Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Left-handed swordsmanship Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
Brenton Hudson




Location: Barnwell, SC
Joined: 21 Dec 2006

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 8:08 am    Post subject: Left-handed swordsmanship         Reply with quote

I have noticed that swordsmen depicted in drawings and pictures are never left-handed. This brings up the question: why is there a lack of left-handed swordsmen. I am certain that a left-handed swordsman would have several advantages over a right-handed swordsman, but I am not sure what they are. Any help with this?
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew K. Shea




Location: Toronto, Canada
Joined: 15 Jan 2006
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd have to say it has more to do with the stigmatism left-handed people have faced unti recent times more than anything else.
Proud member of the Academy Of European Medieval Martial Arts.

"Those who live by the sword live a good, long time!"
~Minsc, in Baldur's Gate II
View user's profile Send private message
Brenton Hudson




Location: Barnwell, SC
Joined: 21 Dec 2006

Posts: 9

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

True, but some information has stated that some left-handed people are better at multi-tasking than some right-handed people, although I'm not trying to insult right-handed people, I'm just saying what the researchers have found. Being left-handed in swordsmanship can lead to interesting situations against right-handed opponents.
View user's profile Send private message
Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a few images in the fechtbuecher that depict left handed swordsmen. I think Fiore might have a few, but I could be wrong about that one. The thing about left handed swordsman is that they're a bit like a pitcher having to deal with someone who bats left in baseball: they are unusual and require adaptation at first, but once you've had experience with them you can deal with them as you would a right handed swordsman. One of the terms that comes up in the German fencing tradition is Das geht zu paiden seiten or "that works on both sides": It refers to the fact that many guards and strikes work from the left side and the right. So among other things, if one was confident enough, one could simply switch and fence from the left hand side when facing a left handed opponent. Otherwise, there are techniques and strikes that will work well when fencing against a left hander.
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The greatest advantage of left-handed swordsmen would have been novelty--most right-handed swordsman were not used to facing a left-handed opponent. This is borne out by the evidence from modern fencing, where left-handers form about 15% of the newbies' number but 50% of world champions. And even the left-handed world champions state that the hardest thing for them was facing another left-handed swordsman because they have grown used to fighting right-handers.

As to why the depictions almost always show right-handed men, it's easy: swordsmanship was taught right-handed whether to left-handers or to right-handers. The presence of ambidextrous tools and weapons is largely an artifact of our modern culture. For most of history, I suppose the masters would simply have taught right-handed techniques to any and all pupils rather than taking the bother of developing a distinct set of left-handed techniques. And I think this is not such a cruel approach as it would seem to modern-day right-handers because I've seen many people who are born left-handers but have learned to do some tasks only with the right hand because only right-handed teaching was available--and in fact they do those tasks with their right hands just as well as the natural right-handers. One of my left-handed friends actually feel that modern ambidextrous weapons are a bother because he finds that he shoots much more accurately with the gun on his right side of his body. Marksmanship and archery are somewhat different from other disciplines, though, because hwat matters in them is not motoric handedness but eye dominance. Nowadays a right-handed person who is left-eye dominant either has to shoot left-handed or close his left eye when shooting right-handed.

We do have strong evidence for this in Japanese swordsmanship, where the tradition is still very much alive albeit in modified form. Nobody cares whether you're right-handed or left-handed--in a kenjutsu ryu you would be taught right-handed techniques no matter what. And this is supported by the fact that Japanese scabbards are always worn on the left side--anyone cocky enough to wear them on the right would have found themselves a bother because Japanese people walked on the left side of the road and with the scabbard sticking to the right he'd be banging it against the bodies of the people coming from the opposite direction. He might be excused if the people he's banging against are commoners but if it's another warrior he'd have to deal with a challenge to an immediate duel.

BTW, I usually don't take that statement in the German manuals to refer to handedness, but to the fact that a technique like, say, the unterhau could be executed from the left as well as the right side. There is another kind of statement repeated in many German and Italian manuals to the effect that the masters recommend the swordsman to train with both hands but only if he has the time and inclination to do so. The only one I can remember off the top of my head is the one from di Grassi in the section of his manual that deals with two-sword (due spade or "case of rapiers") plays.
View user's profile Send private message
Bryce Felperin




Location: San Jose, CA
Joined: 16 Feb 2006

Posts: 552

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I have heard and read previously left handed use was "bad" and frowned upon for anything. Left in Latin after all is "Sinister".

Also note that the plates you see in sword manuals where it appears the sword is being wielded left-handed may in fact be drawn as mirror for you to follow the move and not reflect true left handed use of the sword by the subject in the drawing.
View user's profile Send private message
Elling Polden




Location: Bergen, Norway
Joined: 19 Feb 2004
Likes: 1 page

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,576

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 11:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The norwegian Kingsmirror manuscitp, dated ca 1250 states that one should learn to use your weapon in either hand.

Handedness goes both ways; Right handers can do the same techniques against lefties as the other way around. Howevery, you need to notice that the other guy is left handed first...

