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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 12:08 am    Post subject: Unarmored/Armored Longsword Combat         Reply with quote

This is something that came up while watching Eric Fick's video showing him fighting in this thread: http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=19470

In the video it says "Unarmored Longsword versus Armored Longsword" (Or vica-versa, it doesn't matter). Now, something I've been thinking about off and on since I found Western Martial Arts was the whole half-swording versus not half-swording. Though it may be demonstrated in the old manuscripts as these techniques being for this and these techniques being for that, I sort of don't feel that way. Going to half-sword is an excellent way to handle someone up close or defend a doorway, etc, regardless of armor or lackthereof. I also note various people here and there throughout the net doing things exactly like that.

What I'm leading up to here is this: Is claiming half-swording to be for use in armor and... non-half-swording to be for use without really a valid thing to say? Or rather, is it right to say half-swording=armored combat, while standard=unarmored?

I personally don't think so, but this is more a fine detail on terms and their uses and I thought I'd get the opinions of those who are in the Western Martial Arts community and not on the outside like me. (This comes back to something Clements of ARMA said about it not being sword-fighting, but fighting with swords. Half-swording to me is just part of the system that deals with special situations, the most obvious being against armored opponents. It isn't a whole 'nother animal that should be classified as "Armored Fighting".)
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Aleksei Sosnovski





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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 12:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Halfswording without armor (more precisely without gauntlets) is very dangerous. If I had an opponent who would attempt to half-sword without gauntlets, I would keep him at a distance and try to cut his hands. Though I guess there are a lot of pictures in historical fighting manuals of knights without gauntlets using halfswording. As I see it halfsording is a thing to use against an armored opponent, whether you yourself are armored or not. However if you are unarmored you should find a proper moment to get close to your opponent and only then you should use halfswording and wrestling techniques (especially wrestling because here unarmored person has some advantage because he is faster). If you start in halfswording stance you are asking for your hands to be cut and you also tell your opponent "beware, now I want to get close to you". On the contrary, if you are armored and your opponent is not, you should not use halfswording. You should keep your opponent at bay, because he cannot harm you by cuts while you can harm him, and long-distance thrusts are less accurate and are easier for you to deflect. If both fighters are unarmored halfswording is useful when you suddenly find yourself (or when you intentionally get yourself) so close to your opponent that it is very difficult to use your sword in a "normal" way. Just my 2 cents.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 1:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A lot of Talhoffer's plays in his 1467 manual are unarmoured uses of the half sword. A lot of the time though, it seems to be employed in krieg, and it's probably safer to use at close quarters than longer range.
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Andrew Maxwell




Location: New Zealand
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 3:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Going to the halfsword if you are unarmoured and at wide measure is asking to be killed, imho. You don't have the range and you don't have the defence to make up for it.

Otoh, it works well when you get in close as Aleksei and Craig have mentioned; you just need to get used to changing grip quickly.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Going to halfsword means forfeiting your range. This in turn gives the opponenet a chance to strike you. In armoured fighting, this strike will most likely not affect you that much, even if it hits. In unarmoued fighting, you will have lost the fight.

So, basically, it still works. However, striking unarmoued foes works so much better that it is no longer recomended Wink

"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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David E. Farrell




Location: Evanston, IL
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To the OP: I look at the whole 'halfsword' vs 'standard' thing this way:

it's a system (I study Fiore, FWIW), the 'spada en arme' section tells you a great deal about how to combat someone in armour while also illustrating how one can use your armour to your advantage. The unarmoured material shows how to deal with an opponent who is out of armour (and simultaneously demonstrates things you'll likely want to do while out of armour). This means that a technique shown in one setting can and should be used in another *when appropriate*.

For example, Fiore shows going to the halfsword in the 'punta curta' or 'punta falsa' play (feint with a strong blow to one side, drawing a strong parry, then turn the sword to thrust to the other side using a half sword grip)- in the unarmoured sword in two hands material. And you know what? The same play works with a pollaxe, and with a sword when armoured.

