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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 10:08 am    Post subject: Opinions on cutting ability         Reply with quote

I'm curious about people's opinions on the cutting abilities of a longsword vs that of a katana. No so much the techniques of cutting, just the ability of the swords themselves.

I've formed my own opinion on the subject, and I'm curious to see how popular that opinion is. I've formed a lot of assumptions based on that opinion, and recently I've had cause to question those assumptions. So if you wouldn't mind, please post your opinion along with a brief explanation and any relevant experience.

I'm not looking to start a "samurai vs. knight" argument, so please be considerate of the fact that these are just opinions.

EDIT: Please also explain your cutting technique (stand in place, take a step, cock back, true times, etc.) and some info about the swords you are refering to, specifically if the katanas in question were production katana, custom forged by someone outside Japan or actual nihonto (traditionally forged Japanese swords made in Japan by a Japanese person).

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Last edited by Michael Edelson on Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:44 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Due to my geographical location, I've plenty chances to access both katana and longsword from my personal collection and from my friends'. There are of course different types of longswords, and different types of katana. Some are more cutting oriented than the others. So it's quite difficult to compare unless we have the particular swords in pair to compete each other. I have two cut and thrust longswords that can be considered quite cutting-biased in the blade design, which are broad and relatively thin and feature sharp edge geometry. They fare well in my hands against any katana that are not "competition style" . However, I've notice a tendency that a person who is less experienced in cutting, will tend to find that the katana is more forgiving and usually result in a better, easier cut. The vibration on the longsword blades were what made the less accurate cuts worse than the katana's cut. Since my cuts would not cause the sword to vibrate much, I'm not affected by this problem, no matter I'm cutting with COP or not. In fact I don't specifically aim for COP cuts in my practice. Not only katana features the forgiveness to less accurate cut. Many sturdy swords in Asia styles also share the same benefit.
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 11:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Lance.

Can you explain what you do to minimize vibrations in your cutting (since you mentioned your don't strike with the CoP).

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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm.... by practicing a lot on keeping the correct blade alignment, I suppose. A well-made longsword is also essential. You can use a sturdy one but it comes with a price of either featuring a protruding spine, or thicker edge geometry, or shorter length that is the case in most Asian swords.

However, in my case both of my more cutting oriented longswords were quite thin near the tip. One being Brescia Spadona and the other a Tinker custom made. When the design is good, even tip cutting wouldn't make the sword vibrate much, or not at all. The tinker one is heavier, thicker and broader at the tip. Sometimes it has a slight residue vibration after a cut, mostly not though. On the other hand, the spadona never has such residue vibration. I guess it was due to the lighter blade of the latter that dissipates the vibration so fast that I couldn't notice it. The heavier blade carried the momentum of the lateral vibration and took longer to diminish. Regardlessly, I found that negligible and doesn't affect the result of the cutting. The equally sharp but heavier, thicker and sturdier blade of Tinker's sword cuts deeper in all kinds of target compare to the spadona.

In comparison, a Windlass 15th century longsword's blade, also featuring a relatively broad but thick blade around the tip, will wiggle even by rapidly changing its direction in motion. It's because it is long and doesn't have a good mass distribution. The base of it is just as thick as most of the tip, so the support mechanism isn't enough to afford the tip mass. If they could either make it all the way thicker so that vibration doesn't happen, or thinning down the tip and add the mass to the base so the base can support the tip better, the tip wouldn't be as prone to vibration as it is now. In my hands it cuts good as well. The tip cutting is quite powerful with this sword due to the forward weight. But I've seen student failing cuts that involve of direction changes when in motion, and I also recognize a wiggling effect in such motion and that will affect the subsequence cut.

It is very fascinating to see how the thin tip of Brescia Spadona was quite capable to stay rigid during a tip cut even against thick bamboo or pork arm/skull (you know what I used to cut in the past?). So it is obvious that a good structural design is important.

Michael Edelson wrote:
Thank you, Lance.

Can you explain what you do to minimize vibrations in your cutting (since you mentioned your don't strike with the CoP).

