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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 10:58 pm    Post subject: Two handed swords         Reply with quote

How popular (and when were they popular) were two-handed swords? Longsword seems to get top billing but I never see or hear anything about two-handed ones. Also, how would its use have differed from a longsword, would it be exactly the same or would the weight and length require some modifications?
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jul, 2009 11:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I depends on your definitions. Happy

Longsword is especially slippery. It meant a lot of different things to different times and people. Do you mean the 13th century Grete swords, or the later hand-and-a- half and bastard swords?

By two handers, do you mean the Grete swords that I mentioned above, or the larger and much heaver designs of the late 15th and mostly 16th centuries?



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Del Tin Replica - DT5168, definitely a 2 hander - late 16th C.
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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 2:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, moulinettes - moving the sword in a full circle in a windmill-like motion and striking another spot instead of going for a regular meisterhau - seemed to be a somwhat twohander-specific technique. I've seen it demonstrated in a video about english twohander techniques and I've read about it in an italian manual too.
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Michael Ekelmann




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The big two handers were a specialist weapon for use in certain tactical situations. For instance, Steve Hick did a seminar on the montante, an Iberian two handed sword. It was used by bodyguards, marines and fencing maestros. It was considered an elite weapon. IRRC, there were scenarios on dealing with multiple opponents, clearing a crowd, separating overeager fencers and fighting another montante.
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 5:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roger Hooper wrote:
I depends on your definitions. Happy

Longsword is especially slippery. It meant a lot of different things to different times and people. Do you mean the 13th century Grete swords, or the later hand-and-a- half and bastard swords?

By two handers, do you mean the Grete swords that I mentioned above, or the larger and much heaver designs of the late 15th and mostly 16th centuries?


Depends on your definitions. I agree.
I can add.
Hand and a half is a defined exit nell'800 around and has remained in use among the scholars of swords only creating confusion. If we rely on only two texts Italian Scherma period of the "De Arte" and "Flos" in both specific clearly that when the handle exceeds the palm [20cm] then it is "doy mane" (my traslation: two hands)
Just two my cents.
Maurizio
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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as defining it between the too, I must say that I am too ignorant to do so. So how bout we discuss both.


p.s. I was under the impression that the 15-16th century ones were a not widespread. Sort of like the montante.

p.p.s. would claymore use have differed from longsword use?

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Werner Stiegler wrote:
Well, moulinettes - moving the sword in a full circle in a windmill-like motion and striking another spot instead of going for a regular meisterhau - seemed to be a somwhat twohander-specific technique. I've seen it demonstrated in a video about english twohander techniques and I've read about it in an italian manual too.


Hi Werner,
I'm afraid this doesn't make much sense to me. The moulinet is used with both one handed and two handed swords of any size. And I'm not sure what you mean by a "regular" meisterhau, but the five strikes of the Liechtenauer tradition were used with both single hand and two handed swords as well.

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
p.p.s. would claymore use have differed from longsword use?


Not really. There are period illustrations of them being held in the same guards as those seen in both Italian and German longsword traditions.

Further, when people practiced a martial arts system, it wasn't just one sword. It was a complete system. Therefore you would use a one handed sword, two handed sword, spear, staff, dagger, etc. with the same style. You wouldn't study a completely different system just because you were using a sword that was 8 cm longer or had a curved guard instead of a straight one. Yes, there are some differences in technique between weapons, and certain weapons have certain unique traits, but the overall style will remain the same.

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Werner Stiegler





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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:

Hi Werner,
I'm afraid this doesn't make much sense to me. The moulinet is used with both one handed and two handed swords of any size.
That's new to me, really.

Quote:
And I'm not sure what you mean by a "regular" meisterhau, but the five strikes of the Liechtenauer tradition were used with both single hand and two handed swords as well
I'm aware of that too. What I mean with that is that what I've seen of the longsword tradition seems to favour either striking into a meisterhau to keep the opponent in check or to mutate a less than perfect strike into ringen, duplieren or any other technique.
The italian two-handed sword techniques on the other hand seemed to have an odd preferance for simply letting the sword circle around and strike again at a target lower or higher than before.
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Werner Stiegler wrote:
Bill Grandy wrote:

Hi Werner,
I'm afraid this doesn't make much sense to me. The moulinet is used with both one handed and two handed swords of any size.
That's new to me, really.


