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Old 2013-04-19, 01:26   Link #1
theflyingturkey
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Let's Talk: Swords and Martial Arts

So, I was pretty bored and decided to make this topic to kill some time. (And to share with you guys some of the limited knowledge I have.

Swords are fascinating objects. A tool for killing no doubt, but nevertheless it has become a powerful icon in our popular culture. We see it everywhere, from the razor sharp katana to laser-esque blades in sci-fi. These objects themselves have a strong historical and cultural significance being symbolic in both the East and the West.

Eastern swords arts, particularly east asian sword arts, are renown for their grace, elegance and efficiency. Martial artist whom practice them are known for both their fighting prowess and humility.

On the western sword arts on the other hand we have fencing. No, no that fencing which you see in the Olympics, or the clubs in universities. I'm talking about the Kunst de Fechtens, the Art of Defense, the Noble Science of Defense.

To understand what I'm talking about, first we'll have a brief history lesson. It is a common misconception that the medieval battlefield was ruled by brute strength. Clumsy but big hearted knights bashing each other engaging in slow, and ponderous combat.

This was not historical fact however. Ancient manuscripts and treatises of systematic martial techniques have recently been rediscovered after being lost for centuries, after being sadly neglected for many centuries.

These many treatises were recorded by the Masters of Defense who lived during that period, and are now being studied world wide.

The study of this Art, commonly known as Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), has experienced a massive resurgence in the 21st century, thanks to the internet. By studying, interpreting and experimenting the texts with a scientific approach and an understanding of bio-mechanics, these techniques can be (and have been) reconstructed efficiently.

There are many sword-arts within HEMA itself which includes the much favoured longsword, the rapier, sword and buckler, single sword, and many others!

So here's a short swordy FAQ:

Katanas are generally the best swords hands down
Not really. The Katana is an excellent weapon, and their forging techniques ensured excellent quality control, but otherwise made swords of comparable quality to the rest of the world. In fact the famed 'folding the blade' technique was in event the world over, and the Celts have been using the technique in the form of pattern welding.

European swords were blunt and heavy designed to bash through armour
Again this is false, European swords were definitely sharp, as modern reconstructions using accurate period materials have been tested. There are also archaeological evidences discovering skeletal remains which have been cleaved from the should/collarbones to the mid ribs.

Also, the average weight of longswords themselves are 3lbs, designed for nimble use and fast cuts and thrusts.

Furthermore, cutting is a poor solution to plate armour. Instead if a fencer would be expected to grip the blade with one hand in a technique called 'half-swording', where the sword would be wielded more like a spear, allowing increased precision to stab into the joints and exposed bits where the armour is not covering. Another technique utilized in armoured combat itself is the Mordschlag, where the blade is gripped with both hands. In this technique the sword functions more like a warhammer, to crush through the enemy's armour. With proper technique to grip the blade, (Pressing against the flat and not sliding on the edges) one may use these techniques without fear of cutting themselves.)
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Old 2013-04-19, 05:28   Link #2
TinyRedLeaf
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This thread from some time back is relevant to this discussion:

Favourite type of sword?
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Old 2013-04-19, 05:44   Link #3
Kyuu
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Per the 2nd Amendment, I support the use and collection of swords. Sadly, I own nothing more than a knife.
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Old 2013-04-19, 06:47   Link #4
theflyingturkey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
This thread from some time back is relevant to this discussion:

Favourite type of sword?
When it comes to swords, my general bias is towards the longsword.
Agile, nimble, and an all-purpose weapon.

The German school of swordsmanship that I tend to favour: The Lichtenaur Tradition is an awesome style for the sword.

Brutally efficient and elegant to watch.

Unfortunately I'm still a beginner so the only sword I have right now is a nylon waster. (Training blade)
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Old 2013-04-19, 08:08   Link #5
Kyero Fox
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They had to be very careful making swords in japan. They had very very bad materials to make them.
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Old 2013-04-19, 09:30   Link #6
TinyRedLeaf
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Quote:
Originally Posted by theflyingturkey View Post
So here's a short swordy FAQ:

Katanas are generally the best swords hands down
Not really. The Katana is an excellent weapon, and their forging techniques ensured excellent quality control, but otherwise made swords of comparable quality to the rest of the world. In fact the famed 'folding the blade' technique was in event the world over, and the Celts have been using the technique in the form of pattern welding.

European swords were blunt and heavy designed to bash through armour
Again this is false, European swords were definitely sharp, as modern reconstructions using accurate period materials have been tested. There are also archaeological evidences discovering skeletal remains which have been cleaved from the should/collarbones to the mid ribs.

Also, the average weight of longswords themselves are 3lbs, designed for nimble use and fast cuts and thrusts.

