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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:05 am    Post subject: Fighting an armour         Reply with quote

Hello! Few weeks ago I read an article in which autor states that there is no such sword (even two hander) that could cut through plate armour and that the only way of getting through plate with a sword is thrusting. I would like to hear what you could say about this. I am pretty sure that large 15th or 16th century two handers could cut through armour, but I have no experiance in this, so...
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Michael Clark




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Someone with more experience and reading would be able to go into details, but that is correct: Plate can't be cut through. It can be smashed and dented, but not cut, same as most all solid materials. Swords never really had the mass concentration required to dent armor effectively. That's why it was preferable to half-sword and thrust the point into the gaps within the overlapping plates. Remebering also that with the development of plate came the development of thrust-oriented swords, it is a natural deduction that noone would have preferred clashing their swords into walking walls with feet.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plate is exceedingly hard to cut. So hard, that under battle conditions the chances are negligible. Even maille is very difficult to cut. You might have a broken bone underneath, or be able to thrust through it, but even a big two hander isn't going to cut through maille. On an armoured man, you go for the gaps, not try to cut through the armour. For the most part the armour of an era was effective against the weapons of the the era. If the armour didn't save your skin, it wouldn't have been worth wearing.
A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Luka,
As has already been stated, armour is not going to be easily cut by a sword. If a person were to attack the armour, there are better weapons for this (such as poleaxes and maces). Even still, the purpose of such weapons was to concuss the person underneath the metal: It was not going to easily tear the metal off.

When a combatant used a sword against armour, the ideal thing to do was to attack the joints where the armour could not protect. Any gaps or openings would be exploited with a thrust. This does not mean that the thrust was piercing the plate, but that the thrust was used to get around the plate. In such cases the sword was often held more like a spear. Take this example from the Paulus Kal manuscript:

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00001840/image...l?seite=50

Note the person on the left is thrusting at the foot. There is a small gap at the armour where the ankle has to bend, and the person is thrusting the tip through that gap.

Or here:

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00001840/image...l?seite=53

The person on the left has grasped the arm of the attacker and used that advantage to thrust up into the exposed armpit, which was not fully covered by the plate so that the person can move.

Now, there certainly are cases where strikes are used rather than thrusts, but these cases are unlikely to do much to the armour itself. As with the poleax or mace, the purpose was to give concussion damage, and this seemed to be a far less ideal method of attacking based on the writings of period fencing masters.

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Luka-

There is an extensive record of Medieval and Renaissance swordsmanship in the form of books on fighting instruction from the period. Fighting in full harness is shown in a number of manuals and consistently takes the form of thrusting at weak spots in the armour or delivering concussive damage through the armour. In German sources one of the swinging strikes involves reversing the sword and hitting your opponent with the cross-guard instead. It delivers terrific concussive damage but does not cut armour. Other swung strikes are meant to catch behind the knee and trip the opponent. This is because grappling forms a major part of fighting an opponent in armour.

-Steven

p.S. The "large 15th or 16th century two handers" only weighed about 5 or 6 pounds, still light enough to fence with properly.

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Randall Pleasant




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 11:44 am    Post subject: Re: Fighting an armour         Reply with quote

Luka

The following article by Matt Anderson and Shane Smith of ARMA Virginia Beach may be of interest to you.

A Brief Introduction to Armoured Longsword Combat
http://www.thearma.org/essays/armoredlongsword.html


Ran Pleasant
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 12:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
In German sources one of the swinging strikes involves reversing the sword and hitting your opponent with the cross-guard instead. It delivers terrific concussive damage but does not cut armour.


With respect, I find no evidence for hitting with the cross, many of which would be completely unsuited to it due to their curved and often delicate nature. Instead, I believe you actually strike with the pommel. Ringeck says: "The Schlachenden Ort is the strike with the pommel." Likewise, von Danzig says:
"Das ist der text und die glos der vorsatzung wider die sleg mit dem knopf"
Which translates to:
"This is the text and the analysis on displacing against pommel strikes"

"Knopf" is the key word. The word "Gehiltz" (or a variation thereof) would be used for the cross.

Also, von Danzig speaks of the "Four Points" of armored combat which include: the point of the spear, the point of the dagger, the point of the sword and the pommel of the sword. He says nothing about the cross.

The hilt is often used to hook things, but I find no evidence it was ever used to strike.

