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Michael Kelly





Joined: 22 Sep 2015

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jan, 2018 12:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Kary wrote:
Thanks for the video. I often watch that series but I hadn't seen that one yet. I suppose, however, that what longsword you choose should have something to do with your height. Can anybody point me to where I would find out what longsword proportions are appropriate for a person's height? For example, I am 6 feet tall. Is there a particular handle and blade length I should be looking for? I'm in the process of selling off some items and buying some new items. For longswords, I really like the Albion Regent since it looks a little more sizable than some of the other longswords. I think the Munich might be too big, however. How could I determine this (short of actually handling each!).


Handle lengths by manuscript:

https://grauenwolf.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/longsword-lengths3.pdf

And an article talking about l nothing...

http://www.encasedinsteel.co.uk/2011/07/29/a-...longsword/
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Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Jan, 2018 2:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Note that the study I linked above doesn't support the notion that average male height fell to 5' 4" in the 16th century. To the contrary, they say average male height in England reached a little over 5' 8" (173-174cm) by 1400 and didn't fall until about 1650, the middle of the 17th century.

So, for the entire span of the longsword's prominence, English average male height was only an inch shorter than average male height in the United States (or England) today.

Now, it's contested, and you have different studies that get different results, etc.

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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 11 Jan, 2018 3:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another factor to keep in mind is that the kind of people who had the wealth to commission swords (as opposed to getting them as hand-me-downs or loot) were likely to be taller than average for their time due to better than average nutrition in early life.
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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Michael Kelly





Joined: 22 Sep 2015

Posts: 57

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jan, 2018 3:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Note that the study I linked above doesn't support the notion that average male height fell to 5' 4" in the 16th century. To the contrary, they say average male height in England reached a little over 5' 8" (173-174cm) by 1400 and didn't fall until about 1650, the middle of the 17th century.

So, for the entire span of the longsword's prominence, English average male height was only an inch shorter than average male height in the United States (or England) today.

Now, it's contested, and you have different studies that get different results, etc.


The problem with the study you're using, tho admittedly more recent than the one I am going by, is that it only looking at England. The study I am going by, by Richard Steckel (I apologize, I do not have access to it and am going off memory), is based off grave excavations from across Europe. That reality means we could both be right... You because you're only looking at a single country, and me because I am looking at a general European region.

That said there are a couple points I'd like to address from your study...

1) "... after 1200 they [heights] started to decline with the deteriorating agricultural productivity, the Great Famine and the Black Death. Then they recovered and remained constant for almost 300 years..."

This study doesn't dispute that average heights in England were affected beginning at approximately they same time as the rest of Europe, only that the effects didn't seem as sustained. There are a lot of possible arguments as to why, among them that confined to an island, following the Great Famine and Black death, the smaller population of England ended up with a more abundant food supply than most of Europe, meaning that the ill-effects of a shorter growing season would not be as pronounced or long lasting.

2) The study you cited specifically suggests that England escaped the effects of the Little Ice Age. That's important to note as it suggests that England may have been as outlier when looking at health and stature of burial remains.

3) Your study only looks at 2,217 adult male skeletons... 364 are from Roman graves, which the study admits were from a period when heights were on average 5'8". 477 are from post-Medieval graves following the period of recovery. Another 222 are from mixed Medieval and post-Medieval grave sites. And the Towton mass grave you cite only amounts to 37 bodies. Essentially, this study is using anywhere from about a third to almost half of its samples from outside the period in which Stechel and others have suggested that the effects of the Little Ice Age caused a significant decrease in stature. That's going to significantly skew the results of the average.

I'm not dismissing the study, I'm just saying that a thousand skeletons across a 300 year time frame in a single geographical area that appears to have escaped the worst of LIA effects, is a pretty small sample to say anything about the general trend in Europe as a whole.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Fri 12 Jan, 2018 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Kelly wrote:
Dan Kary wrote:
Thanks for the video. I often watch that series but I hadn't seen that one yet. I suppose, however, that what longsword you choose should have something to do with your height. Can anybody point me to where I would find out what longsword proportions are appropriate for a person's height? For example, I am 6 feet tall. Is there a particular handle and blade length I should be looking for? I'm in the process of selling off some items and buying some new items. For longswords, I really like the Albion Regent since it looks a little more sizable than some of the other longswords. I think the Munich might be too big, however. How could I determine this (short of actually handling each!).


