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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject: Messers and edge-on blocking         Reply with quote

Hello everybody,

I don't know a lot about messers, or messer fighting, but they are becoming increasingly interesting to me as I watch demonstrations on YouTube. One thing that makes me cringe time and time again is the seemingly reckless use on edge-to-edge blocks that seem to be universally recommended by the various manuals.

Here's a video chock full of it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHEs2m0IXAk

I've always subscribed to the notion that edge-to edge blocking is extremely destructive not only to the edge of the blade, but can also lead to catastrophic blade failure by introducing stress fractures that would not be as likely in flat blocking.

Is there something I don't know about the messer that negates this problem? my first guess would be that a backsword is generally more stout than the lenticular blades that I am most familiar with, but that sounds like a gross oversimplification....

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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Dustin R. Reagan





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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 5:21 pm    Post subject: Re: Messers and edge-on blocking         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Hello everybody,

I don't know a lot about messers, or messer fighting, but they are becoming increasingly interesting to me as I watch demonstrations on YouTube. One thing that makes me cringe time and time again is the seemingly reckless use on edge-to-edge blocks that seem to be universally recommended by the various manuals.

Here's a video chock full of it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHEs2m0IXAk

I've always subscribed to the notion that edge-to edge blocking is extremely destructive not only to the edge of the blade, but can also lead to catastrophic blade failure by introducing stress fractures that would not be as likely in flat blocking.

Is there something I don't know about the messer that negates this problem? my first guess would be that a backsword is generally more stout than the lenticular blades that I am most familiar with, but that sounds like a gross oversimplification....


Edge-on-edge debate aside, one thing you'll notice is that nearly every edge-on-edge action in the video occurs with the defender catching the opponents edge against his strong. When this does not occur (defender's strong catching the blade) it is usually with the defender defending in a hanging guard, which, due to the angled nature of the blades, will cause much less edge damage. I believe that both of these situations are explicitly mentioned, at least in later works, such as Silver and Paige.

Dustin
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David Sutton




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 5:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is something that I've wondered about too.

I'm not to familiar with the messer, having never handled one or even seen one close up. Something I've speculated on is that they possibly had an extended portion of unsharpened blade (in a similar manner to cavalry sabres) in order to allow a parry with the edge of the strong?

The other possibility is that people are simply misinterpreting fechtbuch illustrations. Taking an image which is actually showing edge on flat to be edge to edge.

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Cory Winslow




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 6:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey Guys,

I'm glad to see that our video has inspired some discussion!

David Sutton wrote:

The other possibility is that people are simply misinterpreting fechtbuch illustrations. Taking an image which is actually showing edge on flat to be edge to edge.


The texts make it quite clear that you parry with the edge in some cases. Here is an example of such a parry from the Sigmund Emring Fechtbuch:

"Item, when one to you will cut or stab, then conduct yourself thus; set your left foot forward and hold your messer near the right hip in the hand, and when he cuts above to your head, then step to him with the bad displacement, that the edge is above, and spring with the right foot in to the left side and cut in to the head or where you may hit him, then is he your possession."

Note that this type of parry is called the "bad" displacement here. In Lecküchner it is called the "bad" or "crooked" (Krump) displacement, and the sixth Meisterhau, which Lecküchner added to Liechtenauer's Five, is described as a counter to this type of parry.

http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/bsb00002184/image...p;seite=67

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,

Cory is right that some masters specifically tell us to block with the edge, and not just the one he mentioned; for example, Silver is quite clear about it. He said: “...ward his blow with the edge of your sword.” (Brief Instructions fol. 24r). You can’t really get much more plain than that.. And others show it to us, as in this plate from Talhoffer 1467:
http://mdz10.bib-bvb.de/~db/0002/bsb00020451/...l?seite=41
What you see there is a Mordschlag (Talhoffer calls it a Tunrschlag) or pommel strike--a power strike--being blocked with the edge of the other guy's sword (if he tried to block with the flat his sword would break)--edge on edge.

In fact, the flat is a *bad* choice for displacement. Think about it: If you want to break a board with your hand, do you chop into the edge of the board or into the flat? Obviously you chop into the flat of the board--why? Because it's easier to break it that way. Swords are no different: If you block with the flat your blade will break more easily, especially in a powerful displacement such as that shown in the Talhoffer example above. Yes, you may get your edge nicked, but who cares? You normally block with the strong and cut with the weak anyway, so the nick shouldn't effect your ability to cut.

Not only that, but the way your wrist is connected makes edge displacement better. Try this: Stand with your sword in your hand, blade held vertical. Now have a friend push agaisnt the blade, first from the side, next from the edge. You will discover your defense is *much* stronger in the direction aligned with your edge.