Regards,
Hugh
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all very much. It is much clearer to me now.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 1:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
In German sources one of the swinging strikes involves reversing the sword and hitting your opponent with the cross-guard instead.


Just to add to Steven, this technique is not purely German. The Italian masters Fiore and Vadi show the technique as well. As Hugh says, though, the cross is usually used more for hooking, the pommel is used more for striking (though if I misjudge my distance, that cross will certainly hit from time to time).

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
As Hugh says, though, the cross is usually used more for hooking, the pommel is used more for striking (though if I misjudge my distance, that cross will certainly hit from time to time).


You're right Bill, I should have said I can find no evidence the cross was ever intentionally used to strike; that's a really important difference! Laughing Out Loud

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Hugh
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Fighting an armour         Reply with quote

Luka Borscak wrote:
Hello! Few weeks ago I read an article in which autor states that there is no such sword (even two hander) that could cut through plate armour and that the only way of getting through plate with a sword is thrusting. I would like to hear what you could say about this. I am pretty sure that large 15th or 16th century two handers could cut through armour, but I have no experiance in this, so...


By the way, take what is written here with a grain of salt. Most of us have written comments based upon the teachings in medieval fencing manuals, but there is evidence to suggest that not everyone was trained in the arts written about in these manuals. For example, von Danzig talks of the Meisterhau of the longsword tradition, saying: "There are five secret strikes of which many masters of the sword know nothing to say.", a clear implication that not all masters taught these techniques, and if it's true of one form it could be true of another. For another thing, Ringeck teaches a counter to use in armored combat against an opponent who swings at you with the edge of the sword, saying this defense technique is to be used against someone who "knows nothing of the art"; the implication that not everyone knew to halfsword is clear.

Moreover, the fencing manuals are written primarily for Kampffechten, or lethal duels, and there are other kinds of medieval combat. For example, there is clear evidence for the use of the edge of the sword in various friendly deeds of combat (see the picture attached below). Moreover, we know from other pictures that one-handed swords were swung against steel helmets in the periods prior to the 15th century, at least in both friendly and lethal encounters on foot. I'll attach a picture of that as well.

An excellent discussion of the use and effects of edged weapons against plate can be found here:
http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.com/2007...armor.html
Note, however, that the effects of such blows were largely concussive, not cutting (I believe the one citation for the cutting of a vambrace referred to in that article actually, in fact, refers to a stab inside the elbow as the author suggests).

There's good evidence to suggest edges were used in battles, too. The vast majority of battle scenes in the iconography depict swords being swung edge-on, not used for halfswording (although there are exceptions), and this makes sense if you have ever tried to use halfsword techniques in the close-packed lines of melee; you suffer both from limitations of reach and are hampered by not being able to use both ends of your weapon as the manuals direct.

So to sum it up, there's no single answer to all of this. While swords were normally used for halfswording to stab into the gaps of armor in lethal single combats, edge blows were used in some kinds of combats and by some groups of people, however edge blows almost never cut armor, they were used for percussive impact, primarily to the head and hands. I hope that presents a more complete picture. Sometimes we students of WMA focus much too strongly on Fechtbücher, forgetting they're not a complete picture of medieval combat.



 Attachment: 47.71 KB
Manessa Codex edit.jpg
Hitting with the edge of an arming sword

 Attachment: 75.24 KB
Longsword Tourney smaller.jpg
Hitting with the edge of a longsword

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Hugh
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Alberto Dainese




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
[
You're right Bill, I should have said I can find no evidence the cross was ever intentionally used to strike; that's a really important difference! Laughing Out Loud


Well, Filippo Vadi's drawing of two handed sword to fight in armour, show clearly pointed cross and also the text report such a feature. So I think cross could (should?) be used to strike maybe not with donnerslag, I can agree with you on this point.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 4:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alberto Dainese wrote:
Well, Filippo Vadi's drawing of two handed sword to fight in armour, show clearly pointed cross and also the text report such a feature. So I think cross could (should?) be used to strike maybe not with donnerslag, I can agree with you on this point.


While you're correct, please note two things: First, none of the techniques illustrated or described in either Fiore or Vadi make use of the cross that way, making me doubt they intended it to be used so. Second, while a number of authors, including Fiore, Vadi, Talhoffer and the anonymous author of Codex Wallerstein part B depicted such specialized weapons, none of them depicted attacks with the cross nor have any such weapons been discovered (neither physically nor in the non-Fechtbuch iconography) to the best of my knowledge.

