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Jim H




Location: Florida
Joined: 16 Mar 2015

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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 6:28 am    Post subject: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

While playing with my Albion SL Vinlad today, I started thinking about what a Viking sword really felt like to a Viking. It occurred to me that in reality, there are few of us who would ever know. Part of the equation that establishes the "feel" of a sword is the design and careful craftsmanship of the sword. But I would think that the biggest part that constitutes "feel" is the build of the person wielding it. To put it more simply, any sword is going to feel different to the proverbial ninety pound weakling than it would to a body builder.

Vikings, and others of their era, lived a very different life than we do. It was very physically intensive. They farmed with crude instruments. They rowed across oceans in their spare time. They worked with their swords daily since youth. Their hands were probably calloused to leather from their daily routines. The weakest of these people must have had a physical superstructure that is seldom seen today.

So, in our quest to experience the true and accurate "feel" of a Viking sword it occurs to me that there are few of us today who could ever actually get that experience. Kind of depressing, huh?
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Jonathan Blair




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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 7:30 am    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Jim H wrote:
Kind of depressing, huh?


Only if you want it to be. I mean I am comfortable with not being a Viking era Scandinavian. Doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good Viking era style sword.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." - The Lord Jesus Christ, from The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, chapter x, verse 34, Authorized Version of 1611
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Eric W. Norenberg





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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 12:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Jim H wrote:

The weakest of these people must have had a physical superstructure that is seldom seen today.


At the risk of getting too far away from the focus of this website... I'm thinking you're probably as wrong as you are right. The average person I can't help but think would indeed have been a bit stronger, and much tougher than the average western/American today. But considering the limited healthcare, likely diet limitations, and the physical wearing down the body incurs from decades of repetitive hard manual tasks...
What the folks back then really had over us was probably a mental toughness and ability to bear discomfort and pain. There are still folks around today who have that kind of strength, but in a time when farmers ride around in air-conditioned tractors and dentists massage our feet... you'd have to look at the specialists to find it.
No reason you couldn't train up and get closer to the level of strength and endurance for that idealized farmer/warrior. Just join a cross-fit type place and tell them you have two years to get ready to fight the Mountain. They'll get it.
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John D




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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 4:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric, can I get your dentist's phone number?
ENDURE what we must, PREVAIL over all adversities and REVEL when we may!
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sun 24 May, 2015 11:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Eric W. Norenberg wrote:
...
No reason you couldn't train up and get closer to the level of strength and endurance for that idealized farmer/warrior. Just join a cross-fit type place and tell them you have two years to get ready to fight the Mountain. They'll get it.


Gym Instructor: "You want to do 2 years of dropping progressively heavier weights on your head to strengthen your skull?" Wink

But I honestly think this idea that the people of yesteryear were supermen and women who were mightier in every way than their fallen descendants is a bit bogus. Almost certainly better acclimatised to certain hardships, but not in any meaningful way were they distinctly our physical superiors. Were that the case, you would see countries that still had populations that lived a traditional existence absolutely dominate sports/olympics, and that is simply not what we see, with the exception of west african countries over-representing in distance running.
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Jim H




Location: Florida
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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2015 2:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Quote:
At the risk of getting too far away from the focus of this website...


As far as drifting too far afield from the purpose of this website, I am in the Off-topic Talk forum where this subject is absolutely appropriate. What forum are you in?

As far as a culture of people who have been raised on organic fish, organic vegetables, and the odd organic pork loin being automatically inferior in physical strength and stamina to a culture of people who have been raised on Big Macs, Twinkies and Cheetos - sorry, I can't buy it. But, we could beat this to death forever, with no positive result. Neither one of us was there. You are welcome to believe what you believe and I will do the same.

As far as the unsolicited counseling as to what I might do to improve my personal physical shape, thank you, but I am in very good shape and keep myself that way. I know what "the mountain" requires. I don't need to ask. Physical conditioning is what caused me to offer up the idea. Many people who I meet these days are really not in very good shape. It seems to be our social norm. That was the sole basis for my thinking.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 25 May, 2015 2:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Jim H wrote:
Quote:
At the risk of getting too far away from the focus of this website...


As far as drifting too far afield from the purpose of this website, I am in the Off-topic Talk forum where this subject is absolutely appropriate. What forum are you in?

As far as a culture of people who have been raised on organic fish, organic vegetables, and the odd organic pork loin being automatically inferior in physical strength and stamina to a culture of people who have been raised on Big Macs, Twinkies and Cheetos - sorry, I can't buy it. But, we could beat this to death forever, with no positive result. Neither one of us was there. You are welcome to believe what you believe and I will do the same.