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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael,

My experience has been limited as a hobbyist but I have cut with a wide variety of blades and media. I have found an
awful lot of the variables linked to such media. If we are to limit the discussion to only Mugen Dachi tatami omote, I have found it to be mostly a matter of blade geometry/crossection and sharpness that make the biggest difference.

I have not found blade flexibility to be as big an issue as edge alingment and using any blade at it's optimum (in my hands) striking/cleaving/slicing parameters. There are tougher targets than mats that I have seperated with quite flexible XIIa and XIIIa type swords. Two XVIIIa swords in my collection have severed these same heavier than mat targets. My XVa has not been able to, my katana has not been able to, an XVIIIb has not been able to. The heavier than mat target in this case were hard cardboard cores from plastic pallet wrap of very dense and approximately half inch wall thickness and about four inch ID/ five inch OD. All these swords have cut Mugen Dachi tatami omote. The XVa has been the most particular about where on its blade it likes to cut anything.

Some swords like to cut on the point side of the cop, some on the inside, some dead on to what a visual cop test might indicate. All swords seem to benefit from a "drawing" component but the effect again seems quite variable. Finesse/trick cutting like an empty cracker box or empty plastic soda bottle like a lot of it with any blade. I have sidesword calibre XVIIIb blades I have not been able to cut mats with but easily zing through some of these lighter targets. Some but not all of the larger blades are also able to (in my hands). The katana, a reproduction sabre (College Hill Arsenal reproduction with my edge grind) and knives also succeed with the light stuff quite well.

I don't have all the answers and equations on cutting but form also plays a large part in static target cutting.

The heaviest yielding target I have cut at was a two litre bottle filled with .50 lead shot and stuffed in a heavy leather Wellington boot.. The quite flexible XIIIa only edged the XVa by a minor amount but did penetrate/open up the target more.
I never did try the katana on this rig but later experiments with the heavy cardboard tubes and relating all three to Mugen Dachi mats showed the XIIIa to be the best "all target" cutter, the katana the best finnese cutter on light targtes up to mats (where I find my XIIIa and XIIa to be just as capable) and the XVa able to cut mats but not as easily natural at it.

A long and fairly flexible XVIIIb sword I have is the Del Tin Gothic (5157 iirc). This is a sword that is loathed by some because of its flexibility, yet it cuts Mugen Dachi just fine and can even pull off the light target trick shots if guided well.


In the end, I think a lot of it boils down to familiarity. There are certainly a lot of variables that come into play but that is a huge one (in my experience). The last time out cutting with a friend ended with small Poland Sprigns water filled bottles and the College Hill Arsenal reproduction sabre. He batted it a couple of times and finally clipped the top off while sending it still a good distance. I stood up another on the stand and bisected it mid way at a downward angle in one stroke. it fell to the base of the stand in two clean pieces. i know the sword.

Oddly or not, when we have had mats, it is always the katana that gets the least use because of wanting to try improving with other swords and pushing to get through with some swords we have been less succesful with.

Cheers

GC


Last edited by Glen A Cleeton on Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:03 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lancelot Chan wrote:
It is very fascinating to see how the thin tip of Brescia Spadona was quite capable to stay rigid during a tip cut even against thick bamboo or pork arm/skull (you know what I used to cut in the past?). So it is obvious that a good structural design is important.


That is a great sword, isn't it? I was quite surprised at how stiff the sword is, considering how thin it is. I love the thing...it's by far my favorite sword.

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for posting guys. I appreciate it.

In the interest of clarity, could you please also describe how you typically cut?

For example, do you stand near the mat and cut without taking a step? Do you raise the sword over your head(or shoulder) and wind it back before cuting? Or do you start a step away from the target and step into the cut? Do you cut with the CoP (or first 8" for kats) or just whichever part hits? Do you try to move in true times (sword first)? etc.

Every little bit of info helps. Happy

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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Totally agree. There's also a test you can try with the spadona and compare it with some other swords with similar blade profile to see it's relatively high stiffness. When I press the blade's flat lightly against something rigid, the blade will start to flex. The curvature of the bend for every sword would be different. You may notice that the spadona's prime curvature was over half-way toward the tip, which means that it has a rigid support all along the blade. That's what make it stiff. Some swords will show the prime curvature right from the base and those are the swords that you can expect it to be wiggling around.

