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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 4:16 pm    Post subject: Germanic Migration Period Sword - Need Conflicting Opinion         Reply with quote

My opinion is that Germanic Migration Period Swords required more brute strength than skill to use efficiently.

I'd like the opinion of anyone else on this who disagrees. That said, even if you don't, don't hesitate to post.

(For anyone who finds this odd, I dind it healthy and intellectually stimulating to be presented with opposing opinions/facts. My own thoughts on the matter strike me as a bit biased and uneducated here, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.)
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David Hohl




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 4:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords were not primary battlefield weapons in the migration period, or in other time periods. While many weapons used against plate armor were brute force weapons the thrusting swords used against heavy armor (while wearing armor) were really more finesse weapons than brute force. When dedicated cutters like Migration Era swords were in use, battles were fought with spears, axes and shields, and swords were used as backup weapons and dueling weapons. Not the kind of uses where brute force weaponry comes to mind..... an axe is a better candidate for a brute force weapon.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Hohl wrote:
Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.


But the main technique in use was the Shield Wall, which requires holding a shield in front of you. Wouldn't the only thing left to do be to whack past the shield with brute strength again and again?
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
David Hohl wrote:
Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.


But the main technique in use was the Shield Wall, which requires holding a shield in front of you. Wouldn't the only thing left to do be to whack past the shield with brute strength again and again?


With an axe?
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Samuel D R wrote:
David Hohl wrote:
Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.


But the main technique in use was the Shield Wall, which requires holding a shield in front of you. Wouldn't the only thing left to do be to whack past the shield with brute strength again and again?


With an axe?


In this situation, with a broadsword.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Swords were not primary battlefield weapons in the migration period, or in other time periods. While many weapons used against plate armor were brute force weapons the thrusting swords used against heavy armor (while wearing armor) were really more finesse weapons than brute force. When dedicated cutters like Migration Era swords were in use, battles were fought with spears, axes and shields, and swords were used as backup weapons and dueling weapons. Not the kind of uses where brute force weaponry comes to mind..... an axe is a better candidate for a brute force weapon.


That first notion has been somewhat debunked. It's becoming clear swords were far, far from uncommon (100 sword pommels were found in the Staffordshire Hoard, which is a lot since the average Migration Period army was about 60 men).
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Greg Ballantyne




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Swords can be quite common, and still not be primary battlefield weapons. In other times, belt buckles were quite common, and found on battlefields, but were not primary battlefield weapons.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Greg Ballantyne wrote:
Swords can be quite common, and still not be primary battlefield weapons. In other times, belt buckles were quite common, and found on battlefields, but were not primary battlefield weapons.


Spears were thrown more often than used in combat by infantrymen. The shieldwall requires a shorter weapon, like a broadsword or long seax. Axes were used but from what I've seen they were used to a much lesser extent by all Germans except the Franks.

Anyway, this is off-topic and rather irrelevant.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
David Hohl wrote:
Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.


But the main technique in use was the Shield Wall, which requires holding a shield in front of you. Wouldn't the only thing left to do be to whack past the shield with brute strength again and again?


You've actually just answered your question: PAST the shield. Not *through* it, for which an axe would be far more suitable. Going around takes some skill.

I've never heard any suggestion that Migration era swords were significantly heavier or more poorly balanced than those that went before or after. So they were already better balanced than axes, for instance, and would be very fast and lethal if used with any skill. Plus, the vast majority of opponents would not be armored, so it would take VERY little force to cause nasty or fatal wounds.

You also need some skill to keep yourself safe when going against a line of spearmen with a sword. My guess is that the man who had no skill and trusted to his strength alone would wind up dead pretty quickly.

Matthew
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But they threw their spears before battle.

http://lightspill.com/poetry/oe/maldon.html

This poem corroborates that clearly. Both sides throw three spears each, then draw their swords and charge at each other.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 5:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Samuel D R wrote:
David Hohl wrote:
Well, here's one thought, that doesn't get into the rich European traditions as much, but if you and any friend try to sword fight with broomsticks you'll find that it's really easy to hit the other guy, and very hard to do it while getting away clean. No matter what weapon you're using, be it never so heavy and awkward, anyone who wants to be in more than one fight ought to be skilled. Moreover, there's nothing brute about strength. Learning to swing an iron rod around with any kind of control takes practice and effort, and produces skill whether you're learning martial arts secrets or not.


But the main technique in use was the Shield Wall, which requires holding a shield in front of you. Wouldn't the only thing left to do be to whack past the shield with brute strength again and again?


You've actually just answered your question: PAST the shield. Not *through* it, for which an axe would be far more suitable. Going around takes some skill.

I've never heard any suggestion that Migration era swords were significantly heavier or more poorly balanced than those that went before or after. So they were already better balanced than axes, for instance, and would be very fast and lethal if used with any skill. Plus, the vast majority of opponents would not be armored, so it would take VERY little force to cause nasty or fatal wounds.

