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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sat 23 Apr, 2016 11:42 am    Post subject: The occurence or lack of instant deaths on combat.         Reply with quote

I got into a dicussion with Lord Elgrim from the Thegnthrand channel on youtube, I don't want to argue with him anymore because he, like I, didn't mean to have malicious. But, I think the agrument/ dicussion we had is likely, which boils down the human response to mortal wounds when under the influence of adrenaline. I believe that this discussion has high uses for HEMA sparring practice and training for self defense. So I would like to appeal to the collective knowledge of distinguished mebers of this forum to find how people handle the fact that incapaciting can be allot harder to pull off that lethal attacks and humans can sometimes drop from minors thing or continue fighting with lethal wounds. For those interested in reading rathered badly toned and worded exchange, here are the links. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zof-43xJXnA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeO5gaFV9QU&feature=youtu.be
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Apr, 2016 5:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The entire point of warfare is to incapacitate the opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is completely irrelevant whether the opponent is killed and it is almost impossible to deliver a wound that is instantly fatal. Historically the number of fatalities that occurred during battle was very low. Most of the deaths occurred after the battle when the injured succumbed to untreated wounds, routers were chased down, and prisoners were executed. IMO you have a better chance of surviving an engagement if you stabbed an opponent in the foot rather than the heart. Some people will continue to fight with a heart wound while a foot wound is immediately incapacitating.
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Ben Joy




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Apr, 2016 9:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd say there are lots of instant deaths in Medieval combat . . . however you're not really going to hear about them because they were people like the conscripted peasants that were used to fill the ranks. They were poorly armed and poorly armored. Frankly . . . who in history really cared to record anything about the performance of the "nobodies" in war?

However, overall, I think Dan pretty well nails a solid portion of it. All the way up to the Civil War of the US there was a significant percentage of recorded fatalities that actually occurred after the battle was fought; and the reason behind that was the fact that once someone is incapacitated on the battlefield then they're no longer a threat. That doesn't mean they won't bleed out or die of infection/complications later on.

Now, in regards to someone dropping from something "minor" . . . that really depends on "What's minor?" A small cut that sneaks under the armor, but hits the jugular, is still going to be extremely fatal. A different person, in mail and gambeson, who is riddled with arrows might not have a single cut on their body . . . but all the impacts may have caused so much internal damage, through blunt trauma, that they eventually just fall over dead. As Dan points out, one quick stab through someone's foot is going to quickly render them unable to walk . . . which means unable to fight; and then they may just die later due to infection or blood loss. A small puncture wound from a dagger may do just enough damage to collapse the Lungs, and the person will die due to asphyxiation. All of those wounds might appear "minor" to an onlooker, however they're anything but minor in their medical severity.

The same deceptiveness of the wounds goes for some outwardly lethal wounds. One solid modern example . . . pretty much every medical professional said Steve Irwin could have been saved had he not removed the stingray barb from his chest. Had the barb been left in place, the barb would have prevented him from bleeding out so fast, and he had a really good chance at survival, once medevac'd. Instead he pulled the barb out -in shock- and died in mere moments from massive blood loss. The same would go for someone with an arrow sticking right into their heart, or a dagger left thrust into a kidney. Would those wounds kill a soldier from the medieval era? Absolutely! Would it do it quickly? Not as quickly as you'd think, since there was something that was preventing the person from bleeding out as quickly as expected.

The same thing applies to the "thrust and twist" training of modern CQC knife combatives. If a knife is thrust in and pulled right out, then the fleshy part of the wound will likely press back together and -at least partly- reseal itself (it won't magically heal, but the blood loss and gravity of the wound will be much slower/lessened). On the other hand, if there's a thrust and a twist, then the wound is suddenly ripped open, and will not press back together much -if at all-, leaving the person subject to much more blood-loss from the wound. Suddenly a "minor" flesh wound is actually an extremely severe laceration/flesh-tear that's causing major blood-loss.

Some "lethal" or "mortal" wounds effects take much slower to act then one would expect. Adrenaline can certainly play a factor, but the kind of variables listed above can also be massive factors on the "speed of the kill".

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 12:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is pretty much impossible to kill someone instantly. The only way is beheading or brain destruction. Any other wound leaves the possibility for the victim to attack you before succumbing. This is why thrusts are less effective than cuts. A cut to the head or limb takes the opponent out of the fight more surely than a thrust even though the wound is less likely to prove fatal.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 4:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The entire point of warfare is to incapacitate the opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is completely irrelevant whether the opponent is killed and it is almost impossible to deliver a wound that is instantly fatal. Historically the number of fatalities that occurred during battle was very low. Most of the deaths occurred after the battle when the injured succumbed to untreated wounds, routers were chased down, and prisoners were executed. IMO you have a better chance of surviving an engagement if you stabbed an opponent in the foot rather than the heart. Some people will continue to fight with a heart wound while a foot wound is immediately incapacitating.


