How long did the fighting last?
The recent thread on mace you got me to thinking about how long a 'fight' lasted? i.e. how big is the issue of a few pound weapon being tiring (especially as relative to ten to twenty times that weight in armour)).

I'm given to believe that most medieval battles consisted of a relatively small amout of time actually in melee combat. A lot of time was spend manuevering, regrouping, waiting and the actual melee was usually over fairly quickly.

Most street fight scenarios last seconds with only a handful of strokes thrown. So ambush by brigands or skirmish fighting is unlikely to last long.

The most rigorous of tournament-melees (not sure on terminology ) were, I think, 75 to 80 strokes (for those with a set number of strokes).

I'm sure there are exceptions. And I don't doubt that a weapon which is less tiring to use has its advantages. But I wonder how big a deal it is relative to other concerns.


P.S. My workout consists of several sets of eighty full power strokes, totalling hundreds to near a thousand, so I suspect that I have the endurance for unarmoured fighting (though not armoured having never done it).
Hello Steven,
I suppose that the length of an engagement would depend on the depth of the ranks of the opposing parties, choice of arm (cavalry vs infantry), and how many different battles were sent in to engage according to the tactics employed. For example, the implication of the reserve battle at the appropriate moment, before the first line could break, would lengthen the time of the total engagement, whereas the reserves getting caught up in a rout would significantly shorten the time of the engagement, and so on... I don't think we have reliable primary sources on this subject, maybe Froissart on some hundred year war stuff, but that is just a wild guess.
My favorite military expression, on a par with S.N.A.F.U, is undoubtedly : " Hurry up !.... and wait....", I think it sums it all up quite well.
I hope others have references to documented timelines of some famous battles,if so I think this could be the start of a great thread.
Go check works by such military historians as John Keegan, Paddy Griffith, or Colonel Ardant du Picq. They generally state that hand-to-hand fighting consited of brief periods of intense contact lasting only a few minutes punctuated by (usually longer) lulls, except in cases where the enemy broke and routed under the initial shock of the charge. So yes, while a major battle might last for hours, the actual period of hand-to-hand fighting experienced by a single man woud have been short. Cavalry engagements would have been even more fluid.

Of course, with skirmishes and ambushes (which were much more common than open battles) the fighting itself was usually over in a matter of minutes.
Re: How long did the fighting last?

While it doen't really answer your question you might find it interesting that in August, 2005, during ARMA member Matt Anderson's prize play for the rank of Senior Free Scholar in longsword Matt fought his first 55 matches in 15 minutes. That's around 15 seconds per match. Afterwards they slowed the pace some but Matt was required to fight for a full hour. None of these matches involved sword-tag playing, rather all matches involved physically intense sparring using blunts, wasters, and padded swords. The following picture will give you an idea of the physical effort Matt had to maintain for an hour.

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Ran Pleasant
We have to remember, though, that the stresses experienced in a massed battle is far from being identical to that experienced in single combat. It takes a great deal more mental (and perhaps physical) effort to deliver a killing blow when you're being sandwiched and squeezed out of breath between the friends on either side.

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