historical swords

retr0spectre  asked:

Speaking of sexist fighting advice! There's this really great fiction writing advice blog I read years ago, written by a lady, shut down ages ago. But it claimed a few times that there was no way a woman could physically handle a zweihander or the like. I've always had a feeling that's nonsense, but confirmation from a good source such as yourself would be great.

Consider this: the zweihander weighs seven pounds. The display version is ten pounds. If you can lift a backpack crammed with textbooks, you can lift a zweihander. House cats weigh more than a sword.

The issue with the zweihander is length, not weight. It is not a heavy sword. No swords are actually all that heavy, because weight defeats the purpose of the weapon. The heavier it is, then the faster your arms wear out and grow tired. This is a terrible, terrible thing.

Combat is highly frenetic. An easy comparison is sprinting, and it’s not just a regular sprint but wind sprints. You gotta go, go, go. You need to be able to move. So, a heavy weapon is detrimental to the goal of being able to fight as long as possible. Especially when that weapon is designed to give you an edge in reach, and counter pole arms. You want to be able to swing the weapon around for long periods of time because if you wear out first, you’re dead.

Endurance, not strength, is the great necessity for any warrior. So, everything your PE teacher punished you with is what you’re looking for (except dialed to eleven). Once you understand fighting is about going for as long as possible between energetic bursts, combat starts to make more sense. This is also why most action movies feature the pressure cooker, the slow grind down of the protagonist by giving them little to no rest between fights as they accumulate more injuries.

So, when people say strength in regards to combat, they don’t usually mean physical strength in what you can lift. They mean how long you can go, what you can endure before finally keeling over. This gets misinterpreted, mixed in with the confusion by historians about parade swords (which were incredibly heavy and often the only surviving weapons) and we get the beefcake barbarian.

Like all swords, and even shields, the zweihander is awkward to use if you don’t know how to wield it or have never held one before. This has to do with its balance point. Swords feel heavier than they actually are when we hold them because the balance is midway up the blade and that strains the wrist, which strains the arm, and causes the whole thing to tilt forward. Sometimes, the sword even gets dropped. You’ve got to learn how to account for it.

When you’re looking at actual combat considerations on weight, that’s in the armor. Armor is comparatively heavy, the warrior has to get used to carrying around fifteen to twenty or so pounds, or more depending on what gear they’re lugging with them between battles. So, if you’ve got a character going into battle without plate then they’re not going to have those weight considerations. Even if they are, the point of training is to build your body up to be able to handle it.

At the end of the day, its important to remember that, historically, large scale combat has been about being able to get the most bodies on the field as possible. You ran the gamut between trained warriors and farmers yanked off their fields with a hastily cludged together pole arm thrust into their hands. There are plenty of people who went into battle with no freakin’ clue what they were doing. The concept of a military as we know it today is a mostly modern invention.

The mystique of the knight and others like them came with their training, which is… they had some. Whatever they’d have liked us to think, there was nothing different about them compared to the farmers except the money, the (sometime) power, the time, and the “luck” of their birth. In the end, it’s less about what humans can or can’t do but what society corrals them from learning. It’s easier to control your population when only the powerful have access to weapons, educations, and castles.

So, yeah, a woman can use a zweihander if she trains on the zweihander. It also won’t be her only weapon, mostly because one never knows when they’ll have to fight indoors. (That’s a joke, HEMA peeps. I know half-holds are a thing, and it’s not a katana so it can strike straight.)

-Michi

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

3

Massive Luristan Sword with Double Ear Pommel, 10th-9th Century BC

A magnificent, enormous bronze sword of the “double ear” pommel style, made using the lost wax casting technique by highly trained urban artisans for an elite member of a nomadic horse-riding clan. The blade was cast first, and then the handle was cast onto it - scans of similar swords have revealed tangs inside the handles. 4.75" W x 35.25" H (12.1 cm x 89.5 cm)

Keep reading

3

Miss Sanderson, aka Mme Vigny

Miss Sanderson also known as Mme Vigny taught fencing and she is known for teaching self-defense with a parasol. She was married to fencing master Pierre Vigny and along with him had many distinguished students.

