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P. Schontzler




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 10:35 am    Post subject: Cruciform Hilt Evolution         Reply with quote

Do we know why cruciform hilts dominated the hilt style for so many centuries in medieval western Europe? There are ways to better protect the hand (e.g. side rings on German bastard swords).

If I were to guess, I would say that hand protection was necessary for the primary battle weapons (lance, poleaxe, etc.), so when the sword was drawn the hand was already sufficiently guarded. But this is pure speculation on my part.
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Ken Jay




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Perhaps a number of factors... Armored gauntlets, ease/expense of making a simple guard, fashion, shield/buckler provided ample protection for style of fighting, simple cruciform provided adequate protection.,
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 4:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Use of shield for defence, use of sword as a secondary weapon, gauntlets when first longswords appeared...
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's easy to wear - the sword is flat, with no big bulky basket, or sticking-out side-rings. The protection is not as good, but the main point of the cross isn't static protection of the hand. A long cross (as opposed to a stubby Viking or Roman style guard) restricts opposing weapons more. For example, sword parries spear, spear does a little disengage around the guard and hand, and then thrusts into the body. A long cross means that the spear has to travel further and take longer to do this.
"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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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 5:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think there were likely religious reasons for the popularity of the shape too. The cross is an obvious symbol of Christianity, which played a much larger role in people's lives back then (for the most part). I would think the symbolism was more important for the earlier swords of this type than the later.
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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Fri 28 Jun, 2013 11:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The simple cross piece is perfectly suited towards how a longsword is/was used.

Considering how often you change grips while executing techniques (such as the thumb grip and putting your index finger over the cross) more complex hilts would be a hinderance pretty often.

The cross is also not a static defense, but an active useful part of the sword. Hitting with it, binds while winding, reversing to use it like a hammer are easier with a simple cross.

There's also balance issues,. Complex hilts can add up the weight towards the hilt pretty quickly and away from the blade and a good cutting presence. Not an insurmountable problem, but a cross is simpler to account for. I 'm pretty sure that the move towards more thrust capable swords and development of complex hilts wasn't just about better protection, but that there was more you could add when you were looking for a balance close to the hand. That Renaissance two-handed swords kept simpler crosses seems to bear this out.

Finally, I usually find that people under-estimate the defensive capabilities of the cross piece, usually because they don't appreciate how you defend yourself with one. Simply interposing your sword as a block is a quick way to get fingers hit and start thinking that the hilt is inadequate. But, when you add in stepping, turning the sword while executing beats, winding, voiding, and proper use of the Master Cuts the simple cross easily becomes very adequate protection.

This is an opinion from a fair amount of personal training and sparring with one so I hope its from knowing what I am doing (slightly). But if we look at training manuscripts from the time ( I33, Talhoffer, etc.) We see them training with bare hands seems pretty common, so I think its safe to assume these reasons and more made sense to them back then too.

Heck, considering that simple guards are pretty ubiquitous the world and ages over(such as the katana's tsuba and the Chinese 'cup' guards), maybe a better question should be, why did Europeans switch their guards.
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Daniel Wallace




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i also believed that gauntlets had a good part to play in the development of compound hilt styles. with a fully armored hand are rings necessary?

if anyone here remembers the attic fire video last year of Peter Johnson and the Secret Seal, there was a ton of good stuff mentioned there about the symbol of the sword - not just the cruciform pattern - but also the harmony of design and symmetry that artists/ craftsman stride for during the time period.

was the sword made in reflection to the christian symbol, possibly, but there's no positive proof of this. the Christian cross in itself was not a popular or even accepted symbol of the faith until the first crusade. so if you look at sword styles before this, if there is an abundance of cruciform swords before this time, then i would say that it is much more likely that the cruciform sword was adopted as a christian symbol - not made to represent a christian symbol.

the cross and the sword seem to go hand and hand, almost like the people who held them. there are period writings of the conflicted nature or men and women from this period of their faith vs. their duty as knight or 'lord'. the people had a double meaning almost like their swords.
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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Personally, I doubt gauntlets had much to do with the persistence of the cruciform cross, mainly because it would suppose that the sword was only being carried into fully kitted out battle, which isn't the case. And I severely doubt that swords men would routinely carry their gauntlets with them just in case they had to use their sword to protect their hands from their inadequately protective sword guards. It doesn't make sense.