Left handers are quite wounerable to binds from the right side of their body (Speaking from a right hander PoW, since I'm a right hander...) Because of the angles of the blades, a left hander can not efficiently push your sword down without you ending up inside his guard, open for a draw cut to the tighs or abdomen.
Practically, this means that the corect responce to a blow "by the book" can get you killed when fighting a oposite handed adversary who knows what he's doing.

From experience, teaching techniqe to left handers is always a bit tricky, because you do not only need to mirror the move, but also take into account that the dynamics are different.
The traditidonal solution to this problem is to force those damn deviants to use the right hand like everyone else. A lot less hassle.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Dustin R. Reagan





Joined: 09 May 2006

Posts: 264

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 11:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not so sure that our modern notion that left-handers (and thus left-handed warriors) were less prevalent "back then" really holds water.

For instance, from the translation of Sigmund Ringeck's fechtbuch at http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/Ringeck.htm:

"Note: This tenet is addressed to left-handers and right-handers. If you are a right-handed fencer and you are closing to an opponent and you think you can hit him, do not strike the first blow from the (your) left side. Because you are weak there and you cannot resist, if he binds strongly against your blade. Because of this, strike from the right side, you can work strongly "Am Schwert" ("on the sword") and you can use all techniques you like. So, if you are left-handed, do not strike from the right side, since left-handers are usually not used to strike effectively from the right side and vice versa. "

Obviously, there were enough left-handers seeking instruction in the use of the longsword at the time this was written (sometime between 1389 and 1440?), to justify an explicit mention of the difference in technique employed between left and right handers.

Furthermore, there is evidence that indicates that left-handers may have been *more* prevalent in our past than in our current, relatively stable societies, where we do not experience and engage in violent exchanges on a day to day basis.

http://economist.com/science/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3471297

The study involved "traditional" societies, because these are the ones less likely to use firearms in their violent day-to-day conflicts (the use of firearms negates any advantages of left-handedness).

"the two researchers found that the proportion of left-handers in a traditional society is, indeed, correlated with its homicide rate." Thus, societies with more to-the-death one-on-one fighting going on have more left-handers, since being a left-hander is an advantage in this context.

Dustin.
View user's profile Send private message
Dustin R. Reagan





Joined: 09 May 2006

Posts: 264

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 11:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:

The traditidonal solution to this problem is to force those damn deviants to use the right hand like everyone else. A lot less hassle.


I'm not sure that this was the traditional solution...see my post above. Do you have any references to the contrary? In fact your reference of the Kingsmirror manuscript supports the hypothesis that left-handers were taught left-handed techniques.

Dustin
View user's profile Send private message
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 11:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The translated and reformatted quote from di Grassi's section on the case of rapiers:

Quote:
To him that would handle these weapons, it is necessary that he can as well manage the left hand as the right, which thing shall be (if not necessary) yet most profitable in every other kind of weapon.
View user's profile Send private message
J. Padgett




Location: In a comfy chair
Joined: 17 Nov 2003

Posts: 137

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 1:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It probably just comes down to the fact that most people are right handed. Right handedness almost seem to be the default setting for humans for whatever reason, and lefties are the minority. I don't know the actual numbers, but just look at all of the products made primarily for right handed people for evidence.

As others have said, the primary advantage of being left handed in any competition such as a fencing, or baseball is that your opponent is usually not used to lefties. It really throws some people.

"The truth shall make ye fret."
View user's profile Send private message
Scott Hanson




Location: La Crosse, WI
Joined: 19 Jul 2006
Likes: 3 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 154

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 2:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Layfayette C. Curtis wrote:
As to why the depictions almost always show right-handed men, it's easy: swordsmanship was taught right-handed whether to left-handers or to right-handers


I'm not sure this is true. In the Lindholm translation of Ringeck that I work from, he has some passages that state something like "if you are left-handed, fence from your left". I can't comment on whether that translation is accurate, but assuming it is, then at least one of the masters told his students to lead with their strong side, whether that was right or left. In fact, much of what I've read (in translated manuals) seems to indicate that idea that being left-handed was frowned upon may be myth.

I'd also have to wonder if the case of rapiers example is strictly relevant here. After all, if you plan to use two equal length weapons, you would expect to have to use each hand as skillfully as the other.
View user's profile Send private message
Ed Toton




Location: Northern VA
Joined: 16 Sep 2005

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 462

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J. Padgett wrote:
It probably just comes down to the fact that most people are right handed. Right handedness almost seem to be the default setting for humans for whatever reason, and lefties are the minority. I don't know the actual numbers, but just look at all of the products made primarily for right handed people for evidence.


I've heard it's roughly 90% of the population that is right-handed. Of course, my dad always likes to say "Only left-handed people are in their right minds."

-Ed T. Toton III
ed.toton.org | ModernChivalry.org
My armor photos on facebook
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
Joined: 15 Mar 2004
Likes: 50 pages
Reading list: 1 book

Spotlight topics: 5
Posts: 8,177

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For a left hander I think studying right handed use of weapons should be part of a balanced and superior training style rather than just adapting right handed techniques to left handed use.

Understanding the mirror image version lefty against lefty as well as being able to fight as a righty would mean and require some very deep understanding of swordsmanship.