So in this case, I'll agree with Clements: it really is just fighting with swords (or spears, or axes, etc)... in the medieval systems, at least (certainly within systems like Fiore's).

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
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Jason G. Smith




Location: Quebec
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 5:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David E. Farrell wrote:
To the OP: I look at the whole 'halfsword' vs 'standard' thing this way:

it's a system (I study Fiore, FWIW), the 'spada en arme' section tells you a great deal about how to combat someone in armour while also illustrating how one can use your armour to your advantage. The unarmoured material shows how to deal with an opponent who is out of armour (and simultaneously demonstrates things you'll likely want to do while out of armour). This means that a technique shown in one setting can and should be used in another *when appropriate*.

For example, Fiore shows going to the halfsword in the 'punta curta' or 'punta falsa' play (feint with a strong blow to one side, drawing a strong parry, then turn the sword to thrust to the other side using a half sword grip)- in the unarmoured sword in two hands material. And you know what? The same play works with a pollaxe, and with a sword when armoured.

So in this case, I'll agree with Clements: it really is just fighting with swords (or spears, or axes, etc)... in the medieval systems, at least (certainly within systems like Fiore's).


While I agree with David in principle, I just thought things should be put into perspective. Note the last line of the "punta corta" play:

----
This play is called false thrust or short point. Here's how it's done. I feint a strong mezzano to the
opponent's head. As he forms his parry, I lightly strike his blade, then immediately turn my sword to
the other side, grasping it almost at mid-blade with my left hand. I can then place a quick thrust to his
throat or neck. This play is better in armour than without. (Translation: Tom Leoni)
----

It most certainly can be done unarmoured because of shortened measure, but even Fiore recommends armour.

Cheers,

Les Maîtres d'Armes
Member of the
Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache
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Greg Mele
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 8:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Indeed he does. OTOH, this also means that he is advising coming into this armoured play from a traditional, two-handed grip. Wink
Greg Mele
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David Teague




Location: Anchorage, Alaska
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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 11:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello All,

In the "German" system we have halfswording moves with longsword, messer, and arming sword, but as noted by Craig it happens well within measure (kreig) .

They tend to be used to exert overpowering force at speed to allow ones hands to remain safe and counter a incoming threat.

Longsword example: Codex Wallerstein. (Not verbatim) When a opponent attempts to wind into the upper hanger to thrust to your face, grab your sword by the mids and wind to your left and down. Thrust to the testicles. ( Now verbatim) This is a very good trick. Surprised Wink

Messer example: Johannes Lecküchner: (Not verbatim) From a low guard, when a opponent attempts to strike a diagonal cut to your head, strike his incoming flat with a thumb grip cross stroke and if he puts enough pressure on the blade to keep you from hitting him, disengage to the other side while hooking your hilt over his blade and pinning his flat on your wrist, grab the center of your blade with your left hand and thrust to his face. Should he back up, place your right hand on the blade and follow him with a blow to his head with the hilt.

Both techniques are from manuals in the "German" system dealing with fighting in street clothes of the era. Both use halfswording. There are others, but... they have their place and time.

Cheers,

David

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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Eric Fick




Location: California
Joined: 16 Sep 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 12 Apr, 2010 11:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wow, I didn't expect anything to come from the unarmoured vs. Armoured assignments in the videos.

It should be noted that this "assignment" was simply to address the advantages vs disadvantages in the fight. This did include the type of hits that would be deemed effective versus a given combatant. Also, for training purposes this would allow our guys to compare the obvious effects of armoured protection versus the mobility, vision and endurance of an unarmoured or lightly armoured combatant. Additionally this was a byproduct of equipment available and the participants experience levels, however, it did make for a fun time (It made me work a TON harder!)

This was not intended to prevent either combatant from using Sword in two hands or Half sword techniques, however, the effectiveness of the chosen style was ultimately influenced by this "assignment"

I agree with the statements above regarding the use of both "sword in two hands" and "half sword" techniques being interchangeable in both harnesfechten and blosfechten or armoured or unarmoured combat. some examples should be seen in the videos (even if they are not the best or cleanest transitions)

Cheers,

Eric Fick
Davenriche European Martial Artes Schoole
www.swordfightingschool.com
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 1:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm glad to see this is actually something of interest and there are a number of slightly different viewpoints at work here. I get the impression that my viewpoint is off and since most half-swording is done in armor, I'm kind of barking up the wrong tree saying that "armored longswording" is a bad term. Good to know.

