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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 17 Dec, 2008 3:04 pm    Post subject: Sword vs spear vs mace etc.         Reply with quote

For those who have sparred with different weapon combinations, which do you like the best and why? I'd like to look at more middle ages weapons like Spear/Shield, 2H Spear, Arming Sword/Shield, Seax/Shield, Mace Shield, 2H Axe, etc.
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
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PostPosted: Wed 17 Dec, 2008 4:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Sword vs spear vs mace etc.         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
For those who have sparred with different weapon combinations, which do you like the best and why? I'd like to look at more middle ages weapons like Spear/Shield, 2H Spear, Arming Sword/Shield, Seax/Shield, Mace Shield, 2H Axe, etc.



Hi Gary. You'll find that this sort of questions have a problem. You have two types of people who will answer. One is western martial artists, who study the historical techniques and know how the weapons were used. They usually have the best answers, but their answers are rarely as complete as you might hope, since the writings of the old masters do not cover the use of say, the mace, or nearly as much about the shield as we would like.

Then you'll have people who use all the above in a 'free-style' method, and their opinions are just the opinions of people who are playing around with the weapons, which may or may not reflect anything related to the historical context of the real weapons, since we don't actually kill each other anymore with this stuff. This is even more true with the heavier weapons, since they can seriously injure someone with just their weight, (IE, the mace) so you don't find many who have done serious sparring with realistic weapons of this type.

Lots of us look exclusively to the historical combat manuals, and as such, can't answer anything of the 2H axe, since there isn't a manual on it.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Marc Pengryffyn




Location: Canberra, Australia
Joined: 21 Jul 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 17 Dec, 2008 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

G'day Gary,

George Hill's answer is largely true, though somewhat biased and coloured by his own opinions, as will be any answer you'll get on a topic like this, of course. Including mine. Wink

The proper term for the portion of our community relying solely on historical sources is HEMA, for Historical European Martial Arts. There is a wider category of Western Martial Arts (WMA) that includes styles not strictly derived from historical sources, for example savate. HEMA groups evolved to reconstruct period fighting styles from what remains of historical fighting manuals, since there are no documented cases of the continuous teaching of any of these styles into the present day. Most of the remaining manuals date from late in the medieval period, or from the renaissance, and as Mr Hill says, only cover some of the weapons used in the medieval period. There is a lot of material available on the longsword and the rapier, some on later cut-and-thrust-sword styles, two-handed sword and halberd, but almost nothing on the weapons styles you mention. The Royal Armouries Ms. I.33 probably comes closest, dealing with buckler and (arming) sword, and there are various HEMA groups that teach reconstructions from it. If you're looking for information purely derived from period sources, the limits that Mr Hill mentioned apply. I'm sure there will be many HEMA practitioners who will respond to you with more advice, including Mr Hill's implied advice that anything other than HEMA is just "playing around".

The other type of reply you'll receive are from people who approach the medieval weapons styles you mention with a modern eye informed by experience in other martial arts (both eastern and western), plus what tends to be called these days "combat sports" (eg fencing, boxing), combined with a lot of experimentation and the physical limitations of the weapons themselves. This might be termed re-creation as opposed to the re-construction of HEMA groups. Many thousands of the people in these groups have dedicated years of their lives to studying the dynamics of period weapons, applying knowledge gained from analogous (though not period) sources, informed by the little period material that does remain, mostly from literature and visual arts. This is a much more haphazard process than that of the HEMA groups, involving continuous testing and experiment. It can never produce something that is "historically accurate", since the sources that would allow that do not exist. It's potential utility on a "real battlefield" is largely uncertain, since as Mr Hill pointed out, we don't do it this way anymore. Parenthetically, it might be worth pointing out that HEMA reconstructions aren't "battle-tested" either, and their claim to greater "martial credibility" depend on the accuracy of their reconstructions, and the presumed effectiveness of the original styles. I don't question these in relation to any HEMA group or their source materials, but it is worth being aware that these are assumptions, however well-founded.

