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John A. Brown





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 4:33 am    Post subject: Why do light swords (less than 3 lbs ) so heavy to wield?         Reply with quote

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This question was inspired because I finally got the chance to purchase a katana and also because I keep seeing sword enthusiast (including academicians and historians) argue that European medieval swords weren't heavy at all through forums posts and articles such as this one.

http://knowledgenuts.com/2013/12/10/medieval-...vy-at-all/

Some background, I can benchpress 300 pounds with effort and casually do 100 curls with 20 pound dumbells. I am now physically conditioned enough that a coach told me within a year or two if I keep increasing my weights and stick with a dedicated routine I can start getting into low level amateur powerlifting competitions. So I am in no way a nerdy waste weaboo or an obese geeks who reads hundreds of history books wearing glasses every week.

So when I got my katana by mail, it felt much heavy for its size. I could barely swing the thing and even just holding it with two hands felt awkward, one hand felt too heavy. When I checked the weighing scale I was so fucking shocked it was only 2 pounds! I could not believe just holding it felt like 50 pounds.

Now I'll grant my katana is one of those cheap made-in-china models. But still considering all the articles about European longswords weighing two pounds and not being heavy as Conan the Barbarian and other movies portray them, I was so surprised at how heavy the katana. I mean the walking for a mile with 15 pound kettlebells did not exhaust me the way swinging the katana for about five minutes did.

In fact it was after wielding the katana that it now made me curious if people who wielded traditional European knight swords in the museum and archaeology (who often were out of shape historians and archaeologists, some of them even being old men) felt the swords they found were heavy two when they were wielding them to test them.Because it was a shock to see something two pounds feel like 50 pounds!

Also bonus question, is what I experienced partially where the perception that European swords being clumsy and unwieldy due to being heavy come from? Possibly influencing Hollywood directors? Because I can't help but wonder if some people in the film industry one day decided to toy with real knightly swords and upon wielding it felt them so heavy it influenced how they perceived medieval fought and thus made actors fight like they were wielding 100 pound warhammers?
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 6:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Three pounds isn't light. A light sword weighs closer to one pound.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

HUH! Very odd, and I suspect the answer is simply that you aren't used to holding swords.

I've never been athletic at all, and last night was very proud of myself for doing 12 pushups without even stopping to cry. From the very first time I held my old Del Tin "Crusader" sword (standard 13th century Brazil-nut pommel) many years ago, it felt surprisingly light and very well-balanced! I think it's about 2-1/2 pounds. Granted, it greatly depends on the sword! My 5-pound 2-handed Claymore feels great, but a 2-pound gladius or xiphos is a bloody brick.

And yes, you're probably right about the whole myth of the horribly heavy sword! Though it may very well have started before Hollywood, with a generation of Edwardian armchair historians picking up artifacts they had no experience with, or just seeing them hung on walls and assuming they knew more than they did. Believe me, there's STILL a lot of that going on, and not just among the teenager gamer/Youtube crowd!

Matthew
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T. Diamante




Location: United States
Joined: 09 Aug 2016

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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 7:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For katana, particularly historical ones, two pounds is pretty light. It would be helpful to know where your sword balances; if it's too blade heavy that would be cause for the awkward feeling you're describing. It would also be helpful to know if you've had any training with swords(Japanese or European) as wielding one with incorrect form will also make them feel heavier.

The idea of European swords feeling unwieldy stems from people only trained in modern fencing handling antiques and not understanding how they were used.
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Baard H




Location: Norway
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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My experience comes from viking and early medieval swords (single handers) so my answer will come from that background. They're generally between around 800 grams to 1300 grams (1,7-2,8 pounds), my own being 1028 (2,2).

Over the years of testing I've found that the actual weight of the sword at best attributes only half-way to how heavy it feels like in the hand. I've handled swords that on a scale claims to be 800 grams that felt like a heavy and ungainly lump of metal and swords that weighed a little over 1300 that felt as if it was weightless in my hand.

The reasoning behind this is where the weight actually is. In "wallhangers" the makers have only cared about the looks and given no care to balancing the blade. As a result the weight is placed somewhere around the dead centre of the length, far from the hand.
The crappy swords made for reenactors on a budget generally "fix" this issue with overdimensioning the pommel and adding a longer grip, which make the balance point closer to the hilt, but makes it more sluggish and adds weight behind the grip instead of in it.
Good swords, both historical and modern are made in such a fashion that the blade tapers, being thinner at the end than near the hilt, often both in width and thickness. The grips are short and the pommel "just right" in size. All of these together if executed correctly will make it feel right and light almost no matter what the numbers on the scale is.

