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First off, note that I didn't say that once you're finished reading this, you'll automatically be able to beat the shit out of anyone who challenges you.
Rather, this guide will try to teach you to respect your opponent, as well as to give you the right sort of mindset to rule at this sort of thing.
First, there are a number of players that reserve a character specifically for dueling. You might want one like this too. If you do choose this route, you should realize that since this is a dueling character, you need not follow the guidelines for making an ordinary character. Dueling characters tend to go less heavy on the history and put more emphasis on what exactly he or she is capable of. Make sure you list ALL abilities, including any special decoration (a magical amulet, for example) as well as any special skills certain weapons grant to him/her.
Second, you need to find your personal style of character. After what may be quite a number of false starts making characters with different fighting styles, settle on one that appeals to you the most. Make as many different kinds of fighters as you can think of...mages, fighters, rogues or what have you. Once you find your style, you can then select equipment that revolves around this style. In particular, select abilites that are basic, yet can be usefully applied in a variety of situations. But don't forget to include a reason for why he/she fights.
After you have your character, it's time to duel, right? Wrong. I'm of the opinion that you need a fair bit of RP experience before you go into a fight. In particular, you need to make sure that the character's limits are such that others will not see them as godmodding or bunnying. Build your storytelling skills first.
Okay, you're back. Now it's time to duel! You may want to start by PMing someone who you think would make a worthy opponent. Making a thread tends to lead to 15+ pages about a single duel. I mean, come ON!
Once you have your matchup and possibly a judge as well, the fight is on. The only bit of advice I can give you here is that if you take a self-defense class, you may want to apply what you know about defending yourself to defending your character. You can also visit renaissance festivals or other events of the sort to get some ideas. Fantasy novels might also help. Use whatever's convenient for you. This may seem like metagaming, but it can be useful if you find that you need to explain how your opponent's ability to fight is compromised by a certain action you took. For example, if you twist someone's forearm far enough away from their body, they WILL drop whatever's in that hand. Thus proving once again that knowledge is power.
If you have the upper hand, take into account your character's tendencies. Will he literally go for the jugular and slit the foe's throat, or will he honorably let him live to fight another day? This is why I said that while character history for a dueling character is not as important as it would be for a storytelling character, it's still nevertheless important.
If you find yourself in a jam, think back to your special abilites. Remember when I said that they should be useful in a variety of situations? Hopefully, you've planned for whatever you're facing. This is another reason why abilities are so important. If this isn't one you've planned for, then you'll have to use your ingenuity to think of a way out. This is why I prefer forum dueling to real-time fights.