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Sirius Black punches Lucius Malfoy in the face, an example of Muggle duelling

Harry Potter: "And what if I wave my wand and nothing happens?"
Ron Weasley: "Throw it away and punch him on the nose."
— Ronald Weasley suggests resorting to Muggle duelling as a last ditch effort in a Wizard's Duel[src]

Muggle duelling[1] was a wizarding term used to refer to non-magical combat — that is, fighting without the use of wands or spells. It was thus in direct contrast with a formal wizard's duel, in which combatants might only use magic against their opponent and Muggle duelling was an illegal tactic. In most cases, Muggle duelling involved the use of one's own body for attacking, such as punching, kicking, or tackling. Though usually undertaken by Muggles, who obviously couldn't perform magic, wizards had been known to engage in Muggle duelling on occasion.

In the wizarding world, Muggle duelling was seen as particularly dishonourable and unscrupulous, and as such, it was typically only done by inexperienced or impulsive wizards, or those who were in especially messy confrontations.

In extreme cases, Muggle duelling could also involve weaponry, such as knives, swords, or even firearms. One variant of Muggle duelling that was in great use during the Middle Ages was swordsmanship. Godric Gryffindor, one of the Four Founders of Hogwarts was known for his great skill in the style, as were many wizards of the era.[2] Another formal variety of Muggle duelling was known as boxing.


Hermione Granger punches Draco Malfoy in the face, rather than using a spell

Harry Potter physically disarms Draco Malfoy

Prior to the establishment of the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy, wizards intermingled freely with Muggles, and many wizards were accustomed with formal Muggle duelling as well as wizard duelling, as it was considered unsporting to use magic in a duel against a Muggle. Godric Gryffindor was a noted practitioner of both varieties of duels, and carried the Sword of Gryffindor for the purpose of duelling Muggles on equal ground.[2]

The wizard Knight Sir Cadogan used a sword during his lifetime but had limited success in wielding it.[3]

In 1926, Jacob Kowalski punched Gnarlak in the face in order to get Pickett back.[4]

During Gellert Grindelwald's escape in 1927, Rudolph Spielman and Abernathy tackled each other in Grindelwald's Incarceration Carriage, fighting for his blood-filled pendant.[5]

At The Walk of the Qilin Ceremony, Jacob Kowalski knocked out several of Grindelwald's Alliance members with a replica of Newton Scamander's suitcase.[6]

At Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Muggle duelling is against the rules along with Wizard duelling and is furthermore considered a childish activity to be caught doing. Severus Snape docked Gryffindor five house points in December of 1991 for witnessing Ronald Weasley instigating a fight with Draco Malfoy by aggressively grabbing the front of his robes.[7] In 1992, during the first meeting of the Duelling Club, Millicent Bulstrode resorted to Muggle duelling, putting Hermione Granger in a headlock.[8] In 1995, Minerva McGonagall attempted to give both Harry Potter and George Weasley a week's worth of detention for simultaneously assaulting Malfoy when he insulted both of their families after a Quidditch match. However, Dolores Umbridge changed this punishment to disbarring them from playing on the Gryffindor Quidditch team instead.[1]

At the end of a skirmish in the dungeon of Victor Gridley's caravan in 2011, after his wand was taken by Gridley, Neville Longbottom punched him in the face and knocked him unconscious.[9]

Despite Muggle duelling being considered as a childish and dishonourable act by most of the wizarding world, some aspects of it were used in magical duels by some wizards and witches. For example, Sirius Black incorporated some physical combat into his magical duels, such as when he rammed Antonin Dolohov with his shoulder[10] and punched Lucius Malfoy[11] before duelling them with magic. Muggle duelling was also exclusively used as a main mode of combat by Rubeus Hagrid who rarely used magic as a result of his third year expulsion from Hogwarts, with his superhuman strength and magical resistance giving him an advantage against his enemies.[12] Curse-Breaker Patricia Rakepick was also known for using physical combat. She allegedly killed a Manticore with her bare hands and supposedly ripped the tail off a Chimaera. During her time teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts in the 1988–1989 school year, she encouraged her students to incorporate physical techniques into their duelling styles.[13]

Behind the scenes

  • In a interview with Melissa Anelli in the enhanced edition of Harry a History, J. K. Rowling said that she and her American editor Arthur had an interesting conversation during the editing of book seven - the moment when Harry takes Draco's wand: "Arthur said, God, that's the moment when the ownership of the Elder wand is actually transferred? And I said, that's right. He said, shouldn't that be a bit more dramatic? And I said, no, not at all, the reverse. I said to Arthur, I think it really puts the elaborate, grandiose plans of Dumbledore and Voldemort in their place. That actually the history of the wizarding world hinged on two teenage boys wrestling with each other. They weren't even using magic. It became an ugly little corner tussle for the possession of wands. And I really liked that - that very human moment, as opposed to these two wizards who were twitching strings and manipulating and implanting information and husbanding information and guarding information, you know? Ultimately it just came down to that, a little scuffle and fistfight in the corner and pulling a wand away."[14]
  • As they lack a wand, Muggle characters in the LEGO Harry Potter games can do a physical attack similar to a roll to harm enemies or destroy LEGO objects.


Notes and references