Handle lengths by manuscript:

https://grauenwolf.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/longsword-lengths3.pdf

And an article talking about l nothing...

http://www.encasedinsteel.co.uk/2011/07/29/a-...longsword/


In general, this approach of "measure the art in medieval illustrations" is extremely weakly supported. These are not photographs. In one of the very few cases where we have both illustrations and a size guide (Vadi), you can already see the massive disparity between the two.

Overall, it's far more sensible to follow the guidance of surviving artefacts. For anyone particularly short (say 5'6" or so and under), one of the shorter Albion longswords (such as the Mercenary) is great. A little taller and with slightly larger hands, the Crecy is fantastic, as is something moderately sized like the Viceroy. If you're over 6ft and find the grip on the Crecy a bit short, move up to the Earl or Munich.

From a practical perspective, there's an excellent guide in Mike Edelson's book about cutting on how to select a sword that is of a reasonable size to allow good cutting technique. This is remarkably small compared to the monstrously long things that are favoured by many fencers nowadays.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Steve Fabert





Joined: 03 Mar 2004
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PostPosted: Fri 12 Jan, 2018 11:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="T. Kew"]
Michael Kelly wrote:

From a practical perspective, there's an excellent guide in Mike Edelson's book about cutting on how to select a sword that is of a reasonable size to allow good cutting technique. This is remarkably small compared to the monstrously long things that are favoured by many fencers nowadays.


Longer is not always better. Compare the dimensions of the sword of the Black Prince (XVa. 6) with the sword of Henry V (XVIII.1) as described in "Records of the Medieval Sword". The later sword is far smaller than the earlier one, both in hilt dimensions and blade length. Edward chose a hand-and-a-half sword of nearly 44 inches overall length having a grip of about 7 inches. Nearly half a century later Henry V chose a single-handed sword with a blade of only 27 inches and a grip less than 4 inches long. The owners of each of these two swords could have chosen whatever size they preferred. Obviously Edward was not so much a fan of shorter swords with single-hand grips as Henry was. Plainly it was entirely a matter of individual personal preference.
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

Posts: 77

PostPosted: Fri 12 Jan, 2018 3:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

T. Kew wrote:

In general, this approach of "measure the art in medieval illustrations" is extremely weakly supported. These are not photographs. In one of the very few cases where we have both illustrations and a size guide (Vadi), you can already see the massive disparity between the two.

Overall, it's far more sensible to follow the guidance of surviving artefacts. For anyone particularly short (say 5'6" or so and under), one of the shorter Albion longswords (such as the Mercenary) is great. A little taller and with slightly larger hands, the Crecy is fantastic, as is something moderately sized like the Viceroy. If you're over 6ft and find the grip on the Crecy a bit short, move up to the Earl or Munich.

From a practical perspective, there's an excellent guide in Mike Edelson's book about cutting on how to select a sword that is of a reasonable size to allow good cutting technique. This is remarkably small compared to the monstrously long things that are favoured by many fencers nowadays.


Through sheer coincidence I happened to receive "Cutting with the medieval Sword" by Michael Edelson just today (as a new addition to our club's library), and immediately went to that article. I don't share all of his insights (e.g. I believe that the pommel of a sword is absolutely a control surface, and especially a disc pommel can allow you to transmit power from your hand and control the edge aligmment), I have taken some time out of my day to experiment with my "tried and true(?)" pommel-grasping grip as well as his proposed "both hands on the grip, back hand in front of the pommel" grip.

I am using Swordmaker's Marienburg Longsword (http://artofswordmaking.com/gallery/marienburg-longsword-late-14thc), which has grip length of 185mm (7.3''), which is rather average. I am myself rather tall at ~186cm (6'1''), but my hands (about size 8) are significantly less bulky than some of my (shorter) partners in training. I absolutely love the sword despite it being rather short at 865mm (34'') blade and 1120mm (44.1'') total length.

