A New Breed of Duel

Honor is an important thing.  However, honor doesn’t strictly depend on what you do.  It’s also about how others view you.  Being honorable is hard, and people want to be acknowledged as honorable.  Unfortunately, some other people will want to tear you down as well.

Photo courtesy of Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca
Photo courtesy of Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca

In days gone by, dueling was how this was dealt with.  Two men would draw swords and go after one another.  Still later, it was pistols at 20 paces.  Regardless of the tool, there was a definite risk of life which made it costly to be insulting.

Then, we became more “civilized” and dueling was banned.  That didn’t end the practice but pushed it underground.  Further, it gave the dishonorable sort an out.  After all, now all they had to do was claim to be law abiding citizens.

For a while, boxing took the place of dueling.  Two men would put aside their swords or pistols according to the law, and hopped into the ring to settle their disputes.  In many schools, even in relatively recent times, the gym coach would put gloves and headgear on two students having issues and let them duke it out.

This system worked well enough until “civilization” reared its ugly head and decided that violence never solves anything.  Ever.

Why is that?  Why did we, as a culture, so blindly accept that solving problems in the ring was inherently bad?

“People should try to solve their differences with words, not their fists,” some might say.

Right.  Have you listened to political discourse in this country?  Hell, have you listened to any discourse in this country lately?  Even without a violence method of resolving conflicts, we find ourselves being unable to solve our differences with words.

Some do work things out diplomatically, and that’s great.  Back in the old days, that’s what the seconds hoped to achieve.

The most common characteristic of a duel between gentlemen was the presence of a “second” for both parties. The seconds were gentlemen chosen by the principal participants whose job it was to ensure that the duel was carried out under honorable conditions, on a proper field of honor and with equally deadly weapons. More importantly, it was the seconds (usually good friends of the participating parties) who sought a peaceful resolution to the matter at hand in hopes of preventing bloodshed.

I think it’s time to bring back the duel, albeit in a safer form more akin to the impromptu grudge boxing matches than anything involving sharp objects or firearms.


In The Essence of Man: A Real Guide to Masculinity in the 21st CenturyI lay out a method for bringing back the duel using mixed martial arts as a template.  An infinite number of rounds, no judges, just a timekeeper and a doctor.

Of course, seconds would set this up and act as cornermen during the fight, and possibly as cutmen.

Is it brutal?  Probably. Barbaric?  Well, I don’t see that as the negative some people do, but possibly.

“It’ll be the strong preying on the weak,” some might argue.

It’s a fair point.  After all, it’s not like the big guy at the bar looking to impress his girl won’t pick on the guy he figures he’s most likely to beat.  No, the strong never prey on the week in our “civilized” society.

Of course, knowing that duels are possible, the smaller have a reason to get stronger–which they should be doing anyway–and can start to make up for that size through skill.

Further, many men will go their entire lives without fighting a real life duel.  They’ll be peaceful, decent folks who don’t offer insult and don’t take offense easily.

In other words, the opposite of today’s politically active college student.

Could you imagine the safe space crowd if suddenly faced with the possibility of having to answer for their vile vitriol?  Rather than retreating into their world of coloring books and puppies, they stand no more than 30 feet away from the person they called “Nazi” or “racist” and will have to face retribution.

Robert E. Howard, the author who created Conan, believed that barbarism was the default setting for man, and that man would eventually revert back to it.  He famously noted:

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.

If you want proof, look at discourse today.  People freely insult those they disagree with since they know there will be no repercussions.  Only an individual’s innate desire for civility curbs the desire to sling insults.

Howard knew what he was talking about.  It’s a shame that he’s right.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.