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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

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PostPosted: Sat 27 Nov, 2021 1:48 pm    Post subject: Parametres of historical type XV swords         Reply with quote

This is a subject I have never seen discussed in depth. There is plenty of information about cutting swords and sabres but I haven't found much about the pointy/stabby swords, especially one handers. What interests me the most is where should the forward pivot point be? I would assume close to the point but I may be completely wrong. Maybe there are some experts here who have actually handled historical originals. Opinions based on high quality replicas are also welcome. I'm curious because it would seem to me that making a replica of type XV that handles more like a cutter and has poor point control would be counter intuitive but what do I know.

Also, I would be grateful if someone could explain the relationship between point of balance, CoP, length, weight and pivot points. Is it something that can be easily calculated or is it more of a black magic thing? Let's say you have the weight, length, CoB - can you figure out where the pivot points are?

Another thing is rotational balance which changes based on how you grip the sword e.g. the sword with a 11 cm handle and a wheel pommel will rotate differently when you hold the handle near the guard and when you grab the pommel with your pinky and place your thumb on the side of the handle, saber style. What would the expected grip for this type of sword be based on historical techniques that we know of?
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Wed 01 Dec, 2021 1:19 am    Post subject: Re: Parametres of historical type XV swords         Reply with quote

Hi Bart,

Lots of questions there!

Quote:
What interests me the most is where should the forward pivot point be? I would assume close to the point but I may be completely wrong.


From the data I've seen, this would indeed be the case on types XV, although there is some variation depending on how exactly you'd pick the forward point of the grip. It's not entirely clear to me that this is completely explained by thrusting specialization: rapiers for example, which are documentably thrust-centric, do not have their forward pivot at the tip, and war swords, which have rather wide cutting blades all the way to the tip, do. Possibly part of the explanation also hinges on the proportion between hilt and blade.

Quote:
Also, I would be grateful if someone could explain the relationship between point of balance, CoP, length, weight and pivot points. Is it something that can be easily calculated or is it more of a black magic thing? Let's say you have the weight, length, CoB - can you figure out where the pivot points are?


It's a scientific thing, but sufficiently complex to be black magic to most people Happy

So if you look at the sword as a rigid body, you have four independant parameters, which are length(s) (positions of all the geometrical points of interest on the sword), total mass, center of gravity (where the mass is located on average), radius of gyration (how far from the CoG the mass is, on average - how spread it is).

Pivot points depend on CoG and RoG. Based on one pair of pivot points you can compute an infinity of other pairs, they are all related and nevertheless different, pretty much exactly as you'd be able to build an infinity of rectangles of the same area but with different lengths for their sides. You can read more on that in my article here.

If you factor in vibrations, it's going to bring in a host of other parameters, although the most commonly considered are the location of the primary nodes of vibration on the blade and hilt. There is some relationship between these and rigid body properties; blade node and hilt node are ordinarily pretty close to being associated pivot points, but it's only an approximation.

When I speak of independent parameters, it is true in theory, but practical constraints of sword making will put limits over how variable these can actually be. Regardless of blade design, the blade node for example tends to end up at around 70% of total length from pommel end. Other trends exist but this is beyond a forum post.

Quote:
What would the expected grip for this type of sword be based on historical techniques that we know of?


Strictly speaking there are no fencing treatises specifically dedicated to a precise type of sword ("here is how to use a type XV, here is how to use a type XII"), at least not in that period. Actually there is even a general lack of instruction about one-handed swords. So we're pretty much outside the realm of historical research here, and the advice you'll find is mostly empirical.

I'm not a big believer in the saber-like grip personally, which seems better adapted for lighter swords, and these are not particularly light.

I would wager that armour, both on the opponent and on the user, was a big factor in how these swords were designed and used. But I have no personal experience with that, so I'm afraid I can't go much further than that...

Regards,

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Vincent
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Wed 01 Dec, 2021 5:55 am    Post subject: Re: Parametres of historical type XV swords         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
Hi Bart,
Strictly speaking there are no fencing treatises specifically dedicated to a precise type of sword ("here is how to use a type XV, here is how to use a type XII"), at least not in that period. Actually there is even a general lack of instruction about one-handed swords.

Most of the big European treatises from the 15th century have a section on sword in one hand (using either a two-edged symmetric sword or a single-edged asymmetric sabre as their example weapon) and a section on sword on horseback. As Andre Pauernfeyndt wrote in 1516:

Quote:
THE SECOND CHAPTER teaches how one should use the messer advantageously, which has exceedingly increased usefullness because of its versatility and which is a predecessor and main source of the other weapons that are used with one hand, such as the tessack (short infantry sabre) or the dagger (tolich), the broadsword (spatel) or the thrusting sword (handtegen) and many more one-handed weapons which I leave out for brevity's sake.


