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Martin Wallgren




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Jul, 2010 11:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a little bit of thread necromancy but I think it is relevant for the discussion in this thread to show the interpretations of how to fight with shield and sword that Hammaborg in germany has developed. Here is a link ti their Youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWSTx0tZHCU

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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Aug, 2011 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

this video is worth considering,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVyj6GtT6Z8&feature=relmfu
essentially he suggests that a grip length should fit your hand so that its snug and your not wasting your gripping trying to hold nto the sword, but placing that muscle energy into making the cut.

also in regrds to using the handshake grip admittedly im unused to holding swords with large pommels,. and none with any sort of training.

heres my sword it possesses a tea cosy pommel.

that said,as i bulk up the grip, im finding the sword easier and much more manageable to swing, bare handed, but when i grab the sword in my gloves, which are leather gardeners gloves so arent exactly snug on my hands, the gripping becomes if anything more difficult.

so another dimension to whats comfortable might actually be the diameter of the grip which determines how it fits in the palm.

but ive been advised with such a large pointed pommel to not try and wrist fllick because its actually a fraction too big for my hand. ungloved its a tad too SMALL for my gloved hand.



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hanwei practical norman sword length of the grip is exactly 10cm/4 inches.
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Kai Lawson




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PostPosted: Fri 03 Feb, 2012 12:47 pm    Post subject: Gripping the darn thing         Reply with quote

I just got the chance to visit the Albion workshops in New Glarus, and was able to handle sharp-edged weapons longer than my arm for the first time--rather than wall hangers and practice swords. I had never held a viking-era sword before, fake or otherwise, and was surprised to find myself popping back and forth between the 'hammer' and 'handshake' grip, depending on how I wanted the lateral portion of the blade to behave. The whole sword felt responsive in both grip types, and I felt secure in my ability to maintain control--though that may not mean anything. I'm about 5'9'', 147 lbs, with short, thin fingers and slightly wider palms--not too small a guy, nor a taller specimen. Fairly average. I also handled (and threw a down payment for) an Albion Gaddhjalt, which has a grip that I find to be very comfortable in either grip fashion--and I have enough room on the grip to grasp it with another hand, the same way one would handle a large small spouted jug when pouring something, with the pommel resting in the center of the palm of the second hand.

Looking back, that seems like a useless thing to say, except when noting: some swords (for me) feel like the grip is a little too long compared to the blade, even if the blades are the same kind (Albion again, sorry for the limited experience), and I feel that a shorter grip length would be better for wielding or running with the sword--more secure if I don't intend to engage anything yet, but just need to rush over. A looser, hand-shake style grip comes naturally to me (never having cut with anything resembling a viking-era sword) when I'm about to engage a target. A slightly longer grip allows me to perform both, even when wearing gloves or (hint?) mail mittens--though the grip isn't too long when wearing hand coverage to make me wish the cross and pommel were closer together.

My point is that the 'hammer' style grip works well for larger movements, like running somewhere, where a blade up and alert is more useful than a more forward pointed blade, as can be seen in the 'handshake' style (though both work for this, one just seems to 'feel quicker to grab.') When ready to actually cut someone/something, the handshake grip feels more versatile. Shield walls are great for a group fight, but from what I've read from the sack of Lindisfarne up to and past the conquest of England in 1066, including the Italo-norman campaigns, and from before 793, raids were more common by far, be it in steppe cultures, Gaulish Celts, Iberian Celts, Mediterranean cultures, Norse cultures, Germanic peoples, etc... The list goes on, with the point being that the people with the sharp bits and the penchant to use them would have more likely (and this is subject to debate; let me have it) been running and gunning on people in domestic settings, where I would think (opinion) that the little extra speed and range or maneuverability of the handshake grip would make getting the runner in front of you or clearing a doorway to a dwelling easier than the handshake grip; but the hilt design as a whole meaning switching from killing to looting mode with your sword drawn was easy:

--Join the dash to the target area (hammer/handshake, whichever is personally preferred by the person)(with the caveat that they are starting the raid with sword drawn, and not with another weapon, which would have been likely too)

--Cut down some people running away/about (handshake for chasing, hammer for coming around a building--BAM right there)

--Go find all the goodies in the buildings before your buddies burn it all down (handshake--sword is too long to enter a doorway and make a lunge down or to the side to stick someone hiding or trying to rush past; and not enough overhead space to hack them up if they come at you)

--Killing's done, hold up and admire your sword, clean it off, tell your buddies how many nobodies you got

A longer grip works fine for the above, but you don't need it, so why make it? The short grip is nice and versatile, without the style restrictions of a curved or pistol-style handle. Just 'pop' into hammer, run around, jump the ship side into the surf, whatever, then 'pop' into handshake to kill some folks, then 'pop' put it back, and grab what you can carry. Both styles have their uses, both are usable for all sized people, and with the increase in hand protection styles among the wealthier (who would really be the ones with the swords anyway), along with the culture differences (vikings settled in Normandy, but they didn't stay completely viking for long), slightly longer grips became popular, as both styles could still be used with bulkier protection being worn.