“Queen Elizabeth of Romania (Carmen Eylva) is another royalty who has been taught fencing by Mme. Vigny. Her Majesty learned this art because she declared it gave her so much confidence in herself, especially when she was about to lecture. She has no fear whatever of assault, but Queen Elizabeth declares, that the self-possession which the knowledge of fencing has given her has proved to be an excellent antidote to stage fright and nervousness from which she used to suffer whenever she lectured.”

From the San Francisco newspaper “The Call”

anonymous asked:

How viable are non-magical flaming weapons? Like, coating the sword with a flammable substance and then setting it on fire. Would the trouble be worth it for the increased damage? Would they be more dangerous for the yielder? Would the fire negatively affect the blade?

No. At least not, that example. Also flaming arrows are out. The physics involved mean they either self-extinguish on launch, or they’ll ignite the user (I don’t remember which, and I kinda think it’s the former.)

That said, there are a lot of historical and modern military applications for flame.

The modern examples that come immediately to mind are napalm, dragon’s breath shells, and Molotov cocktails.

Napalm is, basically, jellied gasoline. It will burn, it will stick when it lands, and it will keep burning. Set something on fire and watch it melt. Napalm is, quite frankly, pretty terrifying stuff, and while the exact chemical formula is recent, the concept of launching burning liquids at people is not, going all the way back to Greek Fire. No one is exactly sure what Greek Fire was, but it would burn, could be lobbed onto ships or people you didn’t like, while burning, and would not stop burning once it arrived.

Molotov Cocktails are a medium ground here. You load a bottle up with alcohol, use an alcohol soaked rag as a fuse, light, and throw. There’s a little bit more going on here though. Alcohol solutions are only directly flammable if they’re more than 50% alcohol by volume. Most hard liquor is around 80 proof (40%), but, the vapors put off by the solution are still flammable (down to around 20%, if I remember correctly). So you can use a bottle of vodka as an improvised incendiary device. (Fair warning, it’s been a long time since I took a chemistry class, so those exact percentages may be a bit off.)

In spite of being named after a Russian Revolutionary, the idea of setting something on fire and chucking it someplace is not a new concept.

I know you can launch flaming payloads with a trebuchet, put them roughly where you want them, and set the area on fire. I’m not 100% sure of the military history, but it was used for centuries. Anything that will break apart on impact will spread the flame over a decent area and get a good blaze going.

Hot shots originally referred to cannonballs that were preheated before firing, with the intention of it igniting enemy structures or ships. This isn’t something we still think about (outside of the term “hotshot” seeping into idiomatic usage), but it did work, apparently.

The modern equivalent would be incendiary ammunition. There’s a lot of variety here, and they range from phosphorous rounds, which will ignite on contact with moisture, including the moisture in the air, to dragon’s breath shells which eject a mixture of highly flammable metals, such as magnesium, or potassium, which will ignite on contact with moisture.

Phosphorous was also a popular component for incendiary grenades, mortars, and other explosives. For example, one of the US military’s versions of a Molotov in WWII was produced by dissolving phosphorous and rubber (as a thickener) in gasoline). This mixture would self ignite on contact with the atmosphere (when the glass broke).

One variant of modern incendiary grenades use a Thermite variant (called thermate) to eject molten iron on detonation.

So far as it goes, most flare guns fire a 12 gauge shotgun shell. While the plastic ones won’t survive trying to put a conventional shell down range, the flare shell itself can result in horrific, and fatal, burns.

If you want a melee weapon to set someone on fire, you might be able to achieve that safely by heating the blade or using something like a thermal lance. The problem with simply coating a sword with oil and lighting it up is, they tend to drip. And, when you’re swinging the sword around, you’ll end up with burning oil getting splashed everywhere, including on the user. This is, “a very bad thing.”

Of course, shoving a torch in someone’s face is also a very bad thing, for them, and fits the definition provided.

So, the short answer is, yes there are a lot of real applications for setting someone on fire, especially when they’re all the way over there and walking is too much effort. Setting your own sword on fire is not a great idea, however.

