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Henry O.





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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jun, 2017 2:13 pm    Post subject: Sword blows against armor?         Reply with quote

I realize that ideally you would defeat an armored opponent by thrusting or half-swording into the gaps between the plates, but could blows with a sword blade also accomplish anything against mail or plate armor? Could they bruise, concuss, disorient, etc.?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jun, 2017 6:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mail was susceptible to hard blows to exposed bony areas such as the skull, clavicle, knee, hip, shin, elbow, etc. Plate was pretty much invulnerable except for head blows.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Robert Morgan




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PostPosted: Sat 24 Jun, 2017 11:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not an expert, but I do practice HEMA in my own amateurish way. I fought in my first tournament this spring and won 3 fights before being eliminated. Let me say this: even when being hit with a synthetic sword, you feel it. Believe me, you do feel it, especially if it's to the head. I would imagine that the blunt force trauma would be enough, depending upon where the impact took place, to disorient and confuse an opponent. One blow to the head made it ring and I needed a moment to recover. I've suffered serious bruises through modern HEMA defenses, and suffered a cracked collarbone from an oberhaw to the clavicle from a synthetic sword. I'm certain that a steel sword, "real" or feder would have done even more damage. So yes, I would imagine that the concussive effect of a sword to poorly armored or unarmored locations could seriously erode an opponent's ability to fight.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun, 2017 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The phrase 'to give and receive blows' pops up a few times in 14th and 15th century primary sources. The same sources also mention giving blows to the head with a sword.

In the press of battle or when people raised their visor finesse may have been thrown out of the window in favor of bashing each other over the head repeatedly. You can cut someones face if he has his visor open and perhaps a number of blows could throw off helmets or cut straps and lacing holding the armor together.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun, 2017 8:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
The phrase 'to give and receive blows' pops up a few times in 14th and 15th century primary sources. The same sources also mention giving blows to the head with a sword.

In the press of battle or when people raised their visor finesse may have been thrown out of the window in favor of bashing each other over the head repeatedly. You can cut someones face if he has his visor open and perhaps a number of blows could throw off helmets or cut straps and lacing holding the armor together.

Well, I mean, you can, but it's a pretty big waste of time and energy when you could much more easily just stab them in the face...

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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Philip Dyer





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun, 2017 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko Kuusirati wrote:
Pieter B. wrote:
The phrase 'to give and receive blows' pops up a few times in 14th and 15th century primary sources. The same sources also mention giving blows to the head with a sword.

In the press of battle or when people raised their visor finesse may have been thrown out of the window in favor of bashing each other over the head repeatedly. You can cut someones face if he has his visor open and perhaps a number of blows could throw off helmets or cut straps and lacing holding the armor together.

Well, I mean, you can, but it's a pretty big waste of time and energy when you could much more easily just stab them in the face...

First of all, if your armor is made to you, cutting lacing isn't going to do much besides just making the armor slightly less comfortable to wear. Second. If your opponent's visor is open, a slash may do the job, be easier to extract, and serve as defensive motion along with a offensive motion. Thirdly, Your helmet would have to fit pretty poorly and have to just be held on by gravity to just be knocked off your head.
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Jun, 2017 1:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Helmets of any kind -whether on a 14th century battlefield or on a 21st century hockey rink - afford poor protection against concussions. The reason being that concussions are caused not by damage to the skull, but rather by sudden acceleration of the skull relative to the brain, usually due to some kind of impact. And for those of you practising reenactment, the subtle long term effects are nasty and accumulative. Just sayin'.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jun, 2017 11:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Robert Morgan wrote:
I'm not an expert, but I do practice HEMA in my own amateurish way. I fought in my first tournament this spring and won 3 fights before being eliminated. Let me say this: even when being hit with a synthetic sword, you feel it. Believe me, you do feel it, especially if it's to the head. I would imagine that the blunt force trauma would be enough, depending upon where the impact took place, to disorient and confuse an opponent. One blow to the head made it ring and I needed a moment to recover. I've suffered serious bruises through modern HEMA defenses, and suffered a cracked collarbone from an oberhaw to the clavicle from a synthetic sword. I'm certain that a steel sword, "real" or feder would have done even more damage. So yes, I would imagine that the concussive effect of a sword to poorly armored or unarmored locations could seriously erode an opponent's ability to fight.