I think (opinion of a nobody) that the smaller grips were used for a variety of reasons, not the least of which could be 'if it works (and it must have), then why change it?' Cultural impacts and local styles might influence later developments, but many of the raiding cultures have short, smaller guards and hilts, with cutting style blades.



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sword on right is carolingian

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http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.1841.html

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Gauls

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Iberian falcata

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Sort of Steppe culture--at least migrated to Finnland from the steppe [ Download ]

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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Feb, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My preferred grip for cutting is the handshake with finger over crossguard, it's very versatile and agile and just like Peters original post shows, the pommel can pass the palm heel. I use the hammer grip too when it suits me as you can easily change from one ot the other with a little bit of practice. The Hammer tends to become more linear and brutally powerful (makes sense really) while the handshake is more flexible for snappy alternating overhead swings. Finger over also means you get great edge alignment control, but maybe that's another topic.

I think veteran Viking raiders were well versed of when to use either and also there'd likely be an element of personal preference to one or the other.

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Neil T
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 12:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello all. I work in one of the world's leading Viking museums, and have done so for over 5 years now. As part of my job I have regularly done Holmganga combat displays, and used various period weapons; I say this not to try to trump anyone's information or opinions, merely to give an impression of how I have come to my own conclusions.

I personally believe that the hammer grip would be used primarily, I'm not saying that no one would ever use the handshake grip, but I certainly wouldn't. For me it is about parrying blows with the sword as well as with a shield, which requires a sturdy grip or lose the sword completely in the middle of the fight. Also when attacking an opponent with a shield (granted using a rebated sword) if you have a loose grip you will find the sword bounces far too much, and again you risk losing your blade.
I have found when using a Petersen Type M (upper guard, sans pommel) for example, that when cutting, unless you allow the guard to slide by your wrist it will dig in but this doesn't require any change of grip; but that may depend on your wrist flexibility and/or strength.

I also think people are forgetting several key things here: 1. grip length does vary from sword to sword, 2. in combat very few people would actually be armed with a sword (they are very expensive) battles aren't fought solely by the "Viking Millionaires Club". Most people on a battle field in the dark ages would be armed with spears (long reach, cost affective, hunting tools) and axes (relatively cheap, wood chopping tools - everything is made from or requires wood in the Viking-age).

In response to there being a lot of Viking age skeletons that display leg wounds this makes sense as we have no evidence of grieves/splints being used, not in Viking-age England anyway (some evidence in Slavic areas and plenty in Byzantium), and the round shield does not cover the lower legs; Anglo-Scandinavian legs are relatively undefended until the early/mid 11th century with the introduction of the kite shield.

Ultimately we will never know how they were used for sure - there just aren't the records or illustrations (which were they by the way? someone mentioned some) - we can only come up with our own thoughts and preferences, so I'm not sure anyone on here can lay claim to the "correct way" to hold a Viking sword.

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Neil T
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 12:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

P.S. Apologies if any of my points have been said a billion times already; to paraphrase someone earlier - 10 pages of replies is a little much to get through in one sitting.
Much love!

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Neil T
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Martin Wallgren wrote:
Just a little bit of thread necromancy but I think it is relevant for the discussion in this thread to show the interpretations of how to fight with shield and sword that Hammaborg in germany has developed. Here is a link ti their Youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWSTx0tZHCU


I was interested to see this video but it says it is private, has anyone else found this?

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 5:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neil T wrote:
Martin Wallgren wrote:
Just a little bit of thread necromancy but I think it is relevant for the discussion in this thread to show the interpretations of how to fight with shield and sword that Hammaborg in germany has developed. Here is a link ti their Youtube channel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWSTx0tZHCU


I was interested to see this video but it says it is private, has anyone else found this?

Its likely this video, or a video from the same group

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkhpqAGdZPc

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Nov, 2012 10:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neil T wrote:

I have found when using a Petersen Type M (upper guard, sans pommel) for example, that when cutting, unless you allow the guard to slide by your wrist it will dig in but this doesn't require any change of grip; but that may depend on your wrist flexibility and/or strength.