Yep. Its a staple of classical sabre, for instance. Truthfully, I can't think of any one-handed cutting weapon that doesn't use it to some extent (though the term "moulinet" is only used in French systems).

Quote:
Quote:
And I'm not sure what you mean by a "regular" meisterhau, but the five strikes of the Liechtenauer tradition were used with both single hand and two handed swords as well
I'm aware of that too. What I mean with that is that what I've seen of the longsword tradition seems to favour either striking into a meisterhau to keep the opponent in check or to mutate a less than perfect strike into ringen, duplieren or any other technique.


I think here we're just having a communication hiccup. By "longsword tradition" you seem to mean Liechtenauer tradition, and I'm looking at it to mean all traditions that use the longsword. Because if we're just talking about the Liechtenauer tradition, then, yes, I agree that it is focused on the meisterhauen.

Quote:
The italian two-handed sword techniques on the other hand seemed to have an odd preferance for simply letting the sword circle around and strike again at a target lower or higher than before.


I think perhaps you haven't studied enough Italian swordsmanship. Happy While Italian styles are certainly different than the Liechtenauer system, and while some of the differences are very distinctive, you'll find far more similarities than differences.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have examined 4 16th c claymores up close (i.e. in my gloved hands), two in museums and two outside of museums. One thing you will notice is that the blades are all a bit different, but it is clear when you examine them that they were not intended to be used in what we would consider today to be classical longsword (Talhoffer, Fiore) fencing. The blades are often quite thin in the cutting region near the COP, and the points are often rounded. The blades generally sag under their own weight. The handles are long and this effects the pivot points of the swords. The long handles allow one to spread your hands apart and impart tremendous final acceleration going into a cut. Point control seems to be secondary in their design, the design seems to be cutting oriented (for lack of a better description). In short they don't feel like what most people today would consider a classical Oakeshott XV, XVIII, XIX, or XX longsword. I am not saying that they couldn't be used like a longsword, just that they seemed to be designed for a different purpose. There may have been specific training systems for these big claymores, but I don't know if any written treatises survive.

Although gael history relies to a great extent an oral tradition (right on up to the 18th c) there is enough info to suggest that these large two handed swords were not as common as pole arms, spears, and single hand swords, and were generally seen as specialized weapons of war used by higher status individuals (senior warriors, clan leaders, bodyguards to clan chiefs). This was also a culture that used two handed axes in battle right on up to the 18th c. The oral history of clan warfare indicates that the claymores were used much like these other large two handed wepons. When the MacDonalds battled the MacLeods at Glen Brittle in 1601, near the Cuilins, the targe and sword men were up front and the polearms and claymores were behind in the second rank. This implies to me that the claymore was used as a long striking weapon in battle whenever an opening in the wall occurred or whenever an opportunity arose. However, the mythology of these swords being primarily used to cut pike shafts seems to be just that - myth.

Although both Ireland and Scotland had long traditions in the use of spear, for a variety of reasons gael culture was slow to adopt well ordered formations of pike. In both countries great two handed swords were seen all the way to 1745, but eventually the use of the large two hand cleighmor (as well as large two handed pole arms) began to rapidly fall out of use once continental techniques of pike and shot came to dominate warfare in the early 1600s. There are several instances in the early 1600s in both countries where well formed pike put lines of swordsmen to route. This led to both countries finally adopting pike and shot to battle the English in the mid 1600s (O'Neill's troops at Benburb in 1646, Leslie's army in English Civil War). The Irish and Scots were also keen on guns from the early 1600s on. So by the time of the Cromwellian invasions and late 1600s the 2 handed swords were largely ceremonial weapons. Its a shame we don't have any surviving written treatises on training with such large swords.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 10:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Thom,

Thom R. wrote:
Its a shame we don't have any surviving written treatises on training with such large swords.


