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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Jul, 2012 10:30 am    Post subject: Depictions of cutting with swords against plate armor         Reply with quote

To my understanding of the Liechtenauer tradition that there was a sharp difference in how blossfechten and harnischfechten were performed. The fight manuals depict men in regular clothes starting the fight with both hands on the grip and employing techniques that involve cutting and thrusting as well as hooking and hammering with the hilt, while men in full plate armor are always using a half-sword grip and are advised not to cut with the edge but instead to use the point. However, I have to wonder about this sharp division because illuminated manuscripts and various editions of Froissart's Chronicles often depict plate-armored men-at-arms with their swords raised as if they are going to strike with the edge of the blade against their armor-plated enemies. I understand that not all combatants on the field were equally armored, but depictions of cutting against plate armored defenses seem extremely prevalent and I am not even seeing any of the dismounted men-at-arms depicted using the half-sword grip. Why might I see this seeming discrepancy between the fechtbuchs and the chronicles?

Mike Loades claims in his book Swords and Swordsmen that armored combatants did not always attack the gaps in armor, but used their blades to bludgeon the opponent and the points to impart blunt trauma. Even though Mike Loades is a superb martial arts historian and clearly understands the fechtbuchs and I am only an armchair hobbyist, I find it hard to believe that dismounted armored fighters would ever bother to attack the plates when half-sword fighting allows you to attack the maille so effectively. What do you all think of this?

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sun 01 Jul, 2012 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pictorial sources, at least medieval, will in 99% be somehow schematic - limited level of details, connected with the fact that somebody swinging the sword in broad arch simply looks way more 'photogenic'. Wink

It's also easier to make depiction clear and obvious in this way.

Sword obviously wouldn't be primary weapon on battlefield, and not against armor in particular, so it's hard to tell how often and how would it be employed against it in mass battle.

Here's depiction of halfswording in battle, anyway.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons...itiers.jpg

Pretty poor quality, but can't find better now.
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William P




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i think it depends heavily on the sword and where your hitting, while a mace will do this job a lot better if you can, say, hit and dent some of the articulated sections of the Armour hard enough to dent some of them you can screw up the ability of tha person to move, this applies especially for bigger swords and in the 14th century we sill saw swords with wider blades which were a lot more cut oriented, by the mid 15h century if im not mistaken, its then we revert to the stiff diamond sectioned , relatively narrow blades hat are more thrust optimized for both arming and bastard swords

but a sword like say a type XIIIa while that is more of a 13th century blade it has the mass and leverage (hypothetically) to impart that blunt trauma, possibly capable of dazing someone, distracting them or even throwing the srike in order to make them react in a way that you want them to, and maybe even opening them up fo your next strike, say for example makin them raise heir arm o block a sword strike, thus exposing their armpit . that image of trying to strike could also be the beginning of a feint.

but thats all abit of speculation on my par and could be totally wrong considering the manuals make i clear that harnischfecten (which im mostly unfamiliar with).mosly involves halfswording and the like.
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Patrick De Block




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maybe those illuminated manuscripts and Froissart are very realistic. They didn't want to kill their equals, just beat them unconscious and ask for ransom.

War in the 14th century was a hunt, a game for money, in the end it was about ransom. Every knight wanted to be worthy of his rank and because of this despised money and only thought about his honour. In the depths of his heart he wanted to be valued as high as possible by his victor when he was taken prisoner and had to pay ransom for his freedom. In this amount of money was actually expressed what he was worth. That this sometimes meant his financial ruin was part of the bargain. Every battle and every tournament was followed by a massive transfer of capital.

Think about Thomas, Lord Berkeley, aka the rich who returned victorious and laden with gold from one of the great battles of the Hundred Years' War and modified Beverston Castle. And he wasn't a poor lad either to begin with.
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i haven't read too many fight manuals that are available - but i have also wonder about this same idea.

