The focus of the article is on classical fencing, and specifically on the notion of the 'quick kill' - i.e. a blow that will put your opponent out of the fight immediately - but it's a good read for anybody interested in the effects of piercing injuries. People can survive some surprising things, and even those wounds that are ultimately fatal often don't kill immediately.
"Take for example the case of the duel fought in 1613 between the Earl of Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce.1 According to the Earl's account, he received a rapier-thrust in the right nipple which passed "level through my body, and almost to my back." Seemingly unaffected, the Earl remained engaged in the combat for some time. The duel continued with Dorset going on to lose a finger while attempting to disarm his adversary manually. Locked in close quarters, the two struggling combatants ultimately ran out of breath. According to Dorset's account, they paused briefly to recover, and while catching their wind, considered proposals to release each other's blades. Failing to reach an agreement on exactly how this might be done, the seriously wounded Dorset finally managed to free his blade from his opponent's grasp and ultimately ran Lord Bruce through with two separate thrusts. Although Dorset had received what appears to have been a grievous wound that, in those days, ought to have been mortal, he not only remained active long enough to dispatch his adversary, but without the aid of antibiotics and emergency surgery, also managed to live another thirty-nine years."
"After [Lagarde] received a rapier blow which bounced off his head, Bazanez is said to have received an unspecified number of thrusts which, according to the account, "entered" the body. Despite having lost a good deal of blood, he nevertheless managed to wrestle Lagarde to the ground, whereupon he proceeded to inflict some fourteen stab wounds with his dagger to an area extending from his opponent's neck to his navel. Lagarde meanwhile, entertained himself by biting off a portion of Bazanez's chin and, using the pommel of his weapon, ended the affair by fracturing Bazanez's skull. History concludes, saying that neither combatant managed to inflict any "serious" injury, and that both recovered from the ordeal."
"On the first pass Cheek directed a dagger thrust to Dutton's throat, close to the trachea, and ran him through. One may imagine with what surprise Cheek found that the wound proved to be entirely ineffective. In fact, despite the seemingly serious nature of his injury, it was Dutton who concluded the combat by running Cheek through the body with his rapier, and then stabbing him in the back with his dagger. If we are surprised at Dutton's ability to continue the combat, it is with horror that we find that Cheek, after having been so grievously wounded, not only failed to drop to the ground, but continued on with the combat, gathering enough strength to rush yet again upon his adversary. The conflict continued until Dutton, noticing that Cheek began to droop on account of massive blood loss, wisely adopted a defensive strategy, keeping his distance until Cheek finally collapsed from loss of blood."