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 Shadow 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.
     
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  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 Shadow 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.
     
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  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 Shadow 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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  11. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    [​IMG]

    I'll just show myself out.
     
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    I've no idea what the hell that is or what to say... so, I'll just "like" it.
    [QU
    OTE="Malik, post: 290936, member: 2575"][​IMG]

    I'll just show myself out.[/QUOTE]
     
  13. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    Apparently it's an anime sword pillow that you can cuddle with at night. Which would make it the most heartbreaking thing I've ever seen.
     
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  14. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Wow, that's worse than I ever imagined. Won't even go into potential Freudian interpretations.
     
  15. D. Gray Warrior

    D. Gray Warrior Master

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    What influences the design of a blade? What practical pros and cons are there of a traditional European steel sword compared to something like a khopesh, scimitar or katana? I'm no expert on the subject, but I suspect that the curve has something to do with structural support or getting in a little closer to the enemy?
     
  16. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    The curve in a katana was a result of the way it was made.

    The edge of a sword needs to be hardened much more than the spine, and in Japan, this was accomplished by packing the spine in clay before tempering. During quenching, the difference in cooling rates creates a curve in the blade.

    European swords were often made by welding steel edges onto an iron spine to accomplish effectively the same type of differential hardening.
     
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  17. Malik

    Malik Shadow Lord

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    As far as pros and cons, let's start here. These are Japanese guards and European longsword guards.

    As you can see, the fundamentals involved with killing a human being using a long sharp piece of metal are pretty much standard. There are things that, well, just work.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    The curve of the blade... this has been theorized on for some time, not including the construction of the katana which essentially forces a curve. I don’t think there is an absolute answer. Whether using a straight or curved blade on a sword in cases where it was a distinct choice, could very well boil to what might be considered a “fashion choice”. I’ve never seen any conclusive evidence of either being particularly superior for varying purposes. I always assumed there might be some advantage to a curve in mounted combat, because of how common sabres are in cavalry, I’ve never tested a sabre vs straight blade from horseback, but it might be logical that, with the speed of the horse included in a slash, the curve would ease keeping hold of your weapon. With the straight weapon being a more jarring hit with the extra power of a charge. But, I’ve never seen anything conclusive in this.

    At one time, I think people thought the khopesh was a POS weapon, more for ceremony than fighting with its wild shape and curve. Much like mail was thought of as junk until they actually tested the stuff, LOL.

    The notion that one culture is a superior “swordsman” culture always kind of bugged me, a bit like katana worship. It never made sense. The above illustrations point out just how “basic” the basics are.

    A tangent, testing my failing memory, part of the reason for folding the steel in Japan was due to inferior iron, the folding process beating out impurities. Similar to the Vikings and their bog iron, or even the Celts, using pattern welding techniques. People were damned smart even back then.
     
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  19. Northern

    Northern Apprentice

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    I'm trying to come up with a description for a sword that would be considered functional, but also ornamental. Mainly in regards to the material it would be made of. It will be used by a wealthy, but minor noble, and carried mostly for show.

    The best I can come up with would be a regular steel sword with artistic etchings on the blade and a handle made from carved ivory and wrapped in silver wire.

    I'm not sure how available those materials would be, or if they are history accurate at all, but it seems like something that the common folk would recognize as being out of the ordinary quality wise and valuable, but not something over the top like a golden blade encrusted in jewels.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2018 at 12:51 AM
  20. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Dark Lord

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    Well, take a look at reality. Head for a website such as Fagan Arms, where they sell a wide range of antique weapons. I always like browsing their stuff, and even bought a couple axes from the Carpathians which inspired the axes a character carries in Eve of Snows, LOL. If you head into their high end weapons, you can find out pretty quick what passed for a wealthy/high ranking man’s weapon. And of course, much would depend on the era and style of your world.

    Here’s an interesting piece, as an example:

    VERY RARE ITALIAN RAPIER C.1650

     
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