So I consider the original designer of the spadona made the most economic use of the thickness to produce the best rigidity it can possibly has. Happy

Michael Edelson wrote:
Lancelot Chan wrote:
It is very fascinating to see how the thin tip of Brescia Spadona was quite capable to stay rigid during a tip cut even against thick bamboo or pork arm/skull (you know what I used to cut in the past?). So it is obvious that a good structural design is important.


That is a great sword, isn't it? I was quite surprised at how stiff the sword is, considering how thin it is. I love the thing...it's by far my favorite sword.

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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I perform different kinds of cuts. I usually put footwork into action so I step into the cut, unless the environment forbid me to do so, like cutting bamboo in wilderness. I usually test both results with over head and over shoulder. The one from above the head will have slightly more power, while the one over shoulder will usually have better blade alignment and could produce amazing cuts like having the lower half of the coke bottles stay on the stand. On harder and tougher targets, the power difference would mean a total cut through or a half-way / 2/3 way cut through. Doesn't make much difference when it comes to human body I guess. I cut with the portion from COP to tip, but sometimes intentionally cut with mid blade to see how good it fare. I try my best to move in true times in all my recent practice as this is something I constantly remind myself to concentrate on. In the past, though, I sometimes failed to do so. :P As a consequence, I noticed a difference in power. The true time one will make a more smooth, accurate but less powerful cut. Less powerful, but enough to deliver a killing blow. The false time one could be considered an overkill, a buffalo strike perhaps.

Michael Edelson wrote:
Thanks for posting guys. I appreciate it.

In the interest of clarity, could you please also describe how you typically cut?

For example, do you stand near the mat and cut without taking a step? Do you raise the sword over your head(or shoulder) and wind it back before cuting? Or do you start a step away from the target and step into the cut? Do you cut with the CoP (or first 8" for kats) or just whichever part hits? Do you try to move in true times (sword first)? etc.

Every little bit of info helps. Happy

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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Thanks for posting guys. I appreciate it.

In the interest of clarity, could you please also describe how you typically cut?

For example, do you stand near the mat and cut without taking a step? Do you raise the sword over your head(or shoulder) and wind it back before cuting? Or do you start a step away from the target and step into the cut? Do you cut with the CoP (or first 8" for kats) or just whichever part hits? Do you try to move in true times (sword first)? etc.

Every little bit of info helps. Happy


As to where on the blade I target use is often a result of success and failure of previous experience with a given sword. Some swords (quite a few types) like forward of cop cutting. My A&A XVa prefers cop to hiltward cleaving as tipward of the cop is approaching square in crossection. As to motion, I often find myself in motion before an actual strike and usually the sword at a more horizontal and oblique angle to the target before either a rising cut or raisng the sword before a downward stroke. In the image above, Todd was literally pretty much standing in place and the sword really doing a lot of the work, from a high guard position. The cut was tipward of the cop. I tend to approach most targets (space permitting) in a kind of quatering, or circling approach. Not much of what you see some doing in a few false guiding swings before a cut and stationary foot stance unless it is what I call trick cutting of silly light stuff.

An interesting target in one instance was a bundles of garden hose hung from a springy pvc pipe adapted to a standard cutting stand. I was definitely moving and timing reaction to the motion of the target but still looking for an optimum contact with the sword to sever it. Spinning, bobbing and weaving, that was an interesting target and set up.

Cheers

GC


Last edited by Glen A Cleeton on Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Glen.

One more question...sorry guys...I should have put all this stuff up front.

It's safe to assume that all western swords in question are repros and you guys have even mentioned brands and models, but as to the kats, can you please specify if they were production swords, customs or actual nihonto, and in either case did they have fullers. Thanks!

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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have cut with Japanese made competition-oriented sword, but not antiques. The others were repros from various brands (from low end to high end) and a custom 1086 from Howard Clark. Some of them have fullers, the others not. They don't seem to make a difference on the katana. On the euro swords, the one with fuller usually have a broader profile, thus a sharper bevel for better cutting performance.

Michael Edelson wrote:
Thanks Glen.

One more question...sorry guys...I should have put all this stuff up front.

