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Sam Arwas




Location: Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Feb, 2016 11:18 pm    Post subject: Thrusting a sword into armour gaps         Reply with quote

I hear this talked about very often as a means of defeating an opponent who is wearing armour that that your sword cannot penetrate. The thing it often sounds made out to be a simple a simple tactic. To me it sounds really, really hard to do. Not only are you targeting a small area on a guy who's moving around but when we assume the opponent is no less aware of the gaps in his armour than you are he probably anticipates what you are trying to do and has a plan to counter it. I don't know how you could focus on a narrow gap without leaving yourself completely exposed to a counter. If anyone has a more in depth knowledge of how this was done successfully (doing it without getting hit yourself) could they please share it?
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 1:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My experience is extreeeeeemly limited, so salt according to taste, but from what little I understand, this is normally done by half swording, which makes your sword behave like a pool cue* (which are quite capable of precision). Also, one of the major "gaps" to be targeted are the armpits. From my very very limited experience, the point of a longsword will naturally sit at right about the armpit of your opponent when halfswording.




*not to be taken too literally
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Mark Griffin




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 3:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

which is why you don't stand still and wear proper undergarmnents with mail. Its certainly possible, but its all very chaotic and messy. Its a heck of a lot easier once your opponent is on the ground and/or otherwise incapacitated however
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 9:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, it probably *is* hard to do! Small moving targets, often covered with mail. But face it, if you're going against a fully armored man with only a sword, your options are limited! And that's the whole point of armor, to make the wearer really hard to kill.

Matthew
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Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Which is why you use halfswording techniques where you to move into close measure, then switch to half sword and use it like a crowbar to take the fellow appart.

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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Oh, it probably *is* hard to do! Small moving targets, often covered with mail. But face it, if you're going against a fully armored man with only a sword, your options are limited! And that's the whole point of armor, to make the wearer really hard to kill.

Matthew


This, entirely.

Killing someone in full armour is supposed to be really hard. That's why you wear heavy, expensive armour.

But if you can't go through it, you have to go round it.

Nat Lamb wrote:
My experience is extreeeeeemly limited, so salt according to taste, but from what little I understand, this is normally done by half swording, which makes your sword behave like a pool cue* (which are quite capable of precision). Also, one of the major "gaps" to be targeted are the armpits. From my very very limited experience, the point of a longsword will naturally sit at right about the armpit of your opponent when halfswording.




*not to be taken too literally


A 'pool cue' is a somewhat inaccurate comparison, because you don't typically want to slide your sword through your leading hand - for a start, you'll probably slice it open.

You get precision simply from how your hand is much closer to the point of your weapon. You also get a lot more leverage, allowing you to place the point more precisely and making it harder to deflect.

And yes, your point does line up with their armpit. But the armpit needs you to get past their upper arm first, so unless they're holding a high guard it's quite hard to just thrust directly at that opening.

Sam Arwas wrote:
I hear this talked about very often as a means of defeating an opponent who is wearing armour that that your sword cannot penetrate. The thing it often sounds made out to be a simple a simple tactic. To me it sounds really, really hard to do. Not only are you targeting a small area on a guy who's moving around but when we assume the opponent is no less aware of the gaps in his armour than you are he probably anticipates what you are trying to do and has a plan to counter it. I don't know how you could focus on a narrow gap without leaving yourself completely exposed to a counter. If anyone has a more in depth knowledge of how this was done successfully (doing it without getting hit yourself) could they please share it?


It's one of the (many) things which is easier said than done. Having said that, it's not too difficult, when you bear in mind a few things:

First, remember that you are probably also wearing armour (if you aren't wearing armour, you don't want to be fighting someone who is). This means that you are also nearly immune to being attacked while you attempt to find the gaps in your opponent's harness - they can't simply cut at you as you approach either. So you're both in this same difficult position.

Secondly, it's not a game of 'try and make lunging thrusts at a tiny target from long range'. The armour you're wearing allows you to get in much closer, and the process of thrusting through a gap with a shortened sword is more like boring than jabbing. You basically take a three-step approach:

1) Create an opening you can reach. This will probably require using leverage and winding to get e.g. a clear line to the opponent's armpit. For example, you might go under their forearm and then lever their arm up, in order to raise the upper arm and expose that gap.

2) Set the point to the opening. This is where the precision of having a shortened sword is very useful. You don't need to deliver lots of force here, just rapidly and accurately place the point of your sword on the opening you've created access to. Force comes next.