Another limitation of 're-creation' groups that Mr Hill implied is that we don't actually want to kill each other, so our experiments must be limited for safety, and can't be confirmed in mortal combat. This is true of many, if not most, martial arts and allied practices of course, and I think any sensible practitioner will always bear this in mind and approach all they do with a healthy scepticism. Some groups, most notable the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), use non-steel weaponry that more-or-less try to mimic the handling of 'sharps', with strict armour and conduct rules that allow full-contact and full-speed to be used in a sparring or battle context. Some weapons, especially mace and axe, are less well simulated because of these safety limitations.

Other groups aim at more specific recreations, defined by area, era or geo-political-event (eg "scandinavia", "twelfth century", "Hundred Years War"). These have a range of practices probably as diverse as their topics, and those more involved in that kind of recreation can give you better information, but they typically use blunted steel weapons in their recreated events, usually with strict limitations on target (eg banning blows to the head), and techniques are rarely delivered full speed or full force unless thoroughly choreographed. I suppose stage combat could be considered a subset of this group. Many of these practitioners train with 'wasters' or other non-steel weaponry, with armor, at full-speed and/or full-power, or close to it.

Beyond the 'official' practices of the re-creation groups, many of their practitioners engage in supplementary training to widen their martial skillbase. Some will simultaneously train with a HEMA group or in another martial arts or 'combat sport' discipline. Some may engage in "practice cutting", analogous to the tameshigiri of Japanese swordsmanship, in order to test the effectiveness of their cutting technique.

Ok, that long-winded explication is my perspective on the larger context behind your question. It probably seems tangential at best, but I anticipate you'll get a lot of conflicting advice, and I think it's as well to have something a bit fuller than George Hill's reply, as well as a perspective from 'the other side'. There are ill-informed and highly factional individuals in all groups, so you'll need to judge all advice in that light- including mine! Big Grin

The short answer is, 'depends what you want'. If you want strictly historically derived fighting styles, then got to a HEMA group and accept that your options as to weapons, period and place are limited. If you're less bothered about strict historical accuracy, and want to explore the use of earlier weapons styles and those not covered by the historical sources, try one of the re-creation groups. Practically, this is always predicated on what's available in your area. If you're dead-set on learning spear-and-shield, and the only groups in your area don't work with that, well you're a bit stuck unless you're up to starting your own group. The SCA, for all it's many faults, is almost ubiquitous, covers a wide range of periods, places and weapons styles, and is almost always open to someone wanting to try something different. What they do isn't very historical-any similarities to historical combat are more parallel evolution than anything else- but it is a lot of fun and highly diverse and creative. You can stick to historically known wepons combinations, such as those you mentioned, or experiment with those never or rarely documented.

My personal favorite is twin sword, hardly ever used historically, closely followed by mace-and-shield, which seems to have been a popular period combination, but sadly neglected in martial treatises. I like twin sword partly for the challenge- I'm not at all ambidextrous- and partly because it's a lot of fun. I like having a greater field of view than allowed by a shield, and the ability to use either hand for attack or defense simultaneously. The potential combinations are enormous. That said, there are some very good reasons why it wasn't used much, if at all, in period. It takes much, much more training and practice to be at an equivalent level to, say, someone with a sword and shield. In any battle situation, especially one involving missile troops, you're giving away a lot of defensive capability without gaining any of the offensive options provided by a pole-arm. I prefer mace-and-shield in a battle situation, with the shield for primary defence, and the mace very useful in a shield-wall press.

Cheers!

Marc

Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
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Bill Sahigan





Joined: 06 Jun 2008

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PostPosted: Wed 17 Dec, 2008 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dual Katanas. With a turtle Shell as a backplate.

/Gib.



I believe the previous two posters answered your question rather thoroughly. In the end though, because of our individual unique physiology what is effective really remains with the person in question. A tall guy with gorilla arms may well be able to pull of dual long blades as an effective technique(I've heard of people who managed to spar effectively using such combinations without such advantages). For another, more conservative fighter, a big old heater with a single hander may well be the more effective combination. Each 'style' has its own place in history and its own advantages and disadvantages. The best we can do now as modern re-enactors is to pick the style we personally prefer and have at it(after all, it doesn't really matter which one is more 'effective' now is it? It's not like we are going to go to war in our LH gear any time soon).
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Dec, 2008 12:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, here is just a thought, if anyone wants to give btter info or concu/disagree let me know. This is one spear/shld vs sword/shld combat.

