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Karl Knisley




PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Did vikings realy have such tiny hands?         Reply with quote

Hello
I recently received my Albion Valkyrja. I totally love the way it looks.However. My fist is 4 1/2 ",and the grip is 3 1/2".
I can grip it, in whats been referred to as the hammer grip, but it presses into the heal of my hand with no room to pivot.
I tried the hand shake grip, but that seems extremely clumsy. I cant see how they could have used either grip all day in battle effectively unless they had small hands. Like the Burger king guy Happy Any thoughts?

Thanks
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's not just Vikings. Many Scottish dirk grips and some other dagger grips were in the same range.

I cut with Albion's Hersir (a grip of just a little over 3 1/2 inches--3 5/8") and it was a joy in the handshake grip: totally comfortable and deadly in terms of efficiency.

The old notion that people were significantly smaller than modern humans doesn't hold water any more. So these small grips must have been workable. Happy

Happy

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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Strikes me as strange, too. There is a thread on it, though; a bit of searching might turn it up. I remember the photos in it have the sword held in what seems to be a strange way. Still perplexes me as to why it was so small.

M.

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Chase S-R




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is thought that the Vikings actually held their swords with their little finger over the pommel. Try cutting with the pommel at your wrist in the Handshake grip and cut as you cut try to angle the sword and pull the blade through so that you are slicing with your wrist rather than chopping, I find this difficult to explain but it is quite effective. You can also "finger'" the sword it is possible this was done and it adds some grip length.
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The fingered pommel technique doesn't work for me. Hands are too small and it feels uncomfortable. I either handshake or finger the guard. I'm assuming your trying to handle the Valkyrja? Fingering the guard might be difficult with that sword. You need to really try and get used to the handshake and let the pommel lock into your palm(basically holding back on the hilt). Otherwise the hammergrip will be more detrimental than your perceived awkwardness with the handshake grip. Maybe not.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the era of Vikings, there were people like King Harold that historians often indicate was something around 6' - 8" (203 cm) tall. Many grave examinations indicate that the medieval warrior class was roughly comparable in size to today's average man. I would say they probably did have a fairly cramped grip, or style adapted to a grip length that was not generous compared to their hands.
Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Karl Knisley




PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 2:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello
I may just doing ,the hand-shake grip, wrong.It seems to me ,a person could get disarmed ,pretty easy ,with this grip.
I dont suppose, somebody could post a pic, of the correct grip Happy ?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Karl Knisley wrote:
Hello
I may just doing ,the hand-shake grip, wrong.It seems to me ,a person could get disarmed ,pretty easy ,with this grip.
I dont suppose, somebody could post a pic, of the correct grip Happy ?


See the first post here for Peter Johnsson's illustration:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2478

Happy

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here's a pic from our review of the Jarl which shows this grip (left-handed for the purposes of taking a pic):


Happy

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Feb, 2008 9:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Think of the grip used in modern sport fencing. It is a a light, handshake grip; but still firm enough and effective for the vigors of Olympic competition.

It takes getting used. But it's great once you do.

-Steven

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Ben C.





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Feb, 2008 12:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Karl Knisley wrote:
Hello
I may just doing ,the hand-shake grip, wrong.It seems to me ,a person could get disarmed ,pretty easy ,with this grip.
I dont suppose, somebody could post a pic, of the correct grip Happy ?


while it may seem that way you can actually grip objects quite strongly with a 'handshake' style because it allows you to utilise your thumb & wrist strength a lot more than with a standard grip. In judo too the standard way to grip is something similar to the handshake grip; your hand essentially twists into the object allowing both your thumb and fingers to apply force. With a standard grip most of the power is achieved mostly just via your fingers and is actually easier to break such a grip in regards to gripping clothing.

The short grip and large pommels on the vikings swords seem to be fairly ideal for a handshake grip. I don't think the design was accidentally and if they did primarily wield their swords using the hammer style then it seems pretty likely the hilt would have be redesigned to reflect that.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Feb, 2008 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To speak of viking hands, I have examined the skeleton of a langbardian woman who had came to Northern italy from Scandinavia with the migration of the Winniler: she was 170cm tall and her hands were as long as mine ...

I'm a stocky male who is 170 cm tall, and a modern one.

So we can assume that her husband or sons were quite tall and strong, as they were described by contemporary sources.
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David Huggins




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PostPosted: Sat 01 Mar, 2008 4:50 am    Post subject: Did the Vikings realy have such small hands         Reply with quote

Hi Karl,

Evidence from an 'Anglo-Saxon cemetry' of male individuals displaying signs of combat trauma, ranged in height that you will find in the U.K. today, from as little as 5'3" to as tall as myself at 6'5". A-S swords also have the palm width grip of Viking swords.
best
Dave

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Sat 01 Mar, 2008 10:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The way I hold a sword, I only maintain a firm grip with my top fingers.
This way, you get a lot more movement out of the sword. By letting the blade piviot in your hand, you can move it faster, and react quicker.
If your maintain the hammer grip, you will not be able to redirect the energy in your blows when you miss or feint, or when hitting a strong bind.

The handshake grip might be good for cutting, but I can't really see it work as a combat grip. However, the top finger grip becomes a handshake when you throw the blade forward.



 Attachment: 12.66 KB
grep.jpg
The top finger grip, slightly exaggerated for educational purposes.
(Yes, the hilt of this sword is quite long(12,5 cm/5"), due to it's budged nature.)


"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Darrin Hughes




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Mar, 2008 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Karl.