3) Drive the blade home. The sword can practically be couched like a lance here, putting the hilt under the armpit and using the cross to stop it slipping through. This allows you to exert all the force you can.

Obviously, in practice this is to be done as smoothly and swiftly as possible. But the three main components (create opening, place point, apply force) are a very effective way to think about it.

It's quite a methodical approach to combat - which works because you're protected by armour as well.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Gary Gibson




Location: San Diego, CA, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 10:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For the most part, armored fighting techniques are different than unarmored techniques in 15C European treatises both because armor needs to be defeated (i.e. attacking the gaps / mail) and because of the protection it offers. Many half-swording techniques for instance provide for covering the line of your opponents weapon (via a parry for instance) while closing the point of your weapon to an open area such as under the arm (placing the forward hand quite close to the opponent to guide the point home).

It is certainly a great deal more difficult defeating an opponent in full harness, as others have said.

Armored combat, speaking of Fiore's treatises, often takes place at close distance making Abrazare (grappling) a necessary skill. As another said "heck of a lot easier once your opponent is on the ground".

Take a look at youtube videos from a couple of HEMA events from last year, the WMAW and Longpoint 2015 "passage of arms" armored fencing (both were invitational events with senior HEMA practitioners from 15C German and Italian traditions).

Gary Gibson
Member Schola San Marco, San Diego, CA


Last edited by Gary Gibson on Tue 02 Feb, 2016 12:41 pm; edited 1 time in total
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have zero experience with this.

Wouldn't it be easier to stab a weak point in the armor if you first stunned your opponent with a good whack to the helmet, or knocked him over? (I mean in real combat, not in a friendly fencing match.)
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Gary Gibson




Location: San Diego, CA, USA
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a harness demonstration from Fechtschule Frisbee 2015 with Bill Frisbee and Ken Mondschein demoing and explaining armored fighting techniques which I think will be helpful in understanding some basics of 15C armored combat.
Gary Gibson
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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i have to agree with J.D. while i have very little experience with HEMA and new to it but experience with contact sports makes me think that even with armor striking someones head hard would make it easier to line up a good stab. even if you don't break the helm the impact to the head will disorient and depending on force the neck will be injured while i may not know how armor changes the impact versus sports helmets but both of these can ruin your day and i would assume threaten your life in the middle of a fight
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 10:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew.
You are absolutely right, a pool cue is not a good comparison, but it was the best one my sleep deprived brain could come up with at the time. I think what I was trying to get at is that by having a larger gap between your hands than the distance from your front hand to the tip, you gain a great deal of precision and control over the point .
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Ronald M




Location: vancouver bc canada
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PostPosted: Tue 02 Feb, 2016 11:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i assumed that youd make guy dazed before trying to do this
like hitting him a coupla times so he slowes down then haldswording to get a joints

smiley face 123? no? lol yeah well im here cause i like...swords and weapons and stuff obv
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Feb, 2016 9:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

R. Kolick wrote:
i have to agree with J.D. while i have very little experience with HEMA and new to it but experience with contact sports makes me think that even with armor striking someones head hard would make it easier to line up a good stab. even if you don't break the helm the impact to the head will disorient and depending on force the neck will be injured while i may not know how armor changes the impact versus sports helmets but both of these can ruin your day and i would assume threaten your life in the middle of a fight


Yup. Concussions are not caused by fracturing the skull. They are caused by acceleration of the skull against the brain, as occurs during a hard blow. Helmets tend to provide rather poor protection from this. (Ask any hockey player.)
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Feb, 2016 10:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just remember that your opponent is trying to do the exact same thing to you at the same time, and is also parrying those opening blows to the head! Darned uncooperative of him, but there it is...

Matthew
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Andrew Gill





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PostPosted: Fri 05 Feb, 2016 2:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
... hitting him a coupla times so he slowes down then haldswording to get a joints


That's the principle behind what fencers (HEMA and modern sport) often refer to as a second-intention attack. You launch an attack which you opponent can't ignore, and when he responds you use the resulting opening to launch your "real" attack. It is distinguished from a feint by the fact that the first attack is a committed attack, which will cause real harm if the opponent doesn't defend himself. However, as Matthew pointed out, an attack to the head wouldn't necessarily be the best choice against an experienced opponent - what attack you use to set up a second-intention attack must depend on what the tactical situation, combined on whatever you know of your opponent.