This seems to create a paradox: Why did these authors write about weapons that were never made or used? The answer may lie in Talhoffer's 1459 Alte Armatur und Ringkunst. This amazing book begins with what has been labeled a Kriegsbuch or War Book; it shows a wide variety of war machines, some fanciful, some possible but doubtful (e.g., he depicts an undersea diving suit that has been recreated by modern scholars, but we have no evidence one was ever made in period). This book was intended to show that Talhoffer was among those the nobility coveted most in the Renaissance, the Military Engineers. Even DaVinci advertised himself that way and much of his patronage was based upon military designs that were never actually built (and which modern research has shown wouldn't have worked as drawn).

Remember that many Fechtbücher were intended not as teaching tools but rather as advertisements demonstrating the deep, "scientific" knowledge of the authors (which is, in part, why so many late-period manuals work so hard to link themselves to the sciences). The authors of these works aren't saying these fanciful machines (or, in this case, swords) exist, they're saying they can design them for any rich, powerful noble with the wit and insight to hire them. To me, this is a perfect explanation for our apparent paradox. They were telling potential patrons that they know how to make all sorts of secret weapons that would make their students (i.e., the patron's people) more successful in war.

Regards,
Hugh
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 5:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

With respect, I find no evidence for hitting with the cross, many of which would be completely unsuited to it due to their curved and often delicate nature. Instead, I believe you actually strike with the pommel. Ringeck says: "The Schlachenden Ort is the strike with the pommel." Likewise, von Danzig says:
"Das ist der text und die glos der vorsatzung wider die sleg mit dem knopf"
Which translates to:
"This is the text and the analysis on displacing against pommel strikes"

"Knopf" is the key word. The word "Gehiltz" (or a variation thereof) would be used for the cross.



Hmmm, I'll admit to only a passing knowledge of harnischfecten (your main area of study I believe) and I based my comment on pictures I'd seen intended to depict the mordschlag strike. It seems like striking with the pommel while using a sword with a wide cross would require very careful control of distance to avoid even accidentally striking with the cross. Might it have been a simply the ideal, but not necessarily what usually happened? Besides their were plenty of hilt styles that were well suited to bashing people with them, especially pre-1500.

Bill-
I was not aware of any such strikes in the Italian. Thank you for informing me. What are they called in Italian?

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Hmmm, I'll admit to only a passing knowledge of harnischfecten (your main area of study I believe) and I based my comment on pictures I'd seen intended to depict the mordschlag strike. It seems like striking with the pommel while using a sword with a wide cross would require very careful control of distance to avoid even accidentally striking with the cross. Might it have been a simply the ideal, but not necessarily what usually happened? Besides their were plenty of hilt styles that were well suited to bashing people with them, especially pre-1500.


Hi Steven,

Actually, we do it in class all the time with no difficulty. Admittedly many crosses are wider than those we use, but the root principle just isn't an issue. One thing you may not realize is that the head is not always the target; in fact, the hand is often a *much* better and more accessible target, and the masters tell us to strike for the elbow, knee and even foot, and the cross wouldn't get in the way of any of those strikes.

Moreover, as I said in my original post, the Fechtbücher themselves are unanimous (those that say anything) in telling you to strike with the pommel, or Knopf rather than the cross. I quoted von Danzig and Ringeck above, but here's Gladiatoria on the subject:
Fol. 12v
Merckch das newnde stuckch dez swerts ob er seinen knopff hett für gekert vnd wolt dir damit
deinen rechten arm zwischen deins ellpogen vnd der achsel abschlaen so würff dein swert für
nach der seyten vnd ker dein ort aber übersich so hast du den schlagk versetzt als du es oben
gemalt siehst


Which I have translated as:
Note the ninth technique of the sword: when he has turned his pommel forward and
wants to hit your right arm between elbow and shoulder then throw your sword forward
sideways and turn your sword’s point up. Thus you have deflected his blow as
you see in the picture.