Moreover, we know swords often got hacked up; read this quote from a fifteenth-century chronicle: "...and after the battle his sword was all but ruined. The beautifully gilded hilt had been bent and nearly wrenched free and the blade all notched and toothed like a saw" (Gutierre Diaz de Gamez, The Unconquered Knight: A Chronicle of the Deeds of Don Pero Nino, tr. John Evans, In Parenthesis Publications, 2000, p.16)

That's not to say *all* displacements are done with the edge; Talhoffer shows messer blocks done with what he calls a "turned-around hand", but in these cases the hand is turned to cock it for the next action, not to spare the edge.

Regards,
Hugh
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Andrew Shultz




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 7:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not that I subscribe to the "don't parry with the edge" newsletter, but I note that "edge is above" could mean that the edge is straight up with a blow usually coming down slightly off straight (coming both down and out at you), which would lead to a parry not directly on the edge, but edge/flatish. Which is a parry that I see a lot in our longsword - not edge whacks edge, but edge nuzzles edge a bit.

Or of course edge is above could mean meet his edge at a square angle. Hard to say.
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh,

Respectfully, I don't think that a wooden board is a comparable medium to steel in the context of shock absorption. Beyond the materials themselves, the board is held in such a way as to restrict movement; in contrast the free end of a sword can vibrate and absorb shock.

That's not to say that the flat is necessarily better, only that I don't think board breaking is a workable comparison.

[edit] that is to say that the sword redirects the energy by vibration, not that it absorbs the energy per se Happy

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Robert Subiaga Jr.





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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 8:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I continue to be amused by arguments about whether the edge or flat or both is good for parrying or in which orientation a blade is stronger.

No, not because I have any opinion on the matter. (Though I do.) But because both sides continually use quotes from the fechtbuchs to argue their case.

This is not a matter of opinion. Even opinions of "masters." It is an empirical question.

And "nothing ruins a good hypothesis like an experiment."

Set up a blade on an adjustable spring loaded mechanism swinging it horizontally.

Clamp a blade perpendicular to it.

Strike edge on at progressively larger various force loads (and preferably with a new, identical target blade) each time until you get breakage.

Repeat with an identical target blade(s) oriented toward the flat.

Compare quantitative results.

Some matters are really that simple.

Starting in a hollowed log of wood—some thousand miles up a river, with an infinitesimal prospect of returning! I ask myself "Why?" and the only echo is "damned fool!...the Devil drives...
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 8:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Respectfully, I don't think that a wooden board is a comparable medium to steel in the context of shock absorption. Beyond the materials themselves, the board is held in such a way as to restrict movement; in contrast the free end of a sword can vibrate and absorb shock.

That's not to say that the flat is necessarily better, only that I don't think board breaking is a workable comparison.

[edit] that is to say that the sword redirects the energy by vibration, not that it absorbs the energy per se Happy


The materials aren't the issue--it's the way it's easier to break them. If you put a sword flat across two supports and hit it with another sword it will break (or bend, depending upon the steel) more easily than one which is braced edge up in the same test. There's simply no doubt about that. I'm not saying you will break the sword every time from hitting the flat--far from it. But there simply can not be any doubt or question that it is more *likely* to break that way.

As for holding it to restrict motion, please re-examine the link I posted to Talhoffer 1467. Not that that is all that common, of course.

And despite Robert's advice about an experiment, one isn't necessary. Why? because professionals--men who used swords for a living--told us to block with the edge (Silver, diGrassi, Talhoffer, Sigmund Emring [which is another name for Ringeck], etc). Case closed, there's simply no room for debate there.

Regards,
Hugh
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 8:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Case closed, there's simply no room for debate there.


I really don't think I can respond to that with civility, so I'll thank everyone for their answers and wrap this thread up.

There are only two kinds of scholars; those who love ideas and those who hate them. ~ Emile Chartier
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David E. Farrell




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin, as you have noticed - the edge vs flat parry thing can get hairy fast. I won't get into the physics issues either (often people use incorrect mechanics in the debate)...

I do want to offer a response though:

Now, I don't study messer - but I have been in some seminars and discussions on bolognese sidesword (another single handed sword often used in unarmoured combat). Apparently there too, the masters are quite explicit about using the edge and when to do so. It tears up blades, no doubt. Break them? no so much. But the temper and geometry of a sharp and a blunt trainer are *usually* quite different.

And AFAIK, the messer is generally a rather stout weapon in comparison to the sidesword the Bolognese masters were thinking of when they wrote.

