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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Mar, 2010 6:41 pm    Post subject: Underarm vs overarm spear usage         Reply with quote

Recently, i have been discussing one handed spear usage with a friend of mine who studies hung gar. He feels that an overarm grip (like you would use to throw a javelin) is slower and less powerful than an underarm grip for thrusting. I couldn't stop thinking about it, so I grabbed a 5' broom handle and applied a variety of grips and thrusts in an assault on my long-suffering heavy bag. I discovered two things: Gripping at the balance point increased precision in both over and underarm thrusts & The underarm thrust packed a bit more punch and just felt less awkward when it hit. That being said, when I applied an overarm thrust with a mininum of arm movement (basically using forward body motion w/ a bit of a lean forward), I was able to connect with much more power than when I relied on arm motion. With overhand arm/shoulder motion alone, as soon as my wrist/forearm left vertical/couched position and began to straighten at the elbow, the power and placement would suffer. The body motion technique with the overarm thrust hits with a lot more authority. I must say, the underarm thrust felt (to me) to be quicker and much more precise than the overhand. I also remember a sportscience episode where they had a major league batter encountering severe difficulty trying to hit a softball pitched underarm by a pro softball pitcher. Apparently, human beings have an easier time reacting to incoming objects that are falling than they do with incoming objects that are rising. I would be very interested to hear from anyone about their preference (over/under) or research on the subject. Thanx
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Mar, 2010 7:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as overarm and underarm--i.e. which is more powerful--I can't really say. However, all of the historic sources for the spear that I know use both. "Authority" is not relevant if you miss the target and you really only need so much force to put a spear into a man, so I think it's more a matter of which type of thrust solves the problem of the moment.

Steve

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Ben P.




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PostPosted: Fri 12 Mar, 2010 8:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And of course those thrusts are a lot more powerful when you have 15-16 hands of 1,500 pound testosterone and adrenaline crazed fury that moving at 30 miles an hour behind the spear
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Jesse Eaton





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PostPosted: Sat 13 Mar, 2010 1:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You should look into some of the work re-enactors of the Greek Hoplite say and what we have learned from Greek artwork. Your observations are correct. The Hoplite's used an over arm tactic in the front row and in close quarters, because as you pointed out, it gives a lot of power with little effort and little movement. But in open spaces and situation that required more reach, like being in the second row, the under arm method was used. Try holding you broom under handed but roll your arm over for an over arm strike. You should find it quite easy to make a strike that is pretty much eye level. It isn't hard to get the reach you might need to say- stab some one in the face while being protected by the man in front of you with a shield.
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, just saw something interesting. A british fellow named Lloyd made some very interesting points regarding spear usage at the "Lindy Beige" channel at youtube.com. After watching & listening, then assailing my heavy bag once more, I am convinced. Overarm grip is for throwing, and underarm grip is for fighting. Think about it in these terms: would you hold your sword upside down and attempt to cut and thrust with it? Of course not, and while a spear's weight/mass distibution is very different from that of a sword, they are generally both point-heavy, that is heavier towards the business end. Try holding a 2lb spear extended overhanded for thirty seconds or so, then compare with an underhanded grip with the haft resting along your forearm. Underhanded feels much more comfortable and doesnt put strain on the wrist. Jesse Eaton hit the nail on the head when he wrote " Try holding your (spear) under handed but roll your arm over for an over arm strike. You should find it quite easy to make a strike that is pretty much eye level. It isn't hard to get the reach you might need to say- stab some one in the face while being protected by the man in front of you with a shield". The technique he describes is a more physiologically correct way to get the same angle of attack as an overhand stab without trying to switch handgrip from the stronger underhanded grip. Lloyd's dry sense of humor and communicative abilities make his historical arms+armour youtube videos both enjoyable and informative. In another video, he proves that it is categorically impossible to draw a sword from a fantasy across-the-back scabbard. Very funny stuff. Steven, I would think that "authority" in the thrust would be quite important in spearfighting, especially if one's opponent is armoured, and that a more powerful thrust is more likely to be lethal. Better to deal a deep, sucking wound than a shallow tip-pierce, right?
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 11:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Overhand thrusts are actually a lot more powerfull than underhand, if you put your hip into them.
The overhand thrust can be compared to a boxing punch. By twisting you hips and putting your weight into the thrust, you can achieve an extremely powerfull thrust.

This said, the body has litte to no resistance against thrusts. Against a soft target (we tried a ham of pork) you dont even have to thrust. You can push the spear all the way thouh with a minimum of effort. Other test against pig carcases show that thrusts will go clean thrugh the ribcage without any problems.
Thus, the power isn't really needed unless you are trying to punch through armour.

Underhand is more flexible, and lets you do stuff like high-low feints. However, the primary use of the one handed spear is in a shield wall/formation context, where "rate of fire" and cooperation is more important than individual technique.
Also, the overhand grip gives a higher angle, increasing the chance that a thrust will slip over the opponents shield, which will be raised to the level of his eyes, minimum.