We actually have quite a bit of material on large two handed swords. Perhaps not Scottish, but there's plenty of Italian and Iberian material. The Italian would be even more extensive if you factor in that the masters such as Marozzo say that anything done with the single handed sword can also be done with the two handed sword, meaning that you can apply all of the other very extensive teachings of one handed techniques to "fill in the gaps" of the teachings with the two handed swords.

Quote:
I have examined 4 16th c claymores up close (i.e. in my gloved hands), two in museums and two outside of museums. One thing you will notice is that the blades are all a bit different, but it is clear when you examine them that they were not intended to be used in what we would consider today to be classical longsword (Talhoffer, Fiore) fencing.


I understand what you mean, and I don't totally disagree. I've handled only one antique claymore from the 16th century, but I've probably handled about seven or eight different two handed swords from other cultures (German and Italian primarily) from the same time period, as well as several very accurate simulators. Larger swords do require you to move in certain ways that shorter ones do not. Therefore the very large two handed swords (including the claymore) do need certain body mechanics to change. However there are far more similarities between a large two hander and a longsword than there are between, say, a poleaxe and a longsword. Despite this, the poleaxe and longsword would still be considered two different branches of the same art, and therefore are still being used with the same system. So when I, a practitioner of the Liechtenauer tradition, switch out my smaller 15th century-styled longsword for a larger 16th century-styled two handed sword (and I do from time to time), I do have to make some changes, but ultimately I can still use it just fine with the system I already know. So this is why I say I don't totally disagree, but I don't totally agree, either.

Quote:
However, the mythology of these swords being primarily used to cut pike shafts seems to be just that - myth.


I used to agree with you, but these days I'm not so sure anymore. There's a surprising amount of period evidence that suggests historical masters taught the ability to cut off the heads of polearms with two handers. Was it a common practice? I don't know. But, as an example, there is an image in Marozzo's two handed sword section where there is a man holding a guard to counter pole arms, and there are several sundered pole arms at his feet. I suspect it may depend on the particular pole arm, though, as many surviving pieces have poles that are far too thick to be cut through so easily.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Jul, 2009 11:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:

Larger swords do require you to move in certain ways that shorter ones do not. Therefore the very large two handed swords (including the claymore) do need certain body mechanics to change. However there are far more similarities between a large two hander and a longsword than there are between, say, a poleaxe and a longsword. Despite this, the poleaxe and longsword would still be considered two different branches of the same art, and therefore are still being used with the same system. So when I, a practitioner of the Liechtenauer tradition, switch out my smaller 15th century-styled longsword for a larger 16th century-styled two handed sword (and I do from time to time), I do have to make some changes, but ultimately I can still use it just fine with the system I already know. So this is why I say I don't totally disagree, but I don't totally agree, either.



Size, length and weight can affect the way one moves the really big twohander in that one almost should move around the sword rather than just move the sword or rather a combination of body mechanics and moving the arms: Using one's body mass as an anchor and pivot point rather than using mostly arm strength. ( At least this is what I imagine. Wink Same thing applicable to smaller swords but not as essential ).

Some of the guards have to be changed/modified/adapted, hands held higher otherwise the point of the sword is going to dig into the ground or strike the ground interfering with the motion of the swords.

Care probably to not use too much force and lose control by overcommitting and not stopping the sword in a position still menacing to the opponent and/or not leaving one too open to attack.

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Jul, 2009 10:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Larger swords do require you to move in certain ways that shorter ones do not. Therefore the very large two handed swords (including the claymore) do need certain body mechanics to change.


Could I ask you to elaborate on this (though the points that Jean makes seem right as well)?

Thanks,
Steven

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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:


Some of the guards have to be changed/modified/adapted, hands held higher otherwise the point of the sword is going to dig into the ground or strike the ground interfering with the motion of the swords.


Hi Jean,

Your general theories sound good to me. I find increasingly that I hold even the 'smaller' longswords 'higher' most of the time in my Liechtenauer work. In attack Meyer recommends that the hilt of the sword remain in a straight line with the shoulder to maximise reach: when this is done, the sword naturally remains fairly high a lot of the time, and there is support for this both in the principle of überlaufen and in the preponderance of high sword/hilt positions in many of the illustrated Liechtenauer treatises. Keeping the sword (and especially the hilt) high makes it easier to provide cover for the head - which is one of the key targets for obvious reasons.