If you see the number of leg injuries from the Visby grave, maybe we are talking about a deliberate fighting strategy among veteran soldiers of taking out opponents from being active in the battle and much less focus on "killing them outright"?

The Danish army was probably a lot more battle hardened and experienced than the Visby army and I think most normal people would instinctively try to go after torso or head of the opponent (even more when under fear of combat), so the number of leg wounds must point to soldiers who know their "métier".
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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 8:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An alternative hypothesis about Wisby leg injuries would simply point to the clear evidence for widespread use of torso armour. When you're fighting someone in a mail shirt and hood, of course you hit them in the leg, simply because it's where you can do damage.

---

In general, reliably incapacitating people is a matter of luck. You can bias the odds in your favour by doing more damage and doing it to more vital structures, but beyond that it's basically down to chance. Sometimes people take a halberd through the face and keep going just fine. Other times they take a rapier point to the leg and collapse instantly.

This fits with the general approach used by most historical fencing manuals. When you look at the core set of techniques in Liechtenauer's system, the majority are hewing cuts at the head or neck, or thrusts into the face and upper torso. There's a second core that focus on controlling the arms, whether by disabling them (e.g. the krumphaw) or mechanically displacing them (abschneiden).

In addition, the majority of these techniques are designed to provide cover for the attacker against likely counters during their execution, and once they've been delivered the attacker then either continues to attack (to control their opponent and prevent a counterattack) or withdraws while controlling the opponent (to allow them to die while in safety).

There are extremely few techniques in the entire canon which attack the legs, and none which target the feet.

Similar target prioritisation applies for Fiore's art, although he has a notable subset of material which uses grips or locks to control the opponent's weapon while delivering a lethal wound.

The only direct reference to foot attacks I can think of in any historical fencing material is from Manciolino's introduction (credit to Piermarco Terminiello for the reference):

Manciolino, trans. Swanger wrote:
The blow to the head, considering the excellence of that member, counts for three; and the blow to the foot is taken for two, having regard for the difficulty of making it so low.


However, throughout the rest of his manual, he gives no plays which directly attack the foot, and he indicates that in earnest combat with sharp weapons, your primary target should be the opponent's weapon hand.

In short: we don't seem to have much evidence that fighters planned to make attacks that would be incapacitating due to pain or the like, such as a foot attack might be. Most of the manuals we see instruct the fencer to disrupt major vital structures, such as the head or throat, or to disable or control the opponent's weapon hand(s).

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 11:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

If you see the number of leg injuries from the Visby grave, maybe we are talking about a deliberate fighting strategy among veteran soldiers of taking out opponents from being active in the battle and much less focus on "killing them outright"?


I agree with T. that torso armor was a factor in target selection but what a lot of people forget is that the leg contains a vital organ, the femoral artery. You will pass out and die very quickly if this is opened and that's especially the case with blades. At Wisby the femoral artery was a vital organ that was very likely to be unarmored when other vital organs were armored and most combatants were armed with weaponry that was ideal for exploiting that target.

T. Kew wrote:

In general, reliably incapacitating people is a matter of luck. You can bias the odds in your favour by doing more damage and doing it to more vital structures, but beyond that it's basically down to chance. Sometimes people take a halberd through the face and keep going just fine. Other times they take a rapier point to the leg and collapse instantly.


That's extremely misleading. Sure, if you whack somebody in the nose with the very tip of a halberd they might not notice for a while. If you destroy eyes or brain they sure will. There is a thing some call a "psychological stop" which happens not because a body has been injured in such a way as to incapacitate it but because somebody got injured and freaked out. Just because some people experience psychological stops and other people don't does not mean that the actual destruction of critical structures isn't reliable. An adversary without a head can't "fight through the pain" nor can he wield a weapon with a hand that is no longer attached to him. Similarly if that rapier to the leg pops the femoral artery that other guy is going to collapse from blood loss and die shortly thereafter.

The HEMA community commonly spreads a lot of false teachings on this subject, I could write an article on this and maybe someday I will. What it comes down to is at one time influential people in the community misunderstood and misinterpreted "nachschlag" and misapplied a rapier convention to try and cover that up, eventually creating a new term and concept that does not exist in the KDF sources.