It's safe to assume that all western swords in question are repros and you guys have even mentioned brands and models, but as to the kats, can you please specify if they were production swords, customs or actual nihonto, and in either case did they have fullers. Thanks!

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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My one katana and the only I have cut with is a fourth generation Hanwei Practical katana. The last batch of the bulkier blades (broader and thicker). Some niku no bo-hi. From others that have cut with it and have more experience with katana, it seems fairly typical but my guess would be quite different from specialized mat cutters out there. My hunch would also be that grooves, hi, whatever one calls them, have little effect in causing drag to an appreciable amount. On broader fullered western swords, it may actually reduce drag in overall formula variables.

Cheers

GC
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Douglas S





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 3:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I notice that generally a katana is better at cutting mats than a longsword is.

There may be many reasons for that, but have you noticed that most of our katanas are polished and most of our longswords are satin finished? Could that be part of it?
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Douglas S wrote:
I notice that generally a katana is better at cutting mats than a longsword is.

There may be many reasons for that, but have you noticed that most of our katanas are polished and most of our longswords are satin finished? Could that be part of it?


I don't feel the overall finish plays as much a roll as the other factors. I have better luck cutting unpegged mat stumps (6"-10" height) with my coarser finished ATrim XIIIa and XIIa than with my PK. Some of that may be a matter of familiarity as well.

Cheers

GC
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 4:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Douglas S wrote:
I notice that generally a katana is better at cutting mats than a longsword is.

There may be many reasons for that, but have you noticed that most of our katanas are polished and most of our longswords are satin finished? Could that be part of it?


My theory, besides the curve, is vibrations. Whether you feel them or not, whether you strike with the CoP or not, they're there. In katana, much much less so.

To be honest, it's not my theory...I got it from Randal Graham.

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Justin Pasternak




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 6:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if this is true or not about cutting swords, but I generally believe that you need the correct type of cutting blade to cut through a material.

A liter and thinner blade might be used to cleave through flesh and bone, while a heavier and thicker blade might be used to cut through different forms of armour, whether it be a longsword or a katana. I think mass or weight have a role to play on how well a sword may cut, besides having a sharp edge(s).

But, again that's what I believe and please correct me if I'm wrong about my theory on cutting.
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Justin Pasternak wrote:
I don't know if this is true or not about cutting swords, but I generally believe that you need the correct type of cutting blade to cut through a material.

A liter and thinner blade might be used to cleave through flesh and bone, while a heavier and thicker blade might be used to cut through different forms of armour, whether it be a longsword or a katana. I think mass or weight have a role to play on how well a sword may cut, besides having a sharp edge(s).


Hi Justin,

The actual truth of it is that you don't cut through armor, period. There's no such thing as an armor-cleaving sword.

Michael,

I think the more important question is not how well a sword cuts, but whether a sword cuts well enough to kill. You can take a fairly dull blade and extend your arms full length and use nothing but a push-pull motion of your hands to strike with *more* than enough force to cleave a skull, not even using your arms or hips, etc., just your hands. I think a bigger factor to consider might be how well a blade Schnitts.

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Nov, 2007 10:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

I think the more important question is not how well a sword cuts, but whether a sword cuts well enough to kill. You can take a fairly dull blade and extend your arms full length and use nothing but a push-pull motion of your hands to strike with *more* than enough force to cleave a skull, not even using your arms or hips, etc., just your hands. I think a bigger factor to consider might be how well a blade Schnitts.


Hi Hugh,

Believe me, I'm well aware. However, I'm trying to evaluate Randal Graham's theory of harmonic "deadness"...the idea that swords like kats, that are thick and have soft steel or even iron cores vibrate so much less on impact that it gives them a significant power advantage over spring hardened swords. So far, my exprience has been that nihonto (real Japanese katanas) cut better than any longsword I've ever used, but I'd like to know why. I like Randal's theory, but I'd like to gather some more data.

Also, swords can cut through armor...a padded jack is armor. You have to add the word "metal". Happy

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PostPosted: Fri 02 Nov, 2007 2:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Also, swords can cut through armor...a padded jack is armor. You have to add the word "metal". Happy


Quite right--I stand corrected. I was speaking of metal armor.

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