Now why then is it done? Or more correctly, why isn't it actually that big a deal?

1) It is not actually all that easy to break a steel blade that is tempered properly regardless of how it is loaded. Of course, you find evidence that it happened, because crap happens.

2) A blade is replaceable, your body is not. Yes, it's expensive. Guess what - you probably value your life more. Bet they did too.

3) Even a slight motion or angle change can remove or reduce the damage a good deal (i.e. taking it from hard edge on edge static parry to glancing flat/edge to edge) - your eye may not see the difference unless the action is slowed down dramatically.

unfortunately, I am not sure how much more there is actually to say on the matter.

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David Teague




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 9:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello All,

Messer is quite cool, but unlike Cory (who can do his own translations) I must work from other peoples translations.

Messer had a number of blocking techniques that include the edge and the flat. Flat parries are done with the thumb grip and a water shedding action in a movement that's part of the Bogen. From the Bogen flow all sorts of disarms, throws and killing actions.

But many of Messer's counters flow from you counterattacking the flat of the incoming blade.

Two of my students doing a simple bogen (note the flat of the blade parry) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnbRIQIDVh0

Myself and a student doing the messer zornhau (I strike his flat with my edge in defense and flip my messer over to thrust [zornhau], he displaces my point to his left, I start the second winding as a feint and then drop my point to strike him in right temple with a cross stroke, he stays bound to my blade to counter thrust to my chest and I finish by using my off hand to displace his blade and take his neck) Messer is Fun!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g3SDb2InBRY

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Quote:
Case closed, there's simply no room for debate there.


I really don't think I can respond to that with civility, so I'll thank everyone for their answers and wrap this thread up.


Gavin, there was no hostility there, nor any animosity, so let's not take any of that personally. I'm simply saying that none of us are more qualified to make the point than the professionals who did this for a living, so no debate of ours can have any meaning when it contradicts them.

Please, there's no reason for these things to lose civility, for pete's sake.

Regards,
Hugh
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 9:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gavin Kisebach wrote:
Quote:
Case closed, there's simply no room for debate there.


I really don't think I can respond to that with civility, so I'll thank everyone for their answers and wrap this thread up.


There is always room for debate as far as I'm concerned for just about any subject even if one finally arrives at agreeing, one has tried to " test " the theory for alternate explanations.

As far as edge or " whatever parries " : If one strike at a blade to attack and one's blade is deflected or one deflects an attack with a parry I think the " use your edge thing " means mostly that under ideal conditions one uses one's edge and not deliberately try to " slap " a blade away deliberately choosing to use one's sword's flat ( There may be exceptions ??? ).

The result is often an edge against flat or an edge against edge at an angle just because this is the way the swords naturally end up in many techniques without having to pay conscious attention to the edge alignment.

Hard edge to edge stops will also happen at time with some techniques that require it and accidentally when one would normally wish to avoid it.

I find that even if avoiding edge to edge parries are a good thing they are not a high priority in one's thoughts when bouting: There is just too much to handle in a swordfight ( simulated ) to worry about it but it,s very possible that in many styles the hard edge parries between two competent fighters will be rare or at least limited in what damage is done to each sword.

So depending on interpretations and how one defines parry and hard stops both sides of the argument are both right and wrong if they refuse to look for the subtleties and for the exceptions to the rule and the exceptions to the exceptions: many times the answer should be, " IT DEPENDS ".

People get angry or frustrated because winning the argument is more important to them than being open to shades of grey !

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
[ I'm simply saying that none of us are more qualified to make the point than the professionals who did this for a living, so no debate of ours can have any meaning when it contradicts them.

Please, there's no reason for these things to lose civility, for pete's sake.


Stated this way I agree that it's a very good argument but it still leaves room to try to understand the why of why these things work best done the same way as the period professionals recommend.

( NOTE: I also wish to avoid anything but a civil debate and I may have reacted to simply the words of " no room for debate " which is often used in other contexts out there when people get dogmatic in politics, religion and every other subject people end up fighting about. Wink Big Grin Cool )

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 10:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Stated this way I agree that it's a very good argument but it still leaves room to try to understand the why of why these things work best done the same way as the period professionals recommend.

( NOTE: I also wish to avoid anything but a civil debate and I may have reacted to simply the words of " no room for debate " which is often used in other contexts out there when people get dogmatic in politics, religion and every other subject people end up fighting about. Wink Big Grin Cool )


You're right, there's room to debate *why* the masters told us to do things this way, I'll grant that. And no one has ever said *all* displacements were edge on edge (hell, I even gave an example of a non-edge displacement), so the only question was were *any* displacements done with the edge, and since the professionals say there were that should end the debate on that subject.