While my (bare) hands are touching each other when gripping the sword the way he recommends, I am still able to nestle my Hypothenar eminence (thanks Mike for giving me the technical term) in the concave crease of the disc pommel rather comfortably. When wearing my slightly padded gloves (this model: https://www.trainingsschwerter.eu/media/image/3f/5d/54/lh2.png) it does get rather tight on the grip, but is still manageable. I'm getting myself thinner gloves soon.
With bare hands I can also hold the sword with my right hand's index finger and knuckles slightly backed off from the crossguard for added hand protection (aided by the risers under the leather which allow me to precisely allocate my fingers on the grip quickly).

Combination cuts, stance changes and what solo drills I performed feel much better with this than I had expected, and the article has prompted me to keep using the "hands close together on the grip, not the pommel" gripping style as my default for the time being. It will take a little bit of getting used to until it feels truly normal - I've been mostly grabbing pommels for ten years now.

My feder and long-hilted blunts feel radically different in the cut when using the full length of the grip (even without grasping the pommel) and it is quite apparent that the tip then tends to trail behind as described on pages 35 to 37.

I hope that during the next cutting session of our club I'll have a chance to compare different hilt lengths and gripping techniques myself.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 12 Jan, 2018 7:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I noticed a few peculiar statements in Alex Bourdas' article worth commenting upon. He wrote as follows:

Alex Bourdas wrote:
Further, if we look at KDF, we see many elements of the system that can be easily explained away by longer, and therefore heavier, swords. KDF contains very few one handed attacks, especially compared to the English longsword tradition for example. Why? Well obviously because they used longer and heavier swords, which are harder to control with one hand. We also see a lot of winding and other techniques done without leaving the bind. Why? Well obviously because they used longer and heavier swords, which make them slower to leave the bind.


The problem with this approach is that the techniques found in the German long sword tradition have little to do with sword weight, and everything to do with the practicality of fighting. For instance, it makes much more sense to assert the dearth of one-handed attacks is due to the fact that it's safer to use a long sword with two hands as it gives you much better control and precision both in striking in and responding from the bind. We would do well to remember that Paulus Kal manuscript Cgm 1507 depicts sword and buckler fencing using long swords; clearly, the idea that all the swords in the German tradition were too heavy for one handed use is specious.

Bourdas' claim about winding and remaining on the sword strikes me as even stranger. The whole purpose of winding is to regain leverage, and the whole purpose of attacking "on the sword" from a bind is to make the quickest, most direct attack to the nearest opening. Both of these are principles of sword fighting, rather than evidence of heavy swords. Having practiced with wooden swords that are much too light, I can attest that you still need winding to regain leverage, and that the attacks remaining "on the sword" are crucial for enabling you to reach the opening in the most direct way. The weight of a sword is entirely irrelevant in this regard.

The other, methodological problem with his approach is that he has started with drawings from manuscripts, rather than with real historical artifacts. I am sympathetic to wanting to use illustrations as inspirations to help us understand swords. However, especially in the case of proportions and ratios, one would be better off sticking to historical artifacts. There, we find ample evidence for long swords with comparatively short grips, as well as swords with longer grips.

Original article here: http://www.encasedinsteel.co.uk/2011/07/29/a-...longsword/
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
Joined: 21 Apr 2012

Posts: 174

PostPosted: Sat 13 Jan, 2018 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
I noticed a few peculiar statements in Alex Bourdas' article worth commenting upon. He wrote as follows:

Alex Bourdas wrote:
Further, if we look at KDF, we see many elements of the system that can be easily explained away by longer, and therefore heavier, swords. KDF contains very few one handed attacks, especially compared to the English longsword tradition for example. Why? Well obviously because they used longer and heavier swords, which are harder to control with one hand. We also see a lot of winding and other techniques done without leaving the bind. Why? Well obviously because they used longer and heavier swords, which make them slower to leave the bind.


