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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

Posts: 221

PostPosted: Sat 18 Aug, 2012 10:55 pm    Post subject: Backswords vs. double bladed         Reply with quote

As someone who has zero training in swords, I wonder how often and how usefull it is to have a double sided blade on a sword. I know there are techniques for using the "back" side of the blade, it just wouldn't seem to come that naturally to me (at least from holding my own sword). Is this the reason that as swords developed over the centuries we started seeing more and more blades with only one edge?

The backsword shown on page 164 of the book "Swords and Swordsmen" (sorry, no link to the photo) is what I'm referring to. As someone with no training in sword use, if someone were to tell me tomorrow to go into battle with a sword, I'd pick something like this type over something like my Albion Crecy. With no training I'd assume that all a double bladed sword would be usefull for is doing damage to myself on accident during the scuffle. Laughing Out Loud

Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Aug, 2012 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One potential advantage of a double sided blade is that when it gets dull, a flip of the wrist gives you a completely new sharp edge.

I suspect it has a lot to do with esthetics. I just like the way double edged swords look. They fit in more easily with the (debated) crucifix imagery of medieval swords.
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Aug, 2012 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, with one edged sword, one usually goes for thick spine on the other side, from variety of reasons.

If someone doesn't want such a spine, but all around thin 'sharp' profile, he may as well put two edges there.

And obviosuly, while thrusting, two roughly symmetrical edges are preferable - thus swords who are anyway 'thick' (with middle rib, for example) are still double edged.

That's how I see it, at least.
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Joey Nitti





Joined: 19 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Sun 19 Aug, 2012 11:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I study and practice german longsword (and dabble in related weapons), and there are tons of techniques using the back edge of the sword.

The Zwerchau is one of the most common ones, as well as the Schielhau. There are tons more

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_d...S-fFZKunzE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_d...hTY5cLB9ZU

Strikes with the back edge are often done by turning the sword into the so-called "thumb-grip", where the thumb is on the flat of the blade, and the flat facing forward if you were giving a thumbs-up
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Craig Shackleton




Location: Ottawa, Canada
Joined: 20 Apr 2004
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Aug, 2012 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joey is correct. One interesting point, though; the short edge techniques are much easier under most circumstances with two hands on the grip than with one. In the overall Leichtenauer tradition, the grossemsser is the most prominant unaccompanied single-handed sword(ish). The messer's short edge is only sharp near the tip, the rest is a spine like a backsword. Comparatively, the longsword (two hands) was double-edged for its full length. There are many reasons why the messer is shaped like it is, but I believe that there is a connection.
Ottawa Swordplay
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Sun 19 Aug, 2012 4:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As for one-handed back edge blows:

(a) They can come at the opponent from further out to the side. That is, the striker's hand is further out to the side (or up). The sword-forearm "corner" sticks out, rather than in. So you can reach around defense more easily. For example, you can try to reach around a shield.

(b) Doing that, your sword isn't between you and your opponent anymore. Can you defend yourself with your sword? Better have a shield! Or good armour.

So perhaps the lack of shields and the lessening of armour helped make double-edged swords less useful?

"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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William Carew




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2012 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Backswords and sabres don't lose much functionality by being single edged.

For starters, at the risk of stating the obvious, backswords and sabres typically have enclosed or semi-enclosed hilts that require them to be held with one (true) edge foremost, unlike longswords and earlier medieval single handers, which have open hilts that can be gripped from any angle.

Secondly, most backswords and sabres also have a short but quite sharp (false) edge that can span anywhere from a couple of inches up to 1/3 or more of the back edge, enabling all manner of back cuts. It is the last 1/2 to last 1/3 of the blade that is typically used to cut in any case, so you lose very little capability by having a stronger, thicker spine at the forte. And what you lose in double edged cutting ability, you can make up with increased stiffness and strength in the blade.

Bill Carew
Jogo do Pau Brisbane
COLLEGIUM IN ARMIS
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2012 6:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thats not entirely true about enclosed or even semi enclosed hilts, take german messers, rus sabres, some kinds of poilsh sabre, most chinese and japanese sabre liek swords
they arnt at all enclosing HOWEVER, what is often the case is that most of those weapons do hawever have hilts that favour holding the weapon in a specific way

most steppe sabres, as well as lots of chinese dao, the grips are often curved in an opposte direction to the curve of the blade itself and it feels alot more erganomic to hold the sabre in a particular way, i.e with the blade facing your opponent.
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D. S. Smith




Location: Central CA
Joined: 02 Oct 2011

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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2012 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies and insight gentlemen. As I said, I've never studied martial arts with a sword, but what William Carew said makes a lot of logical sense to me, about not losing much efficiency by only having one edge, and about the advantages of this. But at the same time, I see your point Timo, that it probably correlates to the amount of armor being worn and used (shields included). I can see how more striking surface opportunities would help in a heavily armored situation.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them,
In the halls of Valhalla!
Where the brave may live forever!
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William Carew




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2012 1:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
thats not entirely true about enclosed or even semi enclosed hilts, take german messers, rus sabres, some kinds of poilsh sabre, most chinese and japanese sabre liek swords


Hence why I said "typically" rather than exclusively. My inclusion of sabres was to point out the functional similarities between backswords and sabres. However, the OT was about backswords, which is a (British) term applied to a fairly specific category of European single edged swords that do, typically, have an enclosed hilt of some kind: sometimes a knuckle bar, quite often a basket or cage of some kind.

Quote:
they arnt at all enclosing HOWEVER, what is often the case is that most of those weapons do hawever have hilts that favour holding the weapon in a specific way


That was my point. Even sabres with open hilts are usually (not exclusively) designed to be held with the true edge foremost. That's kind of the whole point of a sabre to begin with.

Bill

Bill Carew
Jogo do Pau Brisbane
COLLEGIUM IN ARMIS
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