1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

True Sword Fighting

Discussion in 'Research' started by Ankari, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Malik

    Malik Auror

    1,092
    1,323
    163
    Hanging point out of tierce and sixte would be seconde and octave, respectively.

    I need to quit posting before my second cup of coffee.
     
  2. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,532
    1,587
    163
    Second video about sums it up. Something like a dozen fights in less than a minute, including the setups.

    One, Two, Three...end of that time, serious fight between pro's, one guy is either dead, hurting real bad, or running like blazes.

    Which is how I write my fight scenes.

    I don't really hold with duels that go on for minutes or hours, unless something really weird is in effect. Or unless one guy takes off running, but thats something else.
     
    Guy likes this.
  3. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    202
    43
    That's one of my major issues, too. From what I've seen, sword fights will go on for a long time if the fighters are very well armored or very incompetent. Otherwise, it'll end pretty quickly.
     
  4. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

    3,030
    471
    83
    In "duels" during a battle, I agree. But saying that every sword fight by experient opponents must be short seems like an overstatement to me. You're imposing arbitrary rules that don't reflect every situation for no reason, and you're the only one who will lose with it.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  5. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    202
    43
    Must be? No. Conditions under which they last long are when the fighters are very well armored, are too incompetent to score decent hits, or are using weapons that fail to inflict enough trauma to stop an opponent. Read about the duels Miyamoto Musashi fought. In most cases it was as simple as his opponent swinging and missing, Musashi swinging back and hitting, and it was over. And in several of those duels Musashi was using a wooden practice sword while his opponent was using a sharp steel one, yet they ended within a couple of strikes, and in Musashi's favor. Why? Because he was good. Duels involving rapiers and small swords could go on for a while largely because the duelists were not professional warriors and lacked the skill of someone like Musashi or their narrow bladed weapons failed to stop their opponents.
    No, I'm making a conclusion based on historical accounts, experience and observation. Look at a fist fight between two skilled fighters. Even though they're skilled, they tend to score frequent hits on each other. Now put a box cutter in each one's hand. Things are going to get a lot uglier. Now replace the box cutters with swords three to four feet long and you can see that this fight isn't going to take long.
    Duels fit two of the criteria I mentioned above - the weapons often fail to inflict enough trauma to stop an opponent (read the historical accounts and there are numerous instances of men fighting on after being stabbed with a rapier or small sword) and what I would classify incompetence at fighting - restricting oneself with rules. Rapiers and small swords were civilian weapons designed specifically for civilian duels, where each man is armed identically and following a set of rules. Someone fighting for his life and restricting himself with notions of "fair" or "unfair" is, in my opinion, an incompetent fighter who will get his lunch eaten when he comes up against someone who has no compunctions about combining kicking, punching, grappling, and smashing with the pommel with his cuts and thrusts. Moreover, most duelists were courtesans rather than professional warriors. I know of three or four historical accounts of men armed with rapiers going up against opponents armed with war swords or staffs. In every instance, the rapier man got his ass kicked. What worked on the battlefield usually worked on the dueling field, but what worked on the dueling field usually didn't work on the battlefield. Therefore, a fighter using dueling methods is using an inferior method and is therefore incompetent.

    A lot of it also comes down to the audience's taste. I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to fight scenes. I practice martial arts, I've got an M.A. in European History and wrote my thesis on why rapiers became popular, so I'm coming at this from a different perspective than most other readers. I could go on and on about how badly movies portray gunfights, and they're the same way with sword fights. And, sadly, movies are where the general population gets their information about things like sword fights and gun fights, and they carry that with them when they read novels.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  6. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    Great epic series written by Eiji Yoshikawa, by the way.
     
  7. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    436
    83
    Thinking back on this, it's great stuff, but it clashes with Drama 101 that a good scene usually wants to be stretched out.

    --In fact, at least half of the absurdities we see in battle scenes come down to the author not accepting (or not realizing) how many things in a fight would end it too quickly for straightforward drama. "Stormtrooper marskmanship" could be the symbol for how hard many people's storytelling works to avoid, well, accuracy, just to drag things out.