Quote:

This fits with the general approach used by most historical fencing manuals. When you look at the core set of techniques in Liechtenauer's system, the majority are hewing cuts at the head or neck, or thrusts into the face and upper torso. There's a second core that focus on controlling the arms, whether by disabling them (e.g. the krumphaw) or mechanically displacing them (abschneiden).


There's no profit in trying to analyze the fixed lessons like that because they were never meant as a direct reflection of real combat, they are merely examples for teaching purposes. The closest analogy would probably be a recipe in a cookbook, just because you have a recipe for baked chicken doesn't mean that there aren't other recipes for baked chicken or that you even know how to cook.

Quote:

In addition, the majority of these techniques are designed to provide cover for the attacker against likely counters during their execution, and once they've been delivered the attacker then either continues to attack (to control their opponent and prevent a counterattack) or withdraws while controlling the opponent (to allow them to die while in safety).


This is a commonly held belief but in reality they don't actually do that, at least not especially so and you'll find equivalents in electric fencing as well. There really are things like vorschlag/nachschlag and zufechten/krieg/abzug, etc but the common perception that these somehow add up to exotic attacks that are invulnerable to counter-attacks or doubling is wrong. There's always a counter, there's even a counter to the counter and a counter to the counter to the counter, ad infinitum. That's what makes fencing an interesting challenge.

Quote:

There are extremely few techniques in the entire canon which attack the legs, and none which target the feet.


On the contrary there are plenty of attacks to the legs that are shown or written about, if you'd like I can compile a list. Feet are more rare, I think there's something in Mair but I don't really read him closely. Like everything else in fencing it is important to find the right opportunity, the following passage from 3227.a sums it up well I think,

Quote:
Also one should preferably aim for the upper openings and less to the lower openings, and also above the cross and not below. So all fencing is much safer and the upper openings is much better (to reach) than the lower openings – except that it occurs that the lower opening is closer and then one should aim for the lower opening, but that doesn’t happen too often.


I suspect this is also a hint that two of their schimpf conventions were no attacks to the legs or hands.

Quote:

In short: we don't seem to have much evidence that fighters planned to make attacks that would be incapacitating due to pain or the like, such as a foot attack might be. Most of the manuals we see instruct the fencer to disrupt major vital structures, such as the head or throat, or to disable or control the opponent's weapon hand(s).


I don't necessarily agree with Dan's idea of specifically targeting the foot and I don't even think he meant that in an absolute sense but it is worthwhile to note that a spear through the foot isn't pain it's a bunch of wrecked bone and muscle on a structure that is critical to movement. With a sword I'd favor cutting off the foot or the leg because it achieves the aim of destroying the opponent's mobility while also delivering a potentially mortal wound and the target isn't as low as the foot which means I can reach it from a little further away. With a spear a foot poke makes more sense because many kinds of spears are unlikely to be able to cleave off a limb and there's plenty of reach on tap. Also, caltrops.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 12:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

If you see the number of leg injuries from the Visby grave, maybe we are talking about a deliberate fighting strategy among veteran soldiers of taking out opponents from being active in the battle and much less focus on "killing them outright"?


I agree with T. that torso armor was a factor in target selection but what a lot of people forget is that the leg contains a vital organ, the femoral artery. You will pass out and die very quickly if this is opened and that's especially the case with blades. At Wisby the femoral artery was a vital organ that was very likely to be unarmored when other vital organs were armored and most combatants were armed with weaponry that was ideal for exploiting that target.


My point was that you likely need to be a seasoned soldier to be able to think so clearly in the frenzy of a battlefield to scan for target selection, where increased stress and blood pressure easily can numb the mind and affect your fine motor skills, so you likely reverse to "animalistic" attacks with focus on the upper body.

Being cool enough to scan your opponent, perhaps feigning a high attack to make him overextend his parry and then go after the upper- and lower legs or calmly deflect his attacks on your upper body and then strike his legs demands a certain degree of battle-hardeness.

Also that it could be a viable strategy for seasoned veterans when fighting on the battlefield. Ways of taking out your opponents from the battle and not necessarily searching for the "instant kill" to the head?
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Ben Joy




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 12:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

My point was that you likely need to be a seasoned soldier to be able to think so clearly in the frenzy of a battlefield to scan for target selection, where increased stress and blood pressure easily can numb the mind and affect your fine motor skills, so you likely reverse to "animalistic" attacks with focus on the upper body.

Being cool enough to scan your opponent, perhaps feigning a high attack to make him overextend his parry and then go after the upper- and lower legs or calmly deflect his attacks on your upper body and then strike his legs demands a certain degree of battle-hardeness.