Also, consider that the medieval people were not stupid. Gauntlets are not all that easy to construct, but adding a bar or two to create a simple basket hilt? Well with the abilities of smiths already constructing much harder things like swords. But they didn't. And their customers didn't seem to be asking for them, even though their lives depended on it.

So the most likely conclusion is that the cross was protection enough for proper use of medieval swords. Certainly forces like tradition and inertia played a part in the simple cross' s longevity, but they wouldn't have kept an ineffective design around if it didn't work.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 11:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think having the idea to build a complex hilt is nearly as easy as we figure now. As all innovations, when you look at it after the fact it seems logical and obvious...

Ben, although it's possible to use the cross effectively for defence, a slightly more complex hilt such as this one provides much more protection and even more ways to manipulate and hinder the enemy's blade, without being a significant hindrance to grip transitions. With a simple cross, if a blade slides towards your hand along your flat it's often necessary to rotate the hilt to get protection, or even to retract the grip backwards. With a complex hilt, you can just push right through. Any defensive move you can do with a simple cross is also possible with a complex hilt, but it gives more room for errors and even more ways to defend. Just as you observe of the simple cross, its usefulness goes far beyond the obvious.

It seems that as soon as the complex hilt started to develop, nearly all sword forms adopted it. Two-handed, one-handed, cutting, thrusting, single-edged, double-edged... Even on daggers. I think it demonstrates the usefulness of it. There is a tendency to look at swords of a given period as necessarily ideal for the context of the day. I don't think it's true, and I don't think a medieval man would have shunned a later complex-hilted sword if he had come across it.

I certainly wouldn't fancy fighting without a complex hilt if I have the choice, just like I don't think you'd fight without a cross on your longsword...

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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 11:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But if a simple ring is so much better, or heck even a little flange coming out, why was it not adopted on longswords even sooner when we know messers had them concurrently ( ie the fecthbooks of Liechtenauer)?

No, it make no sense that something that was fundamentally inadequate would exist for so long in the highly Darwinesque process of fighting when it could be solved relatively easily.

But, if we accept that the methods of fighting had changed which made more complex guards necessary, such as a switch to more thrusting techniques, then we have a more adequate explanation as to why they changed. A longsword is not a rapier or cut-and-thrust and was used differently and each is well constructed for how they are to be used. And I am okay with that.

I'd rather go with an explanation that doesn't include the idea that a culture was fundamentally stupid for half a millenia, especially given the lack of complex hilts across the world even in advanced sword cultures (the katana's tsuba comes to mind).
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 12:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:


I'd rather go with an explanation that doesn't include the idea that a culture was fundamentally stupid for half a millenia, especially given the lack of complex hilts across the world even in advanced sword cultures (the katana's tsuba comes to mind).


Eh, but the very point is that there's nothing 'fundamentally stupid' about it.

Almost everything seems obvious in hindsight, but it's not so easy to come up with.

And, of course, complex hilts are not easy at all to pull off from sheer metallurgical point of view. And 15th century was period of huge blooming as far as all metal-working goes - plate armors, steel prod crossbows, mechanical watches and so on.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 12:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Ben Coomer wrote:
I'd rather go with an explanation that doesn't include the idea that a culture was fundamentally stupid for half a millenia, especially given the lack of complex hilts across the world even in advanced sword cultures (the katana's tsuba comes to mind).

Eh, but the very point is that there's nothing 'fundamentally stupid' about it.
Almost everything seems obvious in hindsight, but it's not so easy to come up with.

Exactly!
And the technical part is indeed not that easy either.

Quote:
But, if we accept that the methods of fighting had changed which made more complex guards necessary, such as a switch to more thrusting techniques, then we have a more adequate explanation as to why they changed. A longsword is not a rapier or cut-and-thrust and was used differently and each is well constructed for how they are to be used. And I am okay with that.

