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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 7:25 pm    Post subject: Test – off-hand longsword cuts vs. pork arms         Reply with quote

In my study of HES, I have often come across longsword fencers who, when bouting, will lure an opponent just within their range and then strike quickly without stepping, letting go of the right hand to increase reach. Such strikes are a gamble, for if they do not succeed they leave the fencer unable to respond in time to prevent an instant and catastrophic counter attack. What happens when these strikes succeed, however, is something I have often wondered about. Would such an off-hand attack have sufficient power to cause an injury serious enough to stop the fight? In an effort to find out, I have conducted a series of tests on targets that simulate a human arm, with and without clothing. This article contains the surprising results of these tests.


TARGETS
---------

To simulate a human arm as closely as possible, I decided to use pig’s feet. Complete with skin and bones, these eerie appendages are a very close approximation of a human forearm and wrist.



In an effort to measure the effect of such off-hand cuts on both unprotected flesh and an arm covered in some common protective garments, I used all four of the pig’s feet configured in varying layers of defensive materials.

Target 1 was a bare human arm.

Target 2 was a human arm covered by a light leather glove.



Target 3 was a human arm covered by a leather glove and gambeson or other heavy garment.



Target 4 was a human arm covered by a gambeson, but no glove.

To simulate the glove, I used chrome tanned 1oz garment leather.



To simulate a gambeson, I used a pair of sleeves from Revival Clothing’s cotton gambeson. This is a heavy duty garment with a stout cotton canvas shell, two layers of cotton batting and a cotton inner liner.




THE SWORD
-----------------

The sword I used is the Angus Trim 1508. This sword weighs 2lbs 15ozs, has a 9" handle, a 36" blade, is 47.5" overall and has a point of balance 3.5" from the cross. It’s edge is very sharp, but not overly so. The edge suffered no damage or dulling from cutting the bones in the pig’s feet.

[img] http://www.kingstonarms.com/swords/1508.2.2.jpg [/img]


PREPARATIONS
----------------------

To make the handling of the targets a little less distasteful, I covered each pig’s foot in a layer of plastic wrap and numbered them according to their configuration:

1 - bare flesh
2 - leather glove
3 - leather glove + gambeson
4 - gambeson




I then wrapped each target in its respective defensive garments, leaving no. 1 bare.



Once the targets were prepared, I went outside and setup the target stand, a three piece modular design that can be joined with pegs for stability or layered without pegs to create more give.



I decided to assemble the stand without using the pegs, which will enable it to collapse under the force of the cut like a human arm would.



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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

THE TEST
--------------

The test was conducted in a very straight forward fashion. Each target was placed on the stand, in sequence, and was cut several times. Each cut was initiated with both hands, but the right hand was released after the sword was in motion to extend range as shown below.



Target 1 - Bare Flesh

The results of this test were not surprising, though a bit disturbing. I cut four times, each with escalating levels of force. The first cut was little more than a drop of the sword onto the target and resulted in a deep gash:



The second cut had a little more power and scored on the knuckle, severing the pig’s toe.



The third cut was a little more powerful than the last, but struck a thicker bone.



The forth cut was the most powerful (relatively speaking; it had very little power compared to a normal two handed cut) and inflicted a deep wound.



Target 2 - Leather Glove

I cut this target twice, and was a little surprised to find that the glove offered very little protection to the target. The cuts were not as wide as those on unprotected flesh, but were almost as deep.






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Last edited by Michael Edelson on Thu 08 Feb, 2007 7:30 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 7:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Target 3 - Glove and Gambeson
The results of this test were quite startling. The gambeson and glove offered very little protection to the target. I was expecting not to be able to penetrate this target as these off-hand cuts are not particularly powerful, but the results speak for themselves.







Like the gloved target, the cuts were not as wide as those on unprotected flesh, but were almost as deep.

Target 4 - Gambeson Only

No surprises here; this target fared just as badly as Target 3.