Also that it could be a viable strategy for seasoned veterans when fighting on the battlefield. Ways of taking out your opponents from the battle and not necessarily searching for the "instant kill" to the head?


Several points here cannot be stressed enough.

Speaking from experience, the first time you're in real war combat you really are just trying to fall back on your training & instincts (because part of training is to pound things into instincts so they become natural reactions) , and hoping you live through it. After enough rounds of combat -achieving that battled-hardened mind- you do begin to effectively scan, search, and more systematically engage your enemy. That could be a large factor for instances like the Visby example, where -hypothetically- the one force was hardened enough and trained enough to avoid the instant "Oh God kill it in the face!" and instead go, "Huh . . . no leg armor . . . this'll be quick." Whether it's the case in Visby or not, we don't know for sure . . . but you can absolutely bet it'd be a large factor for how the warriors of history conducted themselves.

Another important point is taking the "instant kill" as a relative term. If you skewer someone through the heart, they have that "psychological stop" mentioned earlier, and fall to the ground . . . then guess what . . . "instant kill" achieved. Same thing if you smash a face in, and do major damage, but they're not dead the second they hit dirt. Granted, they won't be instantly dead on the spot, but they're pretty much guaranteed to not survive for someone to find and treat them in the aftermath (rare extraordinary events and theater dramatics aside). They will be recorded as the "dead on the field" and not the "died in the aftermath" crowd. That's one of the things I was getting at, earlier, with the conscripted fodder peasants who were used to fill ranks and who were both poorly armed and armored. Many of them would end up as "instant kills".

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 3:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Ruhala wrote:
I don't necessarily agree with Dan's idea of specifically targeting the foot and I don't even think he meant that in an absolute sense.

No I didn't. It was just an extreme example to illustrate my point that incapacitation is far far more important than a fatal wound.

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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yeah, that's what I figured. Personally I think your first post summed it all up pretty well.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 7:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is a lot harder to "psychologically stop" someone when their adrenaline is pumping. I had a training accident that laid my arm open to the bone and never even noticed until someone pointed out that my sleeve was soaked in blood from the elbow down.

Regarding Wisby, I think it is a perfect example of how effective body armour was. There were dozens of corpses with wounds on the head and limbs but not a single one on the torso.

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 7:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is an anecdote from Joinville of a fighter with a mortal face wound but wasn't hindered by it.

"A blow from one of the enemy’s swords landed in the middle of Erard de Sevirey’s face, cutting through his nose so that it was left dangling over his lips. At that moment the thought of Saint James came into my mind, and I prayed to him: ‘Good Saint James, come to my help, and save us in our great need.’ Just as I had uttered this prayer Erard de Sevirey said to me: ‘My lord, if you think that neither I nor my heirs will incur reproach for it, I will go and fetch you help from the Comte d’Anjou, whom I see in the fields over there.’ I said to him, ‘My dear man, it seems to me you would win great honour for yourself if you went for help to save our lives; your own, by the way, is also in great danger.’ (I spoke truly, for he died of his wound)."

Mortal wounds are meaningless. He could have fought for quite a while before succumbing.

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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 8:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So what I'm getting from this is unless you can out range you opponent (he as a sword and you have a spear, etc) it better to disarm and/or immobilize and deal death afterwords than the other way around. Also, I find the wisby example interesting to, because the mortal attacks were done at weird angle, hammers spike and arrow shot to skulls that either could only if a ( they were running away) b ( a strategy was to de leg basically, removing their to withstand an advance pressure you, causing then to topple over, and finish them off while walking around or over them) I wouldn't surprised for a bit of both but with the factor a than since the battle was a mismatch to being with. Also give another reason to appreciated traverse bars and wings, helps prevent really pissed off buggers from running up your spear and beating you to death before they drop. Also, excellent point about the femoral artery, can cause the enemy to bleed to death, and could force the cut guy and his friends to have to try to keep sure footing on a large pool of blood.
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Ben Joy




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Apr, 2016 9:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
It is a lot harder to "psychologically stop" someone when their adrenaline is pumping. I had a training accident that laid my arm open to the bone and never even noticed until someone pointed out that my sleeve was soaked in blood from the elbow down.

Regarding Wisby, I think it is a perfect example of how effective body armour was. There were dozens of corpses with wounds on the head and limbs but not a single one on the torso.

While this is partly true, a huge factor in that is the "fight or flight" response and how the person is affected by their own adrenaline. Other factors include whether they have a lot of training/experience to fall back on? or whether the notice the wound? Let alone the type of wound and the psychological impact that'll have. People freak out a lot more over a bleeding torso then a bleeding forearm because they instinctively know that there's a lot more vital stuff in that torso that needs protecting.