The methods of fighting changed and the context of use as well, sure. But there are plenty of thrusts in longsword from what I gather, and a type XV blade is pretty thrust-oriented, perhaps more so than later blades that have associated complex hilts. I'm not convinced there was first a change in fighting style, then an adaptation of the sword. It's possible that the reverse happened, and that complex hilts opened more possibilities that were exploited in fencing styles.

Regards,

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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Bartek Strojek wrote:
Ben Coomer wrote:
I'd rather go with an explanation that doesn't include the idea that a culture was fundamentally stupid for half a millenia, especially given the lack of complex hilts across the world even in advanced sword cultures (the katana's tsuba comes to mind).

Eh, but the very point is that there's nothing 'fundamentally stupid' about it.
Almost everything seems obvious in hindsight, but it's not so easy to come up with.

Exactly!
And the technical part is indeed not that easy either.

Quote:
But, if we accept that the methods of fighting had changed which made more complex guards necessary, such as a switch to more thrusting techniques, then we have a more adequate explanation as to why they changed. A longsword is not a rapier or cut-and-thrust and was used differently and each is well constructed for how they are to be used. And I am okay with that.

The methods of fighting changed and the context of use as well, sure. But there are plenty of thrusts in longsword from what I gather, and a type XV blade is pretty thrust-oriented, perhaps more so than later blades that have associated complex hilts. I'm not convinced there was first a change in fighting style, then an adaptation of the sword. It's possible that the reverse happened, and that complex hilts opened more possibilities that were exploited in fencing styles.

Regards,


But, Vincent, part of your earlier post was how easy it was to slide an opposing blade onto someone's hand when its a simple cross (in theory at least, because ancient masters, modern enthusiasts, and myself have not encountered that problem outside of bad defensive technique). Which implies that the cross is inadequate protection. Considering that it lasted for a long time, this says they were perfectly willing to leave an inadequate defense without looking for a solution. Even extending the cross to form a bar across the knuckles would seem to be a better defense for hands and well within medieval abilities. Or how about a disk lying flat across the guard? Simple solutions to a problem that you suggest the simple cross had. But we don't see that. The cross lasted and even persisted in the age of complex hilts. So, when I say that your theory suggests that medieval warriors were stupid, its because your explanation relies not only on them being unable to fix a threat to their hands, but apparently not even recognizing there was a threat.

Also, we see the first developments of complex hilts in the form of rings to protect index fingers while fingering over the cross. So better defenses seem to have started to protect the hand when it came out from behind the cross, not to protect the hand behind it. That also does not support the idea that new hilts changed swordplay. Fingering the cross was known beforehand and only when it became more emphasized did it begin to change the hilt components.

And again, we do not see complex hilts in many other cultures outside of late sword culture Europe. Even after they were exposed to them, such as in India, the Middle East, and the Orient. So again, the complex hilt is not a superior configuration, outside of the swordplay styles that needed it. The longsword's cross is perfectly suited to do its job and is not an inadequate or sub-par solution for cultures who did not know better.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:
And again, we do not see complex hilts in many other cultures outside of late sword culture Europe. Even after they were exposed to them, such as in India, the Middle East, and the Orient.


These are most prominent among Indian swords. I don't know how old the modern traditional khanda hilt is, but it's a nice protective basket. Then we have many knucklebows on tulwars and shamshirs. And then there is the ultimate protective hilt: the gauntlet sword http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pata_(sword) (and we could add the katar, too). These last two appear to have developed independently of European swords.

What's a "complex hilt"? Does a knucklebow count? Does a cross + disc such as seen on some tulwars count (this would be comparable to cross + side rings, but smaller)? Is a plain cup "complex"? What would make a cup-hilt rapier complex, and a Chinese or Japanese disc guard not complex?

For modernish European military swords, we see full basket hilts, half-baskets. simple kucklebows, knuckbows + disc guards, and plain crosses all being used in the same periods. None made the other's obsolete. I think the full basket protects better than the rest. Heavier, bulkier, and perhaps not what you want to carry around every day to use in 2 battles in your whole military career. How often did people actually fight with swords? Less often than in the movies. Easy-of-carry matters.