And in fol. 30r:
Merckch das stuckh daz da ist in der zal das viervndviertzigk stuck des swerts ob du yn hast
bracht von aller seiner wer von dem spieß thartschen vnd swert vnd degen so ker fur deinen
knopff des swerts vnd schla mit gantzer sterk auf yn wo du yn weyst am hertisten ze treffen da
mit dz du yn mügst pring<en> zu der erden


Which I have translated as:
Note the technique in number the forty-fourth technique of the sword. If you have made him
lose all his defense, spear, shield, sword and dagger then hit him with full power with
the pommel of your sword where you know you can hit him hardest so that you can
make him fall down.

Note that again the word "Knopff" is clearly specified in both cases, and the accompanying pictures make it clear these plays represent strikes, not thrusts of the pommel.

In addition to the written sources, the pictoral sources agree. Consider these two plates from Codex Wallerstein Part B:
http://www.thehaca.com/Manuals/167.jpg
http://www.thehaca.com/Manuals/219.jpg
Most sources don't show completed Mordtschlag, but Wallerstein does, and in both cases it's clear the pommel is used to strike. Likewise, fol. 28v of Hans Czynner shows a picture of a Mordtschlag to the knee that is clearly using the pommel to strike and in fol. 29v we're shown a clear strike to the foot using the pommel.

Now, of course you can't prove a negative, so I can't prove that no one ever instructed anyone to srike with the cross, all I can do is show that every example I have seen is clear about striking with the pommel and no example I have seen says to strike with the cross (except where it is specifically being used to hook a leg or your opponent's sword as Talhoffer shows).

As you say, however, who knows what might have happened accidentally.

Regards,
Hugh
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 7:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Bill-
I was not aware of any such strikes in the Italian. Thank you for informing me. What are they called in Italian?


I wish I could tell you. The medieval Italian texts aren't my focus, and I've only dabbled in it. I either only do Renaissance Italian, or else medieval German.

Though I've often kicked myself for not sticking with one country throughout the ages. It'd make my life simpler. Happy

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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 8:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Hugh,

It actually makes considerable sense to *not* strike with the cross. Unless you hit perfectely perpendicular with the end of an arm of the cross, the oblique impact will tend to twist the blade out of your hands.

Also, if you strike with the cross, it may snag up on the opponent's harness, relieving you of your weapon.

Best,

Christian

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Jun, 2007 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christian Henry Tobler wrote:
It actually makes considerable sense to *not* strike with the cross. Unless you hit perfectely perpendicular with the end of an arm of the cross, the oblique impact will tend to twist the blade out of your hands.

Also, if you strike with the cross, it may snag up on the opponent's harness, relieving you of your weapon.


I quite agree, Christian. I use the same argument to show people why the common notion that you hit with the back spike on a pollaxe isn't a good idea.

Regards,
Hugh
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Alberto Dainese




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 1:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

While you're correct, please note two things: First, none of the techniques illustrated or described in either Fiore or Vadi make use of the cross that way, making me doubt they intended it to be used so. Second, while a number of authors, including Fiore, Vadi, Talhoffer and the anonymous author of Codex Wallerstein part B depicted such specialized weapons, none of them depicted attacks with the cross nor have any such weapons been discovered (neither physically nor in the non-Fechtbuch iconography) to the best of my knowledge. [...omissis...]


Well, I've got your point, I've no issue admitting cross were (at least, probably) not used to strike holding sword by the blade, and I thank you (and Mr Tobler) 'cause this is something I've never tough about but make sense.
Maybe you're right about ads weapon in fechtbucher, but Vadi clearly say you must have your cross's arms pointy (and so the pommel) to wound your opponent. Now I think that the way this wounding was intended is holding sword by handle (or handle and blade) and pressing cross into joint or gaps in armor (visor?). eg while crossing blade at half-swording you can stick your point into opponent's visor, or your pommel, or MAYBE (there's no reference AFAIK) your cross-end.

I'm not aware of any specialized armour-fighting weapon discovered, is someone else?
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Alberto Dainese




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Jun, 2007 2:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
[
I was not aware of any such strikes in the Italian. Thank you for informing me. What are they called in Italian?


I've no reference about such strikes were called. The only image I can show you is the following:

PD Carta 17 B lower rigth figure:
Glosa: Questa spada me scusa per spada e per aza / in arme e senza chi me po fare me faza
Translat.:This sword I use as sword and as pole-axe / with or without armor, who can hurt me, go ahead



 Attachment: 94.3 KB
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