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Harry J. Fletcher




Location: Lost in Texas
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 3:28 pm    Post subject: The Naked Truth About Cutting - A Few Bare Facts         Reply with quote

For those who have read my post about the Shinto Elite Katana it will come as no surprise about my preference for a curved blade especially a katana. Now, I wish to discuss the merits of the straight bladed medieval sword such as a Type X or a Viking.

Using a Viking sword in my cutting I have found that to cut a pool noodle I have to hit the noodle with the blade being drawn toward me at the same time to acheive an effective cutting action. When cutting water filled gallon size milk jugs I also have to watch the angle of the blade as well or else the jug will simply be batted across the yard with a big dent. My hypothesis is that with a straight blade in combat (1) a formidable blow is important for its percussive effect. (2) Any cutting done with a straight blade will be like that of a cleaver, and (3) if a drawing action is used while it may inhance the the cut is not really that necessary because (1) and (2) are the most important elements of the cut with a straight blade of a medieval sword.

Here is a short video to watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyAkA4Fc6CY

To Study The Edge of History


Last edited by Harry J. Fletcher on Sat 23 Jan, 2010 5:18 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Christopher H





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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 4:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To truly test your hypothesis you need to compare a straight and a curved blade of equal geometry, otherwise it's just some swords vs other swords.
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Bryan W.





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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 5:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Ultimately, a sword is an iron bar with a sharp edge and and a point and it's going to behave in a very similar way."

My interests are in a bit later period than of the weapons he discusses in that little segment but..... that's one heck of a quote.

EDIT: In clarification I actually saw this episode and I found it bizarre he would say such a thing after spending the rest of the time talking about the complexity of a sword
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David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 5:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Harry,

I'm going to throw a hand grenade into your posting, not to be a troll, but just to share my personal opinion based on my WMA sword studies of the last 16 or so years, so please don't take it personally. Feel free to disagree. Happy

Here it comes!

I think thanks to the katana and the Japanese sword arts (and myths) surrounding this weapon, many sword fanciers feel the need for a western sword to have the ability to "cut a person in half with a single blow". Many of the western swords lack that ability IMO, but today's modern cutting fans add modern "devices" (forms, movements and power generators) to make the sword perform closer to the katana, but in period use those same devices would get you killed in earnest swordplay.

Timing issues and excess movement from those devices are easy for someone with skills to take advantage of.

Boom! There it was.Confused

I've watched my fair share of cutting vids over the years and even people I know within the WMA world often cut with devices that I never see them use in freeplay with blunts. Why? They too want to "cut a person in half with a single blow".

My personal background is 16 years studying the use of the 18th Century Back & Broadsword of the UK and 8 years studying the use of the German 14th & 15th century Longsword (and related weapons in the system).

Do I think "cutting is imporant? H*ll yes, but taken with a grain of salt.

Let me explain.

In Highland swordplay I do have a couple of moves that would take a mans arm or leg off, or split his head to the breastbone with a sharp, but many of the other techniques taught leaves only a cut to the flesh. Why? They dueled to the first cut in period in the 18th century. If you killed somebody in a duel of honor, you ran risk of be hung ,becoming a declared "outlaw", or sparking a vendetta between two extended families that could cost many lives. Not good either way. The killing cuts are in this system are used only in open warfare or self defense.

In the German School of the 14th & 15th century, all of the moves taught in the manuals are to kill in a judicial duel, yet many of the counters start with the opponents blade on your body... Would it be possible to do these counters if all cuts "cut a person in half", so where does that leave us? With this... It's not that a very sharp sword of European history wont cut, you can get most of them to cut well with "devices" that wouldn't be used in a period sword fight but you need to look beyond just cutting with said devices to make the cut more effective. You need to test the weapon with the period techniques as they would be applied in earnest. You might not cut though the target, but it would give you an idea how well that blow might have altered the rest of a sword fight for your opponent .