"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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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Relatively sure that Crusaders, Hundred Year War campaigners, and all the other participants in the vast amounts of conflicts in and around those times gave their swords quite the workout. Something fundamentally flawed wouldn't be kept, so the cruciform must have been pretty effective.

I completely agree with you that none of these guard forms is necessarily better than any others. They all reflect how the sword was too be used, cultural norms, and preferences of the wielder. But the original question included a reference to how suposedly inadequate cross couldn't protect the hand, and replies later about them using gauntlets to compensate reflects this basic idea that medieval European swords were inadequate somehow. I'd like to see this idea go away and it seems that first we need to get rid of the idea there was something wrong with them instead of being well designed for their purpose.

And patas are really cool...
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 29 Jun, 2013 5:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As for adequacy of the cruciform guard, I have plenty of swords with no guard. Some of them, many of them, are excellent swords. Yes, the hand is more vulnerable. So don't let the other guy hit you in the hand!

This includes swords from the Philippines, Indonesia, Borneo, SE Asia, Caucasus, Tibet, Afghanistan, Balkans, Turkey, China, and Africa, and replicas of swords from Korea and Japan. And some no-guard fantasy swords which appear, in principle, quite functional and adequate. I have more swords with no guards than swords with complex guards.

If there was something inadequate about cruciform guards, the abundance of no-guard swords would be very mysterious. But, as has been said up-thread, some types of fighting with swords require (or greatly benefit from) complex guards, rather than swords requiring complex guards to be useful.

This also suggests that the long cruciform guard is actually designed to do something that teeny-tiny guards and no-guards don't do. As I suggested above, they're good for stopping quick disengages. Clements discussed the function of the cross at length in Medieval Swordsmanship (though he suggested that the main function is hand protection against impact with shields). If it doesn't actually do anything, all it does is give the enemy more opportunity to disarm, and make it more likely for the sword to snag on clothing.

Using a simple cross-guard, I do get hit on the hand in sparring (and often it's on a spot where my gloves under-protect - ouch!). Not so often, and I would hit the opponent far, far more often in legs, arms, body, or head. Often enough, I will spar with no guard, and I don't get hit excessively in the hands. When I err, my opponent will hit me in my hands (if he/she can). Trains me to do better in the future. Personally, I like knucklebows, especially for sparring, but they're far from necessary.

"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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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jun, 2013 2:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Coomer wrote:
But, Vincent, part of your earlier post was how easy it was to slide an opposing blade onto someone's hand when its a simple cross (in theory at least, because ancient masters, modern enthusiasts, and myself have not encountered that problem outside of bad defensive technique). Which implies that the cross is inadequate protection.

Well there seems to be an awful lot of injuries and hits on the hands in modern HEMA, developing new gloves to better protect the hand is a hot topic right now, and I don't exactly see modern enthusiasts rushing into tournaments or even full-speed sparring with confidence in their simple cross... Of course you can argue that the hand gets hit because of bad defensive technique, but when you add a complex hilt suddenly a lot of these bad defensive techniques become perfectly good, and none of the good defensive techniques become bad. I've trained with a boken without tsuba because the style asked for it, so I know full well that you can defend the hands without anything, not even a cross. That does not drive me to calling the tsuba an encumbering part only useful if you are bad, and does not mean either that the Japanese were dumb because they never realized that the "perfect" medieval cross (which they were fully able to make I guess) would be more useful than their simple guards.

Your argument is a bit like saying that fighting without armour is perfect and cannot be improved upon because you can defend all the parts of the body with the sword pretty well. Sure, but armour makes it even easier.

I'm not saying that these swords and the associated arts are worthless, not at all. I'm saying that technically the complex hilt open more possibility than the long cross, which itself opens more opportunity than simple round guards or short crosses. Like vs. like, it's still about the fighter, and so all arts and weapons are interesting in their own right.

Quote:
Considering that it lasted for a long time, this says they were perfectly willing to leave an inadequate defense without looking for a solution. Even extending the cross to form a bar across the knuckles would seem to be a better defense for hands and well within medieval abilities. Or how about a disk lying flat across the guard? Simple solutions to a problem that you suggest the simple cross had. But we don't see that. The cross lasted and even persisted in the age of complex hilts. So, when I say that your theory suggests that medieval warriors were stupid, its because your explanation relies not only on them being unable to fix a threat to their hands, but apparently not even recognizing there was a threat.