Incidentally, if you are not familiar with armoured combat, look up the Mordschlag or murder-strike; you hold the sword by the blade near the tip, and smack the opponent on the head with the pommel. The pommel's mass distribution is much better for use as a blugeoning weapon than the slender tapering blade (and it is much less fragile too). It also offers interesting followups, feints or second-intention attacks because you can use the sword cross to hook your opponent's weapon or trip him up. But most of you probably know more about this than I do, as I've not practised armoured techniques much (and never in armour).
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Feb, 2016 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another question I wonder about is how well these sophisticated longsword fencing techniques translate into battlefield situations.

First, from what I understand, hand-to-hand sword combat rarely dominated late medieval battles (an exception being one of the Roses battles...which one was that again?).

Second, space would be more limited and the situation a melee rather than one-on-one. My limited experience with melees is that you don't get hit by the guy in front of you. You get hit by the guy you don't see behind you.

Third, any real life experience I've had with fighting (never in armor!) resulted in one or both combatants on the ground within a few seconds.

Fourth, if you get the other guy on the ground in medieval times, and he's rich enough to own a complete suit of armor, wouldn't you want to make him surrender and ransom him rather than stick a blade through his visor?

Finally, on a slightly different point: the youtube demo above seems to assume that one can readily stab blades through mail in the gaps between plate, whereas others who contribute to this site maintain that this is impossible. (I'm not taking a side on this issue, just pointing out the discrepancy in views).

I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on these points.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 27 Feb, 2016 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
First, from what I understand, hand-to-hand sword combat rarely dominated late medieval battles (an exception being one of the Roses battles...which one was that again?).


Mostly correct. The sword saw a great deal of use in the pursuit and mopping-up, however, which brings us to the next point.


Quote:
Second, space would be more limited and the situation a melee rather than one-on-one. My limited experience with melees is that you don't get hit by the guy in front of you. You get hit by the guy you don't see behind you.


Medieval battles were seldom "melees" in the actual fighting phase -- the two sides involved would have formed cohesive lines with little (if any) interpenetration. If an enemy gets behind you, then that means your line has been broken and the enemy is pursuing your routed force, or the enemy has flanked you and you'd probably be routed shortly afterwards anyway. Then the killing begins.

I think there has been an interesting study comparing the behaviour of people in some reenactment battles (where they would spread out so that everyone has room to pick and fight opponents in a proper interpenetrated melee like in the films) with modern riot police (where the stakes are real and not getting hit is more important than getting a "good fight," so the line is maintained with religious fervour and there's hardly any interpenetration except when small and cohesive snatch squads sally out of the line to capture identified suspects or provocateurs). Needless to say, many of the better reenactment groups understand the importance of holding the line too and don't let the combat devolve into a melee except when they're specifically trying to portray a rout and pursuit.


Quote:
Fourth, if you get the other guy on the ground in medieval times, and he's rich enough to own a complete suit of armor, wouldn't you want to make him surrender and ransom him rather than stick a blade through his visor?


Not always. Henry V at Agincourt was specifically said to have pressed his attack without stopping to take prisoners, probably because capturing people and escorting them to the rear would have forced him to take personnel away from the fight -- not a good idea when his force was already outnumbered by a significant margin. And lower-class combatants were often unable to claim ransom from higher-status captives anyway, so they didn't have such a strong incentive to capture rather than kill. This was another reason why high-status combatants often sought each other in battle as late as the 18th century -- a fellow aristocrat or officer was much more likely to offer quarter than the common soldiery on the opposing side. And we have instances like the Battle of Worringen (late 13th century?) where chroniclers lamented how many knights and men-at-arms died since they had the bad luck of being attacked in the flank by a mob of peasants.


Quote:
Finally, on a slightly different point: the youtube demo above seems to assume that one can readily stab blades through mail in the gaps between plate, whereas others who contribute to this site maintain that this is impossible. (I'm not taking a side on this issue, just pointing out the discrepancy in views).


It's still not going to be easy to penetrate the mail and padding in the gaps between the plates -- but it's incomparably easier than actually trying to penetrate the plates themselves. Not to mention that the coverage provided by mail voiders wasn't always complete either. If the mail had been yanked out of position or something, there might be a small chance to stab through an area only protected by cloth and that'd be much easier to penetrate with an acutely pointed sword.
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