More on American Gouging Duels and Brutal Fighting In The American South

Tyler Mc.

Earlier, I wrote about a martial art called gouging which was basically a popular form of street fighting in the American South which combined old European martial arts, self-defense tactics, and even the use of basic weapons to defend one's self. I also mentioned how the martial art was occasionally used for duels until the duels fell out of fashion as deadlier weapons like revolvers and Bowie knives became popular, making such duels death sentences. A man named Elliot Gorn, however, pretty much wrote about & described how the duels for this particular martial art worked & - truth be told - were pretty graphic and it is pretty obvious how they fell out of favor. In fact, it is kind of amazing that such a form of street fighting was ever used for dueling & settling disputes to begin with.

The emphasis on maximum disfigurement, on severing bodily parts, made this fighting style unique. Amid the general mayhem, however, gouging out an opponent's eye became the sine qua non of rough-and-tumble fighting, much like the knockout punch in modern boxing. The best gougers, of course, were adept at other fighting skills. Some allegedly filed their teeth to bite off an enemy's appendages more efficiently. Still, liberating an eyeball quickly became a fighter's surest route to victory and his most prestigious accomplishment. - Elliot Gorn, 1985

Basically, gouging duels many times led to people being horribly injured and disfigured with eyes, fingers, & even genitals being disfigured in these fights. Most of the time, fighters had to work to protect their eyes from being removed and their crotches do not get torn apart. It became so problematic in places like Virginia that in 1752, the Virginia Assembly had to outlaw things trying to "put out an eye, slit the nose, bite or cut off a nose, or lip". Long story short, bad and brutal things happened with a group of people who decided to try and use a martial art all about self-defense for regular duels...

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A person working in cybersecurity and living in the United States who loves to write about topics like U.S. history, technology news, and a bit of philosophy.

Wingate, NC

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