Maybe, just like the Japanese really, they thought that their guard was good enough. Which does not mean that it was the best and impossible to improve upon, in either case.

Quote:
Also, we see the first developments of complex hilts in the form of rings to protect index fingers while fingering over the cross. So better defenses seem to have started to protect the hand when it came out from behind the cross, not to protect the hand behind it. That also does not support the idea that new hilts changed swordplay. Fingering the cross was known beforehand and only when it became more emphasized did it begin to change the hilt components.

It's a difficult chicken and egg problem and indeed the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I don't think fencers can adapt their style as quickly as swordmakers can develop complex hilts once the idea is found. If you have years of training you can't depart from it quickly, so the benefits won't necessarily be obvious at first.

I've just re-read AVB Norman on the chronology of the transition to complex hilts. This is apparently quite fuzzy with sparse archaeological and iconographical evidence. The single arm of the hilt, the part protecting the index, appears as early as 1340, earlier than most of our technical sources. Combined with some variants of knucklebow this seems to actually be associated to cutting swords and falchions, not to any transition to more thrust-centric fencing. By the last quarter of the fifteenth century the hilts with symmetrical arms of the hilt have appeared and side-rings start to be found. The sixteenth century sees the boom of rings that encircle the hand, and the simple cross becomes scarce at least on one-handed swords, before making a come-back on dress swords.

Interestingly, early sixteenth century sources do not show real signs of transition to thrusts over cuts, even though the complex hilts are already almost fully developed (at least structurally) at that time. The real debate of cuts vs. thrusts, and the transition to thrust-centric fights, starts in the second half of the sixteenth century, perhaps with Agrippa (1553). The issue is still not settled for Lovino (1580), who sees the necessity of a balanced use of both, and famously for Silver. Fabris bothers explaining why he chooses to focus on thrusts in 1606, implying that this was still debated. All of them would have known complex hilts for most of their lives. Based on that I consider that the complex hilts were one of the factor of the transition. Specifically, they make countering cuts with timed thrusts a lot more viable and create a cone of defence (exactly like bucklers) when the sword is extended forward.

A case could be made that the later development of the complex hilts (adding shells and plates, eventually cups) was indeed driven by the increasing focus on thrusts, as these appear after we see the transition in technical sources.

Regards,

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Ben Coomer




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jun, 2013 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:

Well there seems to be an awful lot of injuries and hits on the hands in modern HEMA, developing new gloves to better protect the hand is a hot topic right now, and I don't exactly see modern enthusiasts rushing into tournaments or even full-speed sparring with confidence in their simple cross...


I wouldn't call modern HEMA experiences diagnostic to historical practices. We are after all still learning and don't really have a master to explain what would be basic to them. The reality is that we do not see or read that special considerations had to taken for hands to be protected because their cross leaves them vulnerable. And the most likely explanation is that it didn't.

Quote:
That does not drive me to calling the tsuba an encumbering part only useful if you are bad, and does not mean either that the Japanese were dumb because they never realized that the "perfect" medieval cross (which they were fully able to make I guess) would be more useful than their simple guards.


Never said that Japanese swords need crosses. Longswords have crosses because they need them. You appear to be arguing that longswords need complex hilts to better protect the hand but that they did not develop them until much later for "tradition" or something. I think this ignores what we actual know about history and insults and distorts our forebearers.

Quote:
Your argument is a bit like saying that fighting without armour is perfect and cannot be improved upon because you can defend all the parts of the body with the sword.

No, its not. My argument is that the hand is no more vulnerable than any other part of the body with a long sword, because proper defensive techniques work that way. Your statement on how easy it is to hit the hands and how modern practitioners need better protection is a argument that the cross is insufficient. This does not support what we see historically and what some like myself and Timo and others experience in modern practice.

Quote:
I'm saying that technically the complex hilt open more possibility than the long cross, which itself opens more opportunity than simple round guards or short crosses.