CONCLUSION
-------------------

Although I was hoping to learn otherwise, quick-off hand cuts can inflict serious injuries even to a swordsman wearing thick protective garments. The real question remains, however; would such injuries be sufficient to stop the victim long enough for his opponent to finish him off, or would a swordsman pumped up on adrenaline not even notice such wounds until after he had struck his attacker on the head, taking advantage of the opening created by an off-hand cut?

I have suffered a wound that resembles some of the grizzlier images above, and I experienced no pain and no immediate loss of motion. I would be tempted to say that even though such a cut would in fact cause severe injuries, the risk to the attacker may not be worth it, as the victim would more than likely strike a lethal blow before noticing his own wounds. I will, however, leave that conclusion to those readers with medical experience and knowledge of anatomy.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 7:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting and a little disturbing. I would be interested to see you do some similar tests cutting full force with two hands.

We cut a turkey with my albion constable but I didn't get any photos or video, I may try it again this weekend.

J

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Rodolfo Martínez




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 8:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael, What type of sword is your two handed longsword?

I heard that tatamis ar more dense than human arms, so, if with medium force you can cut a tatami, you will be able to cut a human arm too. Intresting experience, thanks for sharing your cut tests with us.

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Rodolfo Martínez wrote:
Michael, What type of sword is your two handed longsword?

I heard that tatamis ar more dense than human arms, so, if with medium force you can cut a tatami, you will be able to cut a human arm too. Intresting experience, thanks for sharing your cut tests with us.


The 1508 is closest to a type XVIII...the specs are in the test. It's a light sword, and a very goot cutter. I was not trying to sever anyting in this test...I was trying to measure the effect of quick snap cuts with the left hand only. To be honest, I was hoping to find that they couldn't penetrate leather and thick fabric. Oh well. Happy

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 08 Feb, 2007 9:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Interesting and a little disturbing. I would be interested to see you do some similar tests cutting full force with two hands.

We cut a turkey with my albion constable but I didn't get any photos or video, I may try it again this weekend.

J



Hmmmmm: A little disturbing and even more disturbing as this is making me hungry. ( Pigs feet with sauerkraut and a good beer is very tasty. Wink Had one of those a couple of weeks ago. Big Grin As you can tell I'm not a vegetarian. Laughing Out Loud )

But seriously, it a very interesting test and a good warning to not be negligent when playing with a sword as even the weight of the sword dropping will mean a visit to an ER for a few stitches.

I'm surprised how little the leather and gambison reduce the damage. Eek! I assume that this sword is fairly sharp and a more butter knife edge might be stopped by the leather / gambison to some degree.

Somewhat heavier leather might give better protection and also a gambison meant to be stand alone armour rather than padding under maille or plate might be thicker.

Still these were relatively light cuts so a real full power cut would probably not be even slowed down by a little leather or padding.

Thanks for all these tests: They are very interesting. Cool

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Ben C.





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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 3:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

there are a few problems with these types of cut tests. The 1st of which is that your collasable post still does not accurately represent hitting an arm and is still adding considerably to the impact. A real arm will move with the force of the blow where as it would appear that your post will collapse after the limb has already absorbed most of the impact. Using some type of suspension system would probably give a more accurate result in this respect.

The 2nd problem is that dead flesh has considerably different properties to living tissue. Scientists and researchers now often use a type of ballistic gel and ceramic bones to represent humans when simulating injury tests due to the inaccuracy of using dead animal parts. Living muscle and tissue can be quite dense and provides a lot more resistance both to cutting and for the surrounding materials (i.e. armour). The ARMA site has some good examples of how a more dense object (in their case a punching bag) beneath the armour makes it considerably more difficult to penetrate than just pig limbs covered in armour and braced against the ground.

It would be quite interesting if someone could get a hold of several of these models to test the effectiveness of different weapons and techniques against a variety of armour. I think the results would be quite different to the results of our current tests and be a lot different to our assumptions. Unfortunetly I doubt this is really a feasable option due to price.
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 7:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According to my experience of getting hit and hitting somebody in weaponry sparring, the guy being hit usually doesn't have time to give away any impact force to make any differece, be it fingers or body that was hit. The impact just happen too fast for anyone I've seen, including myself, to pull away from the blow. Unless he was originally in an action that was getting away from the blow already. Otherwise I would feel as if I have hit something just as dead as the meat on the post.

