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Steve Lewis




Location: Boston
Joined: 27 Sep 2006

Posts: 11

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jan, 2007 1:14 pm    Post subject: Wheel of Time swordfighting and hating yourself         Reply with quote

So I have been reading the Wheel of time books for a while now and I am trying to get an idea of the sword fighting that goes on in the book. I read some where online that it is supposed to be similar to asian styles. I have an old MRL catalog that had a Robert Jordan approved sword that seemed to be inspired by japanese swords. But in the books RJ speaks of many charactors wearing breast plates. I don't really know anything about japanese armour, but I have always had it in my mind that japanese armour was not as good as european and so the japanese sword didn't need to excel at pucturing and cracking steel plate. Has anyone taken the time to really look into this? It has occurred to me that RJ might be combing so many cultures into one that it is impossible to understand WOT swordfighting in an historical context. What do you guys and girls thinK?
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Russ Ellis
Industry Professional




Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Posts: 2,607

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jan, 2007 2:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even European swords don't really excel at puncturing and cracking breastplates. I personally do not really try to understand Jordan's sword fighting in anything resembling a historical context. His descriptions are merely a device to try to describe a sword fight in a way to make it interesting to a completely non-technical audience. He could have talked about hanging guards and so forth I suppose but it would have made things fairly uinteresting the vast majority of his audience I would think.
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George Hill




Location: Atlanta Ga
Joined: 16 May 2005

Posts: 614

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jan, 2007 2:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Wheel of Time swordfighting and hating yourself         Reply with quote

Steve Lewis wrote:
I don't really know anything about japanese armour, but I have always had it in my mind that japanese armour was not as good as european and so the japanese sword didn't need to excel at pucturing and cracking steel plate.


Japanese armor isn't as good as European armor, but they do have breastplates, and fairly solid ones at that. The technique in Japanese armored fighting was to aim for the plates there was no armor, which was easier then against a European plate harness, as there were more unarmored areas, and larger ones at that.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
Joined: 29 Apr 2004
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Posts: 613

PostPosted: Sat 20 Jan, 2007 5:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think your last comment hits the nail right on the head. Robert Jordan's approach to world-building is to take a big list of culturally specific traits and mix them all up so that nothing can really be understood in a historical context. You can catch the occasional glimpse of what real cultures he was drawing from, but it's impossible to form a coherent picture of anything, since several interrelated and interdependant cultural traits, styles of armor, architectural motifs, etc. are split up and sprinkled throughout the world with little rhyme or reason. If a style of breastplate and style of gothic arch grew from the same aesthetic movement in the same region and time period in the real world, chances are Jordan split them up, stuck the gothic arch on a pagoda somewhere and gave the armor to someone carrying a bamboo quarterstaff. Jordan's approach is the exact opposite on Tolkien's, who preferred a far more holistic approach in creating his cultures.

I will say that I got a definite kenjutsu vibe from Jordan's swordsmanship—or at least from the style that Lan teaches Rand—however, I gave up very early on to try and fit any of it into an overarching worldview. Jordan lacks the requisite subtlety to pull off world-building on that level. But that's ok. I have no need to understand Jordan's school of swordsmanship in a historical context for the same reason that I don't really care about the metallurgy of mithril. It's fantasy, not science fiction. I generally just push the "I believe" button and enjoy reading a fun story.

Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Lafayette C Curtis




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

Posts: 2,689

PostPosted: Sat 20 Jan, 2007 8:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That's an excellent summation, Sam. For the first three books or so I was excited by his worldbuilding but the more I read the more I get turned off because the juxtaposition of cultures simply don't make much sense. Jordan's swordsmanship techniques also have quite an unrealistic ring to them, and actually they remind me more of modern kendo than of kenjutsu--most of the kenjutsu schools I know retain the battlefield approach of "notgetting killed is more important than killing the enemy" while a certain technique Rand used in the first or second book was far closer to the modern sport kendo ethos of "hitting is more important than not getting hit."

Compare this to George Silver's and Sir William Hope's comment on prioritizing not getting hit, especially in the context of their criticism about the prevalence of simultaneous hits/kills or "contretemps" in contemporary thrusting styles.

What's particularly strange is that all the Blademasters in the world seem to use one identical style, even in cases where the cultures have been isolated from each other for long periods of time.

As for Japanese armors vs swords, the Japanese seemed to have an even greater de-emphaiss on sword use in the battlefield. Their dominant weapons were bows, spears, and polearms--later increased with the addition of firearms--while swords were secondary weapons at best. The sword only began to gain a prominent role with the Pax Tokugawa and the shift from battlefields to urban skirmishes and gang fights between unarmored combatants. Some kenjutsu schools do have techniques for use against armor, but for the most part they advised the use of other weapons (or grappling techniques) rather than swords when facing armored opponents. That's another reason why I found the Blademasters' techniques a bit strange.
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