However, If you intend to "fence" with one handed spears, the underhand grip is definitely more flexible, and better suited.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first technique of the spear in the Gladiatoria fechtbuchs is an overhand thrust from above. As far as I know the rest of the manual only uses overhand grips (at least, in one hand) for throws. There is one plate in the Wolfenbuttel manuscript that is not in the others and may depict an overhand thrust, but it may also be an overhand throw.

Still, it's clearly not exclusively used for throwing, at least in that system.

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Walter S




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Juan Cocinas wrote:
So, just saw something interesting. A british fellow named Lloyd made some very interesting points regarding spear usage at the "Lindy Beige" channel at youtube.com.


Can you give a link to his channel? I would very much like to have a look.

Elling Polden wrote:
...


Do you have more photos of your 13th century infantryman kit than the one posted in "lets see your kits..." thread?
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Juan Cocinas wrote:
After watching & listening, then assailing my heavy bag once more, I am convinced. Overarm grip is for throwing, and underarm grip is for fighting.

Yet Marozzo and Manciolino don't quite seem to hold the same opinion, your experience with the heavy bag notwithstanding. While there are definite mechanical differences between the two grips, I must put my faith in what was written in period by the masters ahead of any assumptions we 'moderns' make.

Juan Cocinas wrote:
Steven, I would think that "authority" in the thrust would be quite important in spearfighting, especially if one's opponent is armoured, and that a more powerful thrust is more likely to be lethal. Better to deal a deep, sucking wound than a shallow tip-pierce, right?

Often, it is not the "authority" that determines the effectiveness of the blow so much as the timing. Better a weak thrust at the right target at the right moment than a strong thrust at the wrong target at the wrong moment. Personally, I'd rather take a strong thrust to the breastplate than a weak thrust to the face.

I think there is an implied either-or here that the masters just didn't seem to have. That is, Manciolino and Marozzo didn't only use the overhand grip or the underhand grip for the one-handed partisan, they used both.

Steve

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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven Reich wrote:

I think there is an implied either-or here that the masters just didn't seem to have. That is, Manciolino and Marozzo didn't only use the overhand grip or the underhand grip for the one-handed partisan, they used both.

Steve


That being the case do they switch grips mid-fight? If so, how do they do so safely?

Thanks,
Steven

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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
That being the case do they switch grips mid-fight? If so, how do they do so safely?

Although I'd have to look to be sure, it doesn't seem like they do. That is, none of the actions (IIRC) have them switch grips in the middle of the action, so it seems like something you'd do (well) out of measure.

Steve

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David Clark





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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 6:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is the British chap's channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/lindybeige
I, too, enjoy his work. Quite entertaining.
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Juan Cocinas




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 7:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven wrote:"Often, it is not the "authority" that determines the effectiveness of the blow so much as the timing. Better a weak thrust at the right target at the right moment than a strong thrust at the wrong target at the wrong moment. Personally, I'd rather take a strong thrust to the breastplate than a weak thrust to the face." I couldn't agree with you more, Steven. Timing trumps strength and even speed in any form of combat, and is the most difficult element to master. Is it possible that the overhand thrust from Manciolino and Marozzo is actually an underhanded grip held high/arm rolled over as Jesse described? Are there drawings from their texts that you could post? Or a link, I would love some more spearfighting information, and it would be fantastic to see more renaissance illustrations. I feel that an overhand grip could be very useful with a counter-weighted spear like those of the hoplites, but with a tip-heavy spear this grip is just awkward in comparison, akin to holding a sword backwards in an overhead thrust... Lloyd communicates this idea so well in his youtube video, it's really worth watching Cool
"Resist your time- take a foothold outside it." Lord Acton
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Steven Reich




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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 7:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Juan Cocinas wrote:
Is it possible that the overhand thrust from Manciolino and Marozzo is actually an underhanded grip held high/arm rolled over as Jesse described? Are there drawings from their texts that you could post?

No images, unfortunately. The Bolognese system isn't exactly loaded with images. Pretty much the only plates that go with the whole system are Marozzo's various guards and a few extras (such as his cutting diagram) and Viggiani's guards. Other than that, it's a lot of reading.

Steve

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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Tue 04 May, 2010 9:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Juan Cocinas wrote:
Steven wrote:"Often, it is not the "authority" that determines the effectiveness of the blow so much as the timing. Better a weak thrust at the right target at the right moment than a strong thrust at the wrong target at the wrong moment. Personally, I'd rather take a strong thrust to the breastplate than a weak thrust to the face." I couldn't agree with you more, Steven. Timing trumps strength and even speed in any form of combat, and is the most difficult element to master. Is it possible that the overhand thrust from Manciolino and Marozzo is actually an underhanded grip held high/arm rolled over as Jesse described? Are there drawings from their texts that you could post? Or a link, I would love some more spearfighting information, and it would be fantastic to see more renaissance illustrations. I feel that an overhand grip could be very useful with a counter-weighted spear like those of the hoplites, but with a tip-heavy spear this grip is just awkward in comparison, akin to holding a sword backwards in an overhead thrust... Lloyd communicates this idea so well in his youtube video, it's really worth watching Cool


Juan, it's both. The usual overhand grip is, as you guessed, the under hand grip with the hands lifted high to thrust from above, when the polearm is used two-handed. I can think of at least one play, however, in Manciolino or Marozzo where the rear hand is reversed as you thrust overhand - that is, in the position you would hold a spear to cast it.