I truly do not understand why people have to get so tense about this kind of thing.

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Hugh
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 10:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

I truly do not understand why people have to get so tense about this kind of thing.


Bad past experiences where people got all tense or overly opiniated in previous Topic Posts here or on other Forums. Wink Big Grin Cool

So there was a premature " Oh No here we go again ". Big Grin

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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Fri 07 Aug, 2009 10:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Bad past experiences where people got all tense or overly opiniated in previous Topic Posts here or on other Forums. Wink Big Grin Cool

So there was a premature " Oh No here we go again ". Big Grin


No worries, I didn't mean you in specific. I don't think anyone could believe your post was meant to be inflammatory.

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Hugh
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Ragnar A. Olsen





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PostPosted: Sat 08 Aug, 2009 12:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:

In fact, the flat is a *bad* choice for displacement. Think about it: If you want to break a board with your hand, do you chop into the edge of the board or into the flat? Obviously you chop into the flat of the board--why? Because it's easier to break it that way. Swords are no different: If you block with the flat your blade will break more easily, especially in a powerful displacement such as that shown in the Talhoffer example above. Yes, you may get your edge nicked, but who cares? You normally block with the strong and cut with the weak anyway, so the nick shouldn't effect your ability to cut.

Not only that, but the way your wrist is connected makes edge displacement better. Try this: Stand with your sword in your hand, blade held vertical. Now have a friend push agaisnt the blade, first from the side, next from the edge. You will discover your defense is *much* stronger in the direction aligned with your edge.



Hello, first post here for me, as I felt compelled to comment on this. I mean no disrespect to you Hugh, but regardless of which master said what, comparing steel to wood is clearly wrong. As someone earlier mentioned the two materials act in completely different ways.

Ironically I find that the arguments you use against parrying with the flat, is actually arguments for parrying with the flat.
If we look away from what anyone living many centuries ago may or may not have said, and instead focus on the physics and how steel behaves, it might be easier to clear up the whole issue of flat vs edge, or at the very least explain why some prefer one over the other.

When two swords come together at speed edge on edge, all that energy will be focused on a very very small surface area. Edge to edge is also how the sword is the most rigid, which means there will be little in the way of give or vibration, and as you state, your wrist will be stronger this way as well offering less give. However the energy of that impact has to go somewhere, and if everything is rigid and does not want to give, that means the energy will be used to deform/damage the sword edge. Whereas edge on flat impact will cause the sword struck on the flat to bend and give, as will your wrist to some degree helping in dissipating and using up most/much of the energy of the strike, also it will be over a much much larger surface area and spread out in time. Which will mean far less energy remaining to actually deform/damaging both swords.

Now it's highly unlikely that any of the parries will result in a broken sword with one such action, but with repeated strikes that likelihood will increase due to metal fatigue. A sword that has parts of it chipped or gouged out, will have developed cracks and flaws in these areas, and thus a catastrophic failure is far more likely to occur at one of these points.
So in the "long run" edge vs edge parries will break your sword sooner then edge vs flat.

(The good thing with this is that it's testable and already has by ARMA as far as I'm aware. But should someone not trust the outcome of their experiment, it's very easy to replicate if somewhat dangerous and costly. )

I'm not saying that edge vs edge is wrong, or that edge vs flat is correct in terms of fencing technique. But in terms of actual real life impact mechanics edge vs edge, leads to breakage faster and more consistent then edge vs flat, and I found the way in which you stated it was the opposite reminded me of religious debates more then a debate on real world mechanics, which I believe is something that should be avoided.

Regards
Ragnar.
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Sat 08 Aug, 2009 12:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ragnar A. Olsen wrote:
[I'm not saying that edge vs edge is wrong, or that edge vs flat is correct in terms of fencing technique. But in terms of actual real life impact mechanics edge vs edge, leads to breakage faster and more consistent then edge vs flat, and I found the way in which you stated it was the opposite reminded me of religious debates more then a debate on real world mechanics, which I believe is something that should be avoided.


Then how do you explain all the sources written by professionals of the period telling us to displace with the edge? Sorry, guys, we can speculate about the properties of materials all we want, but the fact remains that it not only happened, it was *supposed* to happen according to the masters instructors of the day. We can argue all around that forever, and you can accuse me of falling prey to religious-type dogma all you want (and note I haven't insulted you in return), but facts are facts and can't be debated away. Modern theories not based on actual practice (meaning regular experience of real fights--no insult intended here to anyone, but that doesn't happen today) just can't hold up to what people who were *there* have to say.

Regards,
Hugh
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