So bottom line, don't use cheap stuff as a basis for your views Wink

At kveldi skal dag leyfa,
konu, er brennd er,
mćki, er reyndr er,
mey, er gefin er,
ís, er yfir kemr,
öl, er drukkit er.
-Hávamál, vísa 81
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 7:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Have ever done has strength training for your wrists, forearms and hands? From what you tell us, you have very well developed back, biceps and shoulder muscles but a but swinging a bar exerts alot of pressure and torque on your wrists, forearms and depending on the moition, hips and legs. I rember reading on the Arma webpage that precise sword actually put a high degree of strain on the smallest muscle groups in the human body so that what would be extremely if the wieght would rights next to your fist or being borne by the shoulder would be massive strain if away from your hand.
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Mark Moore




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 9:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I figured out your problem as soon as I read 'made in China katana'. Get to know some folks who have high quality replicas and you will see the difference immediately. I personally care very little for katana, but get a hold on an Albion or an A&A Euro-model and you will know what a REAL sword feels like. Happy .....McM
''Life is like a box of chocolates...'' --- F. Gump
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 12:08 pm    Post subject: Re: Why do light swords (less than 3 lbs ) so heavy to wield         Reply with quote

John A. Brown wrote:
In fact it was after wielding the katana that it now made me curious if people who wielded traditional European knight swords in the museum and archaeology (who often were out of shape historians and archaeologists, some of them even being old men) felt the swords they found were heavy two when they were wielding them to test them.Because it was a shock to see something two pounds feel like 50 pounds!

Well, not as such - kinda, yeah, but not really.

I mean, fighting with a sword really is hard work! As is fighting with any other weapon. In large part because of the intense mental and physical stress inherent in violent activity, but also because it involves using muscles you don't normally exercise that much and in ways you're not normally used to. Like Musashi says, "It will seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first. Bows are difficult to draw, halberds are difficult to wield; as you become accustomed to the bow so your pull will become stronger. When you become used to wielding the long sword, you will gain the power of the Way and wield the sword well." Happy

However, a properly made sword handled in the proper manner doesn't feel unwieldy or unduly heavy, quite regardless of how ripped or out of shape you are (I should know). The best can often almost seem to move of their own free will, their weight and balance guiding your hand in the proper movements, their mass and momentum actually helping instead of hindering you. Handling a good sword feels like dancing with it, rather than wrestling against it, if you know what I mean. There should be no feeling of dead weight in a fighting weapon, even a relatively heavy one, only dynamic power and authority. And, as has already been said, this has far more to do with proper mass distribution than with plain mass, as such - it's not how much the sword weighs that really matters, but where that weight is located.

On the other hand, an Olympic or classical fencer (or someone emulating one because it's the only kind of fencing they know about) who picks up a perfectly good Medieval arming sword and attempts to, frankly, wave it around like a feather duster as they would the ultra light sport fencing "weapons", will find it awfully awkward and entirely unsuited to their manner of "fencing" - and, if they're as dogmatically certain of their own objective superiority as seem to have been the Victorian "historians" we can blame for many of the currently popular misconceptions about Medieval weapons and warfare, will blame this on the weapon being a crude and clumsy instrument from a more primitive time rather than on their own lack of know-how...

Quote:
Also bonus question, is what I experienced partially where the perception that European swords being clumsy and unwieldy due to being heavy come from? Possibly influencing Hollywood directors? Because I can't help but wonder if some people in the film industry one day decided to toy with real knightly swords and upon wielding it felt them so heavy it influenced how they perceived medieval fought and thus made actors fight like they were wielding 100 pound warhammers?

This might be one factor in the ongoing formulation of the pop culture mythology, sure - keeping in mind that the closest thing to a real sword most actors would have ready access to would be an overbuilt stage combat prop, designed to look impressive on screen (after post-production!) and to withstand repeated abuse rather than to function like a real weapon should.

But mostly I think all this is just one aspect of the popular tendency to unthinkingly regard past times as objectively and uniformly cruder in every way. In specific, much of the currently dominant misinformation can be quite directly attributed to people mistaking stuff like sir Walter Scott's The Talisman (in which Richard Lionheart chops through an iron mace with his good honest broadsword and Saladin in response slices a falling handkerchief and an unsupported pillow in two with his cunning Oriental scimitar) or Twain's parody of Arthurian romanticism in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court for historical fact, and until very recently things had only gone downhill from there...

The thing to keep in mind is that even in historical or pre-historical times people were never stupid, as a rule; they did things in whatever way worked best under the circumstances, valued ergonomic design every bit as much as any modern craftsman and strove to build tools and weapons that were as easy and efficient as possible to use in the manner they were intended to be used.

Now, all that said, I too suspect the trouble you're having can be blamed squarely on the cheapo katana simply not being a good sword. You get what you pay for. Happy

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 1:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sounds like you are fighting your swords mass instead of using it. Happy Your strength isn't a problem, your dynamics probably are... I'm a small, not very strong guy, but I can easily wield a 4lbs longsword. You just have to learn how to use a sword and not fight its weight.
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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 3:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The lightest sword that I own is a Type XVI "Brighton" from Custom Sword Shoppe, that weighs a little over 30 ounces (1.9lb). The sword seemed to weigh even less than that when I first held it.
One major aspect of a swords handling capability is the "Point of Balance" (PoB) or "Center of Gravity" (CoG).
The further the PoB is from the guard or Tsuba, the heavier the sword will feel in hand. When you hear people talking about how well a sword is balanced, they're usually referring to the swords center of gravity.
Sometimes vendors will refer to a sword that has "perfect balance", meaning that the center of gravity is right where the blade meets the guard. However, many, many fine swords will have the PoB as several inches from the guard. A good PoB for a Viking era sword might be 4-6 inches from the guard. Historical and intended use of the sword, as well as personal preference determines where a desired PoB is on a given sword.