Plus, it was many's believe that the dead flesh and bone were actually tougher than the living tissues. Hence, many believed cutting dead pork bone was a sword abuse. Also, pig's skin, fat and bone are considerably thicker than the human's respective parts, dead or alive.

I would dare to say the actual effect, if landed on a living human, would be even more devastating than what's shown here.

I've plenty experience in cutting pork arms, free hanging or put on cardboard boxes. I've also done off-handed cut with longsword against clothed/leather wrapped pork arms. The result was not good.... for the pork arm. Would have been worse for the human....

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 7:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ben Condon wrote:
there are a few problems with these types of cut tests. The 1st of which is that your collasable post still does not accurately represent hitting an arm and is still adding considerably to the impact. A real arm will move with the force of the blow where as it would appear that your post will collapse after the limb has already absorbed most of the impact. Using some type of suspension system would probably give a more accurate result in this respect.


Not accurately, meaning that you cannot look at a 3" gash and say "yes, that is exactly the length and depth of the gash that will be inflicted on the human arm". It is, however, accurate enough. The arm that is the target of these cheap shots is not just dangling in the air like a limp noodle...it is holding a sword. Therefore it is supported by the other arm through the hilt.

Try this experiment. Take a similar stand and whack it with one of your sparring swords...whatever you use...wasters, etc. Feel the resistance before it collapses.

Now have a training partner in whatever protective gear is necessary for your simulator stand in Vom Tag, and strike him with the same force on the left fore arm. You will see that the resistance feels very, very similar.

Quote:
The 2nd problem is that dead flesh has considerably different properties to living tissue. Scientists and researchers now often use a type of ballistic gel and ceramic bones to represent humans when simulating injury tests due to the inaccuracy of using dead animal parts. Living muscle and tissue can be quite dense and provides a lot more resistance both to cutting and for the surrounding materials (i.e. armour). The ARMA site has some good examples of how a more dense object (in their case a punching bag) beneath the armour makes it considerably more difficult to penetrate than just pig limbs covered in armour and braced against the ground.


Again, it's a matter of degrees. Scientists and researchers are interested in measuring the actual damage to a very high degree of accuracy so that they can compare bullet A vs bullet B, etc. This test does not require that level of precision. In other words, I don't care that the gash is 3.78" instead of 2.98" inches....I only care that there is a gash that is between 2 to 3" in length.

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Randall Pleasant




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson

Nasty gash! And nice tests. I fully agree with you that the test is more than accurate enough.

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Mike Nericcio




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 8:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael,
I think that your tests proved exactly what YOU were looking for. Yes, you can still inflict a good amount of damage with that particular shot. It still doesn't sound like a good technique, letting go with your bottom hand is one thing....
Great job getting out there and trying!!!

Mike
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 1:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mike Nericcio wrote:
Michael,
I think that your tests proved exactly what YOU were looking for. Yes, you can still inflict a good amount of damage with that particular shot. It still doesn't sound like a good technique, letting go with your bottom hand is one thing....
Great job getting out there and trying!!!

Mike


You're right...the more period texts I read the more I encounter a very strong desire to make the reader understand that only the head and body should be attacked. As I mentioned, I received a wound worse than any of the above (okay, maybe not the one that cut the finger off!) and there was no pain or loss of mobility (except of the big toe...the wound was to my foot and severed the tendon).

Based on that experience and the knowledge of a friend who has been a paramedic for 15 years, what I honestly think would happen is that your left hand (not arm) would go limp if you received such a wound, and the person who cut you there would have a very slow (relatively speaking) recover time, giving you plenty of time to either knock the sword out of his hands or strike him on the head. This is why I believe there is no mention of such attacks in the fechtbuchen (that I am aware of, anyway).

