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Ask me about swords.

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

  1. bob1thousand

    bob1thousand Minstrel

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    The sword was originally a katana that she modified and due to Japan's social bubble, I'm not sure they could have rapiers (this takes place before the 20th century)
     
  2. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    The correct option to get light stabs would actually be a spear. Much more reach and better handling. A super light katana with no cutting edge would be really weird to use.
     
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  3. bob1thousand

    bob1thousand Minstrel

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    huh, neat.
     
  4. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Auror

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    Forgive me but why couldn't she have a rapier before the 20th century? Japan was very outgoing during most of the Meiji period to my knowledge, an ally with the British Empire for some time and so on.

    If its set before the Meiji then of course what you say makes sense, but there would be half a century or so under Meiji with openess towards the rest of the world.
     
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  5. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    All of Japanese history except under the Tokugawa really. Up to the 10th century, straight narrow swords were also quite common in Japan.

    I just looked it up, and that show is actually set in the early 20th century. Getting a rapier from Europe would have been difficult mostly because they weren't being made anymore. Would have to be an antique or custom made.
    A European or American cavalry saber wouldn't have been a problem though. Probably plenty of those in trade posts and as military surplus in China.
     
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  6. Malik

    Malik Auror

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    This. For the admittedly narrow set of circumstances under which it was used, the rapier is just about the most perfect offensive and defensive weapon anyone could ask for. The rapier is highly specialized, and pretty much the pinnacle of weapons for its particular martial art, which is itself the result of over a hundred years of dedicated academic research and study. If the hero has one, someone else will, too; in a world where rapiers exist, rapier fighting will be the primary fighting style.

    The other piece of this is that left-hand dagger, gloved off-hand techniques, grappling, striking, buckler, use of the cape/cloak, etc. are all part of learning the rapier. Your character wouldn't just decide to learn one of them in addition to learning to fence. That's not how swordfighting works. If your character didn't understand at least the basics of how to fight with a rapier and dagger and someone came at them with a rapier and dagger, they'd die immediately. No teacher would allow their student out the door with a rapier on their belt until they had at least a familiarity with multiple techniques that they might face. (When students get killed dueling, it makes the instructors look bad. This was their livelihood, after all.)

    The positive side of this is that, for realism's sake, you don't have to worry about your character "picking up" dagger techniques later. The downside is that learning the rapier is rather like learning the cello. There's an encyclopedic amount of knowledge involved. It's not something anyone masters quickly.
     
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  7. Pemry Janes

    Pemry Janes Sage

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    There is another weapon if you're looking solely to puncture an opponent, the estoc.
     
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  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Out of curiosity other weapons like the axe and mace must have had similar distinctions. Is there a word for a “bastard axe” or a “long mace”?
     
  9. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    I know that at least for woodcutting axes, there are literally dozens of different types. And woodworkers can tell you exactly which ones are best for what jobs.

    From my understanding, in most times and places and in most historical sources, people talking about swords simply call them "swords". Because in their time and place, there was just one or two allrounder types of blades that everyone with a sword was using. No need to have different names for different shapes from other places or other times that nobody was using where you lived.
    Most modern sword terminology is modern. They are words that were made up, or at least strictly defined by historians who wanted to talk about all swords from all times and places. Of course you could do that with any types of weapons, but anything except swords isn't cool enough to deserve the attention of serious historians.

    I personally think you don't need any more words than sword and saber. And yes, I would call a katana a saber. Curved with one edge. That's a saber. :p
     
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  10. bob1thousand

    bob1thousand Minstrel

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    oops, i meant to say before the 21st century.
     
  11. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    I have a question about blade length: it's a detail I'd like to get expanded upon for eventual plot purposes, so those of you who are better immersed in the subject than I am, please chime in your opinion.

    I have a female MC who has to pass a sword trial for career purposes. The career requires she be competant and proficient with swordsmanship, but this is not a battle-oriented career. Carrying a sword is anticipated as 85% personal/ self-defensive capacity, 15% actual combat. The combat style she is learning is blended, not strictly HEMA, and she starts off training with either an arming sword or a bastard sword equivalent. She is training hard, so she has the prerequisite strength and stamina, but the story is focused more on refining technique.

    I'm writing the scenes up to the actual swordsmanship trial, and I need to get some informed opinions.

    Her instructor is trying to get her to 'upgrade' to a fully two handed, longer-bladed sword to better compliment the fact that she is a female fighter that behaves and strategizes more defensively (much to her instructor's frustration, who sees her potential as a better, decisive offensive strategist). A longer blade means more distance between her and an opponent (likely a more powerful male opponent), and a longer blade length means slightly more mass, momentum and leverage with every properly aligned strike. Which, in a real life or death encounter, might be just the advantage she needs.

    Would you agree with the instructor's assessment? That for females in general, that strategizing her skills to use a longer blade length to keep her attackers just that much further away is a good advantage to employ?