Yours,

David Teague

This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
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Hadrian Coffin
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 7:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello,
I agree with Mr. Teague almost one hundred percent. Quite often debilitating strikes look less than impressive with blunts, and people don't get how bad the cut can be when striking the target. Cutting only an inch or two into a target may not look that "impressive", but if that one or two inch cut is placed in the correct spot, for example the throat, the duel is over. When test cutting the most important element is executing proper technique. The impressiveness of the cut is pointless, a cut that opens your whole body up but cuts more deeply is less useful than a less powerful cut that keeps you safe.
Also from the, albeit limited, experience I have had with proper Japanese martial arts it's the same. A katana doesn't cut a person in half every time it cuts either. I think it's the Hollywood mysticism surrounding "Katanas", "Ninjas", and "Samurai" that have created these beliefs. Hollywood shows Knights, Vikings, European Swords, etc. as big-blundering-stupid-uncouth-barbarians. Hollywood shows Samurai, Ninjas, Katanas, etc. as supernatural killing machines. As much as we try and separate ourselves from these myths, subconsciously many still feel they need to justify that their Western Martial Art is as good as, or better than, an eastern art. Personally I think that any martial art is pretty equal, if the technique doesn't work it wouldn't be in the system.
Lastly you can't compare something against something that didn't exist. Weapons and armour were created to defeat threats around at the time. Whacking a type X sword into a katana, for example, tells absolutely nothing; neither the katana nor the type X were designed to be struck against each other. If the threat was a group of (blank A), the (blank B) opponents would have adapted to combat (blank A) . Insert any weapon, armour, or historical group into the blanks. Happy Keep apples to apples and oranges to oranges.
Cheers,
Hadrian

Historia magistra vitae est
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 8:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If your batting milk jugs, there is something seriously wrong with what you are doing harry. I can cut (not just bash apart, but cut) milk jugs using the blunt windlass edges. Without having to pull the blade towards me...but then again, why would you not want to? Doing so cocks the weapon for an attack and has the blade angled so you can defend. Yes I realize that the curved katana can´t be used this way as you generate a lot of drag and so your cutting ability is lessened...but which makes for a better weapon then? One that lets you generate cutting power for one blow...or one that does for one blow that gets you ready for a second? But then again if you just wanna swing a sword and cut stuff, then none of what I just said matters. But if you wanna learn how a sword is REALLY suppose to be used, you should start to ask where do I go from here after each stroke.
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Harry J. Fletcher




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 9:12 pm    Post subject: Hypothesis of Sword Blows         Reply with quote

Yes I agree with Mr. Teague and Mr. Coffin. As stated in my Hypothesis, (1) it is the blow of the sword that is most important because the percussive effects are just as disabling even if not penetrating for a cut. (2) If a cut is made it is more like that of a cleaving than a slicing cut. (3) One can make a slicing cut but this is of minor importance. In essence "...a sword is sharpened iron bar..."

While I have discussed katanas I am not making this a katana versus medieval straight bladed sword discussion but merely intend to explore and expound the use of the sword as used in the early medieval period. I have had good natured disagreement with Michael Edelson about this same matter. In combat one wishes to quickly to dispatch one's opponent by any means possible whether by a kick in the groin, a pommel in the face, or merely standing on his foot to prevent him from moving etc. anything goes. Cutting or not a quick succession of blows will have the effect of leaving one's opponent dazed for the killing or crippling blow. These medieval warriors were not conserned with fencing but with bludgeoning their opponent with the sharp edge providing an even more lethal cleaving effect. Granted the blows were "slashing" but they were not thrusting as befits a weapon designed for bludgeoning or cleaving. This is why the tips on these early swords were rounded.

Later in the medieval ages swords were developed for thrusting, and for cleaving.

As to Mr. Cha's comment about batting milk jugs, yes for proper cutting one must have a proper angle and maintain it through the cut. But, these are artificial targets merely used for test cutting.

To Study The Edge of History
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Zach Gordon




Location: Vermont. USA
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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 10:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
These medieval warriors were not conserned with fencing but with bludgeoning their opponent

Look man,
if this was the case then there wouldn't be fencing manuals, the point of fencing (medieval style-not modern) was to kill your opponent most quickly. If all you had to do was take a sword and swing it a bunch of times people like Talhoffer wouldn't have bothered writing manuals and people wouldn't have bothered practicing. WMA dudes wouldnt train either if "bludgering" was just as good as good swordsmanship. I mean the "rules" in martial arts are rules cause they work. Period.
Im not attacking you or anything, u brought up some other interesting points - but this one just isnt the case.
Sorry
Z
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Colt Reeves





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PostPosted: Sat 23 Jan, 2010 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Heh, Mike Load's video amused me. It really wasn't a good comparison between the blades and his conclusions were questionable (That needle sharp point wasn't meant for clay buddy, it was for maille. Try some testing on that and you'll have a new opinion I'd wager.), but I liked his enthusiasm. Happy

I'm glad to see I'm not the only one to have trouble with pool noodles. In my one attempt to cut them I bought three and found I could only cut just above the stick holding them. The draw-cut sounded good in theory, but I mostly failed to pull it off, no pun intended.

