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Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
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PostPosted: Wed 05 Apr, 2017 7:20 pm    Post subject: Guardless Blade Combat (early China)         Reply with quote

This question can be expanded more to other cultures as well, but I was curious about warfare in the Zhou Dynasties and the Warring States period. With the relative profusion of polearms and my assumption about the abundance or archers in both northern and southern China, the relatively long history of the shorter bronze sword with no guard (I know about the Han longer iron and bronze swords) and from what I can tell no widespread personal use of the shield to compliment the sword, how would combat or sword play have actually looked? I understand guardless swords in the context of shields, and shorter arms as back up for archers, but I don't understand the longer and fairly widespread use of swords, especially in the south, while longer polearms and arrows dominate, and shields don't seem to be popular on an individual basis.

I could also be totally wrong here. People who know about Chinese history, please set me straight. Any info on other cultures with shorter guardless blades and a lack of shields are welcome too (Caribbean machetes, Philippines, etc...)

"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Apr, 2017 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The simple answer is that they used shields. Artwork with battle scenes shows (a) soldiers with two-handed polearms (spears and ge), (b) archers, and (c) soldiers with shields and single-handed weapons (swords/daggers and single-handed ge).

There aren't very many finds of shields (there are some complete late Zhou (i.e., Eastern Zhou) shields, possibly ceremonial or parade shields, and early Zhou (i.e., Western Zhou) bronze shield fittings), but they're there. From art, they're standard battle equipment - all or almost all soldiers with single-handed weapons have shields.

Yang Hong, "Weapons in Ancient China" http://myArmoury.com/books/item.1880132036.html has good info, and some Zhou artwork.

Most other cases of short guardless weapons being used in combat I know of are also accompanied by shields (e.g., Moros in the Philippines, various groups in Africa, and more).

Where the weapons were carried as EDC weapons, they would often be carried without a shield, and would see use without a shield. I don't think lack of a guard made much difference - short of a basket hilt, you don't want to be trying to use your sword guard as a shield substitute.

There are exceptions, where short guardless weapons were used without shields on battlefields. The examples that come to mind are from firearm-dominated battlefields. E.g., in Nepal, the kora and kukri were used with a shield until the widespread use of firearms, in which case the kukri continued in use without a shield (and, on average, became shorter).

"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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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Apr, 2017 4:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kai. You could try searching the Razmafzar YouTube channel for videos dealing with the qame. A qame is short double edged sword suited to both cut and thrust. Qames have no hand guard and were used, without shields, as a civilian dueling weapon.
Éirinn go Brách
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Shawn Henthorn




Location: Amarillo TX
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Apr, 2017 8:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What we have noted from our research and practice is that as long as you are not performing binds or the like, Guards become largely irrelevant. As long as you are minding what you are doing your hands are rarely in danger and when they are so is the rest of your arm....when your start doing wind and bind, guards get important real fast.
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Kai Lawson




Location: Madison, WI
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Apr, 2017 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All good answers. I wonder if there are any descriptions of bauernwehr combat with ruggers or short messers...or long dagger combat in manuscripts. Obviously machetes and the qama (which I know about, but didn't think of) are good starting places. Does anyone have access to postable or linkable images of Shang, Zhou or early Han soldiers with shields? My internet options are currently rather limited.
"And they crossed swords."
--William Goldman, alias S. Morgenstern
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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 06 Apr, 2017 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It isn't easy to find these online. Here's one from the late Han:

http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=....page50278

"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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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Fri 07 Apr, 2017 2:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whenever battle damage on bronze swords is analysed, it is almost always consistent with sword-on shield impact, not sword-on-sword. It doesn't matter which culture, the results are the same. Even swords with guards rarely show damage consistent with sword-on-sword impact.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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