A shield, while not as complete of protection as body armour, is a serious barrier to an attack, particularily if aimed at the body.

A spear, as a thrusting omly for the most part weapon, can thrust at the body (not very effective), or thrust at the head/legs. Head will be often armoured, but not usually the face (11th century or so tech). So a thrust to the face can be effective, but the other party should be guarding against this.

Otherwise, a spear can thrust at the lower legs, not really effective as a cut as they move more, are harder to hit, and a thrust is not as effective in dmaging expremites as say a swung sword.

A swung weapon like a mace or sword can go after the head of a shielded, opponent, but is also very effective against legs or the weapon arm.

Here is where I think a swung weapon has an advantage oever the spear. The sword has more targets that it is more effective against due to being swung. Of course, it can thrust as well, just not as effectively, but the face would be a target.

The spear's one advantage is range and perhaps speed,(a thrust is usually quicker than a swing) but a swung weapon has a greater advantage due to more targets it can attack with sucess.

I would also think a sword user getting inside the spear user's range forces the spear to try to back up to be more at it's effective range - maybe gaining that space with a push/slap from the shield.

The one thing I have heard though is due to safety issues, it's tough to use shields to their full potential - dangerous blows with the shield are not allowed, such as a smash to the face or striking with the rim. Can one "bear down" the other in these mock combats with a shield, trying to knock them off their feet?
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Bill Sahigan





Joined: 06 Jun 2008

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PostPosted: Fri 19 Dec, 2008 12:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and here I always thought that spears were used with shields so often was because you don't need to expose yourself while thrusting?
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 19 Dec, 2008 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, using a long enough spear in two hands allows you to keep your opponent at range hopefully, protecting yourself that way. Plus you can parry better I would think with a 2 handed spear than with a one handed one, or at least foul your opponent up better if they try to close.

And you expose yourself while attacking with any weapon if you are in range of your opponent.
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Gordon Clark




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Dec, 2008 3:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about something like this - combining the spear and sword....?
(Ignore that Rondel dagger)



 Attachment: 60.93 KB
GlaiveAndRondel2.JPG

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 19 Dec, 2008 8:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

a Glaive I presume?
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Gordon Clark




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Dec, 2008 6:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
a Glaive I presume?


Yes - the cutting power (more actually) of a sword with the range and penetration of a spear. You can choke up for control.
Perhaps a bit limited in really close sitations, but then so is a sword. That is what daggers are for.
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Tim May




Location: Annapolis, MD
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PostPosted: Sat 20 Dec, 2008 8:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Beautiful weapons, Gordon, but ignore THAT rondel? Impossible!
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Gordon Clark




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PostPosted: Sat 20 Dec, 2008 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim May wrote:
Beautiful weapons, Gordon, but ignore THAT rondel? Impossible!

Happy
Thanks
With those two together you don't even need a sword...

But don't tell my wife that.


But back on topic -
I would seriously like to hear people who have sparred with pole arms like this one, or a bill perhaps, which offer cutting, stabbing and just pure impact power. It seems like a great combination to me.
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Sam Bennett





Joined: 28 Oct 2008

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PostPosted: Sat 20 Dec, 2008 8:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gordon Clark wrote:
Tim May wrote:
Beautiful weapons, Gordon, but ignore THAT rondel? Impossible!

Happy
Thanks
With those two together you don't even need a sword...

But don't tell my wife that.


But back on topic -
I would seriously like to hear people who have sparred with pole arms like this one, or a bill perhaps, which offer cutting, stabbing and just pure impact power. It seems like a great combination to me.



Pole arms have been my preferred sparring weapon for many years. The caveat here is, this had been in SCA fighting, so realism takes somewhat of a back seat here. Even with the severe limitations placed on them by SCA rules, I find it to be a very powerful weapon both at range and, if properly utilized, closed in as well, against most weapon styles. Offensive capabilities of thrusting at range, very powerful two handed cuts (lever action Happy) combined with the parrying abilities of the long shaft made me fall in love with them long ago. The only shortcomings would be the lack of a defense against arrows (no shield).
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