    Still, there are wrinkles we could use to get longer fights, that play off that fact instead of deny it. Such as:

    • Multiple fights. The MC's moving through a battlefield, wood, whatever, watching for the next enemy. Each fight could be this short, but keeping alert and how each enemy placement and battle changes the next (starting with, don't they yell for help?) make it an ongoing process however a fight goes.
    • Stall! Sometimes one opponent wants to run away, or get the other talking or would rather savor (or avoid) the killing blow than get down to business. Though it's a lot harder if the other does want to fight, or suspects he's being played. (Classic fight in the Amber books: one guy wounded but barricading himself in a corner, to give his guards time to beat the door down and rescue him.)
    • Heavy armor. I normally like the "LOTR kit" of a hero geared to bypass more enemies than he fights, but what about the hero and the time that he can suit up? Or he's got advanced magic, if that doesn't come off as invulnerable. (I still like the very first Gundam fight, where the novice hero could barely move in his super-machine, but he won because his enemy couldn't even dent him.)
    • Weak weapons or fighters. If one side is less effective, can you zero in on ways that's still a threat? A widow tries for revenge on a badly wounded soldier; a cell block of convicts try to get past one armed guard; a newly-spawned monster could be immensely powerful but mad and half blind.
    • (Or, just let the fight be quick. Focus on the buildup before swords are drawn, knowing that because you write this way there'll be few second chances if it goes further. Or use a complete ambush, for shock rather than suspense.)

    Yeah, there's room for realism in fights.
     
    teacup, Thalian and Feo Takahari like this.
  8. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,532
    1,587
    163
    I use this one. I have a fight scene in 'Labyrinth' where the MC actually engages in two or three quick 'duels' in rapid succession (his side is out numbered, but the terrain prevents the enemy from simply overwhelming him).

    In a nonbattlefield situation (not between armies, or elements thereof), this one has merit.

    This is one of the covered exceptions. Plate armor or its equivilent can stand a lot of blows and doesn't have much in the way of weak points. Two knights in more or less equal armor...it comes down to an endurance contest. Heavy armor, does, however, slow the knight down somewhat. A lightly armored foe with good training and quick reflexes *might* be able to play 'dodge' for a while.

    Again, I think this falls into one of the covered exceptions.

    A valid approach.
     
  9. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    436
    59
    28
    Couldn't a "duel" between two extremely skilled opponents go on for a while though? Or at least longer than a few moments?
     
  10. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,532
    1,587
    163
    Not unless both were very well armored OR unless something weird was going on.
     
  11. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    202
    43
    Yes, but for the reasons already mentioned - the two fighters are well armored or their weapons are ineffective. Rapiers and small swords had narrow blades incapable of hacking off a limb or splitting a skull. They lacked stopping power. They were good for stabbing, but again, the wounds inflicted by the narrow blades often failed to stop an assailant. In historical accounts of duels, there are numerous accounts of men taking multiple stab wounds through the body and continuing to fight. There are also several accounts of them taking a single stab wound and dropping dead instantly. But I've read lots of records of duels and I've yet to see one that went on and on, up staircases, out onto balconies, across rooftops, etc.

    As far as writing fiction goes, one could lengthen the battle by having the two fighters adhere to a strict set of rules, like a boxing match, or one or both fighters are sadistic bastards who enjoy dragging things out and deliberately withhold a killing strike. A good example of this and what I think is one of the better duels in movies is the final duel in Rob Roy with Liam Neeson.

    Another possibility is to have a short, authentically portrayed duel but play up the tension beforehand - the hero painfully aware of time running out, having to face the music, knowing he may never again taste good food or sweet wine, listen to the rain or feel the wind, or hold his lover in his arms.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2013
    Jabrosky likes this.
  12. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,580
    424
    83
    I like this idea. I like awesome fight scenes as much as any other dude, but their awesomeness always increases when you have a lot emotionally at stake.
     
  13. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    436
    83
    It's also possible both sides are taking their time about pressing the attack. They stand a half-step further back, make testing moves that don't connect, and end up looking at least a little like an Errol Flynn slash-and-quip fest but mostly made up of pauses between attacks.

    But it's hard to justify that, and almost impossible to drag it out to the length most people assume a fight is going to take: if either fighter decides to get serious, you're back to seconds-to-live. So this only makes sense if they've got more history between them (or maybe more fascination with sword moves) than they have a desire to win--or live--until they've worked out those issues. Or one does, and the other knows it and is stalling--

    Still, anyone who's learned to fight knows taking your time is risking being stabbed in the back. The Incredibles' "You got me monologuing!" might be a decent tactic against a mad scientist driven by his personal demons, but any kind of warrior would need the most convincing reason in the novel to slow down, ever.