To use your own example, an arm wound that is unnoticed will not have the same impact as a wound that is noticed right away. Some people will cut their own fingers off with a saw, during carpentry work, but don't respond right away because they don't even notice (the saw was moving too quick, they were looking away at the time . . . there've been many reasons for this to happen). However, once someone points it out and/or they notice . . . they suddenly go into shock and freak out. Again, though, that also depends heavily on the person.

The differences from person to person make nearly every story in this situation, sadly, quite anecdotal. To use the Joinville example that you present . . . it's even admitted as an anecdote. The person had apparently lots of training, and also hadn't noticed how badly his face was mangled. However, I wouldn't call a severed nose a mortal wound . . . his lack of care for the bleeding, selfless nature, and probably infection is what did him in . . . unfortunately the story doesn't give the exact reason for his demise, nor if he had any other severe damage to his face besides the severed nose (which, again, not a mortal wound in and of itself).

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
It is pretty much impossible to kill someone instantly. The only way is beheading or brain destruction. Any other wound leaves the possibility for the victim to attack you before succumbing. This is why thrusts are less effective than cuts. A cut to the head or limb takes the opponent out of the fight more surely than a thrust even though the wound is less likely to prove fatal.


Dan's statement is also corroborated by George Silver's Long Rant Against Italians (better known as Paradoxes of Defence). Silver complains that:


"I have known a gentleman hurt in rapier fight, in nine or ten places through the body, arms, and legs, and yet has continued in his fight, & afterward has slain the other, and come home and has been cured of all his wounds without maim, & is yet living. But the blow being strongly made, takes sometimes clean away the hand from the arm, has many times been seen(12). Again, a full blow upon the head or face with a short sharp sword, is most commonly death. A full blow upon the neck, shoulder, arm, or leg, endangers life, cuts off the veins, muscles, and sinews, perishes the bones: these wounds made by the blow, in respect of perfect healing, are the loss of limbs, or maims incurable forever."

Just after this, Silver adds:

"And yet more for the blow: a full blow upon the head, face, arm, leg, or legs, is death, or the party so wounded in the mercy of him that shall so wound him. For what man shall be able long in fight to stand up, either to revenge, or defend himself, having the veins, muscles, sinews of his hand, arm, or leg clean cut asunder? Or being dismembered by such wound upon the face or head, but shall be enforced thereby, and through the loss of blood, the other a little dallying with him, to yield himself, or leave his life in his mercy?(13)

And for plainer deciding this controversy between the blow and the thrust, consider this short note. The blow comes many ways, the thrust does not so. The blow comes a nearer way than the thrust most commonly, and is therefore sooner done. The blow requires the strength of a man to be warded, but the thrust may be put by by the force of a child. A blow upon the hand, arm, or leg is maim incurable, but a thrust in the hand, arm, or leg is to be recovered. The blow has many parts to wound, and in every of them commands the life, but the thrust has but a few, as the body or face, and not in every part of them either."


Granted, Silver was probably discussing specifically in the context of unarmoured duels, but the point still stands: hewing strikes are much more likely to incapacitate or maim than thrusts, particularly with weapons like the rapier, but also with other swords, too.

Source: http://www.pbm.com/~lindahl/paradoxes.html
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 1:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Joy wrote:

Speaking from experience, the first time you're in real war combat you really are just trying to fall back on your training & instincts (because part of training is to pound things into instincts so they become natural reactions) , and hoping you live through it. After enough rounds of combat -achieving that battled-hardened mind- you do begin to effectively scan, search, and more systematically engage your enemy. That could be a large factor for instances like the Visby example, where -hypothetically- the one force was hardened enough and trained enough to avoid the instant "Oh God kill it in the face!" and instead go, "Huh . . . no leg armor . . . this'll be quick." Whether it's the case in Visby or not, we don't know for sure . . . but you can absolutely bet it'd be a large factor for how the warriors of history conducted themselves.
.


Since you have the experience you might be interesting in this information (if you don't already know it).

The American Lieutenant-colonel Dave Grossman wrote these book "On Killing" and "On Combat" and also the Danish oberstløjtnant Lars R. Møller wrote a book called "Vi slår ihjel og lever med det" [We kill and live with it].

These books goes into the biologic and psychological effects of what happens to soldiers in combat (and after combat). I have the Danish book - which refers to Grossman - so I'll use the information from there.