Its impossible and useless to take a course on every imaginable weapon, so a good teacher chooses some which will prepare the student to use most of the weapons he or she may come across.

As Tom Leoni used to say, a martial art is a way of moving not a technical manual for a sword, thrusting, of Cologne, model 1421a.

www.bookandsword.com
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Bart M





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PostPosted: Mon 06 Dec, 2021 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you for your input gents, much appreciated. I asked the question because my brief experience with some martial arts shows that a lot of actions, both regarding movement and specific ways of holding weapons, can be sometimes counterintuitive for a layman. An example would be true time/false time of movement/attack and the way of holding a quarterstaff as opposed to sword.

I find the sabre grip concept quite interesting and I think it can work well with a type XV/XVI sword. Actually any type of one handed thrusting sword. At least in a civilian 1v1 scenario, definitely not in the thick of a melee. Pommel can be used as part of the grip, it effectively increases the range of the sword and puts your hand further from danger when blocking. It allows for slightly different angles of attack. Slightly better control and an ability to stop mid cut because of different rotational position of sword in hand. Helps with edge alignment on a narrow blade. We also know that this grip was used in later saber and sports fencing. All of this is something I 'invented' when playing with a sword alone.

But as I said, I have no idea how skilled people of late medieval times used these swords. There are some examples in iconography of using them to thrust in a solid hammer grip in battle, which makes perfect sense. I have also found one that can be interpreted as using a grip I describe here (combatant on the left):

https://d3vjn2zm46gms2.cloudfront.net/blogs/2014/10/27010655/combat_sword.jpg

Hopefully, there is more to discover. I will keep doing my own research and look forward to what others have to say.


Last edited by Bart M on Wed 15 Dec, 2021 3:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Bart M





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Posts: 37

PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2021 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My final question - what about distal taper of historical one-handed type XV swords? Do we have any information? How thick do they start, is there much distal taper at all or is mass distribution solved with profile taper and pommel?
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Bart M





Joined: 05 Aug 2005

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Wed 29 Dec, 2021 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hoping to keep the conversation going, let me add 3 pictures I have found on Wiktenauer to this thread. I believe they show the grip mentioned in the first post.

https://wiktenauer.com/wiki/File:MS_CL23842_128r.jpg

https://wiktenauer.com/wiki/File:MS_CL23842_129r.jpg

https://wiktenauer.com/wiki/File:MS_CL23842_126r.jpg

Looking forward to some interesting insights from other members. I can't be the only one who is puzzled by this.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Fri 31 Dec, 2021 12:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't actually have any data on distal tapers of this sort of sword. I suspect there is some still, but I don't know how much.

Illustrations of grip, especially early ones, are always somewhat difficult to interpret. The illustrator has to be extremely precise to depict the minute variations of finger positions that can occur. For example, there is a difference between extending the thumb on the back of the grip, and extending it along the grip but still on the side. In the early manuscripts it's quite difficult to ascertain which one is meant to be depicted, or even if a precise grip position was intended or if it's just interpolating between arm and sword position - which are themselves not perfectly realistic!

For me a spectacularly good treatise in this regard, in which I completely trust hand positions is Lovino. Different type of swords, obviously. And even then, that's only because the images are consistent with the explicit text advice. Many treatises contemporary with this one are still much inferior.

Regards,

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Vincent
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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Fri 31 Dec, 2021 12:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, I grabbed an arming sword and attempted a "sabre grip." Not a fan. Now, this might really depend on the sword, and if it works for you, by all means pursue that technique. However, unless you have a hilt designed with the ergonomics of a "sabre grip" in mind, I think you will find that technique lacking. My sword grips tend to have grip proportions that are wider than they are deep, which makes them relatively unstable for keeping the thumb positioned so it is in-line with the edges of the sword. You really need a closer-to-square (or more evenly proportioned) grip for this to become a stable means of holding onto the weapon in my opinion.