How can this not require a change of grip (if you start in hammer grip). Perhaps it would be useful to say what you mean by hammer/handshake?

The definition I use (and I think this is the usual definition) is that in hammer grip, the heel of your hand is behind the grip, and in handshake grip, the heel of the hand is beside the grip (see picture). In hammer grip, the end of the grip emerges from the little-finger edge of the palm, and in handshake grip, over the heel of the hand. From your comment above, I think you use a different definition.



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"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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Neil T
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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2012 1:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Neil T wrote:

I have found when using a Petersen Type M (upper guard, sans pommel) for example, that when cutting, unless you allow the guard to slide by your wrist it will dig in but this doesn't require any change of grip; but that may depend on your wrist flexibility and/or strength.


How can this not require a change of grip (if you start in hammer grip). Perhaps it would be useful to say what you mean by hammer/handshake?

The definition I use (and I think this is the usual definition) is that in hammer grip, the heel of your hand is behind the grip, and in handshake grip, the heel of the hand is beside the grip (see picture). In hammer grip, the end of the grip emerges from the little-finger edge of the palm, and in handshake grip, over the heel of the hand. From your comment above, I think you use a different definition.


Entirely possible, though I actually agree with what you are saying for the most part I think. I'm sure the differences in our described techniques are rather small, unnoticeable to many but the greatest sword enthusiast pedant. : )

If I were to define what I mean it would be this: Hammer Grip (is as it sounds) like gripping a hammer, or a heavy cavalry sabre for example. By Handshake I mean not unlike a pistol grip or how you might hold a modern fencing épée, or a light cutlass, whereby you may even place your thumb on the back of the grip; this is fine for lighter weapons but something like the Viking sword requires a firmer grip (authors such as R.G. Allanson-Winn assert as much too). You can cut with a Viking sword and not necessarily have to change your grip to the "handshake" position exactly to accommodate the pommel.

I've tried to illustrate what I mean in the three pictures below.

Pic 1 - Hammer Grip. Pure and simple.
Pic 2 - Cut with hammer grip; note the grip still isn't quite in the handshake position, I've merely allowed the pommel to slide by my wrist; it didn't start in that position and the grip hasn't altered.
Pic 3 - Handshake (pistol) Grip. Completely different if subtle, makes for too weak a grip in my humble opinion.



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Jack Savante





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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2012 2:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm afraid the so called 'hand shake' grip which has now become an internet orthodoxy is just another example of modern thought being transposed onto ancient things.

Swords aren't being used for combat any more, so 'intellectualisations' like this have crept in.

They should be purged from our thinking however.

Without a doubt THE BEST people to ask about these sort of things are people who still use knives for fighting. Read "Knife fighting from Folsom Prison" for real advice on how to hold an edged weapon in a fight. For advice on a given subject, chose an expert, not someone from a related field. The closest thing you will get in this day and age is a criminal or a soldier who has used knives. There are no practicing swordsmen left to ask.

I give much credit to Peter Johnsson, he is a remarkable man, but on this issue of holding a sword he is wrong. Peter is a master smith, he is not, unless he has been hiding it from us, as seasoned fighter (reenactment with blunt weapons does not count).

While his thoughts are interesting, unfortunately, because of his esteem in the community, his word frequently passes as gospel not to be challenged. While Peter is a great master, no one should be considered infallible. He has done the community a disservice by putting forth this proposition.
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Matthew Harrington




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2012 2:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:
I'm afraid the so called 'hand shake' grip which has now become an internet orthodoxy is just another example of modern thought being transposed onto ancient things.

Swords aren't being used for combat any more, so 'intellectualisations' like this have crept in.

They should be purged from our thinking however.

Without a doubt THE BEST people to ask about these sort of things are people who still use knives for fighting. Read "Knife fighting from Folsom Prison" for real advice on how to hold an edged weapon in a fight. For advice on a given subject, chose an expert, not someone from a related field. The closest thing you will get in this day and age is a criminal or a soldier who has used knives. There are no practicing swordsmen left to ask.

I give much credit to Peter Johnsson, he is a remarkable man, but on this issue of holding a sword he is wrong. Peter is a master smith, he is not, unless he has been hiding it from us, as seasoned fighter (reenactment with blunt weapons does not count).

While his thoughts are interesting, unfortunately, because of his esteem in the community, his word frequently passes as gospel not to be challenged. While Peter is a great master, no one should be considered infallible. He has done the community a disservice by putting forth this proposition.


