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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2004 11:15 am    Post subject: East vs West         Reply with quote

am I right in saying that the main difference between swords of the East vs the West is that swords of the West are heavier because they are designed to penetrate steel armour, which is not the case with Eastern swords?

It would really be an interesting study to research combat techniques between East and West especially in a confrontation on the battlefield. I suppose we saw some of that during the Crusades where we saw heavily armoured Western soldiers versus lightly armoured Middle-Eastern soldiers. Does anyone have any knowledge on who on average made the better soldier?

Did the armour really help? Was it the sword style that made the difference?

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2004 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The weights of swords both in the east and west vary a great deal. Representations across the whole range of weights can be seen in every culture's swords.

That was a quick reply and I'd ellaborate more but I have to get to work. I'm sure more info will be added to this topic.

Cheers!

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Patrick Kelly




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2004 11:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First you have to define exactly what you mean by "east". This can pertain to many cultures.

As Nathan pointed out, there was a wide variance in weight throughout each culture. Not only in general categories but in specific weapon groups as well. A simple conclusive statement like that simply can't be made. There are far too many variables in things such as technology, environment, religion, culture, and etc.

The best that can be said is that one region's weapons were no more or less effective than any others. They performed as best they could given the demands placed upon them and the technology with which they were developed.

By "steel" armour are you refering to plate armour? If so, no sword is really that effective in the cut against this kind of defense. When plate armour was developed other types of impact weapons were created to deal with it.

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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2004 12:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I may be remembering incorrectly, but I recall a discussion along somewhat similar lines, in which it was pointed out that both sides in the early crusades would have used similar weight, straight, double edged swords. The curved, single edged swords now associated with middle eastern warriors became typical later (as similar swords did in Europe, although the exact timing probably differs).
Geoff
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Andrew Winston




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Nov, 2004 4:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Geoff, you are correct. Middle-eastern weapons during the time of the crusades were similar in appearance to western cruciform swords. They were similar to modern takouba and kaskara.

Here are some shots from the Topkapi's collection:



"I gave 'em a sword. And they stuck it in, and they twisted it with relish.
And I guess if I had been in their position, I'd have done the same thing."
-Richard Milhous Nixon
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R. Laine




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 2:44 am    Post subject: Re: East vs West         Reply with quote

Alex,

Quote:
am I right in saying that the main difference between swords of the East vs the West is that swords of the West are heavier because they are designed to penetrate steel armour, which is not the case with Eastern swords?


Unfortunately, not. Swords were never the preferred weapon against plate-armoured opponents (and even when they were used, cutting was hardly the primary method of attacking - slamming a sword against someone in plate armour is quite likely going to do worse things to the sword than to the target...). If you are interested, there are numerous pictures decipting armoured combat from the late medieval "Gladiatoria" fencing book online at http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/Gladiatoria/Gladiatoria.htm

Not a single cutting action against an armoured opponent is described. Instead, the combatants are shown holding their weapons with one hand on the blade and attempting to throw the opponent to the ground and to thrust into the gaps in his armour. The same is done in numerous other Italian and German texts as well. Using stiffer swords make sense in the context of this kind of fencing, but not neccessarily heavier.

However, If you were referring to maille (or "chain mail", as it is also known in some circles) by steel armour, then the answer is propably going to be a tad different, as we currently don't have any treatises (or, at least, I'm aware of none) on fighting opponents in maille. However, unless I'm mistaken (which is not very unlikely - this is way out of my primary period of interest), swords intended for battlefield use (generally...) did become a tad heavier as the availiblity of maille grew.

It is also worth keeping in mind that not nearly all swords were made to combat the most protective (and thus most expensive and rare) armour of a given time period. The primary purpose of the sword was, outside of several exceptions, that of a civilian self-defence weapon.

What I'm trying to say, in a rather long-winded fashion, too, is that it really depends on the time period you are referring to, and even then, the best we can propably offer in many cases are rather gross generalisations. If you could specify your question a bit... *g*

Rabbe
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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's a really interesting hilt. I've never seen a curved hilt like that with that kind of blade. Does anyone know how that affected how they fought with them? Perhaps the curved hilt was a way to keep a good grip on the sword during the cut, kind of like some pommels do. How heavy are the blades in relation to their European counterparts of the period? There certainly isn't much to counterbalance the weight. Unless the blades are light, they must have had a great deal of forward presence. Does anyone here have hands on knowledge of how they handle, or what their style of fighting was like? For that matter, are their any Arabic fencing treatises out there that have survived?
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I guess the reason why I'm asking is because I was wielding a Paul Chen Practical Plus Katana which wields like a feather, and I just received my beautiful AT Lady Carmen which wields like a Parking Meter by comparison. I'm trying to figure out what is the reason behind using more unwieldy weapons which I assume to be because of armour.

thanks.

