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Against all odds, the Man in Black scaled the formidible Cliffs of Insanity to rescue the Princess Buttercup. But waiting at the top to stop him was Inigo Montoya, the greatest swordsmaster of his generation. Confident to the extreme, Inigo Montoya helps the Man in Black finish his climb, and even allows him to rest a bit before beginning the fight.
The swordplay begins with banter. but quickly Inigo realizes the Man in Black is also a swordmaster. Overcome, he pulls a last, desperate trick out of his sleeve. “I know something you don’t know," he laughs to the Man in Black. "I am not left-handed.”
At this point, we're supposed to wonder: why is the greatest swordmaster of his generation fighting a battle to the death with his non-dominant hand? The movie implies arrogance.
Au contraire, mon ami! In fact Inigo Montoya made a brilliant strategic choice!
If you look at the history books, being left-handed can be a competitive advantage in sports. In major league baseball, 18% of players are left-handed, nearly twice as many as in the general population. Left-handers also have better win-loss records than right handed-players.
In fencing the difference is even more stark. Nearly 35% of the athletes at World Fencing Championships are southpaws. From 1979-1993, 44.5% of the tournament champions were left-handed. In the 1980 Olympics and the 1979 Pan American Games, left-handed fencers took the top eight places.
Edoardo Mangiarotti, the most-decorated fencing champion ever, won 39 Olympic and World Championship gold, silver and bronze medals after he switched to play left-handed.
Inigo Montoya would have known this. Sword masters as early as the 1500s recognized that left-handed fighters held an advantage: mainly because left-handed swordsmen were few-and-far-between. The right-handed student rarely had a chance to practice against a left-handed opponent and were "greatly embarrassed" when they did.
In a battle to the death, a left-handed style made even more sense. Swordmasters frequently used more than their sword in a fight. The off-hand would defensively block and grab at an opponent, and even slash with a dagger, giving an opponent two deadly blades to watch. With the smaller movements needed by a dagger, it made sense to wield it in the dominant hand.
It's easy to assume that arrogance fueled Inigo Montoya's fighting style in the Princess Bride. But when you delve into the true motivations behind his actions, it's clear that he made a brilliant strategic choice to increase his odds of winning.