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James Davis




Location: Raymond, Washington
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 9:54 pm    Post subject: opinions on heavy vs. light swords         Reply with quote

I've been broading about this topic for some time now and I'm curious about the peoples opinion.

Throughout history we have seen warring countries develope different types of swords, pikes, and axes. Some are heavy while others are light. Medieval knights tended to carry around swords of enourmus weight and mass, while asian countries tended to depend on light, shorter weapons.

So i was wondering what you guys think about the slowness of the heavier weapons versus the quicker counterparts of other swords. Also how someone weighted down by plate armor and heavy weapons would fair against a lightly armored opponant.

P.S. sorry about my serious attitude, hope i dont offend. i tend to get a wee bit serious when talking about history and the like.

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Dan Dickinson
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, first I would encourage you to do a little more research into the weights of armour and weapons. Personally I don't consider a 3 lb sword enormous (most medieval european swords were around there or lighter) and most plate armour weighs less than a modern infantryman's equipment. Also, if you use the search function I believe there are probably several threads dealing with this and similar topics.
Good luck!
Dan
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James,
Medieval knights typically wielded swords in the 2-5 pound range (usually 2-3.5). That's hardly "enormous" weight. Happy

This thread will be of interest: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8043

This thread deals with armour weight: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=8023

Happy

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James Davis




Location: Raymond, Washington
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for replying.

Sorry, its been a while since i've been on a forum. That's a good point. but i managed to forget a few things. The plate armor used by knights also didnt have all that much movement. At least compared to an opponant wearing chain or leather armour. theres also the matter of extra weapons adding to possably off ballancing a fully armored opponant as well as the leangth and weight of larger two-handed swords which could also un b-alance the full armored knight.

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Davis wrote:
Thanks for replying.

Sorry, its been a while since i've been on a forum. That's a good point. but i managed to forget a few things. The plate armor used by knights also didnt have all that much movement. At least compared to an opponant wearing chain or leather armour. theres also the matter of extra weapons adding to possably off ballancing a fully armored opponant as well as the leangth and weight of larger two-handed swords which could also un b-alance the full armored knight.


James,
Glad we could help. Plate armour had a great deal of movement, actually. If it were more restrictive than mail, it never would have replaced mail. Plate actually distributed its weight throughout the body more effectively than mail (whose weight hung largely from the shoulders or sometimes belt).

Weapon and armour development was about evolving to meet changing needs offensively and defensively. If something were ineffective, it would have been abandoned. Happy

Happy

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Doug Lester




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not knowing how you define "enormous weight and mass" or "heavy" leaves it a little hard to answere you. In general, medieval knight tended to carry swords that weighed around two pounds on the light end to maybe up to four pounds on the top end. It has been stated by people who should have known better, and probably did, that a medieval knight's sword was a heavy brutal beast that a modern man could hardly pick up. Something heavy would be next to useless in battle. One, combattants would have had to be able to swing it for hours. Two, the heavier a sword is the more difficult it would be to change it's direction and angle to attack or defend. A man with a 20 pound sword, which might not match this mythical enormous weight and mass, would probably end up with his head on the end of a pike.

Try reading some of Oakeshott's books, especially "The archiology of Weapons" or watch Reinhart's "The Myth of the Sword". These people have handled these weapons and have the facts straight.
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James Davis




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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm, definitly changes me veiw point. thanks guys.

But I'm still curious about what you guys think on how a warrior with less weight to lug around would do against an opponant with heavy armour would.

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P. Cha




PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 10:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Plate replaced chain which repalced leather for very good reason (i.e. they worked better at keeping you alive). So really, the person in plate gets to live. It's like saying who would win in a gun fight? The one who has a class 1 or 2 kevlar vest or the one with a class 3 kevlar weave with trauma plate?

As far as the fast eastern swords goes...umm I'd hardly consider the dao a very fast sword (despite what you see in movies...or at wushu shows). The jians aren't particularly fast. The korean hawngdodeangdo (or however your gonna spell that in english) certainly wasn't fast. Or by asian swords do you mean katana...in which case, I think you bit the hype.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 28 Jan, 2008 11:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Cha wrote:
Plate replaced chain which repalced leather for very good reason (i.e. they worked better at keeping you alive).


