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Randall Pleasant




Location: Flower Mound, Texas
Joined: 24 Aug 2003

Posts: 333

PostPosted: Fri 21 Jul, 2006 9:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Oh, I'll definately accept that what most people refer to as a rapier today probably generally won't cut as well as many other swords due to it's specialized design. But as Stephen said, the terms "cut and thrust" and "spada da lato" are not Renaissance terms. While I agree that there's certain a difference between blade designs of swords, I tend to feel it had more to do with a particular swordsman who said to his cutler, "I use more cuts, so I want a sword to reflect that," or "I'd prefer a longer weapon, and one that I can rely more on thrusting with." Functionally I think we moderns make a bigger deal of that difference than I think period people did (at least until you get to a more extreme reliance on the thrust, in which case the English certainly made a distinction).

Bill

It is true that us moderns do make a big deal out of differences. But it is the classification of those differences that has allow us to better understand our world and its histories. Where would the science of biology be without its classification (Family, Kindom, Order, etc.) of all forms of life? Where would archaeology be without its classification of pottery & other artifacts? What about Ewart Oakeshott classification? It's not historical, no knight ever went to a blacksmith and ordered a type XIIa sword. Yet, where would we be today in our study of Medieval Swords without the classifications of Ewart Oakeshott? The root of this whole issue of "Can rapiers cut?" is the fact that we don't have a clear and well defined classification for many of the later Renaissance swords. Such a classification should not be historical and should not use Renaissance terms! What such a classification must do is allow us to talk about the later Renaissance swords in the same way that Oakeshott's classification allows us to talk about Medieval swords. And just like Oakeshott's classification, a classification of later Renaissance swords should be based upon the blade, not the hilt. The lack of such a classification is part of the reason we have re-enactor running around thinking they can cut off a leg with what many of us might refer to as a "true rapier". So while the term "Cut & Thrust", as it is used in ARMA, might not be historical it has been of great service because it has allowed us to talk about those Renaissance swords that can cut as compared to those Renaissance swords that cannot cut well or not at all. The only problem with the term "Cut & Thrust" is that it is very general. What is really need is a very specific classification similar to Oakeshott's sword classification.

Ran Pleasant
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Geoff Wood




Location: UK
Joined: 31 Aug 2003

Posts: 634

PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 3:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Pleasant wrote:

It is true that us moderns do make a big deal out of differences. But it is the classification of those differences that has allow us to better understand our world and its histories. Where would the science of biology be without its classification (Family, Kindom, Order, etc.) of all forms of life? Where would archaeology be without its classification of pottery & other artifacts? What about Ewart Oakeshott classification? It's not historical, no knight ever went to a blacksmith and ordered a type XIIa sword. Yet, where would we be today in our study of Medieval Swords without the classifications of Ewart Oakeshott? The root of this whole issue of "Can rapiers cut?" is the fact that we don't have a clear and well defined classification for many of the later Renaissance swords. Such a classification should not be historical and should not use Renaissance terms! What such a classification must do is allow us to talk about the later Renaissance swords in the same way that Oakeshott's classification allows us to talk about Medieval swords. And just like Oakeshott's classification, a classification of later Renaissance swords should be based upon the blade, not the hilt. The lack of such a classification is part of the reason we have re-enactor running around thinking they can cut off a leg with what many of us might refer to as a "true rapier". So while the term "Cut & Thrust", as it is used in ARMA, might not be historical it has been of great service because it has allowed us to talk about those Renaissance swords that can cut as compared to those Renaissance swords that cannot cut well or not at all. The only problem with the term "Cut & Thrust" is that it is very general. What is really need is a very specific classification similar to Oakeshott's sword classification.

Ran Pleasant
General Free Scholar

ARMA DFW



Mr Pleasant
If I understand you (and what has been said up to now on this thread) correctly, we should not be using the term rapier in this suggested modern classification system since it is a term that was used historically. I think I agree with that. To take a term that historically covered a lot, and then squeeze it to a more restricted definition to suit our modern classificatory needs seems rather a Humpty Dumptyish approach, and likely to lead to confusion when people move between modern and historical texts. Basing the classiffication on the blade again seems reasonable, but I'm sure you are not suggesting that hilt characteristics are ignored. After all, Oakeshott included the hilt characteristics in his system, e.g. in sub-typing.
Regards
Geoff
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Bill Grandy
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Location: Alexandria, VA USA
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PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Randall,
I'm actually not at all against a modern categorization of rapier blades (heck, AVB Norman's already done a wonderful job on the hilts), and I would love to see someone do for rapiers what Oakeshott did for medieval blades.