Not in my experience, and given the dearth of complex hilts in even late longsword manuals, I'd be willing to bet that the people actually using them didn't either. One would suspect that something that opened up so many possibilities and opportunities would be pretty popular with experts in those weapons.

Look if you really prefer complex hilts, go with it. I personally don't like scent stopper pommels, and stick with wheel pommels. I like them better. They better support how I like to fight and bully to me. But if I started going on about how they are basically superior to all other forms of pommels because of the tactical opportunities they present, there's a problem. Its not supported by history and experience and I'd be wrong.

Quote:
Maybe, just like the Japanese really, they thought that their guard was good enough. Which does not mean that it was the best and impossible to improve upon, in either case.

Your closing in on the "they were stupid" argument again. Its just as likely there was not any particular advantage and they knew it.

Quote:
It's a difficult chicken and egg problem and indeed the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. I don't think fencers can adapt their style as quickly as swordmakers can develop complex hilts once the idea is found. If you have years of training you can't depart from it quickly, so the benefits won't necessarily be obvious at first.


I severely doubt that. Smiths just throwing ideas out there about how swords should be and the swordsmen struggling to figure out how to incorporate these new features in? Considering that it is very much like it was in the early days of modern HEMA where smiths who built knives and never even seen an actual historic sword were trying to tell us how swords were supposed to work. It didn't usually work too well. Now were smiths and cutlers experimenting? Certainly, but probably in adapting what customers were asking for into real life. It would fit what we know about human nature and the basic evolutionary trends we see in swords.

Thanks for the bit on the possible evolution of complex hilts. Considering the messer example I probably should have thought of how they may be more in line with cutting than thrusts. It still seems to come more down to stylistic preferences than anything being better. I've never found myself lacking in responses to cuts or thrusts in any situation I've encountered.
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Matthew P. Adams




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Jun, 2013 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder if it was a bit of bravado. Look at motorcycle helmets. Clearly it is safer to wear one than not, even more comfortable if you consider bugs and road debris, but some states don't require them, and some riders take the opportunity to go helmet less. Why? It's less "manly" to wear a helmet. Maybe if you were seen with a complex hilt on your weapon it would show a lack of confidence in your skills.
"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Jul, 2013 12:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is an interesting bit about hilts in Girard Thibault's treatise (1628), Table II p.5:
Quote:
...What should be the form of the guard, about which are brought daily so many new inventions and with so little foundation, as if its make was just to serve as ornament of the person, rather than being useful in time of necessity. Some make crooked or curved branches; the pommels big, round, flat on the top; yet others like baskets around the handle; all this to demonstrate I know not what courage, or rather cowardice, as says the Spanish proverb, Cargado de hierro, cargado de miedo [loaded with iron, full of fear].

So there is some truth to what Matthew just said, and this attitude of disdain towards all these protections that do not rely on skill must have existed before. After all, at some point people chose to duel without armour, which is clearly not done for reasons of safety. Thibault still recommends a rather complex hilt (this form), and not a single cross, but that attitude that the new inventions are unnecessary must have existed before. Thibault's hilt form is at least 50 years old at the time he is writing...

Quote:
I severely doubt that. Smiths just throwing ideas out there about how swords should be and the swordsmen struggling to figure out how to incorporate these new features in? Considering that it is very much like it was in the early days of modern HEMA where smiths who built knives and never even seen an actual historic sword were trying to tell us how swords were supposed to work. It didn't usually work too well. Now were smiths and cutlers experimenting? Certainly, but probably in adapting what customers were asking for into real life. It would fit what we know about human nature and the basic evolutionary trends we see in swords.

What I'm saying is that what customers probably asked for (i.e. more protection for the hand against cuts) had practical consequences that the customers did not foresee (i.e. increased viability of point forward positions, further possibilities to manipulate the opposing blade), and that fencing schools needed time to fully realize the potential.

But let's agree to disagree. As I said most of my own practical experience is without a guard at all. Yet the few times I have handled a complex hilt I saw the benefits immediately. Even a simple ring on a parrying dagger probably saved my fingers twice in a short time span, at no practical cost at all.

Regards,

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
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