I've only cut a couple of milk jugs myself, but it was easy when they were at least partly filled with water. Mostly I cut up juice bottles, which are a tad tougher than milk jugs, and do require a certain level of attention to how I hit with the edge to sucessfully go through. My other favored targets are my aunt's empty kitty litter containers, which are closer to milk jugs than the juice bottles, and cutting them is paractically like cutting through air. In fact, the first time I cut one I thought I had missed until water started pouring out and the top fell off a moment after the cut. Big Grin

To go back to the draw-cutting, is this a no-no when using a standard straight bladed medieval sword? Is it proper technique to slice rather than chop, or did the pragmatic Westerners figure if the blade hit and cut even a little, that was enough to end the fight?
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 12:00 am    Post subject: Re: Hypothesis of Sword Blows         Reply with quote

Harry J. Fletcher wrote:

While I have discussed katanas I am not making this a katana versus medieval straight bladed sword discussion but merely intend to explore and expound the use of the sword as used in the early medieval period. I have had good natured disagreement with Michael Edelson about this same matter. In combat one wishes to quickly to dispatch one's opponent by any means possible whether by a kick in the groin, a pommel in the face, or merely standing on his foot to prevent him from moving etc. anything goes. Cutting or not a quick succession of blows will have the effect of leaving one's opponent dazed for the killing or crippling blow. These medieval warriors were not conserned with fencing but with bludgeoning their opponent with the sharp edge providing an even more lethal cleaving effect. Granted the blows were "slashing" but they were not thrusting as befits a weapon designed for bludgeoning or cleaving. This is why the tips on these early swords were rounded.


Mhm, would you please specify which of early medieval swords had rounded tips? I mean, you only need to look into Jan Petersens "De norske vikingesverd" to clearly see that there are plenty of blades with tips that can easilly be used for thrusting. We can easilly go earlier than that - just take a look at some of the swords from the Vendel period (Valsgarde 8 grave, for example) - their tips are quite well suited for thrusting! I really doubt that warriors of this time would be concerned with "bludgeoning their oponents with sharp edge" withou any concern for fencing - I am quite sure of the oposite, if we judge from the attention that went into creating the weapons, shields and other gear they posess, it is clear that those people where anything but crude barbarians they tend to be described as. Sophistication in one area usually tends to indicate that people are quite sophisticated in other areas as well, and that would probably include warfare as well - it is obvious that the warrior status was highly respected, so would be warrior skills. I can no more imagine warrior king who was laid to rest in Sutton-Hoo crudely whacking at his enemy with intention to bludgeon him with his sword than I can imagine Miamoto Musashi dooing that.
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 12:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another hand grenade here :-)

I am speaking about cutting swords only here.

I am used to full-force full-contact fighting with steel blunts. And believe me, it is virtually impossible to seriously wound a person wearing a thick gambeson with a blunt sword. And one can be pretty sure that his sword WILL be blunt after he strikes a helmet or a shield boss with it a couple of times (that at least is true for most swords that were of rather poor quality. Of course there were some excellent blades that would probably stay sharp after hitting an iron object, but these were very rare). That is unless you hit an unprotected area, so conclusion No 1: hit placement is more important than proper cutting technique, speed, strength, etc. when one fights against an armored opponent.

Now let's assume that our opponent does not have any armor. We have a lot of pictures where duelling people have multiple wounds but continue fighting. That may be an artist's imagination, but it is exactly how I would fight: focus on defence and inflict a lot of smaller wounds by fast but therefore weaker blows rather than trying to split my opponent in two with a single mighty blow that will almost inevitably leave me hopelessly open. So conclusion No 2: what is important is not how well you can cut with your sword, but whether you can cut your opponent enough (enough times, deep enough, in the place that is enough-does not really matter) to kill him without getting cut enough yourself.

