers see fit based on how well the defenders perform.  The challenge will take place on an approximately 10m diameter circular arena of grappling mats or outdoors and make use of newly developed custom collapsible leather-covered daggers (provided by Purpleheart Armory).  Target will start as head of the Unarmed, but may vary over the course of the challenge, but participants can potentially be stabbed anywhere, so required equipment will mirror much of the longsword requirements: head, throat, hand (lighter gloves allowed), torso, and groin.  No visible skin will be permitted.

For each bout, opponents will each have an opportunity to play the role of Armed attacker and Unarmed defender.  The lighter of each pair can choose which role to begin with.  Each Unarmed is given five exchanges (at most -- this number can be reduced by the Attacker, see below) to attempt to successfully control the attacks from the Armed.

At the beginning of each exchange, the Unarmed starts inside a 2m diameter circle at the center of the arena.  To encourage the Unarmed to stand and defend rather than immediately retreat from the committed attacks of the Armed, the Unarmed must keep both feet at least partially inside the starting circle until contact can be made by the Attacker.  Once contact has been made, the ;Unarmed can move anywhere within the arena.  The goal of the Unarmed is to accumulate points by controlling the attacks of the Armed.  These points accumulate and carry over to future bouts, until the finals when these are reset.

At the beginning of each exchange, the Armed starts out of touch-distance from the Unarmed, with the dagger drawn in the "reverse" grip.  The dagger must remain in one hand until contact has been made with the Unarmed.  Once the exchange begins, when the Armed attacks, the attacks must be repeated committed stabbing attempts on the Unarmed.  The attacker is expected to try to hit the Unarmed with every stabbing attempt, an feinting will not be permitted.  The goal of the Armed is to land clear stabs on the Unarmed.  The exchange is halted as soon as three successful stabs are seen by the judges.  The Unarmed continues to defend for five exchanges or until three exchanges with successful stabs occur, whichever comes first.

Each exchange results in the following possibilities for the Unarmed, with the appropriate scores below:

  • Basic control, i.e. Unarmed controls the Armed for referee's 5-count: 1 point
  • Control with disarm or counter-stab: 2 points
  • Control with take-down: 3 points

To be clear, all control scenarios are successful only if the Unarmed is not stabbed.

The following actions are legal but do not stop an exchange or yield point -- they should be used to set up scoring actions: switching the dagger from one hand to the other, and pushing of the opponent (e.g. elbow-push).

The following action are illegal, and are subject to the 3-tier penalty system:

  • Both Unarmed and Armed: non-weapon striking, leaving the arena
  • Unarmed: joint locks, chokes, high throws, or tackling the Armed with excessive force
  • Armed: striking with anything but the dagger point; hiding the dagger; throwing the dagger; wrestling, throwing, or tackling the Unarmed with excessive force

In subsequent round of the challenge, based on participant behavior (both successes and failures), organizers may choose to add elements of complexity to adjust the difficulty level for the defenders.  These elements may include (but are not limited to):

  • Target to include torso as well as head
  • Grip to include forward and/or reverse grip
  • Requiring one successful stab instead of three to end an exchange
  • Etc...

The Dagger Self-Defense Challenge will be held in two stages: a qualifying stage and a single-elimination finals stage with the top contenders from the qualifying stage.