You also need some skill to keep yourself safe when going against a line of spearmen with a sword. My guess is that the man who had no skill and trusted to his strength alone would wind up dead pretty quickly.

Matthew


Past your own shield, not the enemy's. Migration period shields are a good metre in diameter, you can't go around it, only make it break/fall and kill the enemy after.

The point of having spears at all were to chuck them at the enemy, who would be forced to block with their shields, ruining them, and then having to fight without the shield (i.e die catastrophically).
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 11:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Germanic Migration Period Sword - Need Conflicting Opini         Reply with quote

Samuel D R wrote:
My opinion is that Germanic Migration Period Swords required more brute strength than skill to use efficiently.


People say "blade heavy", but the swords achieve that by having lightweight pommels rather than by having monstrously heavy blades.

They don't seem to be particularly heavy, so I don't see why they would require any more brute strength than a typical Viking sword or typical Medieval arming sword. That is, I don't see why they would depend on brute strength.

On the other hand, more skill is always useful when fighting with a sword.

Having played with light-pommeled swords that balance a long way out from the hilt, like a Migration Era sword, but heavier overall (late Qing cavalry dao), I'd vote for skill as much more important for efficient use than brute strength. A certain minimum strength would be needed, but not so much as to be exceptional in any way. Stronger than your opponent is always useful, but "more skilled than your opponent" will dwarf the advantage from "stronger than".

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Bram Verbeek





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Mar, 2017 11:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Migration era shield bosses made some quite interesting techniques possible. I'd also hestistate to speak of fencing with a blade heavy sword easy. Yes, a downward stroke is easy, but a thrust requires a bit more movement with the arms, and you can rely on a parry more due to the mass distribution (your forte is larger and further from the guard.

That we now don't know exactly how these people did battle, does not mean it was not skillful.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 4:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Put people didn't necessarily fence at all. If they had a shield in front of them there was no need to parry with the sword. Thrusts wouldn't be very effective with any swords I've seen (Sutton-Hoo, Norse finds, Longobard), only cutting.

As far as I can see from tests the youtuber Thegnthrand has done with both broadswords and scramaseaxes from the period, if used by a strong man (like Thrand) they could easily cleave a shield in half down to the boss. That seems far more useful than trying to do 16th century rapier fencing with it.

Thank you all for your answers, I'm still not really convinced. I don't see what "skill" would be used, though Matthew Amt did bring up the good point that you'd have to aim your sword at unprotected areas, which would require some dexterity.

With a seax alone, he manages to cleave significantly through a buckler. I have no doubt that someone could easily drop it or have their wrist utterly destroyed if that happened. And then... Well, look at what he does to the ballistic gel head. Any hit to the head with that thing would be lethal.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 4:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for helping me broaden my opinion though. I wonder, could one compromise by saying it required using strength in a skillful manner? Strength to actually kill the enemy and break his defences, but skill to keep yourself alive, angle your sword correctly, aim for the right point.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Samuel,

Looking at the very brief collection of Migration Era swords shown in Records of the Medieval Sword, I disagree with your contention that thrusts wouldn't be very effective. Keep in mind that relatively few combatants would have had armour in the Migration Era. This means that swords can have broad, spatulate points and cause horrific thrusting wounds. The main advantages to having narrow point with dramatic tapering (say like a diamond or hexagonal cross section) is that it is significantly easier to puncture through mail armour, and that the shape of the blade does penetrate with greater depth more easily. However, these advantages are negligible if few people have armour; it's better to have a wider blade that can hew decently and a broad point which will cause wider, gaping thrust wounds.

As for swords requiring skill, consider that all swords by nature must have reasonably thin blades in order to cut. If you try to use brute strength, you could easily fail to hew very deeply, because it's more important that you have good control and follow through with your edge placement. All swords are precision weapons; if you want mere brute strength, something like a club or a mace would do a much better job.

Further, every fighting manual that we have from the Middle Ages onward shows binding with swords, and then agile follow-up actions from the crossings. This is true of the medieval sword and buckler of MS I.33, long sword fighting, side sword and rapier fighting, and small sword fencing. Although there can be difference in whether the sword play emphasizes beats and deflections, or remaining in the bind to work to the next opening, all sword play involves crossings of the sword- and these techniques require skill.