And finally, about draw-cuts. It is perfectly possible and very easy to draw-cut with a straight blade. I do quite a lot of practice on a pell and I usually try to hit the pell so that my sword will not stop but will "go through" the pell. There are a lot of advantages in such cut. It cuts better (just as is written in the first post), it does not leave my hand extended so that my opponent can hit or grab it, and it does not matter whether I hit my opponent or not: my movement will be exactly the same. Of course there are also disadvantages, but I will not discuss them here. After all, there are no right and wrong things. There are right things in right places and wrong things in wrong places. I also teach beginners to draw-cut the pell, but for another reason: when performing fast cuts people tend to subconsciously stop their hand before hitting the pell (because they expect it to anyway stop on the pell) and therefore cannot hit hard. Situation changes when they expect their hand to "go through" the pell.
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P. Cha




PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 1:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A viking era sword against a chain clad opponent is call last ditch effort. I would use my spear and axe before the sword came out...and of course missile weapons before that. I don´t know why people think you can bludgeon through chain with a cutting sword...you really can´t. I have fought SCA in min armor (not even a gambeson on) for years now and that does more punishment then a cutting sword would do through chain and gambeson if one was to attempt a bludgeoning action and I have yet to break a bone. Bloody lungs, yes...but nothing to stop me from fighting for fun...much less if my life depended on it. You do NOT bludgeon with a sword blade. The pommel, yes...but not the blade.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCNFMxDTtXg

Look at that video...hardly what one would consider bludgeoning.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 2:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Slightly off topic - does anybody know who made the swords Mike Load is using?

Not much can be said from such video, but they certainly do look pretty at very least.
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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 3:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, as to which is a better cutter, curved katana or straight medieval sword, all I can say is I can easily cut a milk jug full of water sitting on a three inch deck railing with my Albion Norman so cleanly that the pieces don't even fall apart but remain in place as the water gushes out the separation, even when cut at an angle. The jug doesn't appear to move at all. My Henry V does the same thing routinely. So does my Knight. So how much sharper can you make it? Such a cut would debilitate anyone, even if not fatal. And even if a katana is marginally sharper, it doesn't seem to matter all that much if such a cut could be delivered by a medieval sword. And although the Norman has a somewhat rounded point, it has no trouble running cleanly through targets without sending them flying across the yard. If it's a more solid target it will flex a bit, but it's supposed to.
Naturally, a medieval warrior would look for the unprotected parts of an opponent to target in any case, to protect his sword edge as well as to disable his enemy. Hit the face, chop his foot or leg, or take off a hand, and game over.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 3:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is something I find slightly odd. Aparently traditional katana are the optimal thing for cutting, but I have seen nihonto enthusiasts wailing and gnashing their teeth about folks who alter the blade geometries of nihonto for the purposes of cutting. If it is already perfect, why would someone change the geometry to improve it?
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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 3:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Slightly off topic - does anybody know who made the swords Mike Load is using?

Not much can be said from such video, but they certainly do look pretty at very least.

Raven Armoury, based in England.

"In valor there is hope.".................. Tacitus
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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 4:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am under the notion that the acute angled point is more for braking links in a maille than puncture skin. As a thrusting point the acute angle or the spatulated to the same damage if not more damage for the latter against an unprotected target.
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Samuel Bena




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What is the point of a "bludgeoning" sword , when there's a myriad of other more effective percussive weapons ? (Right tool for the right job or no?)
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Felix R.




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even though this is a German TV show it is quite interesting and fun to watch. Especially the comparison, starting at 5:30, is enlightening.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hy_A9vjp_s
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Thom R.




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Jan, 2010 9:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harry, pool noodles are a terrible medium to make any kind of judgments upon. they are just too compressible and bendable and were certainly not what these tools were originally meant for. depending on how you set them up they can actually be a bit tricky to slice in anything other than unterhau even for someone with a lot of experience. if you use the search function you'll see a few threads which discuss alternative target materials. unfortunately tatami is expensive. so we are always struggling to work up good cutting material for the stand to practice upon. its a never ending quest....

the other thing i'll throw out is that every sword is different. cross section matters. size matters. weight matters. pivot points matter. speed matters. when I first got my Albion Gallowglass and tried to use it the following Saturday, I was actually surprised at how badly I was flubbing with it. So much so that I had to put it aside and grab a few of my other swords just to prove to myself that I had not forgotten how to cut with a sword. After taking a breather and approaching it from a more calm and scientific perspective the next weekend, I made the adjustments necessary and cutting with it became easy. its now one of my favorite longswords! as we like to say around here when you execute a good cut with a sword "too easy!" too easy, LOL Big Grin what I am saying is - every sword is different. thats part of the mystery and the fun. figuring it out. big sweeping general statements on swords are rather pointless imho. tr
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