But up to this point I keep hearing people say, "Rapiers can't cut." Or, "rapiers are civilian weapons". Or "rapiers are for thrusting, and were only sharp for harassing slashes." And while dividing it into "true rapiers" and "cut and thrust" rapiers seems to make sense on a superficial level, it also ignores that most Renaissance rapiers don't fall directly into either category. There's also the fact that the comments I keep hearing about "true rapiers" often are more true of 18th and 19th century rapiers than they are of Renaissance weapons, and as I understand it, most people mean Renaissance swords when saying "true rapier". I didn't realize these were ARMA terms until now, I thought they were just general terms being used on forums. I have to confess I really don't like those terms.

Now, if we were to talk about a much broader classification, the way Oakeshott did for the medieval sword, I think that'd be much better at dispelling myths rather than creating them, and I think Randall you and I are on the same page there. Even Oakeshott's system is limiting (many people get far too focused on the typology and miss the whole point, unfortunately), but it's ultimate goal is to show the diversity within any given style of weapon, and that I think is more important than saying "this weapon can do this but not this, and this weapon can do this but not this".

So I agree with the idea of a modern classification, I just hope that 1) people remember that it's a modern classification, and 2) people understand that most of these things don't fit in such nice easy boxes.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Jonathon Janusz





Joined: 20 Nov 2003

Posts: 467

PostPosted: Sat 22 Jul, 2006 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In regards to the first photoshop sword, with a few minor modifications, I want one Big Grin .

I also wanted to make a point of mentioning that the current sword market doesn't seem to have many examples of these kind of light civilian fencing blades (maybe light arming sword would be the term?) - not quite "rapiers", but not true war swords either.

As an aside, I got the chance to play with an A&A shop sword at the Bristol Ren Faire opening weekend - wide shortish Type XVIII blade, 12th Century pommel, Henry V cross minus the filework. This thread kind of got me thinking about this sword. . . if only it had a Type XV blade, I would have taken it home. . .
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Josh Brown




Location: Renton, WA
Joined: 08 Sep 2005

Posts: 20

PostPosted: Sun 23 Jul, 2006 8:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A great deal of the debate over can a rapier cut/ can it cut effectively to end a fight//can a sword that cut be called a rapier or something else (spada de filo, spada de lato, sidesword, cut and thrust sword, light broadsword, heavy rapier, rapier hilted sword, etc, etc.) amounts to to a difficulty of putting the cart before the horse. What we often nowadays call a "rapier" (a not-so good period term used primarily by the English, who were generally not known for producing preponderance of rapier masters as for their sometimes xenophobic brand of non-continental nationalism) was the product of a fencing style - not the other way around. It evolved largely due to A) swords being carried by civillians in public for self-protection (the product of a long string of social, economic, and, of course, political changes during the late Renaissance which I don't really want to drag into the discussion for the sake of brevity), and B) various masters of fence divising means by which to deal with the ensuing unarmored sword in an optimal fashion. Over time many of these masters came to favor thrusting over cutting, sometimes utilizing blade engagement in conjunction, and created the style of fence commonly associated with the "rapier".

Having established the usefulness of the thrust for assaults, and the extended blade and hilt for defensive actions, the evolution of the sword follows logically - accute points aided the thrust, elaborate hilts protected the extended hand and aided in parrying, longer blades enabled a lethal thrust while keeping that hilt outside an opponents reach, and blades reduced in corss-section likely both to save weight for defensive nimbleness and because the need to shear through light armor was not considered a primary concern in civilian context.

On top of this, we have to add the matter of preference. Certain schools of fence favored a more balanced mix of cutting and thrusting, others a marked preference for one over the other. Likewise, an individual might desire a sword longer or shorter, heavier or lighter, balanced closer to the hand for quick point actions and/or wrist cuts, or farther forward for percussive impact and/or dominating blade actions. Accordingly, the might additionally desire a broader blade witha more accute cutting edge, or a narrower, stiffer blade with little or no edge.

That being said, there do appear to have been certain vogues in blade design depending on period and region, but the same can be said for military blades - right down to their degree of usefulness for cutting or thrusting.
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Allen Johnson





Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Mon 24 Jul, 2006 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I feel this idea of "what is THIS SWORD capable of doing" is paramount. The individual specs for each blade are going to determine how cut or thrust oriented the sword is. There is certainly enough evidence from the manuals to show both sides of it. There isnt any evidence that I am aware of for a lethal or dismembering cut with a slender rapier like this one: http://www.myArmoury.com/albums/photo/640.html however those feats would be certainly capable for a sword like this: http://www.myArmoury.com/albums/photo/652.html

Are they both rapiers? maybe, maybe not. The bigger point being that we do enough research, reading, bouting and test cutting that we are familiar with what certain blades are capable of. So we can give an educated critique on how this particular sword, should be used.
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Vassa Falls