Obviously, we do not have any surviving manuscripts or indications of how people fought with swords in the Migration Era. However, if one was to argue that it was merely brute strength with very little skill involved, one would need to plausibly argue why all later sword fighting methods that do survive involve crossings of the swords and follow-up attacks, and why we should believe that the Migration Era was somehow an exception from this pattern. I cannot argue that Migration Era warriors did use binds because we do not know, but given the preponderance of binds in all forms of swordsmanship, I think the burden of the proof is placed upon those who argue such techniques would not have been used or known.
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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 5:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Samuel,

Looking at the very brief collection of Migration Era swords shown in Records of the Medieval Sword, I disagree with your contention that thrusts wouldn't be very effective. Keep in mind that relatively few combatants would have had armour in the Migration Era. This means that swords can have broad, spatulate points and cause horrific thrusting wounds. The main advantages to having narrow point with dramatic tapering (say like a diamond or hexagonal cross section) is that it is significantly easier to puncture through mail armour, and that the shape of the blade does penetrate with greater depth more easily. However, these advantages are negligible if few people have armour; it's better to have a wider blade that can hew decently and a broad point which will cause wider, gaping thrust wounds.

As for swords requiring skill, consider that all swords by nature must have reasonably thin blades in order to cut. If you try to use brute strength, you could easily fail to hew very deeply, because it's more important that you have good control and follow through with your edge placement. All swords are precision weapons; if you want mere brute strength, something like a club or a mace would do a much better job.

Further, every fighting manual that we have from the Middle Ages onward shows binding with swords, and then agile follow-up actions from the crossings. This is true of the medieval sword and buckler of MS I.33, long sword fighting, side sword and rapier fighting, and small sword fencing. Although there can be difference in whether the sword play emphasizes beats and deflections, or remaining in the bind to work to the next opening, all sword play involves crossings of the sword- and these techniques require skill.

Obviously, we do not have any surviving manuscripts or indications of how people fought with swords in the Migration Era. However, if one was to argue that it was merely brute strength with very little skill involved, one would need to plausibly argue why all later sword fighting methods that do survive involve crossings of the swords and follow-up attacks, and why we should believe that the Migration Era was somehow an exception from this pattern. I cannot argue that Migration Era warriors did use binds because we do not know, but given the preponderance of binds in all forms of swordsmanship, I think the burden of the proof is placed upon those who argue such techniques would not have been used or known.

How safe would it be to blade bind if your sword lacks a guard? Honestly, most reconstructions I've watched from Rolan make pretty strong case that shield was the binding instrument and a axe or sword as a explioting instrument. Also, the video he sorta shows our point, if you aim to destory the shield then man behind it, your sword in mostly likely to get stuck and your opponent has a chance to disarm or move in to where can swing over your shield and kill you. Also, in the time it take for him to sunder a shield, his could be cleaving open his skull.
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Samuel D R




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Looking at the very brief collection of Migration Era swords shown in Records of the Medieval Sword, I disagree with your contention that thrusts wouldn't be very effective.


Well, you could also thrust an axe into someone's face and kill them instantly. Or a mace.
They're not nimble with the point, they're not made to thrust, just like an axe or a mace. It doesn't mean you couldn't, but they wouldn't be effective from a combat standpoint, not actual damage.
I mean, you could also drop every weapon you had and rip the enemy's throat out with your teeth. That's physically effective, you've killed him, but absolutely idiotic on a battlefield.

Quote:
Keep in mind that relatively few combatants would have had armour in the Migration Era.


To use your own terms, the burden of proof is on you for that one. Everyone in history has had some form of armour. We know from Procopius and Jordanes the Franks used boiled leather armour, fur armour (otter fur), and even cloth armour. The poorer Saxons were similarily equipped against Charlemagne a few centuries later.
There's no reason that other Germans didn't either. The Romans had the subarmalis, which is easy enough to make. No sane person would have gone into battle without any armour at all. While a gambeson could stop a throwing spear quite neatly, probably sparing any internal organs, just having a tunic on would mean you being fully impaled.

Quote:
Also, the video he sorta shows our point, if you aim to destory the shield then man behind it, your sword in mostly likely to get stuck and your opponent has a chance to disarm or move in to where can swing over your shield and kill you. Also, in the time it take for him to sunder a shield, his could be cleaving open his skull.


Yes, which is why the cuts he then demonstrates are better (and he states they're better). Whacking against the shield directly still penetrates through it.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 08 Mar, 2017 6:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I also thought of an additional argument in favour of binding: it gives you greater control over your adversary's weapon making it easier for you to stay safe. If your only way to protect yourself is to rely on the positioning of your shield and turning inwards, outwards and the like, you have very little control over what I do with my weapon. I can make feints to open you up, or try to hang my point above your shield and thrust to the opening, or even simply hack through your shield bit by bit as shown by Thrand. You do not need to be a sword master to figure this out, nor do you need to be taught by one; it would be evident to any warrior who had fought with weapons. Migration Era people were smart; they undoubtedly would have realized this.

By contrast to the above way of fighting, when you bind using a sword, you now have control over the adversary's weapon, and can work to control or dominate his sword in such a way that you can attack to the next opening while keeping yourself safely covered. In other words, you must use skill. The moment you have any sort of bind or crossing with two hand held weapons, you have a martial art.
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