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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Russ Mitchell




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 8:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's actually pretty common all across eastern europe and the mdidle east.

It does two things:
1. Much more leverage into the cut.
2. Slight change of the blade angles on which you move.

The blades themselves, when done up like this, are typically very thin, and hold a very nice edge. Not much counterbalancing to be done. When necessary, the Turks typically used an extra-thick tang to create the blade balance, rather than a pommel. Both are good solutions to the problem -- and if you've never handled a surviving Turkish piece, let me tell you, they usually handle like a dream.

For fencing, the Munyatul' Ghuzat says "go play polo."

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 9:00 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, Russ! Big Grin
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 9:30 am    Post subject: Re: East vs West         Reply with quote

Rabbe Jan-Olof Laine wrote:
Alex,
Not a single cutting action against an armoured opponent is described. Instead, the combatants are shown holding their weapons with one hand on the blade and attempting to throw the opponent to the ground and to thrust into the gaps in his armour. The same is done in numerous other Italian and German texts as well. Using stiffer swords make sense in the context of this kind of fencing, but not neccessarily heavier.

However, If you were referring to maille (or "chain mail", as it is also known in some circles) by steel armour, then the answer is propably going to be a tad different, as we currently don't have any treatises (or, at least, I'm aware of none) on fighting opponents in maille. However, unless I'm mistaken (which is not very unlikely - this is way out of my primary period of interest), swords intended for battlefield use (generally...) did become a tad heavier as the availiblity of maille grew.
Rabbe


what you said make sense - but then why use say a bastard sword or 2 handed sword if you're just going to throw someone down? The crux of my question is why use heavy unwieldy weapons when it is slow in return?

I guess I don't understand the principles of sword play, why someone would choose a heavier weapon versus a quick light sword. I am reminded about the movie Rob Roy, where Rob Roy and his Claymore gets his butt kicked by a guy with a quick rapier.

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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R. Laine




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 9:50 am    Post subject: Re: East vs West         Reply with quote

Alex Yeoh wrote:

what you said make sense - but then why use say a bastard sword or 2 handed sword if you're just going to throw someone down?


Because the same bastard sword could be used to great effect against unarmoured foes as well. There were numerous weapon types (mostly polearms) specifically designed to combat plate armour, all of which were better at their intended purpose than a sword.

The only situation where a sword was the preferred weapon against plate was when one did not have access to a better-fitting tool.

Quote:
The crux of my question is why use heavy unwieldy weapons when it is slow in return?

I guess I don't understand the principles of sword play, why someone would choose a heavier weapon versus a quick light sword. I am reminded about the movie Rob Roy, where Rob Roy and his Claymore gets his butt kicked by a guy with a quick rapier.


I must admit I'm a tad confused, too, now. Happy I'm not really quite sure what you are referring to by "heavy unwieldy weapons" - most longswords (generalising again; there were numerous exceptions in both the lighter and heavier direction...) fell into the 2,5 to 3,5 pound weight range, quite like their Eastern cousins of comparable size. As does the Lady Carmen as well, unless I'm entirely mistaken.

Rabbe


Last edited by R. Laine on Wed 24 Nov, 2004 9:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 9:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"heavy and unwieldy" being a relative term. I mean compared with a very quick katana for example, or a fast rapier.

if polearms were used against armour, then what were 2 handed swords used for? Unarmoured foes? Isn't the one with the quickest weapon going to win most of the time?

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:00 am    Post subject: Re: East vs West         Reply with quote

Alex Yeoh wrote:
what you said make sense - but then why use say a bastard sword or 2 handed sword if you're just going to throw someone down? The crux of my question is why use heavy unwieldy weapons when it is slow in return?

I guess I don't understand the principles of sword play, why someone would choose a heavier weapon versus a quick light sword. I am reminded about the movie Rob Roy, where Rob Roy and his Claymore gets his butt kicked by a guy with a quick rapier.


"Heavy" and "unwieldy" are relative terms. Something that seems heavy and unwieldy to an untrained person in an unfamiliar situation might be the perfect weapon for an expert in the right situation. The Rob Roy example isn't the best example. First, there's the "Hollywood Factor;" Hollywood isn't know for historical accuracy. Second, Rob chose the weapon he was most comfortable with rather than the one best suited to the situation.

The weapon can dictate the swordplay style. Both should be dictated by the circumstances you fight in. A rapier or smallsword (potentially very light and quick) won't do squat against armor or maille, for example. Pick your weapon and swordplay style based on who you're fighting, where you're fighting, and what defenses you'll need to defeat.

Happy

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R. Laine




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alex Yeoh wrote:
"heavy and unwieldy" being a relative term. I mean compared with a very quick katana for example, or a fast rapier.


Neither the kat or the rapier is considerably quicker than the longsword. Generally...