In fact I have to wonder why there are so few references to thrusts in the period texts. I have been of the opinion lately that a simple offensive thrust is a very bad idea, as it does little to protect you from your opponent's sword. In other words, if I thust against a cutting guard, I might imape you, but you will not die instantly, and you will not be slowed or stopped. You will simply strike me in the head and kill me, then die. When you're dealing with a thrusting guard, the chances of that are lower. This is why, in my opinion, thrusts are mostly described as attacks you use from the bind, where you have control of your opponent's sword and can protect yourself at the same time.

Therefore, I would have to say that such cheap attacks can inflict severe wounds, but I personally would never use them.

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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 1:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I commend the efforts to document methodology.

Are there problems with the test, sure, but one thing you can do is go out and recreate it to see if the results can be duplicated. Always a plus in my book, and getting locked in on what this test does not do misses the point.

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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Pleasant wrote:
Michael Edelson

Nasty gash! And nice tests. I fully agree with you that the test is more than accurate enough.

Ran Plasant
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Very nasty! I have to confess I felt a bit squeamish and more than a little disturbed by what I saw. Swords are horrific weapons.

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Bryce Felperin




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 1:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Edelson wrote:
Mike Nericcio wrote:
Michael,
I think that your tests proved exactly what YOU were looking for. Yes, you can still inflict a good amount of damage with that particular shot. It still doesn't sound like a good technique, letting go with your bottom hand is one thing....
Great job getting out there and trying!!!

Mike


You're right...the more period texts I read the more I encounter a very strong desire to make the reader understand that only the head and body should be attacked. As I mentioned, I received a wound worse than any of the above (okay, maybe not the one that cut the finger off!) and there was no pain or loss of mobility (except of the big toe...the wound was to my foot and severed the tendon).

Based on that experience and the knowledge of a friend who has been a paramedic for 15 years, what I honestly think would happen is that your left hand (not arm) would go limp if you received such a wound, and the person who cut you there would have a very slow (relatively speaking) recover time, giving you plenty of time to either knock the sword out of his hands or strike him on the head. This is why I believe there is no mention of such attacks in the fechtbuchen (that I am aware of, anyway).

In fact I have to wonder why there are so few references to thrusts in the period texts. I have been of the opinion lately that a simple offensive thrust is a very bad idea, as it does little to protect you from your opponent's sword. In other words, if I thust against a cutting guard, I might imape you, but you will not die instantly, and you will not be slowed or stopped. You will simply strike me in the head and kill me, then die. When you're dealing with a thrusting guard, the chances of that are lower. This is why, in my opinion, thrusts are mostly described as attacks you use from the bind, where you have control of your opponent's sword and can protect yourself at the same time.

Therefore, I would have to say that such cheap attacks can inflict severe wounds, but I personally would never use them.


Well I have also been cut (self-inflicted during a cutting party) with a sword and can say there was definitely ZERO pain or hinderance from it. It was a four inch long, two inch deep cut from a katana on my leg above the ankle and it didn't even bleed for almost a minute afterwards. Lucky for me it missed anything vital. ;-)

No, you can't depend on a cut like the ones you tested to incapacitate your opponent or end a fight. You can use it as a form of stop-cut to impede/stop their attack and follow through with a good hard thrust or secondary cut, depending upon the situation. Also if you step off-line while cutting you probably will survive their counter a lot better as well.

However I would have to agree that the technique isn't the best since it kind of is a "put all my eggs in one basket and hope for success" or "hail Mary" type of attack. It would tend to leave you exposed since you'll need at least two beats of time to re-grip your sword with your primary hand and get to another guard after doing the cut unless you can succeed at a follow-up thrust with it (providing your sword's in-line to do so).

So knowing now what I do of fencing, as opposed to my ignorance when horsing around with swords in my past, I wouldn't do this kind of cut anyway. There's a lot of Mezzo tempo moves that are just as effective, and still leave you with two hands on your sword that you can learn to do with practice.