I think you are being arrogant and very rude by saying these things, not just too Peter, but too other reeanctors as well, we practice the same way the warriors of the time did and fight the same way, of course we are going to think about how to use the weapons correctly or "better" because they would've done it themselves. We spend hours every day practicing and researching, but we're not seasoned fighters just because we don't want to actually kill our opponents and use blunt weapons? We know Peters word isn't in stone, but it's a nice inquiry that may have historical background to it as well, I don't think it's wrong to think about how our ancestors used different grips, in my opinion I think it is a historically accurate grip and it's just someones personal preference to use it or not.

~See you in Valhalla, brother.~
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2012 3:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neil T wrote:

I've tried to illustrate what I mean in the three pictures below.

Pic 1 - Hammer Grip. Pure and simple.
Pic 2 - Cut with hammer grip; note the grip still isn't quite in the handshake position, I've merely allowed the pommel to slide by my wrist; it didn't start in that position and the grip hasn't altered.
Pic 3 - Handshake (pistol) Grip. Completely different if subtle, makes for too weak a grip in my humble opinion.


OK, a difference in terminology. I (and many others) would call pic 2 "handshake" - the heel of the hand is beside the grip and the grip is diagonally across the palm. From the finger position, I see why you call it a hammer grip.

The grip on your sword looks very long for a viking. Consider the same transition between grips 1, 2, and 3 (whatever one decides to call grip 2) with a sword with a shorter grip. If, in grip 1, the hand fills the space between guard and pommel, the transition to 2 requires a bigger change, basically a change to an undeniable handshake grip. So, with a shorter grip, one has the choice of either staying in the locked in place by the pommel/guard hammer grip and missing out on reach, or switching to a handshake grip.

The locked in place by the pommel/guard hammer grip is super-secure, even with a relaxed hand, since you get plenty of support from the hilt.

I don't find grips like your grip 3 insecure or weak. It's a standard sword grip in Japanese sword arts, and elsewhere. Note that the 3rd and 4th fingers are opposing the base of the thumb - these fingers should be providing the main strength in the grip; the 1st and 2nd fingers (index and middle) can be relaxed. This is not the same as the pinched between thumb and finger foil/epee grip. I think you are entirely correct when you say a thumb and finger pinch-grip is too weak for a heavy weapon (heavy compared to a foil). The difference is whether it's the thumb-and-finger holding it, or the palm of the hand holding it.

Can you hold in your grip 2 for a long time? It looks like you are holding strongly with your 1st and 2nd fingers, maintaining hammer-grip fingers in a more handshake grip sword position. Relaxing 1st and 2nd fingers, and gripping more with 3rd and 4th would naturally take you to position 3, which I find is comfortable and secure. As a brief transition while cutting, staying there isn't much of an issue per se, but it might say something about the strength and security of the grip.

"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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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Wed 19 Dec, 2012 10:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:
... Peter is a master smith, ...


Surely someone with that credential but a bias would plump for the hammer grip?

I will echo what Matthew Harrington said. Your argument is not compelling (despite certain words being in all-caps), but would be more so if knives were used in a similar manner to swords. Being that this is not the case, you argument is not convincing. Further, the dismissive way that you talk about people who take a different approach to you is a little offensive.
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T. Kew




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2012 4:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:
I'm afraid the so called 'hand shake' grip which has now become an internet orthodoxy is just another example of modern thought being transposed onto ancient things.

Swords aren't being used for combat any more, so 'intellectualisations' like this have crept in.

They should be purged from our thinking however.

Without a doubt THE BEST people to ask about these sort of things are people who still use knives for fighting. Read "Knife fighting from Folsom Prison" for real advice on how to hold an edged weapon in a fight. For advice on a given subject, chose an expert, not someone from a related field. The closest thing you will get in this day and age is a criminal or a soldier who has used knives. There are no practicing swordsmen left to ask.

I give much credit to Peter Johnsson, he is a remarkable man, but on this issue of holding a sword he is wrong. Peter is a master smith, he is not, unless he has been hiding it from us, as seasoned fighter (reenactment with blunt weapons does not count).

While his thoughts are interesting, unfortunately, because of his esteem in the community, his word frequently passes as gospel not to be challenged. While Peter is a great master, no one should be considered infallible. He has done the community a disservice by putting forth this proposition.


There are two fundamental flaws with your position.