Bartek is correct in that the idea of the character looking more exciting would appeal to the artist - but i'd actually tend to believe the depictions are correct. look at how many illuminated scrips are correct in depicting armour of the artist time. i'm sure there is also a great deal of them wrong as well.

from reading what little manuals i do have - each sword has its sharp edge and false edge. well, why the false edge? it seems like its there to parry more than likely. nothing i've ever read so far stated to 'use the false edge to strike your armored opponent' but that idea doesn't seem to be out of the question in my mind. what else would you do in a dire situation. throw down your arms just because he's in plate armour and all you have is a sword?

another aspect that i've also found a little odd, why is there so much written material about the sword in comparison to other weapons of the time? things like the mace, the flail, and halberd.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 6:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Wallace wrote:
from reading what little manuals i do have - each sword has its sharp edge and false edge. well, why the false edge?


Why the false edge? To cut with. Plenty of false-edge cuts in unarmoured longsword.

"True edge"/"false edge" isn't "sharp edge"/"non-sharp edge"; it's "front edge"/"back edge". Using "false edge" to mean an unsharpened edge is AFAIK purely a modernism.

Ringeck uses "long edge" and "short edge", as does Meyer who also adds "full edge" and "half edge". Vadi uses "true edge" and "false edge". They (and others) all happily cut with the back edge.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Daniel Wallace wrote:
from reading what little manuals i do have - each sword has its sharp edge and false edge. well, why the false edge?


Why the false edge? To cut with. Plenty of false-edge cuts in unarmoured longsword.

"True edge"/"false edge" isn't "sharp edge"/"non-sharp edge"; it's "front edge"/"back edge". Using "false edge" to mean an unsharpened edge is AFAIK purely a modernism.

Ringeck uses "long edge" and "short edge", as does Meyer who also adds "full edge" and "half edge". Vadi uses "true edge" and "false edge". They (and others) all happily cut with the back edge.

This was always my understanding. In Italian, the forward edge is "Filo Dritto" or true edge and the back edge is referred to as "Filo Falso" or false edge. In German the side of your knuckles is called the "Langes Schneid" or Long Edge, the other side is the "Kurze Schneid" or Short Edge.

A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 7:19 pm    Post subject: tangent about long, short, and false edge         Reply with quote

To go off on a tangent related to the "false edge", regular longswords are true double-edged weapons. In that case, the long edge and short edge are terms that the fight masters used to tell you how you should strike, but the edges are actually equal in length and sharpening. There is not a "designated" long or short edge. It's a matter of context depending on how you are gripping your weapon. Backswords and falchions are weapons for which the designation of the edges is more clear. The oberhau or cut from above is meant to be performed with the long edge, and with a backsword or falcion one of the two edges is clearly designed to do most of this kind of cutting. The opposite edge has a thickened back section that aids the weapon's structural properties as it cuts with the long edge. However, a zwerchau or cross-cut which can come in handy for many situations has to be thrown in such a way that the short edge is used to strike. If the whole back of the weapon was thickened and blunt and you have a so-called hatchet point, as is the case with the Conyers falchion or a stock 1796 heavy cavalry sword, you could not cut your opponent with that move and your options would be limited. A hatchet point is also unsuited for thrusting. You can have your cake and eat it too if your falchion has a 'clipped point' or your backsword has a 'spear point', in which a few inches of the short edge at the tip of the blade are ground to take a sharp edge. Most of the weapon's spine or back is still thickened but you have just enough of a back edge at the tip to perform a reverse cut, and the "spear tip" allows you to thrust. I don't usually refer to a regular double-edged sword as having a "false edge". "Short edge" is more appropriate in that case, and "false edge" is more appropriate for a sharpened back section of a backsword.

A quick edit: when I started this post I was not aware that the Italian system used "false edge" when describing longsword moves so I may have to eat my words and admit I was too pedantic. I should amend my statement to say that on this website I usually encountered the term "false edge" when referring specifically to falchions and messers and that it's become a personal bias, especially since I haven't read about Italian school longsword. Maybe there's a bit of a German-school bias among this website's review contributors.

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Mon 02 Jul, 2012 7:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To get back on topic though, it's odd to me that pictures in which every detail of the soldier's armor is lovingly rendered as if by an expert, you see guys hacking away at each other and there's narry a half-sword in sight. One picture in some 15th century Froissart's chronicles very clearly shows an armored man about to use a two-handed strike of wrath with his longsword against another armored man-at-arms. On one hand medieval illustration is very stylized and sometimes sacrifices realistic description to depict some convention or trope. I 33 for example is so two-dimensional that it's almost impossible to interpret it with certainty and without a lot of educated guesswork based on other sources, and the mighty blows delivered to helmets in the Morgan Bible look like hyperbole compared to penetration tests on helmets. Chroniclers gave ridiculously inflated numbers when describing large battles. I just don't know what seems harder for me to contemplate: the thought that such evocative medieval pictures are gross exaggerations that cannot be relied upon to get an idea of what fighting in battle was like, which is something the duel-focused fechtbuchs don't necessarily give us, or on the other hand the idea that the sword's use as a concussive weapon was much more prevalent than my favorite theory allowed for.

The fight books are definitely geared toward the judicial duel and desperate combat requiring you to kill your enemy. In a judicial duel you have to use the most lethal moves possible because the stakes are so high. The loser will be taken out and hanged if he doesn't die of his wounds anyway, and holding back could give your opponent a chance to turn the tables on you and cause the loss of your life without the possibility of quarter or ransom. I'm not necessarily saying I agree that you might cut because you just want to stun your enemy instead of killing him, but I guess that the goals of the judicial duel being different from battle or tournament might cause a change in your fighting style hypothetically speaking.

Just for the heck of it, can we please round up as many non-fighting manual pictures of knights half-swording in battle as we can get on the page? The one we have is a good start but outside of the fight books it is one of the only such things I've seen. For that matter I haven't got the images of knights in plate armor whacking each other with swords so let's have some of those too if anybody cares to contribute.

"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Robert Hinds




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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jul, 2012 8:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've always figured the reason the medieval artists never depicted half-swording was because most didn't actually see the battle they were portraying. They may have seen an army march out to battle or march back from battle but not actually have been familiar with combat techniques. However they would have seen soldiers and knights before so would have been able to portray their armour in great detail.
The masters techniques are supposed to be secret after all... Perhaps they were not common knowledge among the non-knightly?

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

"...And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one..." Luke 22:36
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 1:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Depictions of cutting with swords against plate armor         Reply with quote

Michael Parker wrote:
Mike Loades claims in his book Swords and Swordsmen that armored combatants did not always attack the gaps in armor, but used their blades to bludgeon the opponent and the points to impart blunt trauma. Even though Mike Loades is a superb martial arts historian and clearly understands the fechtbuchs and I am only an armchair hobbyist, I find it hard to believe that dismounted armored fighters would ever bother to attack the plates when half-sword fighting allows you to attack the maille so effectively. What do you all think of this?


You know, that's odd, because in a recent video about Talhoffer he made a point of just how effective armour was and showed it by whacking a fully-armoured associate several times with barely any noticeable effect. On the other hand, though, it may simply be a matter of context. I have no problem accepting that big roundhouse swings could be used to impart significant blunt trauma through mail or a helmet. Even with a great helm, a full-power blow with a sword can still deliver enough force to temporarily disorient the victim. The Mordschlag segment of that same Talhoffer video described this in some length.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It might simply be that Mr Loades has refined his arguments and conclusions since his earlier work. I had a lot of problems with some of his earlier documentaries but his later ones are pretty good.
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Wed 11 Jul, 2012 8:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The evolution of his views would be a tempting explanation, except that he published Swords and Swordsmen in 2011 I think. It's weird to me because he really does know the fighting manuals inside and out and obviously has seen for himself that almost exclusively half-sword moves are depicted therein. He mentions in this book that there are moves to thrust to the armpit or groin of a standing man in armor with the half-sword and talks about half-sword at some length. Still, in that book he said that even though swords can never cut open or pierce plate armor he thinks that a hard blade strike to the plate could produce the desired effect and doesn't rule it out as something that men in armor would have done. He says basically that while swords with more acute points may have made it easier to slip the point into the gaps, he doesn't think that this was the original reason that the points became more needle-like but instead to concentrate the force of a thrust on a smaller point of impact.
"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Jul, 2012 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A hard accurate cut to a joint tends to place the point in-line for a thrust. Cut to the arm, specifically the elbow, stuns and sets the point in the area of under the arm for a wicked thrust with one's body weight behind it. Same for the clavicle or top of the breastplate targeting the throat. A hard blow to the wrist might damage the thin steel of the vambrace or guantlet, hampering the opponent's response.