Italian longsword may well be a different kettle of fish... they seem to like low positions. WTF?! Wink

Cheers,

Bill

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William Carew wrote:
Jean Thibodeau wrote:


Some of the guards have to be changed/modified/adapted, hands held higher otherwise the point of the sword is going to dig into the ground or strike the ground interfering with the motion of the swords.


Hi Jean,

Your general theories sound good to me. I find increasingly that I hold even the 'smaller' longswords 'higher' most of the time in my Liechtenauer work. In attack Meyer recommends that the hilt of the sword remain in a straight line with the shoulder to maximise reach: when this is done, the sword naturally remains fairly high a lot of the time, and there is support for this both in the principle of überlaufen and in the preponderance of high sword/hilt positions in many of the illustrated Liechtenauer treatises. Keeping the sword (and especially the hilt) high makes it easier to provide cover for the head - which is one of the key targets for obvious reasons.

Italian longsword may well be a different kettle of fish... they seem to like low positions. WTF?! Wink

Cheers,

Bill


Glad that I may be right although I was mostly guessing what would I need to do with a very long twohander: Did some cutting practice with my A & A 15th century twohander with a 46" blade and one either has to angle the blade differently or hold one's hands higher. With my Del Tin Venetian twohander this would be even more important as it's at least a foot longer.

With the great length of these swords one should use this length advantage and certain guards might be less useful or might be awkward unless modified.

If an opponent gets in close there are disadvantages with a very long blade but then if halfswording one still has a length advantage plus a leverage advantage before one has to go into wresting mode, maybe ???

The very long guard and ring guards of the Del Tin also gives interesting options !?

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Could I ask you to elaborate on this (though the points that Jean makes seem right as well)?


Well, there's more than I can really type, but I'll give you some examples. With longsword, if I strike from the shoulder vom tag into langen ort, that's very much a movement done by pulling the pommel to "snap" the point forward. A larger two handed sword is more difficult to do such a "snap" of the hilt because it has more mass. To control the larger sword you have to rely more on the hip movement to control it, otherwise it will be awkward to control. In general, larger weapons require more of the body to move, particularly the hips.

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Eric Myers




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
Could I ask you to elaborate on this (though the points that Jean makes seem right as well)?


A translation of a Portuguese treatise for the montante will be released soon, and the author (Diogo Gomes de Figueiredo) talks a little about this:

Quote:
The swordsman should have knowledge of all the movements of the single sword, both blade movements and foot movements, and the use of the montante is essentially the same "...with the single difference that all the deflections, parries and attacks of the montante must be helped by the movements of the body. In responding to the adversary, you must be prepared to act in accordance with the greater force required by the blows of the montante. This generalization is enough for whoever has the knowledge of the true skill of the sword..."


That may not be as helpful as you would like, but I agree with him. There are more details that could be covered, but these pretty much show up with single hand swords as well. For example, not hitting the ground with your sword - you need to be careful of this with larger single hand swords as well, and the solutions are the same: keep the hands higher or angle the blade outwards.

One interesting change we see in the Iberian material is that with earlier masters such as Monte, the two handed sword is the basis of the system and the single hand sword follows the theory, whereas in later works it is the opposite. I suppose I should also mention that I tend to use the terms longsword for the shorter swords such as illustrated in Fiore, and two handed sword for these much larger swords, but that is purely for convenience of terminology - the period references are often not as clear, and much of the material can be used with either type.

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric and Bill-

Thanks for your replies. I was already planning to add some bigger swords to our "arsenal" so the advice turns out to be timely.

Cheers,
Steven

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PostPosted: Tue 21 Jul, 2009 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Myers wrote:

A translation of a Portuguese treatise for the montante will be released soon, and the author (Diogo Gomes de Figueiredo) talks a little about this:


Hi Eric,

Are there any more details you can share about the release of the montante translation? I've been anticipating this for quite a while. Big Grin

Cheers,

Bill

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