Cutlass vs Rapier?

Discussion in 'Historical European Swords and Sword Arts' started by geezer, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Pardon my ignorance, since I have little knowledge of the Western traditions of sword arts. I train in Filipino arts however, which were influenced by 16th -19th Century Spanish fencing as well as a blending of earlier Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese and native traditions. At any rate I have a colleague at work who practices rapier fencing. He swords are long and his technique emphasizes thrusting, although there is some slashing and blade work. By contrast, most of the Filipino sword work I've seen uses shorter, broader blades, emphasizing cutting more than stabbing, although there is plenty of that too. I get the impression that the blades I've been exposed to may be more akin to a Western cutlass. That would make sense since the majority of Spaniards arriving in the Philippines would have been sailors, and I've heard that the cutlass was used aboard ships for close-quarters fighting. I don't know what sidearms were used by soldiers of that period, or how these various different weapons would fare in combat against each other? Generally, I've always felt that the longer weapon has an advantage if there is room to use it, but then again I've seen the Wing Tsun Bart Cham Dao or short "Butterfly Swords" defeat a nine-foot "long pole", so clearly other factors come into play. Any input would be appreciated!
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2008
  2. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    This is a huge can-o-worms. There are basically two lines of thought on "western influence" in FMA. First, the FMA footwork, angles of attack, and movement patterns seem very similar to western, particularly (the thought goes) Spanish methods (destreza). However, the second theory goes, most of the contact would not have been with Rapier but with shorter, broader, cut-and-thrust blades used mostly by non-Spanish mercenaries (Portugese maybe? - I don't recall).

    I should mention that there is a third theory that suggests simply a parallel evolution instead of a borrowing of ideas. The idea goes that the similaries are merely the result of the fact that the best way to swing a sword of a particular shape is pretty much the same whether the fighting style developed on the Filipines or in Europe.


    Over the years, all maner of swords have been used as Sea Swords. Straight, Curved, Double Ediged, Single Edged, etc. The primary trait being that they were (usually) fairly short to enable better use in the close quarters of shipboard combat. Try rapier fighting in a 6' cube sometime to see what I mean. The Historic Maritime Combat Association has some really good information on this. http://www.historicalmaritimecombat.com/

    Depends. Tomahawks were even used shipboard, daggers, long knives, clubs, etc. Generally, they'd prefer to just shoot you, though. :)

    Depends on a lot of factors, of course. But, yeah. Longer weapons generally give you an advangate. There's a reason Pole-Axes were popular. Then there's Richard Peeke, armed only with a Quarterstaff, taking on three Spanish Rapier masters and winning his freedom.

    The problem with long weapons is that, while they give you great advantage of reach, if the opponent can "pass the point" and "get inside" the weapon, then he has negated the primary advantage of your weapon. There's still options, of course (such as the butt-stroke/contrario, pummeling, and corps-a-corps fighting) but he's made it inside your guard and that's a bad thing for you.

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk
     
  3. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    That's the idea using the Bart Cham Dao against the long pole. It's also possible to "stick" to the pole or catch it in the hook that projects from the hand guard and so prevent the poleman from disengaging or using a butt-strike.

    As far as the three theories you posted about the sources of the FMAs. I know people get really worked up over this, but it's quite possible that all three have varying degrees of validity. The Philippines are a diverse place and the degree of native versus foreign influences (and which foreign influence) varies a lot, I'm told, depending on where you are.

    Anyway, thanks again for the info. Now if I want to beat this rapier guy, it looks like I'm either going to have to challenge him to a duel in a phone booth or use a sibat/spear! LOL.
     
  4. thardey

    thardey Master Black Belt

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    On thing that has to be understood about rapier, is that is covers a broad range of descriptions for weapons.

    My instructor is quite skilled at distreza, (a popular Spanish style) but I only know enough about it to be able to counter it, I can't do it myself.

    His distreza rapier is much shorter than mine (about a 34" blade), with a balance much better suited to "envelopments" and cuts, which are a mainstay of the spanish rapier. It is also a system that would work well with sabers and cutlasses, since his sword closely resembles a straight-bladed saber. (Common among British sailors).

    He is able to use it quite well against most longer rapiers - he "envelops" his opponent's blade using powerful, curcular motions to entangle the tip, then moves in at a slight angle (perhaps like your "female" triangle? forgive me, I only know a little about FMA) and uses the shorter, heavier blade for cuts.

    However, he is teaching me to use my longer rapier (40" blade) in a way that can defeat his style, and there are weaknesses to it that can be exploited. But it's not something I can really explain by text.
     
  5. lklawson

    lklawson Senior Master

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    Good point. There are a lot of different swords that are "rapiers."

    Peace favor your sword,
    Kirk123
     

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