Vadi shows both of these options:




Look at the top left image, both figures, and you will see the two grips.

Which is used with the partizan and rotella? It's not entirely clear, but since casting is a clear option, I suspect it is the one-handed version of what you see in the top left image - the grip for thrusting overhand or casting.

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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2010 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I just watched the spear videos and I have a couple of comments.

One is that he does state that the spear was/can be used both overhand and underhand, but that he thinks underhand is better, rather than that it was only ever used underhand.

In his second video, he also shows a reasonable way to change your grip in midfight. would definitely require practice, but it's doable.

His points in the second video regarding the vase paintings IMO show bad scholarship. He went to find out what the vases showed, and when they didn't show what he wanted, he decided that the depictions were worthless because of artistic license WTF?! I'm of the opinion that early artwork like that probably shows more truth than modern Rambo movies, for the simple reason that the people of the time had close contact with actual spear use, so that the pot painters and their customers actually knew what fighting looked like. Unlike most movie makers and movie-going audiences today. Also, he notes that the overarm grip is shown most often when paired heroes are fighting, and underarm is shown by soldiers in formation. Seems to me that there might be a better conclusion to draw than deciding that the depictions of armies are more realistic and the paired heroes are less realistic. Like maybe overhand is more useful in single combat and underhand is more useful in formation?

To be honest, I think he's probably right about underhand use being better in line battles, and his first video shows some decent reasoning regarding that. But I still think he's engaging in finding support for his belief rather than researching the truth, which makes me wary of his findings.

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Christopher H





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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2010 12:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Shackleton wrote:

His points in the second video regarding the vase paintings IMO show bad scholarship. He went to find out what the vases showed, and when they didn't show what he wanted, he decided that the depictions were worthless because of artistic license WTF?! I'm of the opinion that early artwork like that probably shows more truth than modern Rambo movies, for the simple reason that the people of the time had close contact with actual spear use, so that the pot painters and their customers actually knew what fighting looked like. Unlike most movie makers and movie-going audiences today.

I find it hard to take vase illustrations seriously when they portray lots of weird impossible stuff... surely this is a good point that he made?
Saying that they are more likely to be accurate is like saying that middle ages artwork showing swords cleaving plate armour in twain is accurate because in those days they would have had contact with swords and armour.
Lots of people today have contact with firearms and yet the way firearms are represented on the silver screen is often quite silly. It doesn't stop tv/cinema from being enjoyable.
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2010 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'll admit to not knowing enough about the medieval pictures of armour being cleft in twain to comment on them.

I am also willing to accept that Greek armies did not ride dolphins or things like that. But the fact that there are fantasy/mythical elements on some vases does not mean we need to discount the other vases or even the non-myhtical elements on the vases. Sure, take stuff with a grain of salt, but don't discard out of hand.

As to the movies and firearms thing, that was part of the point I was trying to make. Most modern audiences aren't actually all that familiar with the proper use and effects of firearms. But there is evidence in a lot of earlier periods that people had more day to day contact with the use of weapons. We have marginal illustrations of people with swords in bucklers standing in what appear to be the guards of the dominant system of the time, for example.

Again, I don't know specifically how that applies to Greek vases, but I wouldn't discount the possibility out of hand.

Honestly, I think what rubs me the wrong way about it is that it seems that he went looking for evidence to support his pet theory, found evidence to the contrary, so then rationalized discarding all of the evidence. And it partly irritates me because I think there is some merit in his theory, but I dislike the way he's supporting it.

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L. Clayton Parker




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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2010 3:53 pm    Post subject: Spear technique         Reply with quote

I fight with a spear the way I was trained to, with a Bo. The style uses both over and underhand techniques and emphasizes speed and control over "authority". If you are interested in historical accuracy of western fighting methods, this may not be for you. If you just want to find the best way to fight with a spear, look into Bo techniques.

Lee

They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night. -The Song of Songs, Which Is Solomon's
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Wed 05 May, 2010 4:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Spear technique         Reply with quote

L. Clayton Parker wrote:
I fight with a spear the way I was trained to, with a Bo. The style uses both over and underhand techniques and emphasizes speed and control over "authority". If you are interested in historical accuracy of western fighting methods, this may not be for you. If you just want to find the best way to fight with a spear, look into Bo techniques.

Lee


What makes you so confident that Bo techniques work better than spear techniques?
Does the martial art you study also have spear material?

Cheers,
Steven

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