Joined: 06 Sep 2006

Posts: 2

PostPosted: Thu 07 Sep, 2006 12:58 pm    Post subject: The rapier edge         Reply with quote

I would think it important the the rapier retain somewhat of an edge even if it is entirely used for thrusting. I am a modern epee fencer and I love tagging the front of my opponet's sword arm. After a touch there if you could whip the blade out leaving a gash or alot of split tedons/muscle. I believe this would incapacitate that arm enough to end the fight and be enough reason to leave a sharp edge on the blade. Just a thought.
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Randall Pleasant




Location: Flower Mound, Texas
Joined: 24 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 2:24 pm    Post subject: Re: The rapier edge         Reply with quote

Vassa Falls wrote:
...you could whip the blade out leaving a gash or alot of split tedons/muscle. I believe this would incapacitate that arm enough to end the fight and be enough reason to leave a sharp edge on the blade. Just a thought.


Vassa

I think there are a number of historical examples of such slices not being incapacitating to people fully intent on killing and/or not being kill. Personally, I do not take "incapacitate" to mean not having the will to fight, I take it as meaning the body is not able to fight regardless of the will of the mind.

Ran Pleasant
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Sam Barris




Location: San Diego, California
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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 8:25 pm    Post subject: Re: The rapier edge         Reply with quote

Vassa Falls wrote:
I would think it important the the rapier retain somewhat of an edge even if it is entirely used for thrusting. I am a modern epee fencer and I love tagging the front of my opponet's sword arm. After a touch there if you could whip the blade out leaving a gash or alot of split tedons/muscle. I believe this would incapacitate that arm enough to end the fight and be enough reason to leave a sharp edge on the blade. Just a thought.


First of all, I notice that this was your first post. Allow me to welcome you. I was an epee fencer in my college days, and I was very fond of skewering my enemies' wrists like that.

I'm not sure that adding a draw cut to the move like you decribe would really do all that much damage, given that the edge geometry even on a rapier designed to cut would still probably feature a more obtuse angle than a wider blade designed for effective cuts with little impact behind them. I'm thinking (admittedly never having tried to test cut with a rapier) that the value of a rapier cut would be more visible while executing something more like a moulinet. You know, something with more movement behind it. And rapiers do have quite a bit of mass in them, so "whip" might be a strong term, considering that after you thrust you'd be more or less starting with no speed and no room to build it up before you get to where the blade meets the flesh, since, you know, you'd already be there. But then, it wold still hurt a great deal to have the blade wrenched out like that and would probably move his arm out of ideal position, so perhaps you could turn it into a kind of disengage where you rip it out, circle under, then bring your point back up into line and finish up with a lunge. I don't know, though. I'm rusty. Any thoughts, Bill? Or anyone with more rapier experience than I?

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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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
Joined: 21 Aug 2003

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PostPosted: Fri 08 Sep, 2006 9:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Their used to be some quite fantastic examples of rapiers at Lion Gate
www.antiqueswords.com

One, in particular, could not have been argued to be anything but a classic renaissance rapier (about 1600). The blade was quite long, forty or more inches. The crossection of most the blade was quite square to slightly flattened diamond. The foible feathered to a very flattened ovoid and spatulate tip. It looked like one could probably shave with the last four inches.

So, even here, with an obviously thrust engneered blade, there was a consolation of some cutting ability.

Having done quite a few attacks on hapless tatami with a couple of what could be classified as early rapier or sidesword caliber blades, I don't think it likely even those might go further than taking a hand mostly off at the wrist. I do think that the flatter and broader blades of some rapiers (during the broad scope of the era in English definition) could still open up some flesh, cut some tendons. Clothing, of course, slows blades right down.

Good topic but fraught with pitfalls of definition.

Cheers

GC
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Vassa Falls





Joined: 06 Sep 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 12 Sep, 2006 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"I think there are a number of historical examples of such slices not being incapacitating to people fully intent on killing and/or not being kill. Personally, I do not take "incapacitate" to mean not having the will to fight, I take it as meaning the body is not able to fight regardless of the will of the mind."
-Ran Pleasant
ARMA DFW

Sorry about the spelling mistake on tendons. When I said incapacitated I didn't mean out of the fight. Thanks for pointing out that it sounded like that. I think that if I lodged the blade in the fore-arm, near the wrist running toward the elbow, and wrenched or let the blade cut itself free from a different angle it would cause my opponet to drop his/her weapon, thus "incapacitating" him/her. By no means would they be done fighting. Actually they would probably want to hurt me more. But if I let them get the blade back or didn't finish the fight right then, I would deserve to get cut up.
Vassa Falls
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