The Weapons that Made Britain.

Ahriman

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I don't know if it was covered elsewhere already, but I noticed arnisador's comment on the lack of gauntlets when halfswording.
As some actual manuals show HS both with and without gauntlets, we can know that it was used both ways. About the safety of the palms: there are (at least) two theories about it, I prefer and rely on the first.
1, You grab the blade's flat, instead of simply grabbing it randomly. Imagine grabbing a straight razor's blade in a way that the edge is facing your palm without cutting yourself. If you do this well, you can easily shake around the razor by the handle. This grip gives enough strength for most HS techniques, but figuring out how to do a mortschlag with this method was rather... funny.
2, You rely on the calloused skin of your palms. o_O While having this "organic armour" helps, I wouldn't rely on it exclusively, but then, I'm not living back then, I have absolutely no experience at the possible thicknesses of callouses.
(3, As halfswording is most usually done with thrust-oriented blades, it IS safer to grab than a dedicated cutter as the edge angle is a bit greater as a result of the thicker blade. That's of course not true for deeply hollow-ground blades.)

As all who would really know are dead, and before they died had more important work to do than to inform us about such a "trivial" matter, we can't know for sure. If someone knows better, pretty please tell me.
 

Ahriman

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"...razor by the handle."
Trivially this was "by the blade" in my mind, but as I said in my introduction, I sometimes words the mix up. :S
 

lklawson

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(3, As halfswording is most usually done with thrust-oriented blades, it IS safer to grab than a dedicated cutter as the edge angle is a bit greater as a result of the thicker blade. That's of course not true for deeply hollow-ground blades.)
This brings up the old (and essentially unaswerable) question about how "sharp" edges really were on the longswords. Were, as thrusting weapons, less sharp? Were they basically unsharpened? Were they only sharp at the Feeble and not at the Forte? Assuming they were "less sharp" was there a reason for this (i.e., was the edge geometry designed to be able to deliver cuts to tough and/or armoured individuals and be able to maintain the edge as opposed to a more delicate yet sharper "razor" edge)?

A lot of the same questions pop up when people start looking at the Deggen techniques: "Why's he grabbing the blade? Wont he cut his hand?"

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Ahriman

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Why, we have some well preserved ones in museums and some has the chance to examine them closely. And from the level of corrosion it's not too hard to extrapolate original thicknesses of damaged or corroded ones. I mean if the edge is rotten deeply while the flat is just pitted, we know or suspect that it had a very thin edge.
About the sharpness I believe that it varied much. I'm almost totally sure that dedicated cutters were sharp on the whole length to allow for slicing on the whole length of the blade (if you want to use a cutter with a longer grip, you could get a long-bladed short-handled glaive like in the maciejowsky bible), while thrusters may be less sharp towards the quillons. I'm partially speaking banalities here, as anyone involved in European swords knows that thrusters have a greater distal taper which by its very nature gives a less acute edge even if the diamond cross-section is maintained. But even if the strong is unsharpened the weak must be at least a bit sharp at a length of average penetration depth to improve the thrusting ability.
After all, I believe this was a choice of the buyer and the maker. They didn't go there wanting to buy a Brescia Spadone after all - they either bought what they could or ordered totally costumized ones to fulfil their needs.
About the daggers... quite much of the better preserved ones have such a thick blade that it would never allow for sharp edges. While these are much less effective against unarmoured opponents, they are suitable for penetrating mail, thus they give the ability to fight armoured opponents as well. If I'd live back then and I'd have to choose between one that works perfectly against unarmoured opponents but fails miserably on the battlefield OR one that doesn't excel THAT much against unarmoureds while giving me the chance to kill both unarmoured and armoured opponents with stabs, I'd pick the second.
But we do have some manuals where the fighter is told to cut at the hand with the dagger, so able-to-cut daggers were used as well, but likely they were a bit less common among the better-armoured guys. I mean, if you know your armour you know what threatens you and prepare for the worst: why worry about unarmoured ones when a single punch to the face with a gauntlet is close to lethal?
 

MahaKaal

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Mike Loades approached my teacher and they travelled to India to shoot an episode for Mikes new series called Weapon Masters.

http://www.mikeloades.co.uk/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26&Itemid=43

My teacher took part in showing Mike how the Chakar (a razor edged throwing quoit) was used by the Sikhs, thrown on foot into the vanguards, from horses and from elephants. Mike demonstrates the use of the weapon, and then his colleage attempts to improve the weapon by modern day standards. The series will have 10 parts, and will be an hour long each. I believe this series is going to begin airing in Summer 2008.
 

lklawson

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Why, we have some well preserved ones in museums and some has the chance to examine them closely.
Bearing in mind that I don't really have a dog in this fight (e.g., it's all the same to me - I don't personally study any of the medieval or renaisance arts, preferring instead 18th-19th Century arts)...

