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Longsword and katana

Discussion in 'Research' started by Aldarion, Oct 8, 2019.

  1. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    OK, I had been thinking. For single-handed swords, pommel design is not that important. As a result, there is a wide variety of them, and in fact many are designed to protect the hand.

    Hand-and-a-half and two-handed swords are a different story. I have a bokken and a European longsword plastic training replica - for those interested, models are here and here (latter is only an approximation). Forget the Orientalist "cutting battle tanks with a katana" hype; longsword is a much better design. Mostly because of three things:
    1) Pommel
    2) Crossguard
    3) Double-sided blade

    To start with a pommel, reason why it is so important is that it offers much more grip flexibility. Now, longsword's handle is technically - in this particular model - shorter than that of a katana. For katana, I usually use two-handed grip with one hand of space between. For longsword, with normal grip hands are next to each other, which can make some actions with a sword rather awkward.

    Enter pommel. Pommel in this model adds a whole another hand of a space on the grip: when I use handle-and-pommel grip, hands are spaced about as much as on katana. Difference here is that pommel is much more forgiving than katana grip. While katana can be maneuvered around easily, addition of a pommel in European longsword means that hand naturally shifts around it, making maneuvers that would be weird in a katana rather manageable.

    Second difference is crossguard. In katana, tsuba is just a flat piece of steel (decorated or otherwise). In some ways, it does protect somewhat better hand protection, though that depends on a grip - if you move your hand further away so that it is not straight next to the crossguard, longsword suddenly has hand protection as good as if not better than a katana. However, what I found is that - with hand next to the hand guard - katana is much more restrictive. With a crossguard, you can easily let finger(s) slide over the flat of the blade in order to facilitate certain maneuvers.

    Secondly, crossguard has an offensive application. It is much more easy to use for a bind, to lock down the enemy blade. Crossguard itself can be used to push at the opponent. And if the enemy is in armour, you can just grip the blade and use pommel and crossguard the beat the crap out of the opponent. No such luck with katana.

    Third, the blade. Katana is a single-edged cut-and-thrust design. It is a very good weapon, but single edge means that it is limited in certain maneuvers. Longsword has two-sided blade, allowing maneuvers which would not be possible with katana, such as reverse cut.

    Anybody else with experiences to share?
     
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  2. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

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    I am kind of surprised that there were not a lot of samurai with smashed and missing fingers around to demand the invention of a cross guard. I think the that feature alone is worth preferring the long sword. Each have their uses...I would take any.
     
  3. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

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    Hello Aldarion!

    I have been a great admirer and even a fanatic of the Longsword, for many years. This particular style of sword is often part of my Fantasy stories, even those that do not take place in any kind of Medieval or Renaissance setting. The protagonist of my Victorian-like story Alice into Darkness carries a longsword, even though no precise description of the weapon is given, and also she is more than capable of using it to deadly effect.

    The perfect sword design in my opinion, even though I admit that different swords have different advantages.

    I have a longsword myself by the way, a dream come true even if it's only the Italian Longsword design by the Cold Steel company. I know that most high-budget sword enthusiasts think very lowly of this particular blade, but I love it! Sadly I cannot practice any cutting with it, since I do not have a private place large enough to allow longsword maneuvers, but my blade is very sharp and scary.

    Any sword maintenance tips that you recommend?

    The powerful Mages in my oldest trilogy of Fantasy novels carry magical longswords of various styles, and I have drawings of them but the designs certainly need some correction in order to look more realistic.

    Do you know if longswords already existed in the Fourteenth century?
     
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    I do not have a steel longsword, so I cannot really give any maintenance tips. Best find some HEMA forum and ask there.

    Longswords actually evolved in 14th century. So answer is yes, but likely only after 1350s.

    You have some docs here:
    https://users.wpi.edu/~jforgeng/Forgeng_Introduction_to_Historical_Combat.pdf
     
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  5. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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    Style of combat is going to be the biggest decider in the design of any sword, along with gear. The height of longsword fighting would be in full plate, because the shield becomes less important when covered in a skin of steel, LOL. A longsword dual with no armor is going to be very short. The Viking sword didn’t have much a handguard in part at least due to the fighting style with a shield... your sword hand is going to remain behind that shield if you’re smart. A good gauntlet will also deflect most blows that are going to come in at oddball angles to begin with.

    One really isn’t all that superior to another until you start getting into uses and fighting styles.
     
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  6. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    I am aware. But a lot is metallurgy as well, and some is tradition.
     
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  7. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    I use these images in a talk I often give at fantasy conventions:

    Ox.jpg Fool.jpg Plow.jpg VomTag-Posta.jpg
     
  8. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

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  9. Malik

    Malik Archmage

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    Biomechanics are a thing.
     
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  10. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    In the end, a sword is a sharp, pointy stick. And humans aren't any different between asia and europe. So a way of swinging your sharp pointy stick which works well in one place is bound to work well in the other place as well.

    What always surprises me is that the whole martial arts history of europe has been forgotten (for the larger populace that is), while the asian one is glorified.
     
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