The problem with this approach is that the techniques found in the German long sword tradition have little to do with sword weight, and everything to do with the practicality of fighting. For instance, it makes much more sense to assert the dearth of one-handed attacks is due to the fact that it's safer to use a long sword with two hands as it gives you much better control and precision both in striking in and responding from the bind. We would do well to remember that Paulus Kal manuscript Cgm 1507 depicts sword and buckler fencing using long swords; clearly, the idea that all the swords in the German tradition were too heavy for one handed use is specious.

Bourdas' claim about winding and remaining on the sword strikes me as even stranger. The whole purpose of winding is to regain leverage, and the whole purpose of attacking "on the sword" from a bind is to make the quickest, most direct attack to the nearest opening. Both of these are principles of sword fighting, rather than evidence of heavy swords. Having practiced with wooden swords that are much too light, I can attest that you still need winding to regain leverage, and that the attacks remaining "on the sword" are crucial for enabling you to reach the opening in the most direct way. The weight of a sword is entirely irrelevant in this regard.

The other, methodological problem with his approach is that he has started with drawings from manuscripts, rather than with real historical artifacts. I am sympathetic to wanting to use illustrations as inspirations to help us understand swords. However, especially in the case of proportions and ratios, one would be better off sticking to historical artifacts. There, we find ample evidence for long swords with comparatively short grips, as well as swords with longer grips.

Original article here: http://www.encasedinsteel.co.uk/2011/07/29/a-...longsword/


A couple of notes:

1. It's worth remembering Alex wrote that article some years ago - 2011 is quite a while back, and I would imagine that some of your responses are things he might agree with if you asked him about the subject now.

2. In practice, there does seem to be some truth to the idea that people who mostly fence with very light training swords tend to leave the bind more readily, and those who mostly use fairly heavy ones tend to stay in the centre. The basic reason why is obvious - with a light sword, you can whip it around fast enough to make it very difficult for an opponent to exploit the opening. This can be mitigated through good training practice.

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Johannes Zenker





Joined: 15 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Sat 13 Jan, 2018 7:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This video is also a nice addition to the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca0NBLDtRjU

It brings up valid points on why swords and hilts had such disparate lengths through the late middle ages and renaissance, with advantages and disadvantages.

A good takeaway generally is: large swords with long hilts and blades employ different parts of biomechanics on the cut. They need more twist in hips and body. This would, in my opinion, apply to most of the Feders we have, where we have handles that could easily fit three hands and then some without grasping the pommel.

If we go down the (in my eyes dubious) "pictures as evidence" route we get different results from different eras and masters:

This is what we see in Renaissance treatises: some of Vadi's plates show both grasping the pommel as well as very long hilts (e.g. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/29/Cod.1324_16r.jpg , https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8f/Cod.1324_17v.jpg , https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ad/Cod.1324_18r.jpg , https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/61/Cod.1324_19r.jpg , https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Cod.1324_19v.jpg )

The "Fior de Battaglia", on the other hand, mostly shows shorter hilts. It is a much older treatise, so I would argue that this is to be expected. In the rare instances where a long hilt is shown it, to my eyes, seems slightly distorted. What IS shown a lot in the plates, however, is grasping the pommel, regardless of hilt length or (as far as I can tell) pommel shape. Some of the techniques, especially in the close plays section, are greatly facilitated (or rather: should only be applied) if there is a gap between the opponents hands, either through a long handle or when they are grasping the pommel. (e.g. Sword in Two Hands [38], [50], [57], [60] on this page http://wiktenauer.com/wiki/Fiore_de%27i_Liberi )

The images in the Goliath Fechtbuch's Longsword gloss look severely out of proportion: in many of the images the swords are drawn to be as tall as the men holding them. At 150cm length (a very very very cautious estimate for the length relative to the persons shown) we are hardly talking about a longsword that can be worn, carried and quickly drawn anymore. Sure, it is about 120 years removed from Fiore, but I don't see evidence in surviving examples that typical longswords were as tall as a man by the early 16th century.

Generally I don't think historical artwork and drawings are something we can draw definitive conclusions from.
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