In stress filled combat situations with fear the sympathetic nerve-system will take over from the parasympathetic nerve-system. The body will release hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and endorphins and the body's pulse will spike extremely fast (few seconds). Breathing will increase, the bronchia will enlarge, spit production will be lowered, but the composition of the spit will change so the sinuses are still moist with the increased breathing. The pupils will enlarge, so more light gets in and your field of vision will enlarge, but your depth perception will deteriorate. The eye muscles will relax which will relax the eye lenses, so you see sharper long distance, but unclear short distance.
So paradoxically with a stress-spike you will see sharp at long distance in a wider field of vision, but with distorted depth-perception, whereas you perception up close will be unclear and cloudy! [As seen below with even higher stress level you will worsen and get tunnel vision.]
The liver releases more glucose to the blood and the body start to break down fatty tissue. In the skin the blood vessels contracts so the overall flow of blood in the body decreases, but the body keeps the overall temperature constant.
The bowels empty and all digestion processes are shut down.

How violent that Pulse spike is will influence how people will react in combat and how their body will function.
It seems that hard physical training is one important way to make the body able to keep that spike-effect fairly low.
Also "knowing" what is coming is important -> psychological preparedness for combat.

Stress levels by Dave Grossman:
At stress level White: Pulse is 60-80 beats pr. min. You are at rest.
At stress level Yellow: Pulse is 80-120 beats pr. min. You are active.
At stress level Red: Pulse is 120-140 beats pr. min. Optimum battle-readiness.
At stress level Grey: Pulse is 140-180 beats pr. min. Shocked and surprised. [Ambushed]
At stress level Black: Pulse is 180-220 beats pr min. Literarily out of your mind of fear.
NB: These have nothing to do with physical efforts done. You Pulse could spike from White to Black (over 200 beats pr. minute) in 2 seconds, because of fear.
You want soldiers to be in Yellow and Red and really avoid them hitting Grey or Black.

Lars R. Møller wrote in his book about some stress-induced Pulse limits (not pulse because of physical strain) where these above listed effects sets in:
Over 115 beats pr. min. you lose fine motor skills and your hands could start to shake, but you will bleed less if injured and your pain threshold increases.
Over 145 beats pr. min you lose the ability to make complex movement patterns [important to realize that fighting combos might be to hard to do at this point unless trained endlessly so they are second nature].
You also start to display bilateral symmetry: For instance both hands will automatically contract into fists at 12,5 kg strength [keeps those fingers off the triggers]. Bilateral symmetry is not good if you want to fight in a sophisticated way.
From 145-175 beats pr. min. your cognitive skills start to deteriorate. You start to make stupid decisions.
Over 175 beats pr. min. Irrationality or paralysis, but some basic gross motor skills are at a maximum capacity [running, charging] but even simple technical tasks are near impossible [why eternal repetition of magazine changes are important, as they otherwise would be impossible to do at this level].
The cerebrum is shut down, so you act instinctively and extremely fast at an animalistic level (only cerebellum, thalamus and hypothalamus is active).
Your face goes pale white as all the blood gathers at the body's core and the blood pressure will increase dramatically. You can very easily get frostbite fast in your extremities in that condition [don't spike like this on the eastern front in winter].
Tunnel vision sets in and threats at distance is perceived as up close, while your short vision is totally blurred. You can't focus your sights and magazine changes have to be done "blindly". Tunnel vision means that an enemy can simple make a short side step and in effect totally disappear out of your field of vision. [Side steps could be really effective against scared opponents].
The really bad effect is hypervigilance: Everything around you is perceived as a threat (whether close or far away). You could panic (and shoot every perceived "threat" around you), but you could also have a hard time making decisions so your actions are totally irrational and unpredictable when you act. You can get temporary paralysis and also display repetitive technique even if it doesn't work.
Important point: So if you try to chop for the head, you will continue trying that, even though your opponent already have parried it easily 30 times. Or you will try to insert a key into a door to get away again and again and again, even if the key doesn't fit or your motor skills are so bad you can't even hold the key right. You are out of your mind. Whatever crazy thing your animal brain decides to do you repeat OR you are totally undecisive and do nothing but just sit/stand paralyzed/frozen.

It seems that post traumatic stress disorder is somehow linked to soldiers that go into high Grey or Black stress levels, whereas combat veterans that keep their blood pressure on Red will not get it even after multiple combat events.
Another important factor is sleep. Lack of sleep will vastly increase your risk of getting psychological injuries.