    Also, Scribes, follow along in the conversation because I'm simultaneously brainstorming along with the information provided. Feel free to jump in and point out anything I should also take into consideration. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
  12. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Hrrm, first off... swords for self defense will tend (historically) to be more arming sword (or even smallsword/rapier depending on period) and certainly not in the 2handed range, but with the options stated the arming sword is more likely. The strength of a two-handed sword is its offense, IMO, the ability to beat through armor. Now, to quality that, a rapier is not a short-bladed weapon. Reach is a strength along with speed. In a street fight, give me the rapier or even a transitional cut-and-thrust sword. Second, 2-handers tend to lean toward ages where people are wearing heavy armor because you need the big heavy to get through the armor and you are wearing heavy armor and that is acting a bit like your shield. A longsword dual with no armor is going to be short unless they just circle each other, LOL. A lot also depends on environment, is she defending herself in the city or in wide open spaces? A zweihander in a cramped alley is far from worthless, but it isn’t ideal, either.

    I’m not sure if there is a precise answer here, but if reading it my eyebrows would raise unless your instructor really sells it, heh heh.

    Mind, I’m just piecing together my limited experience. And I’d say upgrading from an arming sword to longsword would make more sense than going to a true 2-hander.

     
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  13. Gray-Hand

    Gray-Hand Minstrel

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    The logic that her instructor is using favours a rapier.

    It’s a long sword that can generate plenty of force, has tons of range -a one handed lunge with a rapier covers more distance than a two handed stroke of a zweihander.

    Rapiers are just a really effective sword for an era where shields are out of fashion, but armour still exists. Just a good all round sword.
     
  14. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    She is 'anticipating' more open spaces than cramped alleys and taverns, as where she is hoping to go is remote wilderness and sparsely populated... so, maybe highway bandits and drunken rabble-rousers are going to be an occassional problem. The armor of would be opponents is going to be all over the place, but likely not full plate armor. ( Mostly because there really aren't standing armies roaming around in full plate anymore. Fighting styles have... changed. )

    She can have access to any number of and styles of sword, and carry other weapons like daggers. But, part of the reason for this conversation with her instructor is that if she passes this test, she will earn a custom sword commission. So, trying to figure out what "kind" and proportion of sword is going to suit her current (and expanded future) fighting styles and needs is something her instructor would be helping her with...

    Maybe the conversation could focus on upgrading from a one handed or smaller arming sword, to something with a bit more ...versatility? That I would definetely be open to suggestions... what would be a good, "all purpose" kind of sword for both open and closer-quarters combat?

    Eventually she does pass the test, but due to complications does not get her custom sword... so she ends up stealing one of her ancestor's which would have been from the times of heavier battle/ combat and plate armor...
     
  15. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    If she’s looking to get through armor I’d say the conversation is around moving from an arming sword to longsword. In a pinch she could use a shield with a longsword, so the versatility is a boon.

     
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  16. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    Thank you for the suggestion... I'll have to look into it. Those are all good points of consideration for sure.

    He could be trying to convince her to switch over to mastering the rapier and she is reluctant. I don't have the opportunity at the moment to really test different swords again, but from what I can remember was that my own instinct is to want the option to use two hands to hold and wield a weapon if necessary. A rapier is almost always a one-handed sword... If I'm remembering correctly, the Florentine style uses a rapier in one hand a dagger in the other...which could be another idea he's trying to get her to explore. Hmm.
     
  17. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    It mainly depends on what kinds of swords are available to you technology wise and what makes sense to have from the perspective of how much armour your opponents usually wear. This very much determined what swords were common.

    That said, for a woman (or shorter person in general), I would not go with a two-hander. Yes, you get extra range. But that extra range comes with extra weight as well, and you also need to wear that sword somewhere. Now, 2-handers are not as heavy and unwieldy as movies want us to believe. But they are significantly heavier then shorter swords and the point of balance lies a bit further away from the hilt (which means that it hangs down a bit more because there's a bigger leaver).

    So, for a weaker person I would focus on a sword that favors speed and accuracy over strength and reach. Also, for your purpose, you want a flexible weapon that can be used in a lot of different environments and situation. Which could be a rapier or a longsword, which perhaps doesn't sound very exotic, but it's a versatile weapon. Of course, if you want reach, go for a spear or a staff.
     
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  18. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

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    In answer to the original question, I think that yes, the instructor is correct. Broadly speaking, she would be best off with the longest weapon that she could practically carry, regardless of whether she's a man or woman. Of course, the operative word here is practical. I believe short swords were used not because they were amazing weapons, but because they were easy to carry without dragging on the ground.

    Here's a guy who knows a lot more than me who addresses the subject directly:
     
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  19. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Inkling

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    And able to be concealed, at least to some degree. In more than a few places, there were also laws about how long a sword one might carry, the Italian city-states e.g.
     
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  20. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Inkling

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    In this setting, there are restrictions are on blade length unless you are commissioned to carry a sword. Anyone can carry knives, daggers and small blades up to a length somewhere around ...16".

    Outside the realm, restrictions vary wildly in other kingdoms and territories. So, concealment isn't a big deal (until it is)... but my MC will have bigger problems to worry about by that point.
     
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