-Starke

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

“It is not the responsibility of knights errant to discover whether the afflicted, the enchained and the oppressed whom they encounter on the road are reduced to these circumstances and suffer this distress for their vices, or for their virtues: the knight’s sole responsibility is to succour them as people in need, having eyes only for their sufferings, not for their misdeeds.” 

― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

anonymous asked:

Hi Samantha, I would like to ask for a method of practising more on reading the opponent and being slower. I feel like my skill in this is very unstable and escapes me sometimes. I feel like rushing is what I do most of the time, which usually ends up with me being dead.

Thanks for asking! This is a big subject. It is the result of what happens when people wear protective gear and lose fear of the blade, which makes it easy to become reckless when fighting. It is extremely hard to defend against an opponent who is reckless because they don’t hold back, but if you are smart in a real fight, then you will preserve some caution- especially with sharp blades. I don’t think that it’s your skill that varies, just the circumstances that you are learning in.

I think that you need a partner who wants to learn the same way, who is trying to develop the feeling in the blade. If one opponent moves faster then the other will follow so you really need to have someone who can agree to not try to “win” or try to be the fastest during a drill. You have to agree to move at the same speed, keep the bind until you have manipulated the other to a place that is safer for you. The goal is for you to learn together and not by taking advantage of the other in the relative safety of the drill.

This is all in aid of developing ‘fühlen’, or ‘feeling’ in the fight.

(For a good technical breakdown of fühlen within historical German martial arts, see Hugh Knight’s description here.)

Below: Half of the page from manuscript i:33 folio 20v, showing two fencers bound.

What I demonstrate when I teach is all centred on fencing from the bind. The historical treatises largely recommend binding and control, rather than rushing in. However the way that most of the modern sword-combat sports world* are fighting is the opposite, unfortunately. There is very little binding, even though it’s shown all the time in the fight books.

*Just what I mean: the wider international community of medieval sword-centred combat sports fighters, which comes in over a dozen forms and identities.

When fighting, if a person’s goal is to strike the other, they will rush in and be reckless. If their goal is to defend themselves from attack, they will be more conservative and efficient.

I think that part of the problem causing “rushing in” is that in modern competitive sword combat, we generally seek to score points in a hurry to win a bout.

If we changed the rules to be that we started with hit points and had to preserve them, it would make for more careful fencing. There would still need to be motivation for both parties to fight, but the focus would shift and reflect the more cautious approach seen in historical swordsmanship. The key is to still have a healthy fear of the other person’s blade. Then you learn how to be safe against the danger.

It’s the same as working with any hazardous equipment. In my industry, there are so many of these that we use all the time. For example, the table saw is a pretty devastating tool but you don’t replace it with a blunted or plastic version, or wear a lot of protection to work with it. Bulky clothes or thick gloves actually get in the way, and create more of a hazard than working with just a pair of earmuffs and safety glasses.

Instead, you just accept the potentially-fatal dangers of the tool and learn to work with it carefully, in a controlled, precise and mindful way.

Below: Carving polystyrene-foam into organic stone steps as a scenic sculptor for the film industry. I’m wearing chaps because the chainsaw can potentially kick-back, although since this is fine-detail work, the material is much softer than what I usually work with and less of a hazard. Note the fencing stance for stability, and the rotation of my body to agree with the angle of the cut.

I am not advocating an irresponsible approach to training with swords, rather to appreciate the full hazard they present and then learn to handle it.

What I’m talking about refers to historical swordsmanship in the context of self-defence, but there are many, many modern sword combat sports that exist that have already put safety factors in place to protect their athletes.

Not everyone can be good at sword sports. But anyone can be good at at fencing for self-defence.

I have experienced this kind of approach in more than a few sword clubs around the world. To see video examples of it in action you can check out Roland Warzecha/DIMICATOR’s YouTube channel, showing the active practice of swordsmanship using sharp steel and shields that as closely as possibly follow the specifications of museum artifacts.

Lastly, a philosophy that may help prevent rushing in:

You have to control your space, the circle (or sphere) around your body. This is the distance around you that you or your weapon can reach. Anything that is inside it is your space.