Furthermore, cutting is a poor solution to plate armour. Instead if a fencer would be expected to grip the blade with one hand in a technique called 'half-swording', where the sword would be wielded more like a spear, allowing increased precision to stab into the joints and exposed bits where the armour is not covering. Another technique utilized in armoured combat itself is the Mordschlag, where the blade is gripped with both hands. In this technique the sword functions more like a warhammer, to crush through the enemy's armour. With proper technique to grip the blade, (Pressing against the flat and not sliding on the edges) one may use these techniques without fear of cutting themselves.)
The short answer is that every society developed weapons best suited for the military tactics of its era. The katana is no better a weapon than any contemporary longsword. Each was crafted according to the needs of its times.

Rather than compare weapons from different cultures and different eras against each other, it is more meaningful to consider how each sword was designed to be used against which types of armour and in what types of tactics.

Also, it's worth noting that the sword, while prestigious, was rarely the primary field weapon in most battles before the gunpowder era.
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Old 2013-04-19, 09:32   Link #7
Kyuu
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Originally Posted by Kyero Fox View Post
They had to be very careful making swords in japan. They had very very bad materials to make them.
And yet, the swords produced were very reputable. Some bit of ingenuity must go along with that.
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Old 2013-04-19, 09:55   Link #8
SaintessHeart
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I propose a merged martial arts and its weapons thread from all the individual threads floating around.
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Old 2013-04-19, 10:00   Link #9
Masuzu
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Well I think there's this 'Forum Reorganisation' thing going around, so probably I don't know.
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Old 2013-04-19, 10:50   Link #10
Roger Rambo
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Originally Posted by theflyingturkey View Post
Furthermore, cutting is a poor solution to plate armour. Instead if a fencer would be expected to grip the blade with one hand in a technique called 'half-swording', where the sword would be wielded more like a spear, allowing increased precision to stab into the joints and exposed bits where the armour is not covering. Another technique utilized in armoured combat itself is the Mordschlag, where the blade is gripped with both hands. In this technique the sword functions more like a warhammer, to crush through the enemy's armour. With proper technique to grip the blade, (Pressing against the flat and not sliding on the edges) one may use these techniques without fear of cutting themselves.)
Though honestly, if you're fighting a guy in heavy full covering armor, a sword is a pretty inefficient tool to kill him with. Warhammer or poleaxes would be generally superior.
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Old 2013-04-19, 14:17   Link #11
SaintessHeart
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Originally Posted by Roger Rambo View Post
Though honestly, if you're fighting a guy in heavy full covering armor, a sword is a pretty inefficient tool to kill him with. Warhammer or poleaxes would be generally superior.
Or a morningstar.

In fact, armor has always been overrated. Most of the soldiers in the past do not wear the heavy plate armor as it is expensive and often reserved for those who can afford to buy and maintain it. Chainmail is also quite expensive and hard to mass manufacture, so most soldiers went with cured hard leather and longer ranged weapons, like pikes and polearms which can cause hurt in simple movements.

Of course, there are the "metrosexual" Doppelsoldners who dress in bright colours and wield two-handed swords. We would have laughed at them today for their dress code, but in those days they are considered the dangerous elite swordsmen that they were known as Meister des langen Schwert (Master of Long Sword), cutting down horse riders and pikemen with ease.
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Old 2013-04-19, 16:22   Link #12
Roger Rambo
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Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
Or a morningstar.
Dunno. A warhammer with a back spike on it is REALLY dangerous.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaintessHeart View Post
In fact, armor has always been overrated. Most of the soldiers in the past do not wear the heavy plate armor as it is expensive and often reserved for those who can afford to buy and maintain it. Chainmail is also quite expensive and hard to mass manufacture, so most soldiers went with cured hard leather and longer ranged weapons, like pikes and polearms which can cause hurt in simple movements.
I'm not sure that's a good way to put it. Armor was quite expensive, yes, but if it really was so overrated, societies and warriors who could afford it wouldn't have invested so much of their resources into improving it. Most common foot soldiers might not be able to metal armor, but I doubt very many of them would turn down the opportunity to be wearing plate mail if they started getting peppered by bows.

YouTube
Sorry; dynamic content not loaded. Reload?


There are still limitations, and obviously things dedicated to going through armor can often do it, but doesn't necessarily mean its overrated.



Also, I would suggest not trying certain European sword techniques without armored gauntlets.


Or at least I'd feel better with gauntlets.

Last edited by Roger Rambo; 2013-04-19 at 16:40.
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Old 2013-04-19, 16:40   Link #13
Xellos-_^
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Originally Posted by theflyingturkey View Post

Eastern swords arts, particularly east asian sword arts, are renown for their grace, elegance and efficiency. Martial artist whom practice them are known for both their fighting prowess and humility.
You need to separate which country actually use a sword on the battlefield.

In China, the sword is more ceremonial then functional. The main weapon on the battlefield are polearm types.
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Old 2013-04-19, 20:43   Link #14
theflyingturkey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TinyRedLeaf View Post
The short answer is that every society developed weapons best suited for the military tactics of its era. The katana is no better a weapon than any contemporary longsword. Each was crafted according to the needs of its times.