Another thing to consider for sabre and smallsword type grips is user safety in thrusting. This is better known as "jamming your thumb." One weapon I do own which is prescribed to use a sabre or smallsword grip is a Fairbairn-Sykes Commando Dagger replica. If you elect to hold it in the manner of a smallsword, you need to keep your thumb away from the guard, because if you rest your thumb on the guard while practicing against a target, you'll be sorry you did. In contrast, the V-42 stiletto, itself derived from the FS knife, promotes a thumb grip in its design. Note that the thumb grip is a good way of avoiding jammed thumb, and that having the force of a guard pushed into the sides of your index finger (and the other bones at the top of your hand) is not terribly uncomfortable in comparison. Also note that W.E. Fairbairn certainly knew what he was doing when he devised the design and training of the weapon that in part bears his name, so pick your poison. I think you can safely assert, however, that the thumb grip is more secure than the sabre grip. How quickly you establish either grip is a training issue, and how you maintain those grips dynamically is something else. One thing to keep in mind with the example of the FS knife and the V-42 (for which I do NOT own a replica) is the shape of the grip - it is round and therefore evenly proportioned, something you do want for a sabre grip (the proportioned part, not necessarily the round part).

The other part about sword grips, so far as I can tell, is that they like to be a bit dynamic. Not "twist your hands around" dynamic, but your hand can tighten up, and also become supple as needed to control the weapon. With a two-handed sword like a longsword your hand can go from a conventional grip to a thumb grip with some light pressure changes. If you hold your sword with a "death grip" at all times it becomes rigid and not all too maneuverable, and if you always maintain a loose grip you probably won't keep hold of the weapon, either. I believe this is at least the case with arming swords of various types, despite any specific ergonomic designs. And I don't think those designs incorporate the sabre grip for the most part. I mention the sabre grip specifically here, as I think it tends to be a more "static position" than other holds on the sword. What I mean by this is that once you have a "sabre grip," your hand tends to stay in that grip IF the weapon is designed for it. It's kind of a combination of the so-called "hammer" and "handshake" grips if you think about it. In contrast, the "hammer" grip changes into a bit of a "handshake" grip on a sword once you learn to lose the death grip. Every weapon should have ergonomics that match it, and those ergonomics will ask of you a specific style of use. Good purpose-based ergonomics are the mark of a well-designed weapon; the quality of the individual parts of the weapon are a different matter, and having quality parts does not necessarily result in a well-designed weapon.

...Some of that went a bit off-topic, but hopefully it is worth your consideration. Note that I am not a professional, just a hobbyist martial artist - probably not unlike yourself - and your questions seem to indicate you're getting started. I had similar tangents in the past, so I thought I'd chip in with what I think I've learned. Happy

@Vincent,

I have a technical question - my XVA seems to have a forward node about 3" from the tip. Without further data, does that say anything in particular about my sword? I certainly like it very much and by no means do I complain about it, but as someone who analyzes this sort of thing, I wonder what conclusions you might draw from that bit of information. I pulled out my copy of The Sword - Form and Thought to see of there were any comparable weapons, but it seems there's only one XVA in the catalog. I did note that the forward pivot on that weapon wasn't quite at the point, either, for the record.
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Vincent Le Chevalier




Location: Paris, France
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PostPosted: Sun 02 Jan, 2022 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Michael,

Michael Beeching wrote:
@Vincent,

I have a technical question - my XVA seems to have a forward node about 3" from the tip. Without further data, does that say anything in particular about my sword? I certainly like it very much and by no means do I complain about it, but as someone who analyzes this sort of thing, I wonder what conclusions you might draw from that bit of information. I pulled out my copy of The Sword - Form and Thought to see of there were any comparable weapons, but it seems there's only one XVA in the catalog. I did note that the forward pivot on that weapon wasn't quite at the point, either, for the record.


All else being equal, a pivot point closer to the hilt simply means mass is more concentrated around the CoG. Now whether this is good or bad depends on a lot of other considerations! And I'm not going to claim I've got a full understanding of those... At this point I'm only comfortable identifying general trends, and I don't have enough type XVa examples to really say anything.

That XVa in the catalogue has seen rather heavy corrosion and is probably missing a portion of the tip. It's hard to figure out what the exact dynamics might have been on the original, although the current state does give a clue.

The other thing with the forward pivot point is that it is the most sensitive to the variations of the reference point on the grip that you use. Conceivably, different people could pick slightly different reference points and therefore find pivot points more or less close to the tip. This compounds with the tricky protocol to measure pivot points in the first place - a slower oscillation with the waggle test will make the apparent pivot point closer to the CoG, for instance.

So yeah, as you can see it's pretty hard for me to tell you anything really precise and useful from this alone. A bit of a let-down I guess Wink

Regards,

--
Vincent
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