The first is that a knife fighter is not an expert on sword fighting, but instead someone from a related field. So by your own contention, they should be eliminated, and instead people who use early medieval swords for combat practice should be considered. A long fighting knife, after all, might be perhaps 12" long and weigh half a pound. A light viking sword is four times the weight and thrice the length. It is sheer folly to contend that merely possessing an edge makes these two weapons analogous in use.

The second is that there is more than one way to hold a knife to fight with it. The Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife was designed to be held forward in a grip most unlike the one you describe (and much closer to a handshake grip), and that balance is preserved across many other combat knives intended to be used first for fighting, not for other tasks. Or consider holding one's knife in an ice-pick grip, which is another standard grip in many systems of knife fighting. Surely you don't contend that because a knife is used that way, one should hold a sword in such a grip?

Instructor and scholar, Cambridge HEMA
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2012 2:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jack Savante wrote:
I'm afraid the so called 'hand shake' grip which has now become an internet orthodoxy is just another example of modern thought being transposed onto ancient things.


Please read through all pages of this thread if you haven't. People cite period sources that show/discuss grips that we would now classify with the term handshake. It's not based on purely modern thought.

Quote:
I give much credit to Peter Johnsson, he is a remarkable man, but on this issue of holding a sword he is wrong. Peter is a master smith, he is not, unless he has been hiding it from us, as seasoned fighter (reenactment with blunt weapons does not count).

While his thoughts are interesting, unfortunately, because of his esteem in the community, his word frequently passes as gospel not to be challenged. While Peter is a great master, no one should be considered infallible. He has done the community a disservice by putting forth this proposition.


Personally I think the thoughts of one of the world's leading researchers and plenty of skilled HEMA practitioners are worth listening to. They're not for taking as "gospel" blindly, but are worth listening to and using as a basis for experimentation. My experimentation fits with their positions. Maybe that's coincidental, but it works.

Does your experience with weapons not bear this out or is this a purely academic point you're making? Please feel free to post your level of experience in these matters (as a researcher/martial artist/etc.) so people can place your comments into a context.

Happy

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Robin Smith




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2012 4:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't see why there is so much fuss over this topic... I transition through both grips fluidly without even thinking about it as they are needed. I suspect this is a case of overthinking the issue.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 20 Dec, 2012 6:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have long been sceptical when it comes to the "hammer" grip as a default grip.

However, I have come to realice that it is not a question of figthing technique, but sword design.

Holding a medevial or long griped viking sword using the hammer grip feels unnatural, and is unsuitable for figthing.
However, many of the historical viking swords have extremely short grips, which changes this drasticaly.

A little while back, I attempted my first sword mod; converting my cheap polish viking sword to a more historical grip length, and removing the upper part of the pommel. The result was a sword with a grip length of 9,5cm.
And this sword, when held in hand, automaticaly ended up in Peter's "handshake grip". And consequently, my stance, guard and figting style also change.
But I can not replicate this in an usefull way with my other swords.

If your sword is made for it, it will happen all by itself. If not, it does not work.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201


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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2012 2:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a quick series of photos illustrating the point above.

First one is a regular casual grip of a medevial sword.
Next, a casual grip on a viking sword with a 9,5cm grip.
Finally, the medevial sword held in the same fashion as the viking sword.

As one can clearly see, the viking sword is angled significantly more forward. This is because the pommel effectively rests iINSIDE the hand, and becomes the index point of your grip. On other swords, you place your hand in relation to the crossguard. Here, you place your hand on the pomell, and the length of the sword grip is adjusted so that your hand will fit propperly.
As the last picture shows, this does not work at all with a medevial sword, or a viking reenactment sword that has a grip lenth of more than 10 cm.
As such, all comments from reenactors that find the grip upractical are all perfectly valid. It is question of sword design.

As such, the term "handshake grip" is quite misleading. It should be termed "Pommel grip" to avoid confusion.



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"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Greg Ballantyne




Location: Maryland USA
Joined: 14 Feb 2011
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PostPosted: Fri 21 Dec, 2012 6:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling I agree with your assessment. There is a little more to it, however. I've been admonished here previously for saying this, but it also depends on hand size. I have a Viking reproduction sword with a longer grip, measuring 4 1/4". Your 9.5cm would come to approximately 3 3/4". I also have a large hand, that fills the 4 1/4" grip completely similar to your second picture. I also find that when handling and especially when cutting my grip on the sword transitions seamlessly and unnoticably between"hammer" and "handshake" grips. I really had to pay attention while carving a large pumpkin last month to realize how my grip transitioned. To me it is quite clear that this discussion is a 20th and 21st century topic, resulting from over thinking as some have suggested.
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