On a related topic, I understand that one would not want to go against an opponent by starting in the half-sword guards, but rather be better off sticking to the standard techniques and switching to half-sword as needed.

On the other hand I could see where starting with something like Archer or Bastard Cross might not be so bad if you could let go quickly if needed. (Since these two are similar to Plow and... the one I don't know the name of, but with one hand on the blade.) Seems like something that one could do if they were tired or expected to be holding a ready position for some time, somewhat like the positions a modern "operator" (SWAT, Special Forces, etc) might take if they had to hold a pistol on someone for a while.
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Jason G. Smith




Location: Quebec
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Mele wrote:
Indeed he does. OTOH, this also means that he is advising coming into this armoured play from a traditional, two-handed grip. Wink


Indeed he is! Got me... Wink

Les Maîtres d'Armes
Member of the
Chivalric Fighting Arts Association

... above all, you should feel in your conscience that your quarrel is good and just. - Le Jeu de la Hache
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David E. Farrell




Location: Evanston, IL
Joined: 25 Jun 2007

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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 5:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the clarification Jason.

Colt Reeves wrote:
Well, I'm glad to see this is actually something of interest and there are a number of slightly different viewpoints at work here. I get the impression that my viewpoint is off and since most half-swording is done in armor, I'm kind of barking up the wrong tree saying that "armored longswording" is a bad term. Good to know.


I guess that gets into some more nuanced philosophical points- I tend to think of armour as changing the available targets (thus changing how one needs to attack) and allowing the wearer a bit more slop, while simultaneously requiring a greater level of sensitivity to the actions of your opponent (i.e. maintaining a bind while attacking because of decreased visibility in a full helm and the speed at which things happen when close)


Colt Reeves wrote:

On a related topic, I understand that one would not want to go against an opponent by starting in the half-sword guards, but rather be better off sticking to the standard techniques and switching to half-sword as needed.

On the other hand I could see where starting with something like Archer or Bastard Cross might not be so bad if you could let go quickly if needed. (Since these two are similar to Plow and... the one I don't know the name of, but with one hand on the blade.) Seems like something that one could do if they were tired or expected to be holding a ready position for some time, somewhat like the positions a modern "operator" (SWAT, Special Forces, etc) might take if they had to hold a pistol on someone for a while.


Again, I'd say it depends on the situation. 2 armoured opponents can use a number of ways to enter while holding their swords in 'halfsword' guards (you've turned a sword into a short spear or a long dagger). A full harness would allow one to not worry about most attacks at wide measure (not to say it doesn't suck to get a full-on strike or thrust to the head or chest or that a thrust or cut can't be well placed to do damage at wide measure... I've had both happen), and again, you seek a bind at fairly close measure.

I also wouldn't say, at least in Fiore's system, that the halfsword guards are more relaxed than the unarmoured guards... tutta porta di ferro (the longsword guard) is tough to beat in terms of just staying there for a while. Fiore even tells us this explicitly.

AKA: 'Sparky' (so I don't need to explain later Wink )

For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother
-- King Henry, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Before I came here I was confused about this subject. Having listened to your lecture I am still confused... but on a higher level.
-- Enrico Fermi
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 13 Apr, 2010 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
I get the impression that my viewpoint is off and since most half-swording is done in armor, I'm kind of barking up the wrong tree saying that "armored longswording" is a bad term. Good to know.


While I don't disagree with the points that have been made above, there is some historical precedent to what you're saying here. Half-sword techniques out of armour was sometimes referred to as "going armoured", or the "armoured hand" (such as in the Glasgow fechtbuch), so it shows that while half-sword techniques were used regardless of armour, they were still thought of as techniques specialized for armoured combat.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


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