(This concept was developed extensively during the Renaissance though Italian and Spanish schools of fencing- the example below is from Sebastien Romagnan’s book on Destreza)

So when your opponent comes into that space, they can be in your control.
You are allowing them in. It’s the same for them- they are allowing you into their space. You just need to help them to make a mistake. Then once they make a mistake you can control them. Unless you also make a mistake, then you are both equal again. The best thing is to be efficient and make fewer mistakes than your opponent.

You can let someone into your space to trick them, or if you already have a better angle and they will struggle to defend. But it needs to be a clear decision to allow them that close to you.

If you practice understanding your circle (with and without a sword), and think about what you allow to come into it, it will give you an advantage when you practice with a partner. However, there is a lot you can do to improve your reflexes and self control for combat, explained in length by many other martial arts practitioners.

I hope that helps!

anonymous asked:

Some swordsmen I guess 'wear' their swords on their waist or strapped them to their backs. Most of the time people put them on their waist because it seems practical and rarely for the backs. Is there any pros and cons to the position of their swords? Or this is just merely aesthetic purposes?

“Wear” is the correct term.

Carrying a blade on your belt, (usually on opposite side from your dominant hand) is an entirely practical consideration. It’s not really possible to draw from the back in combat. You can do it, but it involves either some juggling of the blade, or unslinging the scabbard, pulling the blade, and then returning or discarding the scabbard.

Alternately, you can simply reach across your waist and draw a sword. Faster, simpler, easier to do in combat. It’s also going to be out of your way most of the time, while one on your back could become an issue. Finally, while drawing it, you’re putting the blade between yourself and your opponent almost instantly, which can have sometimes have applications in defensive situations.

It’s hypothetically possible to design some kind of scabbard that would hold a blade on the back for easy access. For instance, a sci-fi setting where they use strong electromagnets. It would also be possible to store a collapsing sword on the shoulder, or across the small of the back.

In the real world, slinging a sword (or other weapon) across your back usually meant you intended to ready it before combat, rather than during the melee. Remember, historically, swords were actually a sidearm, and almost never used as a primary weapon. So a soldier would need their sword someplace they could get to it quickly, should their primary weapon (usually a polearm or ranged weapon) fail.

If your character carried a sword as their primary weapon, for example a Zweihander or claymore, then it’s entirely possible they’d carry that across their back, with a sidesword on their waist while traveling. Before a battle, they’d unsling their primary, prepare it for use, and then put their scabbard with their kit. If they were ambushed on the road, it’s far more likely, they’d simply use their sidesword, rather than trying to get at a weapon on their back.

-Starke

This blog is supported through Patreon. If you enjoy our content, please consider becoming a Patron. Every contribution helps keep us online, and writing. If you already are a Patron, thank you.

Adventures in Swordplay #2: The Powerful Potential of Pummeling People with Pommels

Level Up!

I’ve being going to HEMA class more frequently lately; about twice a week, and practicing on my own whenever I can find the time. Thus, our instructor decided it was time to teach us how to use all parts of our swords, and not just the sharp bits.

When “Stick Them With the Pointy End” Isn’t Enough

When training with a longsword, one quickly learns to take advantage of the point, the true-edge, and the false edge in order to end an opponent. But did you also know that your quillons, grip, and pommel can also be used to effectively defeat your foes?

Today I learned that when one is in a bind, it is often more advantageous to strike with the blunt end of the sword rather than to disengage. Also, if one were to face an armored opponent, a blunt strike will cause much more damage with than a cut, since you can’t cut armor, no matter how many anime series tell you otherwise.

And did I mention that pommels make for a devastating long-ranged weapon as well? True story. ;D

Post-Carnage Report

Thus, we conducted the pommel-bashing drill several times. I, as always, was voluntold for the demonstration. And on the fourth repetition of eating a delicious pommel, the loaner helmet caved in, slamming parts of the grill and gorget against my forehead and throat respectively. OUCH.

My brain is somehow still intact, despite the blunt-force trauma. I certainly hope my new helmet (which I’m still waiting to get delivered) provides a better defense in future sessions. 

I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, because you bet your ass I’m still going to the next class.