Great experiment though and I really like your pictures. Brought back shivers to me though and flashbacks to my "accident" - unfortunately. ;-)
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 2:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bryce Felperin wrote:

Well I have also been cut (self-inflicted during a cutting party) with a sword and can say there was definitely ZERO pain or hinderance from it. It was a four inch long, two inch deep cut from a katana on my leg above the ankle and it didn't even bleed for almost a minute afterwards. Lucky for me it missed anything vital. ;-)

No, you can't depend on a cut like the ones you tested to incapacitate your opponent or end a fight. You can use it as a form of stop-cut to impede/stop their attack and follow through with a good hard thrust or secondary cut, depending upon the situation. Also if you step off-line while cutting you probably will survive their counter a lot better as well.

However I would have to agree that the technique isn't the best since it kind of is a "put all my eggs in one basket and hope for success" or "hail Mary" type of attack. It would tend to leave you exposed since you'll need at least two beats of time to re-grip your sword with your primary hand and get to another guard after doing the cut unless you can succeed at a follow-up thrust with it (providing your sword's in-line to do so).

So knowing now what I do of fencing, as opposed to my ignorance when horsing around with swords in my past, I wouldn't do this kind of cut anyway. There's a lot of Mezzo tempo moves that are just as effective, and still leave you with two hands on your sword that you can learn to do with practice.

Great experiment though and I really like your pictures. Brought back shivers to me though and flashbacks to my "accident" - unfortunately. ;-)


As far as moving off line...the cut I was testing is one where you don't move at all. If you need to move, I have a chance to defend, since you're attacking in times of the feet. What I was going for were situations you often see in bouting, where someone will wander a little too close and the attacker will just drop his sword without moving...an attack too quick to defend against.

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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 2:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This was a very interesting test setup yue used. I was thinking wether there was any damage when doing these off-hand cuts. So it is quite impressive to so this damage when doing a downward stroke. But how would this be compared to any other arch. If there wouldn´t a perpendicular movin blad, but at an arch. Or if you would use a Unterhau, striking to the hands in an upward motion?
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 2:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Felix R. wrote:
Or if you would use a Unterhau, striking to the hands in an upward motion?


Awesome idea! The next test will be to determine how much damage you can inflict from Alber when cutting up to the hands. Have to think about setup on that one, as the resistance will have to be quite firm to compensate for the downward motion of the hands....

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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Fri 09 Feb, 2007 7:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off, I want to commend Mike on a very well thought out and well written test.

The technique Mike refers to is actually seen in manuscripts as a thrust, not a cut. For example, Talhoffer's 1467 manuscript shows this on taffel 10 where he describes the movement as a "spring" that strikes the opponent in the foot. The word "technique" may be a bit of a strong description for it, though, as it appears more as a "trick" that you can pull off once and a while. It is also something that leaves the user very exposed: It doesn't close off any line of attack, and the sword can easily be battered aside if it doesn't succeed. It's kind of an "all or nothing" type of attack.

Now, that said, such wounds are nothing to be laughed at, either. But it is always very difficult to say if a wound would have stopped a fight or not. Many techniques are intended to have follow up attacks that solve this very dilema. For instance, the techniques in the Liechtenauer tradition that involve slicing at the hand almost always are followed up by something else. For example, the opponent lifts his arms to strike downward, you lift your longsword into his hands as you step aside, but then you drive the hands down before making a killing strike. In fact, there's a messer play in Talhoffer where the counterattack was an under cut that completely slices the hand off, but the move isn't finished until the person has taken a second strike to the person's head.

An excellent article to read, if anyone's interested in the subject of wound pathology, is in SPADA II. I believe it's called "The Reality of Historical Wounds", or something along those lines. The authors compiled a list of examples, both historic and modern, of people who were wounded in ways that most would consider fight enders, and yet they still functioned long afterwards. (Including a modern example of a man who lost his hand, and stopped to get coffee before finally going to the hospital, for instance.) This doesn't mean that anyone will laugh off such a nasty cut to the hand that these tests show, but it does mean that some people don't immediately stop right away as is often expected when people do free fencing.

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