    Guy's reasons work a whole lot better.
     
  14. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,532
    1,587
    163
    This would be the 'fight between incompetents' exception. This could drag out a while because neither warrior has much in the way of training, and lacks the expertise to take advantage of a foes mistake.

    In a battlefield situation, this would be a clash between militia's or peasant mobs.

    In my world I have the 'Liberators' - legions of soldiers maintained by the church - which fall into this catagory. They are poorly armed (spears and spiked clubs), poorly armored (leather with maybe the odd scrap of metal), and poorly trained (much of their 'training' consists of long sermons, basic exercises like running, jumping, and climbing, and very little actual weapons practice). What keeps them from getting wiped out on the battlefield is they mostly face off against militia's and barely organized goblins who don't even have that much going for them.
     
  15. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

    436
    59
    28
    Interesting.

    I didn't specifically mean going up staircases and silly crap like that though. I meant more like in a circle, two guys duelling that lasts for more than a few swipes at each other. For example, if they're both skilled wouldn't they be able to significantly cut down on the mistakes they make, thus not giving their opponent an opportunity to capitalize?

    I understand the logic behind what you're saying (and that you've got evidence to back it) and maybe I've just had too much Hollywood ingrained into me, but I find it hard to believe that duels between evenly skilled opponents would be over as quickly as it's being implied in this thread.
     
  16. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    202
    43
    Not as much as you'd think. Consider a boxing match. Both men are quite skilled, yet it's rare for one guy to walk out there, knock the other one out and the fight's over. They usually manage to land several blows on each other before the fight is done. Now put sharp objects in their hands and you see how this will probably end quickly. The same thing happens in sport fencing. One man usually scores a touch on his opponent very quickly. You can go on youtube and find videos or reenactors fighting it out and see the same phenomenon. It usually doesn't take very long for someone to score a hit.
    Remember the two exceptions, though: men wearing heavy armor and men using weapons lacking stopping power. When the fighters are wearing plate armor, obviously they're well protected. Historical accounts even have then sometimes whaling away at each other with pole axes without doing each other much harm. Then there are duels with rapiers and small swords, narrow blades that lack stopping power. There are plenty of accounts of men receiving multiple stab wounds from such weapons and continuing to fight. The duel between Edward Sackville and Lord Bruce is probably one of the better known examples of this. George Silver, and English fight instructor in the 16th century referred to men taking multiple stab wound from rapiers through the torso and limbs and continuing to fight. Another account described a man being stabbed in the wrist with either a rapier or small sword (I can't remember which). The tip of the blade emerged near his elbow. That stab wound ran the length of his forearm, yet he was able to continue using the arm in the fight. The narrow blade that had stabbed him just didn't inflict enough damage. You get men fighting with broader blades meant for war, and not wearing armor, and it'll end quickly because they're using weapons with greater stopping power while wearing no protection.

    To give a contemporary example, the same is true for shootings. Hollywood loves the long, drawn out gun battles, but real ones rarely play out like that. Military battles are the obvious exception, but when civilians shoot it out, and usually when cops shoot it out, it's over within a few seconds.
     
    Lohengrin likes this.
  17. Dragev

    Dragev Scribe

    41
    12
    8
    In the case of viking-style fighting as seen in the video, a duel with both men in the same gear, wielding the same weapons (swords) can last a bit, simply because you need an opening and and a well-wielded shield will prevent that. The sword is much more inefficient than say an axe or mace against that kind of gear, so you can expect some circling and sudden quick lunges with two or three blows on each side being parried before they draw away again, until a leg is hit or a shield bash or some equally "dirty" move is successful.

    If for example one man had an axe, it would be very different.
    And again, this is a duel. A fight involving more people would mean two shield walls facing each other, with the great axes and other polearms behind the first line, striking towards the heads of the adversaries.

    Also, it's a friggin' mess;
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  18. Lohengrin

    Lohengrin Dreamer

    17
    6
    3
    The boxing match helped me a lot to understand how a fight would end quickly, thank you!

    And another video of how chaotic even duels could be, from something like a Medieval MMA in Poland
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  19. Malik

    Malik Auror

    1,092
    1,323
    163
    [​IMG]

    My book's fight sequences illustrate that there was a lot more of this sort of thing happening among the "noble knights" than anyone lets on.
     
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2013
  20. Guy

    Guy Inkling

    451
    202
    43
     
Loading...

Share This Page