Personally, I think HEMA really shows just how ineffective swords are as blunt trauma weapons. Most strikes to the body/arms/etc, even with a large feder at high intensity, have no effect beyond bruising through a padded jacket. Adding a few well-chosen rigid defences makes them pretty much completely irrelevant. Sure, if you really swing for the fences you might make their day a bit unpleasant, but if that's your goal you really want just about any weapon which isn't a sword.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Chris Friede




Location: Austin
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jun, 2017 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, a sword blade could do *something*. Plate will resist the edge of a sword effectively, but some of the concussive force is transmitted through. The armor and padding help to spread the force around quite a bit, but it isn't a force field. Think about modern Kevlar bulletproof vests. Cracked ribs and bruising are pretty common even without penetration. A cut to a breastplate may not do much, but a thrust (like with an estoc) would concentrate the force in one spot. Cuts to arms, legs, and hands could conceivably have greater effect.
(had a finger broken in sparring with blunts and armored gauntlets that way)
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jun, 2017 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Philip Dyer wrote:
First of all, if your armor is made to you, cutting lacing isn't going to do much besides just making the armor slightly less comfortable to wear. Second. If your opponent's visor is open, a slash may do the job, be easier to extract, and serve as defensive motion along with a offensive motion. Thirdly, Your helmet would have to fit pretty poorly and have to just be held on by gravity to just be knocked off your head.

Well, I wouldn't expect a cut at an open visor to do all that much, unless you just happen to catch them square in the face with the very tip so the blade can go in to some depth before the sides of the helmet stop it (actually open helmets like kettle hats can be more vulnerable to rising or horizontal cuts, of course). Otherwise, I agree it'd be largely futile - you can distract and disorient a guy by banging on his helmet, which can be a good setup for more effective anti-armour tactics, but that's about all you should expect to accomplish.

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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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jun, 2017 4:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC, there are quite a few surviving pieces of armour that show clear evidence of sword blows, and frequently they don't penetrate at all. You could extrapolate the force of said blow from the magnitude/size of the mark left.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Jun, 2017 9:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Friede wrote:
Yes, a sword blade could do *something*. Plate will resist the edge of a sword effectively, but some of the concussive force is transmitted through. The armor and padding help to spread the force around quite a bit, but it isn't a force field. Think about modern Kevlar bulletproof vests.
(had a finger broken in sparring with blunts and armored gauntlets that way)


Modern ballistic armour is not an appropriate analogy.
Firstly the amount of energy involved in getting hit by a bullet is 10-300 times higher than a sword.
Secondly, ballistic armour is more flexible and transmits more energy through to the wearer.
Thirdly, ballistic armour is not worn over an arming doublet
Fourthly, ballistic armour rests against the torso whereas many cuirasses have an air gap.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Tianhong Yu





Joined: 12 Jul 2016

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PostPosted: Tue 27 Jun, 2017 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes if your opponent agrees to stand still.

But I guess nobody would agree to do this on the battlefield...
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Chris Friede




Location: Austin
Joined: 15 Mar 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 27 Jun, 2017 7:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Chris Friede wrote:
Yes, a sword blade could do *something*. Plate will resist the edge of a sword effectively, but some of the concussive force is transmitted through. The armor and padding help to spread the force around quite a bit, but it isn't a force field. Think about modern Kevlar bulletproof vests.
(had a finger broken in sparring with blunts and armored gauntlets that way)


Modern ballistic armour is not an appropriate analogy.
Firstly the amount of energy involved in getting hit by a bullet is 10-300 times higher than a sword.
Secondly, ballistic armour is more flexible and transmits more energy through to the wearer.
Thirdly, ballistic armour is not worn over an arming doublet
Fourthly, ballistic armour rests against the torso whereas many cuirasses have an air gap.


Good points...it was intended to be a rough analogy about how force can be dissipated but damage to the body results anyway, but you are correct to point out the differences.

Honestly, the relative lack of effectiveness of cuts to armor probably spurred the development of mortschlag techniques anyway. I can see someone in desperation fighting against an armored opponent going "To hell with this" and start swinging their blade like a club.
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