-Rick
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 22 Feb, 2017 9:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I cannot speak regarding Japanese katanas, but with European medieval swords it is crucial for most techniques that you move the hilt to perform the actions. If you try to move the entire sword around with your arms, the weapon will fatigue you much more quickly, and much of the time your motions are not as clean and crisp. By contrast, when you make the hilt move first, the rest of the weapon follows, and the sword becomes more dynamic and easy to use.
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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 5:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Come on guys, this OP is so obviously a troll it's ridiculous. Re-read his post, the swearing, the "I can bench so much and am so strong".. and have a look at his other recent topics "Look at the scene in braveheart with polearms!". Need I go on? Don't feed the troll, he's baiting people.
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 7:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach Gordon wrote:
Come on guys, this OP is so obviously a troll it's ridiculous. Re-read his post, the swearing, the "I can bench so much and am so strong".. and have a look at his other recent topics "Look at the scene in braveheart with polearms!". Need I go on? Don't feed the troll, he's baiting people.


I was going to disagree, or at least give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but I just looked up his posts and found an interesting one from Feb. 20, 2015:

http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=31591&highlight=

It's identical to one on the Historum board from yesterday. In fact, John A. Brown and Wrangler29 both have pretty much identical strings of posts, all apparently lacking any further participation from that user.

Seems less likely to me that he forgot what he asked 2 years ago...

It's actually heartening, in a way--maybe it means that there are actually fewer people who believe the bunk he was posting! That would be nice. Did I mention I'm a hopeless optimist?

Matthew
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Bram Verbeek





Joined: 27 Mar 2007

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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 9:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Zach Gordon wrote:
Come on guys, this OP is so obviously a troll it's ridiculous. Re-read his post, the swearing, the "I can bench so much and am so strong".. and have a look at his other recent topics "Look at the scene in braveheart with polearms!". Need I go on? Don't feed the troll, he's baiting people.


We all started somewhere. I like his method of looking at the cutability of polearms, and have high hopes for the guy. Challenging common "knowledge" provided by Hollywood with actual representative tests is a great method to expand knowledge.

I remember when there were a couple of city dwelling Italians who frequented sports schools were on exchange at our rural school, when some feats of strength at a sports event were performed we predictively failed miserably. When, however, some other (like tug of war) were, they had no chance.

Strength is only as useful as the muscles you are strong in are at the task you are doing. I can he described as scrawny and seem out of shape, but put me and a bodybuilder on a bicycle and chances are I am going a lot stronger after 100 miles.
Ask both of us to do pushups, and I'm hugging the floor before his first drop of sweat.
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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 12:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Three pounds isn't light. A light sword weighs closer to one pound.


Hey, Dan!
I'm genuinely curious about this. You have done a great deal more research than I have, and I agree that three pounds is a bit on the heavy side, but I see that the lightest medieval reproductions are just under two pounds.
The lightest sword that I own is a Brighton that weighs in at just over 30 ounces or 1.9 pounds. Are modern reproductions really that much heavier? Small swords would fit that range, but they're more modern.
Are you referring to more ancient swords like a gladius ?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I said "closer to one pound" so any sword weighing less than two pounds meets that criteria Happy But yes, one-pound swords are usually shortsword length.
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something no one has addressed is the size and shape of the grip. The grips on cheap 'katanas' are uniformly much larger than the real thing, and I don't think that's just due to the Japanese having smaller hands. Beyond a certain size, a sword's grip starts gaining mechanical advantage against the hand. Years ago, I had to regrip my 1775 Austrian NCO's infantry saber, as the original grip was falling to pieces, and I carved another the same size - and then I added the cord and leather covering. Stupid, stupid. The thing is crazy light and fast, but due to my error, I now find it quickly tires me to use it. By contrast, my unusually long longsword, which is nearly of claymore dimensions, tires me little more, as I made a grip properly sized to my hand.

Oh, and I hadn't noticed that katanas have much of a distal taper.

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Richard Miller




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 8:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
I said "closer to one pound" so any sword weighing less than two pounds meets that criteria Happy But yes, one-pound swords are usually shortsword length.

Thanks, Dan.
I guess I read that as meaning 'around' a pound. My bad. Idea

-Rick
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T. Diamante




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PostPosted: Thu 23 Feb, 2017 10:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The first sword I ever owned was a ~$60 Musashi katana. Out of curiosity I took measurements of it and found the blade tapers from 7.6mm to 4mm at the start of the tip, balances right at 4.5" and weighs two pounds even. It actually makes both my H/T bastard and longsword feel heavy in comparison. I thought that might be interesting to anyone that hasn't handled a cheap katana before.
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Lancelot Chan
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PostPosted: Fri 24 Feb, 2017 6:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Katana and oriental swords are generally more forward balanced than the European ones, with lighter total weight. So it's not a surprise that you found it heavy despite the lighter weight. Balance affect handling a lot and that weight is not concentrated on your hands. That's why the effect.
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