Quote:
if polearms were used against armour, then what were 2 handed swords used for? Unarmoured foes? Isn't the one with the quickest weapon going to win most of the time?


It's really something of a simplification, but everything else being equal, propably yes.

The reason why numerous historical fencing masters preferred the two-handed sword over single-handers was greater control of the blade; having both hands on the grip quickens the blade's motions quite notably and adds power to one's strikes, and thus also allows longer blades to be wielded effectively. Even the enormous "true" two-handers of the renaissance were rather fast, thanks to the leverage granted by the long handles.

Rabbe


Last edited by R. Laine on Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:21 am; edited 1 time in total
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've to say our experience here is reversed. We found the katana we've handled (including PC katana, Howard Clark 1086 katana, some antiques, cold steel series, iaito... etc. ) to be generally feeling heavier and a bit unwieldy than European swords (atrim, tinker, A&A, Albion) even given a shorter length. While the actual weight could be lighter for the katana, their balance makes it more cutting oriented. That is mostly due to the relatively little of distal taper in katana compare to the European blades. Of course, the models we handled would be a factor too because most of the European blades we have here are of cut and thrust variety in 15th century, except the Norman sword that is a single handed more cutting oriented sword. The design of these swords are to be able to do fine cutting, stop fast during a cutting motion and reverse the direction to make use of the false edge, or the point. It could be quite different from the katana usage that lack of the false edge. The Norman, while being more tip heavy than the long swords, still feel swift for its designed goal.

On the other hand, many JSA practitioners here found European swords to be too slim, too quick, too fast and whippy. (yeah, talking about prejudice)

So I think it's quite contra to what you feel.

Alex Yeoh wrote:
"heavy and unwieldy" being a relative term. I mean compared with a very quick katana for example, or a fast rapier.

if polearms were used against armour, then what were 2 handed swords used for? Unarmoured foes? Isn't the one with the quickest weapon going to win most of the time?

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Geoff Wood




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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The relative wieldiness (is that a word?) of the Chen katana and the AT1562 may relate to the latters blade being ~10 inches longer (angular momentum etc.), but reach might be important in a fight. A six inch stiletto would be really featherlight to wield, but you might be a bit unhappy if that was all you had in a sword fight.
I think some rapiers were quite heavy, as were some katanas, but the former typically had, again, greater reach, if I understand what I've read correctly.
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another example: During the sparring with Korea Haidong Gumdo practitioners Anthony Boyd and Jason Dudek (the latter one being the 2004 champion of Seoul sparring competition), who used katana as their weapon of practice, found my style of long sword sparring being surprisingly fluid and varying than the style they practice (that's their opinion, mind you.. and cannot be taken as the official statement from their style). This is mainly due to the use of true edge, false edge, the point and the lightness of European swords. I manage to cut from above using true edge and follow with a cut from below using false edge, without any pause. And there were times I follow a cut with a thrust.

Anthony and Jason gave tries to the European swords and both found them to be swifter in changing direction, providing more way to offense, while the katana bearing more momentun in a single direction strike. Jason even manage to use my bastard sword with single hand all the time, due to his strength built up in using the katana. Another testimonial of the European's sword handiness. Happy

And you can see Anthony fighting his master coach in Korea with his claymore ( a much larger, heavier sword than the katana). You can see his swiftness in action due to the leverage provided by the long hilt and the nice balance. He wasn't even using full power for the worry of causing injury to his opponent (the claymore is stiffer than all other weapons I made, and the momentum is greater).


http://www.rsw.com.hk/ce.zip
(35.7mb mpg format)

This may change your opinion. Happy

Alex Yeoh wrote:
"heavy and unwieldy" being a relative term. I mean compared with a very quick katana for example, or a fast rapier.

if polearms were used against armour, then what were 2 handed swords used for? Unarmoured foes? Isn't the one with the quickest weapon going to win most of the time?

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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thanks for the great responses - I am downloading the video now.

Note: the PC sword I wielded is the Practical Plus Katana which is significantly less blade heavy than the regular Practical katana - such a difference in fact that the PPK does feel like a feather.

Another question: since an open-ended answer has been given that says you choose a weapon based on the situation, then in the cases of the following situations: which sword would you choose? (only swords since we're not interested in other weapons at this stage):

1) against a person with mail armour
2) against a person with leather armour
3) against a person with no armour
4) against a person where you don't know what kind of armour (if any) he'll be wearing.

Also assuming that you don't know what kind of *sword* your opponent will be using.

thanks.

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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Alex Yeoh





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PostPosted: Wed 24 Nov, 2004 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Lancelot,

Great video!! A fantastic visual demonstration of what I was asking about. A question though: are those swords accurate as far as weight and balance are concerned?

thanks.

"Only a fool would go after the singing sword!" - Bugs Bunny
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