The usual rejoinder I hear is that you can't really depend on museum pieces because they were all too frequently intended as show peices or Presentation peices. Thus they would not be representative.

Myself, personally, I don't know why manuals show to grip blades but still speak of cutting with them and don't really have what I consider a good guess for the reasons.

I'm partially speaking banalities here, as anyone involved in European swords knows that thrusters have a greater distal taper which by its very nature gives a less acute edge even if the diamond cross-section is maintained. But even if the strong is unsharpened the weak must be at least a bit sharp at a length of average penetration depth to improve the thrusting ability.
Sure. But when you get to Cut-and-Thrust swords (like Rapiers) a lot of those rules go out the window.

I guess I don't really like hard-and-fast "rules." Some jerk (like me) can always find an exception. :)

After all, I believe this was a choice of the buyer and the maker.
I suspect that you are right. It's as good a conclusion as any anyhow. :)

About the daggers... quite much of the better preserved ones have such a thick blade that it would never allow for sharp edges. While these are much less effective against unarmoured opponents, they are suitable for penetrating mail, thus they give the ability to fight armoured opponents as well.
Not to mention the very heavy clothing typical of the time and location.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

lklawson

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My teacher took part in showing Mike how the Chakar (a razor edged throwing quoit) was used by the Sikhs, thrown on foot into the vanguards, from horses and from elephants.
On the topic of Sikh martial arts, are you aware that I have republished an antique Gatka manual? PDF download is free.

Available at:
http://www.lulu.com/content/597512

While you're there, check out the other manuals & such that I've republished. The antiques are free for download.

Let us know when the series comes out and where (if anyplace) we can download podcasts of the episodes. Thanks!

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Ahriman

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I don't like overly wide categories as well, but it's easier to draw someone in with the "big picture", and if they are interested I can cite exceptions for days, and explain their origin and function. :D
...
About museum pieces... they are sometimes indeed parade pieces. Sometimes not. It's easier to distinguish when you can handle them, but visual analysis can give useful results sometimes as well. For example a chipped blade, or a blade clearly over-and-over sharpened is a sign of actual use. Blades dumped in rivers are sometimes but not always considered waste by the owner, and the remains of the edge or lack of it can be informative and so on.
...
The clothing had as much variety as the weapons... compare a 14th century gambeson and the typical wear of the Landsknecht.
 

Ahriman

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I was again a bit stupid, leaving out something I think would be important.
Parade pieces are made by competent smiths for competent fighters, and they would be seen by competent guys. While parade swords are oversized to the point of being nearly useless, a fighter proud of his abilities would vomit at a simple decorated iron bar posing as a sword, and it would cause strange looks from those who understand things. I haven't yet seen a blunt parade sword for example, and leaving the blade blunt is for sure making things MUCH easier on the smith.
Think about swordplay in Shakespeare's theatre, it was choreographed well enough to convince the viewer that the hero knows swordsmanship enough to BE the hero he portrays.
...
And again, I left something out. lklawson, I just finished reading through your article about using dagger techniques with a 'hawk. First of all, I really liked it. :D Second, it seems that you use the same approach as we do - namely transferring techniques from one weapon to the other. We do the same with poleaxe-halfswording. In single combat, when using the queue mostly while grabbing the 'axe not much below the croix, a surprising amount of halfswording goodies can be used.
In short, I'm glad that not only we utilize this approach. :)
 

lklawson

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I was again a bit stupid, leaving out something I think would be important.
Parade pieces are made by competent smiths for competent fighters, and they would be seen by competent guys. While parade swords are oversized to the point of being nearly useless, a fighter proud of his abilities would vomit at a simple decorated iron bar posing as a sword, and it would cause strange looks from those who understand things. I haven't yet seen a blunt parade sword for example, and leaving the blade blunt is for sure making things MUCH easier on the smith.
Think about swordplay in Shakespeare's theatre, it was choreographed well enough to convince the viewer that the hero knows swordsmanship enough to BE the hero he portrays.
Like I said, I don't have a dog in this fight.

I suppose that I could keep on arguing the fine details and citing my personal examples, but, to be completely honest, at this point I'd just be doing it to be, well, argumentative. :)

Not that I don't enjoy being argumentative from time to time, mind you. However, I generally save that for other forums.

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

Ahriman

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As I don't think that either of us stated something stupid, I could go on with it for days... :D My best friend and me sometimes have debates over very small bits; said debates usually last for hours and both we and those listening learn rather interesting things.
Trivially, if I said any idiocies here, anyone shall feel free to correct me for the sake of the readers - and of course for fulfilling my need for constant evolving. :)
 
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