An armoured fight is a chess game like any other earnest fight. Its not as simple as cutting wood or breaking stones. Any effort expended has to create opportunity or it is simply energy wasted. Well, that is unless one is doing that late Renaissance tournament fighting where bashing the snot out of someone elses' vastly expensive harness is the real purpose of the exercise. Razz
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Nicholas A. Gaese




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PostPosted: Fri 13 Jul, 2012 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Speaking of tournament bashing, there was a link posted some time ago on a similar thread.

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=22266
http://willscommonplacebook.blogspot.ca/2007/...armor.html

Its a blog that deals with source accounts of the use of swords (mostly the large two handers) when fighting at the barriers, dated to circa 1519. With the twohanders knights have been able to deeply drive in or heavily dent in armets, some even to the "effusion of blood". It also gives an example of how the hands were targeted with hard strikes, and how contenders were forced to quit the day after sustaining hand injuries. very fascinating stuff, worth a good lookover.




Regards
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Fri 13 Jul, 2012 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:
A hard accurate cut to a joint tends to place the point in-line for a thrust. Cut to the arm, specifically the elbow, stuns and sets the point in the area of under the arm for a wicked thrust with one's body weight behind it. Same for the clavicle or top of the breastplate targeting the throat. A hard blow to the wrist might damage the thin steel of the vambrace or guantlet, hampering the opponent's response.

An armoured fight is a chess game like any other earnest fight. Its not as simple as cutting wood or breaking stones. Any effort expended has to create opportunity or it is simply energy wasted. Well, that is unless one is doing that late Renaissance tournament fighting where bashing the snot out of someone elses' vastly expensive harness is the real purpose of the exercise. Razz


Depending on the armour, vambraces could actually be quite thick. The A21 Gothic armour averages 1.4 mm thick in the upper cannons and 1.5 mm thick in the lower cannons.
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William P




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Jul, 2012 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:
Kel Rekuta wrote:
A hard accurate cut to a joint tends to place the point in-line for a thrust. Cut to the arm, specifically the elbow, stuns and sets the point in the area of under the arm for a wicked thrust with one's body weight behind it. Same for the clavicle or top of the breastplate targeting the throat. A hard blow to the wrist might damage the thin steel of the vambrace or guantlet, hampering the opponent's response.

An armoured fight is a chess game like any other earnest fight. Its not as simple as cutting wood or breaking stones. Any effort expended has to create opportunity or it is simply energy wasted. Well, that is unless one is doing that late Renaissance tournament fighting where bashing the snot out of someone elses' vastly expensive harness is the real purpose of the exercise. Razz


Depending on the armour, vambraces could actually be quite thick. The A21 Gothic armour averages 1.4 mm thick in the upper cannons and 1.5 mm thick in the lower cannons.


do we have examples of people, say at modern reenactments, suffering from a sword blow denting plates in their harness?
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Jul, 2012 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:

Depending on the armour, vambraces could actually be quite thick. The A21 Gothic armour averages 1.4 mm thick in the upper cannons and 1.5 mm thick in the lower cannons.


Jojo,

I can readily crease 1.5mm mild steel armour with a blunt AL waster. With a blunt steel sword it is no trouble at all, in fact its very common in full contact rebated steel fighting. There are a few thousand SCAdians that can crease 2.0mm mild with rattan batons, at will. 1.5mm is pretty lightweight protection unless its tempered medium carbon steel. (i.e. what most people call "spring steel")

The A21 armour was made for someone who was unlikely to have been concerned with having a dent or two repaired, financially.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Jul, 2012 8:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:

do we have examples of people, say at modern reenactments, suffering from a sword blow denting plates in their harness?


You are kidding, right? Laughing Out Loud
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William P




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PostPosted: Sat 14 Jul, 2012 8:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:
William P wrote:

do we have examples of people, say at modern reenactments, suffering from a sword blow denting plates in their harness?


You are kidding, right? Laughing Out Loud


no, and i mean specifically in the sense of it dening plate and causing harnesses to seize up
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