Well, that's partially true... but don't forget that both mail and leather were used during the age of plate, and were often used in combination with it. But the overall idea I agree with: Plate armour was incredibly effective, and highly mobile. And while I wouldn't exactly call it light, it certainly is not as heavy as pop-culture makes it out to be (and is also not any heavier than most Asian forms of plate armour).


Quote:
As far as the fast eastern swords goes...umm I'd hardly consider the dao a very fast sword (despite what you see in movies...or at wushu shows). The jians aren't particularly fast. The korean hawngdodeangdo (or however your gonna spell that in english) certainly wasn't fast. Or by asian swords do you mean katana...in which case, I think you bit the hype.


On the other hand, don't buy into the "anti-hype", either. I've handled close to forty different antique jian and dao, and every single one of them was an amazing and precise example of the sword makers' art. Likewise, I've handled almost as many antique European swords from several time periods, and can say basically the same thing about each one I've handled. (I've been blessed to be able to handle quite a number of really excellent antiques.) If they weren't good weapons, people wouldn't have used them, regardless of Eastern or Western. Making generalizations about how Asian weapons are poorer is just as bad as making those generalizations about European weapons.

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--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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Vaclav Homan




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 2:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good debate and interesting answers. I have handled many Europian swords and armors too. It is my work. Weight of arm is dependent on way of using and personal preference (someon need weight or light, someone short od long).
Very importent was riches. Expensive wearpons from prestigious producer may by lighter (spain, italy, germany).
Full plate armor (15-16 century) for tournament 40 kg, field armour 20 kg, older Japanese wearpons 30-40 kg. Assumptions for using armours, full armours is horse combat (but if you are knight or freelancer and you are in all one´s born days in exercise of battel combat, you can wear armour in ordals or infantery combat)
Spanish rapier (average) 0,8 kg, short sword 1-1,3 kg, long sword 1,2-1,6 kg, sword for two hands 1,8 (average). Italy rapier 1-1,4 (1,4 meter lenght)
But sabre (ungary austria 16-19 century) for horse 1,7 kg, for pedestrian combat 620 gram (maximal value whot I know).
Rules for combat are: at battle on the horse could be better using heavy arm in case of armoured battle (knights was armoured cavalery). If you have not got rich domain you must use simply armour, but if you are good fencer (faster..) you can use simply armour.
Last reminder, combat with armour is specific (target, movement, technique) and arms can be specific too (hevy svords, impact arms).
I hope that contribute with my knowlege but everything was written.

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Anders Backlund




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 5:56 am    Post subject: Re: opinions on heavy vs. light swords         Reply with quote

James Davis wrote:
I've been broading about this topic for some time now and I'm curious about the peoples opinion.

Throughout history we have seen warring countries develope different types of swords, pikes, and axes. Some are heavy while others are light. Medieval knights tended to carry around swords of enourmus weight and mass, while asian countries tended to depend on light, shorter weapons.

So i was wondering what you guys think about the slowness of the heavier weapons versus the quicker counterparts of other swords. Also how someone weighted down by plate armor and heavy weapons would fair against a lightly armored opponant.

P.S. sorry about my serious attitude, hope i dont offend. i tend to get a wee bit serious when talking about history and the like.


Well, like the others have already said, medieval swords have and undeserved reputation for being very heavy and slow. For that matter, I think Asian weapons have a certain reputation for being light and fast as well.

As a matter of fact, I once had the opportunity to use a medieval arming-type broadsword. While it was a bit cumbersome to my untrained arm, it wasn't very hard to use. And this was a blunt reenactment "beater" kind of sword, so it was probably slightly heavier then the real deal should have been.

Later, I got to try out a practical katana replica, and I noticed that there really wasn't much difference in the weight of these two swords.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 6:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have used sparring blunts on both ends of the scale. In short, a lighter sword is much more agile, but has much less mass, which makes it weaker in the bind.
Heavier swords are a little bit slower, but harder to displace.
The initial attacks are not all that much slower, but if you try to feint with a heavy sword, it will be less effective.

This is from a pure handling perspective. When it comes to hitting power, heavier swords do hit harder. In a ideal world, the higher speed of the light blade would make up for this, but most blows landed under combat conditions are far from perfect.