So my conclusion is simply if a soldier is cool enough to target the legs of the opponent and scanning him for where he has armour on or not, he is probably only within Red stress level and thus likely a veteran soldier (or one born with the gift of battle).
Most rookie combatants (especially in hand-to-hand combat) would probably go into high grey and black. Even from trench fighting in WW1 it was a few elite soldiers that had the stomach (actually the nervous system) to handle this kind of "dirty" up close trench-knife, spade & club combat. Most of those "normal" soldiers they surprised in the trenches would likely go into Grey and Black stress levels.


Last edited by Niels Just Rasmussen on Tue 26 Apr, 2016 1:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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Ben Joy




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Apr, 2016 9:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:

Since you have the experience you might be interesting in this information (if you don't already know it).

The American Lieutenant-colonel Dave Grossman wrote these book "On Killing" and "On Combat" and also the Danish oberstløjtnant Lars R. Møller wrote a book called "Vi slår ihjel og lever med det" [We kill and live with it].

*snip*


So my conclusion is simply if a soldier is cool enough to target the legs of the opponent and scanning him for where he has armour on or not, he is probably only within Red stress level and thus likely a veteran soldier (or one born with the gift of battle).
Most rookie combatants (especially in hand-to-hand combat) would probably go into high grey and black. Even from trench fighting in WW1 it was a few elite soldiers that had the stomach (actually the nervous system) to handle this kind of "dirty" up close trench-knife, spade & club combat. Most of those "normal" soldiers they surprised in the trenches would likely go into Grey and Black stress levels.

Some of that I already knew . . . but a lot of that was fascinating. Not anything I will talk about in any further detail, period, especially on a personal level (I'm alive and a lot of my friends aren't . . . we'll leave it there); but it's things to keep in mind and some interesting theories made there towards the end.

Anyway, the conclusion there at the end I think reinforces -very heavily- the points I was making earlier, so I greatly appreciate that. The "Fight or Flight" response, which is highlighted in those excerpts by the stress levels, have HUGE impacts over how combat ends up unfolding. Anyone in that Grey/Black area (like the poor conscripted peasants I've mentioned several times now) is going to quickly and easily be hit with a psychological stop, rather than someone who's in that Yellow/Red area. That, in turn, can easily turn them into an "instant kill" on the battlefield. Someone who's already surprised or panicked is easy pickings. There's a reason most combat strategies revolve around ways to mess with your enemy's psychology and put them into a disarmed and surprised state of mind.

"Men take only their needs into consideration, never their abilities." -Napoleon Bonaparte
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2016 12:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen, very interesting read. It reminds me of something I read (perhaps on this forum, cant remember) where a medic looked at cases of hyper arousal during the vietnam conflict and drew parallels with the Beserkers of the norse Sagas. Can't look it up at the moment, but remember it being called Beowulf in Vietnam, or something similar. From memory he was of the opinion that the Beserkers were suffering from a form of PTSD but expressing it through a particular cultural lens.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




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PostPosted: Tue 26 Apr, 2016 3:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Joy wrote:
Some of that I already knew . . . but a lot of that was fascinating. Not anything I will talk about in any further detail, period, especially on a personal level (I'm alive and a lot of my friends aren't . . . we'll leave it there); but it's things to keep in mind and some interesting theories made there towards the end.

Anyway, the conclusion there at the end I think reinforces -very heavily- the points I was making earlier, so I greatly appreciate that. The "Fight or Flight" response, which is highlighted in those excerpts by the stress levels, have HUGE impacts over how combat ends up unfolding. Anyone in that Grey/Black area (like the poor conscripted peasants I've mentioned several times now) is going to quickly and easily be hit with a psychological stop, rather than someone who's in that Yellow/Red area. That, in turn, can easily turn them into an "instant kill" on the battlefield. Someone who's already surprised or panicked is easy pickings. There's a reason most combat strategies revolve around ways to mess with your enemy's psychology and put them into a disarmed and surprised state of mind.


Nat Lamb wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen, very interesting read. It reminds me of something I read (perhaps on this forum, cant remember) where a medic looked at cases of hyper arousal during the vietnam conflict and drew parallels with the Beserkers of the norse Sagas. Can't look it up at the moment, but remember it being called Beowulf in Vietnam, or something similar. From memory he was of the opinion that the Beserkers were suffering from a form of PTSD but expressing it through a particular cultural lens.


Ben I truly understand that not everything can be shared.
Your point about combat strategies to effect the enemy's fear level is really what made Viking armies shine.
Their edge was not as much superior weaponry, armour or tactics since it was a shared technology with Anglo-Saxons and Franks. What the Vikings had as an edge was combat psychology (and superior ships).