Rather than compare weapons from different cultures and different eras against each other, it is more meaningful to consider how each sword was designed to be used against which types of armour and in what types of tactics.

Also, it's worth noting that the sword, while prestigious, was rarely the primary field weapon in most battles before the gunpowder era.
Indeed. Japan was a homogeneous country and it's weapons were developed to suit it's needs. In fact I'm sure we're all aware in feudal Japan, the spear was the primary weapon.

Quote:
Though honestly, if you're fighting a guy in heavy full covering armor, a sword is a pretty inefficient tool to kill him with. Warhammer or poleaxes would be generally superior.
That's true. In fact Polearms like the poleaxe and the halberds were the primary weapons for a knight back then. Superior reach and penetration.

Quote:
In fact, armor has always been overrated. Most of the soldiers in the past do not wear the heavy plate armor as it is expensive and often reserved for those who can afford to buy and maintain it. Chainmail is also quite expensive and hard to mass manufacture, so most soldiers went with cured hard leather and longer ranged weapons, like pikes and polearms which can cause hurt in simple movements.
Not True. Someone equipped with plate armour had a huge technological advantage over unarmour foes. The most effective means to deal with armour back then was the crossbow. And of course, later firearms (though initial they were horribly unreliable)

Quote:
Also, I would suggest not trying certain European sword techniques without armored gauntlets.
Ah that's the Mordschlag (Or the Murder Blow in English) technique that I explained in my earlier post. Gripping the blade with bare hands is perfectly possible, if one were to press on the flat of the blade and not slide along the edges. Still, this techniques was primarily an anti-armour technique, so you'd most likely be armoured as well. The other guy getting bonked in the head is half-swording it seems.

Quote:
You need to separate which country actually use a sword on the battlefield.
Ah I see. Though the thread was made which the intention to talk about swordy stuff and their arts. Unfortunately my (limited) knowledge mostly extends to European stuff, as I'm a new HEMA-ist. Anyone with knowledge on sword arts on other cultures should feel free to share.

Quote:
In China, the sword is more ceremonial then functional. The main weapon on the battlefield are polearm types.
Europe itself used the polearm as its dominant close combat weapon, though the sword was a secondary weapon for the battlefield.

Last edited by theflyingturkey; 2013-04-19 at 20:56.
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Old 2013-04-19, 23:59   Link #15
Roger Rambo
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Originally Posted by Xellos-_^ View Post
You need to separate which country actually use a sword on the battlefield.

In China, the sword is more ceremonial then functional. The main weapon on the battlefield are polearm types.
Keep in mind, spears were the primary battlefield weapon in Japan to. Especially towards late Sengoku period, where you had Ashigaru fighting in massive pike squares.
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Old 2013-04-20, 00:17   Link #16
theflyingturkey
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Sorry; dynamic content not loaded. Reload?

Here's a rather neat video on some longswording.
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Old 2013-04-20, 11:44   Link #17
ChainLegacy
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Damn, that is badass. I've always been partial to hammers and spears.
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Old 2013-04-20, 14:00   Link #18
Flying Dagger
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Different weapons for different scenarios. Setting bows aside (esp the crossbow), the pike/spear is a cheap, easily mass produced weapon which requires very little training and works wonders when arranged in a formation.

Other than that I would probably use an axe.

As seen in the warhammer video, the pick is much more useful in most situations than the blunt side. If you are to replace the blunt with an axe-blade, you have something which can easily cut shields into half, snap spears, trap swords, and also penetrate plate armor pretty effectively.

Most melee weapons require a certain about of expertise to use. A quick reloading crossbow esp when coupled with a poisoned bolt allow amateurs to take down a seasoned warrior.
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Old 2013-04-20, 14:28   Link #19
Roger Rambo
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As seen in the warhammer video, the pick is much more useful in most situations than the blunt side. If you are to replace the blunt with an axe-blade, you have something which can easily cut shields into half, snap spears, trap swords, and also penetrate plate armor pretty effectively.
Dunno about that. The concentrated force of that hammer blow IS quite useful. It's really useful for bludgeoning around somebody, especially in armor. Look at the way that armor is cracking and denting after the impacts. A sustained flurry of strikes from that hammer would really mess up someone even if they had plate and padding underneath.

The spike is deadly of course, but keep in mind that it takes a bit of work to retrieve it after it goes through platemail. And if you don't hit a vital area, you might run the risk of having your weapon stuck in a guy whose still attacking you. Or you could fail to remove it fast enough to deal with another enemy.


The hammer is what you use to knock the enemy around, and you finish him with the spike.
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Old 2013-04-20, 14:32   Link #20
Xellos-_^
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Different weapons for different scenarios. Setting bows aside (esp the crossbow), the pike/spear is a cheap, easily mass produced weapon which requires very little training and works wonders when arranged in a formation.
the polearms were not just use by cheap infantry but also by Calvary and generals. It might be easier to produce then a sword but to say it requires very little training is ignorant.
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