However, against a unarmoured opponent, even a light hit would disable. In the age of mail, a heavier sword might deliver enough blunt impact to affect a armored man. It would not cut through the armour, but a hard blow might stun the foe long enough to land further hits.
Against plate, this doens't work well enough to be relied on. Focus shifts from long striking weapons to shorter stabbing swords, and longswords.
Even if more slender, a hand and a half sword would weigh as much or more than a broad bladed greatsword, since the blades needed to be quite stiff to stabb effectively at mail voiders and the like.


When it comes to armour, the difference is huge.
A uarmoured man, as mentioned, can be disabled by even a reasonably light hit to almost any part of the body.
A man clad in mail will be unaffected by all but the heaviest blows, and two handed spears.
Thus, against an unarmoured man, he can simply walk into him, and slice him to pieces.
Sure, the opponent might get inn a counterattack, but as long as it is not exceptionaly good, it won't matter.

I've run around all day fighting in in my 13th c. mail armour, and it does not slow you down more than a fraction.
I don't have much experience with plate, though.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 4:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Bill Grandy"]
P. Cha wrote:
Quote:
As far as the fast eastern swords goes...umm I'd hardly consider the dao a very fast sword (despite what you see in movies...or at wushu shows). The jians aren't particularly fast. The korean hawngdodeangdo (or however your gonna spell that in english) certainly wasn't fast. Or by asian swords do you mean katana...in which case, I think you bit the hype.


On the other hand, don't buy into the "anti-hype", either. I've handled close to forty different antique jian and dao, and every single one of them was an amazing and precise example of the sword makers' art. Likewise, I've handled almost as many antique European swords from several time periods, and can say basically the same thing about each one I've handled. (I've been blessed to be able to handle quite a number of really excellent antiques.) If they weren't good weapons, people wouldn't have used them, regardless of Eastern or Western. Making generalizations about how Asian weapons are poorer is just as bad as making those generalizations about European weapons.


Well I didn't say any of those swords were bad or had bad handling...just they they aren't exactly fast. Like say a type XIV. The jian is the fastest in general from the samples I have used. The dao I would really have a hard time arguing as fast. I could move it around fairly fluidly for forms training, but if they moved unexpectedly from what your use to from that form, you generally are kinda hosed in getting that sword where it needs to be. The korean sword...umm yeah...I think my cleaver I use to take apart a whole pig handled better(although the ONLY replica I handle may or may not have been 100% correct...but the general design seems to be not very fast...but more authoritative). Although some of their other swords do handle quite nicely. I use and collect both Happy. I just get annoyed at the katana fanbois who seems to think that a katana can shear a tank in half and you can swing it faster then the eye can see. I accept I'm gonna run into them on forums...but in my iaito class...they should know better.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P. Cha wrote:
Well I didn't say any of those swords were bad or had bad handling...just they they aren't exactly fast. Like say a type XIV. The jian is the fastest in general from the samples I have used. The dao I would really have a hard time arguing as fast.


Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect you haven't handled a wide sampling of dao if you believe that. Some are bigger and heavier, and some are light and amazingly fast. I'm talking antiques, not modern reproductions. You bring up Type XIVs... some of these are lighting fast, and some are heftier and slower as well. This is the same with most swords types, and the term dao is far more general and encompasing than the Type XIV label.

Quote:
The korean sword...umm yeah...I think my cleaver I use to take apart a whole pig handled better(although the ONLY replica I handle may or may not have been 100% correct...but the general design seems to be not very fast...but more authoritative).


My advice is not to judge things based on modern reproductions unless if you know that the reproduction is highly accurate. And even then, don't judge an entire sword style based on one sword. I don't know which kind of Korean sword you're talking about, but the very few antique Korean weapons I've handled were anything but slow. But I'm certain there probably were heavier, slower Korean swords, just as there were for European, Chinese and Japanese swords. Happy

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P. Cha




PostPosted: Tue 29 Jan, 2008 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
P. Cha wrote:
Well I didn't say any of those swords were bad or had bad handling...just they they aren't exactly fast. Like say a type XIV. The jian is the fastest in general from the samples I have used. The dao I would really have a hard time arguing as fast.


Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect you haven't handled a wide sampling of dao if you believe that. Some are bigger and heavier, and some are light and amazingly fast. I'm talking antiques, not modern reproductions. You bring up Type XIVs... some of these are lighting fast, and some are heftier and slower as well. This is the same with most swords types, and the term dao is far more general and encompasing than the Type XIV label.


Well I'm not a big fan of dao swords...so yes my sampling is pretty small. I generally tend to use the smaller lighter ones...but even with those, I have problems adjusting from forms if the need arises. If I'm JUST doing forms, they move wonderfully well. But I haven't gotten my hands on any antique dao...so I'll take your word that there are amazingly fast dao swords out there Happy . As for slow type XIV...I have actually never come across one...not even badly reproduced ones Razz . Not that I don't believe you when you say they exists mind you Happy .


Quote:
Quote:
The korean sword...umm yeah...I think my cleaver I use to take apart a whole pig handled better(although the ONLY replica I handle may or may not have been 100% correct...but the general design seems to be not very fast...but more authoritative).


My advice is not to judge things based on modern reproductions unless if you know that the reproduction is highly accurate. And even then, don't judge an entire sword style based on one sword. I don't know which kind of Korean sword you're talking about, but the very few antique Korean weapons I've handled were anything but slow. But I'm certain there probably were heavier, slower Korean swords, just as there were for European, Chinese and Japanese swords. Happy


Yeah I know there are amazing fast korean swords out there. Being korean and all. This style in particular was something that was popular with the ruling class (think ceremonial...and hence big look at me stylings) but was supposed to have been used during the warfare of the 3 kingdom era. Yeah yeah for being korean, I know very little of korea's history. The replica is one from a ruler during the end of the 3 kingdom era (some vaguely famous guy who I don't know...once again, my korean history sucks...if any of you know some history of korea from that time, feel free to share please Happy ). Anyways it was suppose to be a battle ready replica...All I cared about when I saw it was hey it's a sword hehe. But then again...it's just one sword so I would be interested if this is a common trait with that style of sword. Anyways when I comment about the sword having such a thick spine (around 1/2 inch), my uncle's friend's reply was that this type of sword was suppose to be like that. Since I have no idea, I kinda just took his word for it. I'm not sure how familiar you are with korean blades, but it reminded me of a jidokguem on crack.
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan, 2008 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How heavy IS the katana family of weapons, anyways? I went to high school with the "Japan loving" type of people, so I tended to shy away from that culture because I could not convince them that said katana isn't a WMD of car-cutting ability. Thusly, I've never handled it, and only practice European martial arts.

M.

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan, 2008 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
How heavy IS the katana family of weapons, anyways? I went to high school with the "Japan loving" type of people, so I tended to shy away from that culture because I could not convince them that said katana isn't a WMD of car-cutting ability. Thusly, I've never handled it, and only practice European martial arts.

M.


Well, that's a hard question to answer accurately, since, like the European family of swords, there is quite a bit of variation between blades. As a general rule, though, they tend to be roughly in the same weight spectrum.

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan, 2008 12:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I figured that, due to the thickness of the spine, it would hover around the 3-3.5 range.

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan, 2008 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
I figured that, due to the thickness of the spine, it would hover around the 3-3.5 range.

M.


Some do have a quite thick spine and are heavy. At the same time, some have a quite narrow spine, and are very light. And some have a thick spine at the base, but have drastic distal taper. I'm not an expert of Japanese swords by any stretch of the imagination, though, so I can't say what is more typical of what region or time period. Still, this variation is similar to European swords: Backswords, cutlasses and sabers can have a lot of variety in how thick the spine is. In fact, this is true of double edged swords, too: There's a double edged sword at the National Museum of the American Indian in DC that is probably close to half an inch thick at the base, though it tapers quite a bit.

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Paul Southren




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Jan, 2008 2:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My understanding is that most Katana fall within the 2-3lbs weight range: basically the same as most European swords...

There are always exceptions (for both styles of sword), and not just in terms of swords like O-Dachi/Nodachi. The use of bo-hi (fullers) changes the weight by a few ounces, as does the length of the sword, and whether it has 'meat' (niku) on the blade or not... Personal preference of the user makes a difference too of course.

But generally speaking, as the weights are basically very (very) similar - it puts the myth of 'Euro swords are big, clumsy and slow and Asian swords fast and light' to bed... (James, I seriously recommend having a good read of the Archaeology of Weapons for more information on European swords through the ages. You will love it, I guarantee that).
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