Just to address the last part of your post, they didn't use the sword all day in battle. Large scale pitched battles were very much a rarity and when they did occur a lot of the fighting would have been done with spear, axe, langsaex, etc, and not with swords.
The whole grip thing is something that I'm still trying to draw my own conclusions on. I think that with hilts like the Peterson type L, where the upper and lower components curve away from each other, then either style of grip works because the pommel doesn't dig into the hand in the same way that say a Type K might. I think that part of the problem is with modern manufacturers who put straight, tapered, or even convex, grips on these types of sword.
Examples of Migration Era swords with surviving grips sometimes have a convex, or waisted, profile. Now I find that these work really well with a hammer grip, as the hand is locked into the centre of the grip, rather than sliding towards the pommel. As this was existing technology then I don't see why it should not have been carried over to later Frankish/Viking swords where appropriate. I have an Albion Clontarf which is out having a scabbard made at the moment, and with this in mind I've asked for the grip to be removed and rebuilt with a more waisted profile. I've never been able to get really comfortable with this sword with the existing handle whichever grip I try, and my hands are not particularly big, so hopefully this may answer a few questions.
Perhaps the guys with really big hands just got handed a Dane-Axe and told to go for it Happy

Cheers,
Darrin.
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Darrin Hughes




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PostPosted: Sun 02 Mar, 2008 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello again. Following on from the previous post; there is a ninth century Danish sword in Swords of the Viking Age with a waisted grip of iron and Bronze, so somebody thought it was a good idea. Even by the standards of the day this would not have been cheap. It also shows that just because the tang is tapered, it doesn't mean that the grip has to be, as the grip is slightly wider at the guard than the pommel, but still has a concave profile.

Cheers,
Darrin.
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Brian Johnson




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PostPosted: Mon 03 Mar, 2008 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IMHO I would assume that vikings likely used a handshake grip. I find it highly improbable that viking warriors had smaller hands than the average modern male. In my line of work I have shaken hands with quite a broad cross section of people. Most of the time, men that are accustomed to daily hard physical labor (farmers, construction workers, landscapers, etc) have substantially larger hands than accountants, engineers, doctors, etc. Not that their skeletons are necessarily larger, but they tend to have a lot more meat on their mitts. This may be because they have built larger hand muscles in response to their work, or simply because strong, solidly built types are more predisposed to adopt a physically strenuous career. Either way, I think the same would be true of ancient people. I don't think that the viking armies recruited a lot of small men with light frames. It just makes sense that the toughest guys with the most muscle would be the ones picked to defend the rest. A handshake grip might feel weak to some of us modern humans that work in non-physical jobs, but to someone with large, strong hands, the grip seems to be ideal. I am certainly no expert swordsman, but it seems to me that a handshake grip definitely cuts better and offers more control than a hammer grip. Of course, I have never had to defend myself against an angry brute hellbent on butchering me alive, so I cant be entirely sure Happy . I suppose it is possible that the vikings just figured that stuffing a 4" wide hand into a 3.5" wide grip decreased the likelyhood of being disarmed. We may never know for sure.
Unfortunately, those who continue to live by the sword will inevitably get shot by those who dont.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 03 Mar, 2008 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Exactly how you hold your sword depend on what you are doing.
If you are doing a wheel or feint, you might juse just your thumb and index. If you are striking at a undefended target, you could use the hammer grip.

Also note that a hammer grip might not be the best for resisting a disarm or bind; If you are on the loosing side of a bind, you are better of fading; The Changing of the Sword in I.33 is a good example of this.

In unarmoured battle with a large round shield providing the primary defense, a fast moving sword might be more important than making strong cuts.
Beeing hit by a whiping blow to the side of the head will still put you out of the fight for long enough to be killed by the followup.

"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."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Owen Bush
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PostPosted: Mon 03 Mar, 2008 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was lucky enough to have access to the British museum Vaults this morning and one thing I noticed about the half dozen Viking and Saxon swords I looked at (handled some including a beautiful INGELRII) was that the handles varied a lot in size .
I am a reasonably ham fisted blacksmith and could fit my hand into most of the swords ,one I looked at one had space for an extra finger or two .
I draw no conclusions but ,the blades I handles today would certainly be fast (they were lighter than I had imagined) and a grip that would allow a free movement of the hand would make sense.

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Bob Burns




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PostPosted: Mon 03 Mar, 2008 11:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Karl, a Big Congratulations on your Valkyrja, a sword in particular that I want in my collection, when possible, and it is a sword that I have in fact wielded. I also have very large hands, partly genetics from my father, I am a tad over 6' 1' with long arms and legs, as well as fingers, then I've also conditioned my hands very thoroughly first by punching and grabbing rice, then beans, then sand then sand and gravel mixed. Let's put it this way, I can hit a canvas heavybag all day long without bag gloves and my knuckles will Not bleed!
So even though I have large hands, I find the Valkyrja to feel wonderful when gripped as it is supposed to be, as was done by the Vikings. In that the pommel rides on the heel of the palm, if this type of sword were gripped as other swords, then none of them would be functional, especially the Viking swords that have no outward curve on their pommels and crossguards. The pommel will just dig into and hurt the heel of the palm and totally interfere with the cut. The Vikings were on the average larger than other Europeans, the people of Scandinavia are one of the largest in physical size of the human race. As I remember, the average height for a Dane male is 6' 0" or 6' 1", while for most Europeans it is 5' 9".

Again, I am very happy for you and your acquisition of the Albion Valkyrja, one of my all time favorite swords!

Bob

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To "Learn" we must empty our minds and therefore open our mind and spirit. A wet sponge absorbs no water. A preconceived mind is recalcitrant to new knowledge!
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