As far as the unsolicited counseling as to what I might do to improve my personal physical shape, thank you, but I am in very good shape and keep myself that way. I know what "the mountain" requires. I don't need to ask. Physical conditioning is what caused me to offer up the idea. Many people who I meet these days are really not in very good shape. It seems to be our social norm. That was the sole basis for my thinking.


Snarky, defensive posts like this won't serve you well here. Reign it in.

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Kuo Xie




Location: Chicago, IL
Joined: 29 Feb 2012

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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 8:08 am    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Jim H wrote:



As far as a culture of people who have been raised on organic fish, organic vegetables, and the odd organic pork loin being automatically inferior in physical strength and stamina to a culture of people who have been raised on Big Macs, Twinkies and Cheetos - sorry, I can't buy it. But, we could beat this to death forever, with no positive result. Neither one of us was there. You are welcome to believe what you believe and I will do the same.


I think you are somewhat oversimplifying the dichotomy here. All that stuff you mention is great, but what about the long northern winters where there's nothing to eat but salt meat, salt cod, and pickled vegetables? What about when the harvests fail or fishing grounds dry up? If you're a Norse baby growing up in lean years you would have developmental problems from which you could never recover. Not to mention the benefits of modern medicine. As an athlete I'm sure you know that the science of physical training is also much better understood than it used to be. All this to say I don’t think the average Viking was bigger or stronger than the average modern 1st worlder. They were certainly mentally tougher, with better endurance, but I don't know about stronger or "healthier".
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John Hardy




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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 9:32 am    Post subject: Re: Feels like a Viking Sword....         Reply with quote

Kuo Xie wrote:
Jim H wrote:



As far as a culture of people who have been raised on organic fish, organic vegetables, and the odd organic pork loin being automatically inferior in physical strength and stamina to a culture of people who have been raised on Big Macs, Twinkies and Cheetos - sorry, I can't buy it. But, we could beat this to death forever, with no positive result. Neither one of us was there. You are welcome to believe what you believe and I will do the same.


I think you are somewhat oversimplifying the dichotomy here. All that stuff you mention is great, but what about the long northern winters where there's nothing to eat but salt meat, salt cod, and pickled vegetables? What about when the harvests fail or fishing grounds dry up? If you're a Norse baby growing up in lean years you would have developmental problems from which you could never recover. Not to mention the benefits of modern medicine. As an athlete I'm sure you know that the science of physical training is also much better understood than it used to be. All this to say I don’t think the average Viking was bigger or stronger than the average modern 1st worlder. They were certainly mentally tougher, with better endurance, but I don't know about stronger or "healthier".


Bingo! The average doctor up here in Canada, down in the USA, or in most western European countries today won't even recognize the symptoms of scurvy or consider it as a possible diagnosis without some thought... because it is so rarely seen. Contrast that with the prevalence of Ricketts (longterm structural weaknesses due to chronic lowgrade scurvy from insufficient Vitamin C) in any general population right up to the 1950s... And that's just ONE issue.

Of course, the counter argument might be that the general population nevertheless WAS tougher and stronger -- because all the possible "weaklings" were among the approximately 75% of newborns who died by age 5. (Again, go walk through any older graveyard... the number of infant and child graves is mind-numbing.)
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 12:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we tend to compare our average to the most exceptional personalities of times gone by. It can be tempting to diminish ourselves against the myths, legends and heroes passed to us. Especially when day to day we see average and the whole bell curve associated with it. Ironically, I'd imagine the epic heroes of old also looked at the people around them from time to time and also thought they were diminished from the people who came before.

As for the feel of a viking sword, I imagine you're within a standard deviation of what somebody who did not spend years training in its use would feel back in the day. With years of training, I'd venture that you could narrow the gap on anybody from the time.

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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was reading de Charny a while ago and found it interesting that he implied that some knights even in his era weren't maintaining themselves physically. I suspect there were plenty of people in any era of history who were overweight and out of shape regardless of whether they were warriors or not.

IMO the biggest differences between us handling a Viking sword and an actual Viking doing it is that the Viking would have a different cultural framework which would color his experience and he'd probably be more familiar with exactly how the early swords with short grips and narrow crosses were intended to be employed in combat. Physical conditioning is definitely a part of swordsmanship and you do have to be strong to some extent but most people who've been practicing a while will run out of stamina before they run out of strength even if they don't do any other exercise besides fencing. The next bottleneck is usually mental fatigue. Raw physical strength really comes into its own when you go corps to corps with somebody, the whole purpose of a weapon is that it serves as somewhat of an equalizer.