Left handed against right hander would involve understanding what are the " special advantage " and special vulnerabilities.

Now a right hander might train to counter a left hander but a left hander should also learn how to deal with a right hander who has this training.

Anyway, the ideal would be to master all techniques to a degree that any opponent, in any possible permutation, could be defeated: Just think how scary would be a swordsman / swordswoman who could switch from left dominant to right dominant at will and even scarier in the middle of a fight ! ( Very few could pull this off successfully, but think of the confusion an opponent would feel ! )

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
View user's profile Send private message
Mat Billings




Location: Kelowna, BC
Joined: 05 Jan 2005

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's fun being left handed...it messes people up quite well in rapier actually. Laughing Out Loud

The trouble comes in finding ways to convert right handed techniques too left handed use.
View user's profile Send private message Yahoo Messenger
Stephen Hand




Location: Hobart, Australia
Joined: 03 Oct 2004
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 226

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Saviolo has a reasonable sized section on how to fence rapier against a left hander and states that they only have an advantage because they're more used to fencing right handers than v.v.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

Stoccata School of Defence
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
R. D. Simpson




Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Joined: 06 Mar 2005
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 61

PostPosted: Thu 21 Dec, 2006 9:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Just think how scary would be a swordsman / swordswoman who could switch from left dominant to right dominant at will and even scarier in the middle of a fight ! ( Very few could pull this off successfully, but think of the confusion an opponent would feel ! )


I remember reading somewhere or other that this is the origin of the term "shifty;" the ability to shift the sword between hands while fighting.

Gloria Virtutem Sequitur
View user's profile Send private message
Kyro R. Lantsberger





Joined: 21 Apr 2006

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 7:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew K. Shea wrote:
I'd have to say it has more to do with the stigmatism left-handed people have faced unti recent times more than anything else.


Are you saying that as historical observation? to what "recent times" do you refer?............or ARE you a left hander? hmmmm? :-)

Anyway

I find this discussion interesting. The source of my lineage in Chinese martial arts, Yi family of Taipei, Taiwan, is obsessed about "balance", far more than even standard Chinese are in that area. They modified (read lengthened) all of their forms and weapons training to mirror both sides of the body. Anybody who goes through such a program really doesnt really have a "dominant" side anymore. I would like to note also that many of the traditional Chinese masters didnt see "balance" as being able to work southpaw. I believe that Wang Shu Chin, 20th century Hsing I/Tai Chi/Bagua master said that the inner organs are not symmetrical, so it is natural that we should favor one side more than the other in usage. This statement takes a bit of knowledge of traditional Chinese culture to grasp, but it bears on their understanding of use of arms.

In my own observations, as a rightie trained to use both sides in weapons and MA, my right is stronger, but my left is definately more agile and can change angles faster. I know in JKD, Bruce Lee promoted a southpaw stance.

Returning to historical arms, I think some people have made the point that the manuals do make mention of this, and it seems especially more pronounced in the rapier manuals. If I remember correctly, was it DiGrassi or Marozzo who wanted his students able to fence with either hand? I remember this not for the sake of being able to change up against an opponent, but rather to be able to continue the fight if one's dominant side was wounded. I know from some of the wound studies from knife engagements that are out there that it doesnt take much to disable a hand--minor wounds farther up the arm can damage the nerves.

I know somebody made a reference to shooting a couple posts ago. Ive done alot of handgun shooting in my time, and I am right handed, but left eye dominant. I dont think dominant eye was ever an issue that people noticed before firearms, but I could be wrong. I can shoot quicker controlled shots on the right, but have better absolute accuracy leftie.

Interesting thread though.
View user's profile Send private message
Vincent Le Chevalier




Location: Paris, France
Joined: 07 Dec 2005
Reading list: 15 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 843

PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kyro R. Lantsberger wrote:

I dont think dominant eye was ever an issue that people noticed before firearms, but I could be wrong. I can shoot quicker controlled shots on the right, but have better absolute accuracy leftie


Well I'd think they noticed such things in bow practice at least...

I wanted to confirm that indeed in my kenjutsu school everybody is forced to practice right-handed. That's because the katas are meant like this, and can't really be adapted. Interestingly, left-handed beginners do not have any big problem with that. I suppose it comes down to the fact that now, holding a saber is a new thing for everyone and is disturbing anyway. In fact right-handers sometimes mistakenly assume a left-handed stance during the first lessons Happy

I wonder if handedness is significant in all situations? I mean, from the examples cited this far, it seems that it's discussed mainly in duelling (hence maybe a greater importance in rapier manuals). In battle, techniques change, maybe then being right or left handed is less important than being "like all the other guys in my rank".

I just had a vision of jousting against a left-hander Eek! Did that happen?

Regards

--
Vincent
Ensis Sub Caelo
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Fri 22 Dec, 2006 8:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I'm not the one saying that left-handed people were discriminated against. What I said was simply that left-handed people do not have to learn their swordsmanship left-handed to be effective, and I think many lefties in history learned right-handed swordsmanship because left-handed instruction would not have been available everywhere. I have no doubts that a leftie would have preferred a left-handed instruction if he could get it, though.
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > Left-handed swordsmanship
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum