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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 11:18 am    Post subject: One-handed swords more common         Reply with quote

Why were one-handed swords in general more common than two-handed swords? I really don't get this, even in the heyday of the longsword common soldiers used one-handed swords as sidearms even though they usually had a two-handed primary weapon, and later on when shields had entirely gone out of use it was still one-handed swords like the sabre that were most common, I can't see any reason to use a one-handed sword when your other hand is empty anyway, why was this the case?
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 11:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I could be wrong...but even once shields were abandoned, the off hand still was not always "free". Cavalry soldiers need to hold the reins. A pistol could be in the off hand, or a main gauche type dagger. If your primary weapon was not a sword, and most times it was not (spear, pike) I single handed side arm as a backup would make sense to me. 2-handed swords seem to be in many cases a rather specialized weapon. Bucklers and the targe shield continued to be used for a rather long time after the heyday of the larger shields.

Simply carrying a larger sword if its not your primary weapon has to be considered, its not as handy attached to your body as a smaller sword would be. Strapping it to your back ninja style is really not practical if you need to gain quick access to it as a secondary weapon, despite what we see in Hollywood.

The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Makes sense about the one-handed sword being more convenient to carry, I hadn't really considered that, but still knights did use longswords as sidearms and since so many longsword treatises focus on unarmoured combat they must have been used for self-defence in civilian life too, they can't have been that much more inconvenient to carry.
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
Makes sense about the one-handed sword being more convenient to carry, I hadn't really considered that, but still knights did use longswords as sidearms and since so many longsword treatises focus on unarmoured combat they must have been used for self-defence in civilian life too, they can't have been that much more inconvenient to carry.


Interesting point and a valid one regarding civilian dueling with longswords. I guess it could simply come down to context in a particular period. I am no expert or historian, but if we break it down to fit in with a timeline...it sort of makes sense. I will take a very broad sweeping and over simplified stab at it

Classical Age (Roman and Greek) - Large shields, short bladed weapons. One reason was the close combat nature of their way of war. Another is metallurgy at the time made it a bit difficult to achieve long blades

Migration/Viking age - Still large shield dominated, swords are prestige weapons and/or backups. Still may have the expense/metallurgy issue (I could be completely wrong on the metallurgy comments...but I think this is the case)

Early Middle ages - Still dominated by larger shield and cavalry for the noble classes taking root. Most cavalry are going to use a single-handed sword

High Middle ages - Great swords arrive. Lots of debate on exactly how these were employed and used. Seems to be a specialized weapon though as cavalry still dominate and the single-handed sword still seems to be the most common type.

Renaissance - "Age of Plate" etc....Now you really see more two-handed longswords as the shield becomes partially obsolete and half swording becomes a key component to battlefield actions. I assume that this, in a way begins to carry over to using longswords in civilian duels???

Once gun powder hits, then you have what seems to me to be a weird mix of true two-handers, complex hilted longswords and single-handed swords, short cutting blades with spatulate tips.....and now I bow out to let those who have the background to speak on this. Happy

.

The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: One-handed swords more common         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
I can't see any reason to use a one-handed sword when your other hand is empty anyway, why was this the case?


Why do so many people who carry firearms carry one-handed firearms (pistols and revolvers), even though their other hand is free? Some of the same ideas apply to swords (though the size and weight differences between one-handed and two-handed is usually smaller for swords).

For a secondary weapon, you might be in very close quarters when you resort to it. You might be grappling already. You might have two hands free, or you might not. While a hand-and-a-half weapon might seem good, so that you can use two hands if you have space, or one if you don't, or if your hand is otherwise occupied, a shorter blade and a shorter hilt are much handier if grappling. In particular, a long hilt gets in the way and provides a good handle for the opponent to disarm you. Short blade, short hilt, compact guard - these are what you want when grappling, or body-to-body. Of course, you also want reach, so you compromise.

For people who don't expect to fight, who carry the sword as an everyday civilian object, ease of carry matters. If the sword is needed suddenly (e.g., emergency self-defence), there's no guarantee that there is lots of room. Same situation as drawing and using a sword as an emergency secondary weapon.

Yes, one can wear a two-handed sword as a sidearm. As you already said, knights might wear longswords as sidearms (and there are pictures of pikemen with longswords as sidearms). Another classic example is the katana. If you carry a large sidearm like a longsword, you'd better carry a second, smaller, sidearm (as samurai would do, even though a katana is much smaller than a longsword).

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder about this as well, specifically in the context of piker sidearms. Judging by a wide array of artwork, Swiss pikers - generally regarded as the best - commonly carried longswords, especially in the late fifteenth century and early sixteenth century. Some Landsknecht pikers also wore longswords during this period, but later in the sixteenth century English, French, and Italian military writers apparently assume a single-handed sword. I suspect part of it comes down to fashion and culture. Longswords persisted in the Swiss military well into the seventeenth century. Different groups had different favored and culturally valued weapons. As long as none of these gave dramatic advantage, both theory and historical evidence suggest such different weapons could coexist. Piker sidearms used during the sixteenth century include short katzbalgers and baselards with either rounded or sharp points, longswords of various sizes and hilt configurations, long single-handed swords with complex hilts suitable for both cut and thrust, very long English-style rapiers good mainly for the thrust, and of course daggers.

Interestingly, George Silver did consider the two-handed sword - which had only roughly 36-inch blade - superior to the single-handed sword with or without a dagger, buckler, or target. Silver's two-handed sword was what we'd call a longsword, though it's unclear exactly how long a handle or heavy a blade he wanted.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two handed swords may be used on a battlefield, and they do indeed look fearsome, but they're not a lot of use in a confined place, plus they are difficult to carry about.Single handed swords and scabbards are awkward enough in a group.
One on One combat, they are effective - but in a melee situation they are at a bit of a disadvantage, as they take more time to switch from attack to defence, leaving the user open to attack from other quarters. On the battlefield..you need a lot of space to swing one, too close and you endanger others on your own side, so that leaves you more vulnerable to attack. It wasn't just a joke when soldiers wielding two handed swords were called " Forlorn Hopes"
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 2:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two handed swords may be used on a battlefield, and they do indeed look fearsome, but they're not a lot of use in a confined place, plus they are difficult to carry about.Single handed swords and scabbards are awkward enough in a group.
One on One combat, they are effective - but in a melee situation they are at a bit of a disadvantage, as they take more time to switch from attack to defence, leaving the user open to attack from other quarters. On the battlefield..you need a lot of space to swing one, too close and you endanger others on your own side, so that leaves you more vulnerable to attack. It wasn't just a joke when soldiers wielding two handed swords were called " Forlorn Hopes"
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Dean F. Marino




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A totally off-handed remark....

If YOU needed a blade - what would YOU carry? Yes, I understand history... I repeat - what would YOU carry, given the options available TODAY?

Choose as you see fit. I love the 14th centaury... oddly, it does not appear that we will be living in it again. I somehow suspect that the 14th century folks were not overly focused on the 11th Century.

In edhil, hai edhil. In edain, hai edain.
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Adam M.M.





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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 4:36 pm    Post subject: Re: One-handed swords more common         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:

For people who don't expect to fight, who carry the sword as an everyday civilian object, ease of carry matters. If the sword is needed suddenly (e.g., emergency self-defence), there's no guarantee that there is lots of room. Same situation as drawing and using a sword as an emergency secondary weapon.

Yes, one can wear a two-handed sword as a sidearm. As you already said, knights might wear longswords as sidearms (and there are pictures of pikemen with longswords as sidearms). Another classic example is the katana. If you carry a large sidearm like a longsword, you'd better carry a second, smaller, sidearm (as samurai would do, even though a katana is much smaller than a longsword).


I can see how a one-handed sword is easier to carry and better at grappling distance... I suppose it does make more sense as a sidearm than a longsword in many situations.

The katana and wakizashi do puzzle me some though, the overall length of a katana is no more than that of an arming sword so I find it hard to imagine situations where you would need an even shorter blade, but I suppose the long hilt of the katana could be cumbersome.
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Ian Hutchison




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 6:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dean F. Marino wrote:
A totally off-handed remark....

If YOU needed a blade - what would YOU carry? Yes, I understand history... I repeat - what would YOU carry, given the options available TODAY?

Choose as you see fit. I love the 14th centaury... oddly, it does not appear that we will be living in it again. I somehow suspect that the 14th century folks were not overly focused on the 11th Century.


Just for daily civil wear? Probably a short to mid-length stabbing or cut-and-thrust weapon. Something like a cinquedea, gladius, or kindjal on the short end, or a walloon sword/hanger on the longer end. Most incidents in an urban environment would probably at very close quarters.

'We are told that the pen is mightier than the sword, but I know which of these weapons I would choose.' - Adrian Carton de Wiart
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 7:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As far as convenience goes, if this piece is to be believed, sixteenth-century soldiers did lounge about with longswords. Note how the Swiss soldier in the center wears a longsword. While longswords might seem unwieldy in the press of battle, the success of Swiss pikers and halberdiers suggests that longswords were serviceable if not downright advantageous.
Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Mike Ruhala




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PostPosted: Sat 02 Aug, 2014 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something to keep in mind is that there's not really longswords per se, there's only fencing, fencing long and fencing short. Some swords were made with features to be especially advantageous for two-handed use but you can fence long with a single handed sword and you can fence short with a two-handed sword. Artwork shows single handed swords being used with two hands several centuries before long grips become common. Considering ringen am schwert a trained swordsman is never really fighting with just one hand anyway.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 12:52 am    Post subject: Re: One-handed swords more common         Reply with quote

Adam M.M. wrote:
The katana and wakizashi do puzzle me some though, the overall length of a katana is no more than that of an arming sword so I find it hard to imagine situations where you would need an even shorter blade, but I suppose the long hilt of the katana could be cumbersome.


There are some extra things to consider with the katana and wakizashi. The katana is traditionally left at the door when going indoors, and the wakizashi worn indoors. The wakizashi is also a substitute for the katana if/when the katana breaks.

At some times, it was common for Indian and Chinese soldiers to carry two swords of approximately equal sizes. Egerton says the Indian pair of swords was one of hard but potentially brittle steel, as the primary weapon, and a sword of softer steel, for use if the hard sword breaks. The Chinese pair were called yin and yang swords, and sound similar. At the time when I was sort-of discussing this with a sinologist (we were both talking to the same person, who acted as an intermediary) back in about 1990, he didn't know of any metallurgical testing on such Chinese swords.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Brian Nelson




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some advantages of a single hand sword:

Less material/easier to fabricate
Easier to wear/less cumbersome
Easier to wield in a tight formation of other soldiers
Shorter blades are easier to thrust with

Some advantages of the longsword:

Slightly better reach
More power in the cut
Halfswording techniques
More hilt strike options

But remember that thrusting with one hand gives considerably more reach than thrusting with two hands with the same weapon, so the first advantage of the longsword is somewhat lessened when dealing with the thrust. Also, halfswording and hilt strikes are really an attempt to use a longsword more in the role of a polearm/mace to compensate for its lack of effectiveness against armoured opponents. But in an age where the sword has taken a sidearm/backup weapon role on the battelfield, we already have specialized weapons that are more effective against armour. So, if you don't really use your sword on the battlefield too much, I think the advantages of the arming sword are more useful than the advantages of the longsword.

To comment on the katana/wakizashi: this is a fairly unique weapon setup strictly used by samurai. When both are worn it is called daiso ("big-little") and is the definitive mark of a samurai. Also, the wakizashi was almost always worn, even indoors, and the katanas were usually not. Also remember that the daisho was a backup to the yari spear and yumi bow which were primary weapons. Furthermore, katanas, while made extremely well given the poor ore deposits in Japan, were much more brittle and harder than more european swords of say the 15th century and were prone to breaking when sword on sword combat was involved. Just another explanation of the wakizashi/katana pairing.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Are the Chinese swords butterfly swords/knives? This article has an interesting in-depth look at the social history of that weapon, which (interestingly) was probably not that old and might have been far more common in "civilian" settings than among military troops:

http://chinesemartialstudies.com/2013/01/28/a...tial-arts/


Anyway, to return to the original question, it's worth noting that the two-handed (or hand-and-a-half) sword wasn't really that common in the long term; in Europe it was only made and used in considerable numbers for about three or four centuries out of something like 25-30 centuries of recorded history, barely three centuries in Japan (roughly the Tokugawa, Meiji, and Showa eras up to the end of the Pacific War) out of some thirteen or fourteen with verifiable historical records, and in China it lasted the longest (maybe six or seven centuries up to the middle of the 20th) but was even less common (compared to other swords and weapons) than in Japan and Europe.

That doesn't answer the why, but it's really interesting to see just how uncommon such swords were in purely relative terms.
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Victor R.




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dean F. Marino wrote:
A totally off-handed remark....

If YOU needed a blade - what would YOU carry? Yes, I understand history... I repeat - what would YOU carry, given the options available TODAY?

Choose as you see fit. I love the 14th centaury... oddly, it does not appear that we will be living in it again. I somehow suspect that the 14th century folks were not overly focused on the 11th Century.


Given my primarily Germanic heritage & propensities, a grossemesser on my hip (I have a Soldat), with a kriegsmesser (yup, got a Knecht) in the Jeep for those "zombie herd" encounters, where a little extra reach and the potential for taking two heads in one swing might be handy. Wink
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would take some issue with the generality of associating the Classical Age with large shield/small sword, as the Celtic tribes of France and Germany used long swords together with sizeable shields. The primary reason the Greeks and Romans used short swords was because it was a backup weapon for the most part-- the primary weapon was the spear. The Romans did introduce the concept of using the short sword in close combat, but I suspect this probably had a lot to do with the various conflicts with Gallic tribes.

In the 'medieval' era, single-handers are probably more prevalent due to a simple fact-- they were cheaper-- and slightly easier to forge because there's simply less metal to move around and balance versus a bastard sword or longsword. Plus, they're easily paired with a buckler, which is definitely a very common shield for the lower classes.

So essentially, the answer to your query is, 'convenience'. There's a little more to it than that, of course, but that IMO is mostly the case Happy
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 10:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Anyway, to return to the original question, it's worth noting that the two-handed (or hand-and-a-half) sword wasn't really that common in the long term; in Europe it was only made and used in considerable numbers for about three or four centuries out of something like 25-30 centuries of recorded history, barely three centuries in Japan (roughly the Tokugawa, Meiji, and Showa eras up to the end of the Pacific War) out of some thirteen or fourteen with verifiable historical records, and in China it lasted the longest (maybe six or seven centuries up to the middle of the 20th) but was even less common (compared to other swords and weapons) than in Japan and Europe.

That doesn't answer the why, but it's really interesting to see just how uncommon such swords were in purely relative terms.


Long-handled swords appeared in Japan well before the Tokugawa era. You see such swords in the scrolls made after the Mongol invasions in the thirteenth century. By most accounts they go back a few centuries before that as well. So I'd say long-handled swords were important in Japan for around a millennium if not longer.

In China, long-handled swords go back to the Han era if not earlier. So such swords saw use there for roughly two millennia. And they were quite common in some periods.

Read my historically inspired fantasy fiction in here. I walk along a winding path set by Ludovico Ariosto, William Morris, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ursula Le Guin.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 03 Aug, 2014 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
Are the Chinese swords butterfly swords/knives?


Not that I know of. But the conversation was at one remove, through an intermediary.

Chinese short twin weapons (butterfly knives, twin dao of other kinds, twin jian, and to a lesser extent, exotic twin weapons) are IMO designed to give an improved chance against spears in an easily carried package. The forms (kata) for such weapons have lots of good anti-spear techniques. The opposed weapon in Chinese weapons forms is often a spear, so seeing anti-spear techniques is expected. But with the twin weapon forms, they're easier higher-percentage techniques which will work well against a naive spearman.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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