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John Hardy




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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe Fults wrote:
I think we tend to compare our average to the most exceptional personalities of times gone by. It can be tempting to diminish ourselves against the myths, legends and heroes passed to us. Especially when day to day we see average and the whole bell curve associated with it. Ironically, I'd imagine the epic heroes of old also looked at the people around them from time to time and also thought they were diminished from the people who came before.

As for the feel of a viking sword, I imagine you're within a standard deviation of what somebody who did not spend years training in its use would feel back in the day. With years of training, I'd venture that you could narrow the gap on anybody from the time.


This reminds me of one of Rudyard Kipling's poems, which you all might find amusing and possibly even thought-provoking. The title is "The King". It's too long for me to type out the whole thing on this wretched little tablet, but the first verse is:

"Farewell, Romance!" the Cave-men said,
"With bone well carved He went away.
Flint arms the ignoble arrowhead,
And jasper tips the spear today.
Changed are the Gods of Hunt and Dance,
And He with these. Farewell, Romance!"

Edit:. Here is a link to the poem online that I just found:. http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/king.html


Last edited by John Hardy on Tue 26 May, 2015 2:42 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Tue 26 May, 2015 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
I was reading de Charny a while ago and found it interesting that he implied that some knights even in his era weren't maintaining themselves physically. I suspect there were plenty of people in any era of history who were overweight and out of shape regardless of whether they were warriors or not.

IMO the biggest differences between us handling a Viking sword and an actual Viking doing it is that the Viking would have a different cultural framework which would color his experience and he'd probably be more familiar with exactly how the early swords with short grips and narrow crosses were intended to be employed in combat. Physical conditioning is definitely a part of swordsmanship and you do have to be strong to some extent but most people who've been practicing a while will run out of stamina before they run out of strength even if they don't do any other exercise besides fencing. The next bottleneck is usually mental fatigue. Raw physical strength really comes into its own when you go corps to corps with somebody, the whole purpose of a weapon is that it serves as somewhat of an equalizer.

Also, the psychological conditioning for close quarter melee would probably be much higher that the average soldier, today, people are usually killed at ranges hundred if yards away, back then, because of average weaponry technology, it was psychological expectation that you see your enemies face, hear him grunting, smell as he is fighting you and be covered in several people blood and guts that was the military norm, today, than sort of combat intimacy is a deviation.
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Michael Harley




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PostPosted: Sat 30 May, 2015 9:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Ironically, I'd imagine the epic heroes of old also looked at the people around them from time to time and also thought they were diminished from the people who came before.


This reminded me of this old passage:

Quote:
What were the ideas of luxury entertained in England about two centuries ago, may be gathered from the following passage of Hollinshead,………”for when our houses were builded of willow, then had we oaken men; but now that our houses are come to be made of oak, our men are not only become willow, but a great many altogether of straw, which is a sore alteration.”


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Michael Curl




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2015 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As someone who is living in a rural country where many people do still farm with scythe's and hoes I can tell you that:

Old people are noticeably stronger than they are in sedentary cultures, because in societies where cars are rare, large loads have to be carried long distances, wood has to be chopped regularly, and there is very little in the way of medical services. So the really out of shape people you so often see in the 1st world would be limited to the upper classes or the urban segments of society. However, absolute strength, like how much can be benched, etc, wouldn't have been anything compared to 1st world athletes.

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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2015 5:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi guys, I did a video related to this not long ago:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG0Q2mzn0Ok

As a former archaeologist I have dug up people from the early to late middle ages and had to study the stats to some extent, which are well published by organisations like the Museum of London. We know that the average height of late-Saxon London men was around 5'8" (now it is 5'10") and that it reached a low point during the industrial revolution. General health seems to have been better in the early middle ages than the later middles ages and Renaissance, due to greater prevalence of good food in earlier diet and less overcrowding/better sanitation in urban settlements. Of course that's just talking about towns and cities - rural health probably didn't change much for a long period of history. We can also tell quite a lot about muscular development from skeletons.

In any case, I think this all sort of misses the point. The point - I think - is covered in my video. It is about specific physical conditioning for a specific task. It is not a matter of general fitness and strength - a modern person can certainly become as fit or strong as a person from history - we're genetically the same (though our ancestors were on average the fittest, strongest and cleverest to survive, and they were immune to the Black Death that killed a large percentage of Europe!). It is just a matter of training our bodies for that task. That involves getting the muscles and tendons used to that task and yes to some extent even things like thickening the skin of the hands or feet might play an important part. For example, in Nepal they have long distance races up mountains in shoes made of tyre rubber tied to the feet… That requires a specific set of training involving altitude training, feet toughening, balance training to traverse rocky ground as well as general endurance. Similarly, certain combat styles involve very specific training - using shields requires the left shoulder to become stronger than most combat styles are used to. Using certain sidesword, sabre and backsword systems requires the right shoulder to get stronger than for other systems. Using smallswords effectively requires very flexible and quick lunge and recover action with the legs. Take an expert in any one combat style and make them fight in another system and it will take them some time to adjust.

So I think it's mainly a matter of familiarisation. There are lots of extremely fit and hardy people in the world today, living very physical and hard lives, but that doesn't mean that they would have an advantage at Olympic javelin, sprinting, archery or fencing, without actually training in those sports enough to compete at that level. In other words, skill/practice is usually the most important thing.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2015 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Curl wrote:
As someone who is living in a rural country where many people do still farm with scythe's and hoes I can tell you that:

Old people are noticeably stronger than they are in sedentary cultures, because in societies where cars are rare, large loads have to be carried long distances, wood has to be chopped regularly, and there is very little in the way of medical services. So the really out of shape people you so often see in the 1st world would be limited to the upper classes or the urban segments of society. However, absolute strength, like how much can be benched, etc, wouldn't have been anything compared to 1st world athletes.



My great grandfather continued doing hard physical labor as a farm worker until he turned 75 without back problems. Letting your muscles weaken and become inactive is the worst thing you can do in old age. If someones retires at 65 after a career of desk jobs than sitting down in a comfy chair is guaranteed to cause problems ten or twenty years later. But I think all this has less to do with working from childhood and more to do with not starting to do some kind of physical activity when older.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Sun 31 May, 2015 8:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The biggest difference in how stronger and less strong person would describe a feel of a certain sword would be in sword's static weight. A good sword with an appropriate mass distribution feels alive and agile in movement even if a person wielding it isn't very fit.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Jun, 2015 9:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
Also, the psychological conditioning for close quarter melee would probably be much higher that the average soldier, today, people are usually killed at ranges hundred if yards away, back then, because of average weaponry technology, it was psychological expectation that you see your enemies face, hear him grunting, smell as he is fighting you and be covered in several people blood and guts that was the military norm, today, than sort of combat intimacy is a deviation.


On the other hand, people back then didn't have to cope with artillery shells, landmines, and IEDs and all sorts of nasty high-explosive stuff that literally tear people apart into hardly recognisable masses of gore. And until the very last few centuries they never had to hunker down under heavy air or artillery bombardment for hours or days on end with no means to reply. There are some pretty strong reasons to believe that the prevalence of combat stress or PTSD or whatever you call it is so high not just because we're diagnosing something that people had simply ignored or dismissed as a sign of weakness before the 20th century, but also because modern warfare brings soldiers face-to-face with many stressors that had simply never existed before.
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John Hardy




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PostPosted: Fri 19 Jun, 2015 10:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Philip Dyer wrote:
Also, the psychological conditioning for close quarter melee would probably be much higher that the average soldier, today, people are usually killed at ranges hundred if yards away, back then, because of average weaponry technology, it was psychological expectation that you see your enemies face, hear him grunting, smell as he is fighting you and be covered in several people blood and guts that was the military norm, today, than sort of combat intimacy is a deviation.


On the other hand, people back then didn't have to cope with artillery shells, landmines, and IEDs and all sorts of nasty high-explosive stuff that literally tear people apart into hardly recognisable masses of gore. And until the very last few centuries they never had to hunker down under heavy air or artillery bombardment for hours or days on end with no means to reply. There are some pretty strong reasons to believe that the prevalence of combat stress or PTSD or whatever you call it is so high not just because we're diagnosing something that people had simply ignored or dismissed as a sign of weakness before the 20th century, but also because modern warfare brings soldiers face-to-face with many stressors that had simply never existed before.


The length of time under "death stress" is different in modern warfare too. At Agincourt, the French knights were under missile threat for perhaps a couple hours while advancing. At Verdun during WW1, their descendants were under artillery missile threat day and night for several months...
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