Timing, distance and knowledge of sword technique hold vital importance in a sword duel, but one other factor bears considering: the length of your weapon in comparison with your opponent. Using a short sword or---more likely---a knife requires a different technique than does using a full-length sword. Using a shorter weapon offers several advantages.
Making Use of Range
The short sword has less effective range than a full-length blade. However, range alone doesn't determine the outcome of a duel. Longer swords also have longer blade paths and take longer to swing and return to a ready stance. Short swords and knives can be moved more quickly. Step back out of range of a cut, then move your short sword to intercept. While still holding this position, step in with an attack of your own. Your opponent will more than likely be unable to bring the weapon back into ready position in time to parry you. Also, remember that with most swords, more than just the blade serves as a useful attacking tool. You can strike with the pommel of the hilt or the crossguard if one exists.
Use of Your Offhand
Most swords or longer weapons require two hands to wield them effectively. A short sword or a knife, however, only requires one hand. Your other hand can be free to block, strike or otherwise act. For example, you could step in, deflect an inward cut with a downward block to the opponent's forearm and punch his midsection. When your offhand isn't in use, keep it near the middle of your chest close to your body to protect against oncoming attacks. Don't expose the inside of the wrist; several major veins run through it and a knife wound could lead to fatal blood loss.
Points of Attack
The points of attack on a weapon consist of the parts of it that can be used in combat. On a knife or short sword, you can use the point, the edge, the guard, the pommel or your own arm. Because of the shortness of a knife, you can transition between attacks quickly. A thrust can lead into a cut when you draw the blade back, or you can follow an elbow strike with a blow from the pommel and flow into a cut.
Jim Advincula explains that almost any part of your opponent's body can be a target for attack. Even though you may have the urge to attack vital areas such as the throat or chest, even a small amount of drawn blood puts the enemy at an immense psychological disadvantage.