It can clearly be stated that the Berserkers (Bear-shirts) and Ulfhednar (Wolf-skins) spread fear among the enemy as we note from the textual evidence. These men were acting as independent skirmishers in front of the Scandinavian battle formations and could thus create a fear induced pulse spike in the enemy army, that then could be exploited by the following main army.
Even in the "tough" eras of the Iron Age and Viking Age it must have been truly unnerving to see a group of men howling and gnawing their shields like animals, dressed as animals and charging your ranks without any regard to their own safety.
He is charging, he is coming for me, FEAR ---- you spike into high Grey or Black pulse levels.
When a soldier spikes to this level of fear pulse he generally stays there for the duration of the battle. The Berserker skirmishers have thus given the Scandinavian main battle line a huge advantage before the main line crashes together.

All soldiers in battle will release adrenaline and thus collapse in fatigue after the battle. We note from sagas that Berserkers often collapsed in fatigue right after the battle and slept for a day after their Berserkergang. But that also happens to soldiers in modern time. After max 6 hours of combat you will have burned all adrenaline in your body and you just collapse in fatigue. That is why reserves are hugely important to take over the battle line immediately and why counterattacks made at the right moment can make an otherwise hugely successful attack dissolve instantly as the attackers suddenly is massively fatigued.
You see that again and again in the trenches of WW1.

Lycanthropy is today regarded as a psychological disorder where you the believe that you can turn into wolf - in Scandinavia it made you an Odin-warrior.
What is interesting is that these warriors build themselves up into an ecstatic rage and believed to change their form (hamr) into that of an animal (bear or wolf). So going berserk was also going hamask (form-change). A person good at this was considered hamrammr (shape-strong).

So the vikings elites basically embraced the frenzy of battle and made it the center of their culture.
"Wodan id est furor" (Odin is Rage/Fury) writes Adam of Bremen and that is what his name means in Germanic. Odin is ecstatic rage like what the Berserkers transform into. Odin (and Loki) are known as excellent shape changers.
Another Odin name is Yggr = Terrible (Yggdrasil the world tree is = "the stead of the terrible one"). The Valkyries all have names related to battle and they are originally terrible entities of battle frenzy.
List of valkyrie names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_valkyrie_names

The entire elite Odin cult is related to the frenzy of battle and turning it into the most desirable and manly exploit there is. Poetry embellishes the raw beauty of it all and the manliness of facing it without any fear of dying, since even if you die you will go to Valhalla, fight there and die, be resurrected then fight and die endlessly, until the last battle of Ragnarok where you will fight and die finally in the most heroic way - side by side with the Aesir themselves.

Psychological point: After initiation into the Odin cult you have possibly already transgressed the border between life and death (Odin did so when he hung and was speared on the world tree for nine days, which is possible THE initiation ritual instituted by Odin, where he sacrificed himself to himself). So in effect Odin warriors are already "undead" who knows they can look forward to an almost eternal cycle of combat, death and resurrection until the final Ragnarok. If they as Odin-initiates they die manly without fear on the battlefield, they will go to Valhalla. You are un-dead -> the perfect psychology for a combat machine. Fear is after all for the living. In Norse mythology battle, death and sex is very much interlinked.
You can in effect say that Odin warriors LUSTED for combat and its ecstatic frenzy - its a sexual experience on the transgression border between life and death (which is being un-dead). You could even go so far to say with his sword as a penis object the Odin warrior is out to pierce you and make you his bitch.
As a Christian soldier that IS a pretty unnerving worldview to encounter head-to-head (and these guys are not "turned" by Christians crosses). Just try to imagine what kind of look in his eyes and twisted grin such a Berserker or other Odin elite warrior would have when he attacks you.......
That is combat psychology that gives you an edge!

Basically everyone that met and wrote about the pagan Scandinavians noted how utterly alien their entire world view was compared to theirs.
Though I suspect that pagan Baltic and Slavic people would have shared a lot in common with them (we just don't have any pagan texts from them at that time).

To Nat: The point here is that Berserkers doesn't seem to suffer post-traumatic stress at all. The rage is not fear induced, but more ecstatically trance-induced (still unknown whether they used narcotics or not). They will off course suffer combat fatigue, but will not necessarily show post traumatic stress disorder. We know from non-berserk elite fighters, where suddenly a combat veteran could freeze in battle. In was seen as magic coming from the enemy camp. Odin and Freya both knew magic which could bind people to the spot and thus make them unable to move. So these things was seen as influences from outside the body and would not in any form give cause to feel guilt. Next time better wear an amulet of protection against these kind of binding magic. As Odin warrior you learn Rune magic, you can prepare against hostile magic.
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