Ask me about swords.

Discussion in 'Research' started by Anders Ämting, Jan 20, 2012.

  1. psychotick

    psychotick Dark Lord

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    Hi,

    Not having any great knowledge of swordsmanship, I'd just say that I thought the reverse grip on a knife was done to look cool in movies. However with a knife I can see it being of some use if you're punching. Fingers wrapped around a hilt make for a bigger, possibly harder hitting fist.

    As for a short sword in a reverse grip? The only thing I can think of is if you were fighting with two swords, in which case having the reversed sword in your off hand might make a better deflective weapon. But it still wouldn't be as good as a shield.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  2. Russ

    Russ Istari

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    There are rare circumstances where using a short sword in reverse grip makes some sense. IT is hard to explain in writing, but using a short sword or long dagger that way can offer certain defensive and counter advantages, especially when in armour, and usually limited to when the attacker has larger weapon. If we were in the same room together I could demonstrate the crossed dagger defense against the fendente cut while armoured, but it would take me a long time to write out.

    If you look at Fiore's work on sword vs dagger you can see the dagger used in reverse grip quite often and the same could be done with a short sword.
    Fiore de'i Liberi ~ Wiktenauer ~☞ Insquequo omnes gratuiti fiunt

    Also if you look at Fiore's work and the posta (guards) know as Full Iron Door Doubled and Crossed as well as Middle Iron Gate Doubled and Crossed you can see how the use of the reverse grip is set up with the long dagger, and if you understand the mechanics of such a fight you can pretty quickly understand how a short sword could be used in the same way.

    Fiore de'i Liberi ~ Wiktenauer ~☞ Insquequo omnes gratuiti fiunt

    But it is way easier to just demonstrate!

    With a knife or dagger, the reverse grip was the medieval standard for a number of reasons. Primarily because the weapon was used to stab people fatally, not to cut them like the kids in West Side Story. A dagger or knife fight where the opponents are trying to stab each other is a very different thing than a knife fight where two people are trying to cut each other.
     
  3. Malik

    Malik Scribal Lord

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    The key here is that a sword wasn't heavy, even a fairly large one; longswords weighed ~3 lbs., warswords maybe 4, and arming swords--the knightly equivalent of sidearm--weighed very little; maybe ~2.5 lbs.

    Fighting with a sword doesn't take much muscle or physical power, because swordsmanship has almost nothing to do with "swinging a sword." Swordsmanship is much more like dance. Footwork, kinetics, and body placement are 90% of it. Mostly, you need to get your body moving correctly, and then the sword does its thing, and you just have to make it go in the direction you intended it to. The actual mechanical act of lifting the sword and swinging it isn't all that demanding. A good sword, even a heavy warsword or longsword, floats in your hand.

    "Never give a sword to a man who can't dance."
    -- Confucius


    Don't get me wrong; swordsmanship takes physical power. Any kind of combat does. (At least, if it doesn't take power, power helps. A lot.) This is important because if you have someone who doesn't have much physical strength, and they get into a knife fight, they're going to die. Dagger play is basically MMA with something sharp. Trips, throws, joint locks, kicks, punches, blocks, and the knife or dagger as a finishing move. It takes strength, and the accompanying coordination that you build from developing strength, to deliver explosive movements and to build physical speed. You could--technically--knife fight as a game of finesse, but I wouldn't want to.



    Similarly, swordplay was mostly wrestling, with punching and kicking thrown in. Almost nobody writes it that way, but that doesn't make it any less true. (I write my fight scenes this way, and I get the occasional strident email from a reader who thinks I don't know anything about swordsmanship. So, pick your poison.)

    Note that Richard Mardsen, below, is not someone you'd consider a physical powerhouse. He's one of these raily, endurance-athlete guys, though, and he gets a lot of mileage out of having long limbs and lots of leverage. He whips some serious ass with a big freakin' sword.



    Getting back to your original question: yes, you could wield a small sword in a reverse grip, and there are situations in which it would be beneficial. However, if your character is relying on arm strength to swing a sword, (s)he's doing it wrong.
     
    A. E. Lowan and Guy like this.
  4. Rose Torres

    Rose Torres Acolyte

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    Good morning,
    I am looking for some guidance. One of my characters is called a Sword Master. I went with the flow of my writing but yet I have no idea what type of swords I should have her be experienced in. The way the story is going she is looking for some special material to increase the swords capacity (not sure if i am using the right word) to cut through anything per se. What I would love is the path to where I should be doing my research. I thank you very much.
     
  5. Malik

    Malik Scribal Lord

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    The type of sword that your character uses is going to be dependent on the type of armor that she expects to face. This is why most knights carried more than one sword. They'd have a huge warsword to use against people in armor, and an arming sword that was usually extremely sharp that they'd use against people in no armor.

    Swords don't cut through armor. They never have. They never will. People wore armor because it works.

    Swords were designed to injure or compromise the person wearing the armor, but you didn't do that by slicing through the armor. You usually did it by breaking their arm or bashing their helmet in and then stabbing them in a lesser-armored spot--say, the armpit or the back of the knee--a few times. Knocking him down and jumping up and down on him works really well, too.

    [​IMG]
    "Stop hitting yourself! Stop--oh, wait, that's me."
    My books hinge on modern-day knights--one a stuntman for fantasy films and the other a competitor not unlike the maniacs in the gif above--who take modern-steel weapons and armor into a pre-industrial world and proceed to raise holy hell. Their swords will demolish iron armor, especially some of the crap iron and slag that the locals produce by literally beating swords out of rocks by hand.

    However, that's not a function of anything special added to their steel. Steel is steel; it's iron and charcoal, heated up and hammered flat. A sword in my series is made from the leaf spring on a 1971 Cadillac. What makes their swords so damned dangerous, though, is a combination of hardening, tempering, and magnificent edge geometry, all of which are a byproduct of modern manufacturing processes. I don't know how you'd replicate that short of magic.

    Their swords still don't slice through armor. Swords don't do that. They never did.

    In Book II, a new villain from Earth comes along who has a longsword with a point specifically designed to break mail that will stab right through an iron hauberk like drywall. He still can't slice a man in a hauberk in half with it, anime-style, though. And when he runs up against the MCs in their steel armor, it just bounces off.

    That said, a good, heavy sword with the correct edge and a forgiving temper will ruin iron armor, even iron plate, while beating the everloving shit out of the person wearing it. And that's pretty much what it was supposed to do.

    You can use some kind of magical device or unobtanium or something to make a sword into effectively a lightsaber, if that's what your story needs. However, this is Research; that should probably go under Worldbuilding.

    I should add too, that just once, I'd love to see an entire enemy army, facing a hero with a cuts-through-anything sword, take off all their armor. Because you're not going to wear armor if it won't do you any good. Armor sucks. (We need an "Ask Me About Armor" thread. Seriously.)

    If she finds a way to produce swords that can cut through anything, and if it's reproducible, the entire armor trade will come to an abrupt halt, and an entirely new form of swordsmanship will emerge using the new, magical, lightsaber swords, and it will probably look like one of those non-contact martial arts with the ribbons and aerial kicks. Not that that wouldn't be awesome.

    So, to your original question about what type of sword she'd use:

    First of all, you'll need to determine the technology level of the area where the story takes place. That will tell you what kind of armor she'd face. The armor would tell you what kind of sword she'd use; history is your guide, here, because soldiers used whatever worked. Then add handwavium and have fun.
     
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  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Malik is spot on here... but for the fun of it, it would be possible to have a sword in a magical or magic/tech world that is something of the equivalent of primitive firearms in its effect upon armor manufacture. There is this idea that once guns came along, they couldn't make armor to stop bullets. This isn't true in respect to old-time firearms. Stopping an armor piercing 308? Not so much. BUT, it was prohibitively expensive, so the cost/benefit analysis was performed, LOL. So, if you had a world where the manufacture of the superior armor is affordable to one degree or another, you could add in another layer fun to the system.

    Considering how mail functions in dispersing energy, and layered with thick linens... I wonder what old black powder firearms would do against that. Hmm.
     
  7. Rose Torres

    Rose Torres Acolyte

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    Malik Thank you for the information. Not only was it informative but it was fun to read.
     
    Malik likes this.
  8. Rose Torres

    Rose Torres Acolyte

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    Thank you Demesnedenoir. That also was very informative. I did not take into account armor. Truthfully I did not see my characters using armor. The story is a fantasy taking place in an island (or so they thought) and progressing into the depths of Hell to hopefully come back. The swords I was hoping to seek are made at the only blacksmith near the village who is also a cave dweller...Thank you both again for taking the time out to be very informative.
     
  9. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Low armor settings are fun, personally. Turtle shell helmets, armor made from wood, so much fun stuff... shark tooth swords, LOL. Those are wicked looking, and against bare skin couldn't be fun.

     
  10. Malik

    Malik Scribal Lord

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    Thank you. My blog (linked in my sig) has about five years' worth of entries on exactly this kind of stuff. I did most of my research for my series in person, trying my hand at nearly everything I reference in my books, from blacksmithing to BASE jumping.

    The authors on this forum have built a fantastic repository of knowledge, and the search function is also pretty solid.

    Good luck, and I look forward to reading your work someday.
     
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