Which of our ancestors made the most sturdy, and effective battle ready swords | Page 14

Discussion in 'Weapons and Tactics' started by MadSquabbles500, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. Doughbelly αlpha-nerdette, action scientist

    Doughbelly
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    And there are European reports of samurai (ronin, really) who had managed to smuggle themselves out of Japan on European ships and had managed to make their way to the mainland or stayed on ships as crew as being impressively, incomparably fast on the draw.

    The assumption that fights start with both weapons drawn is poor one.

    In a formal, prearranged duel of individual combat where both parties enter with weapons drawn, yes, the katana as you describe it is a weaker, non optimized weapon with some serious shortcomings against one that is optimized for that purpose. That said, the formal, prearranged duel is a completely contrived situation.

    There are two broad categories into which sword usage can be divided. When two guys have decided to kill each other or on the field of battle. The first context, that of a fight between two individuals, can be broken down into two further categories - A.) you can arrange to meet later in a formalized, ritual contest befitting your cultural practices and more OR B.) just throw down right then and there. Let's think about that for a minute. Outside of arranging to meet behind the gym when you were in junior high school, when was the last time you had a physical confrontation with someone where you both agreed to fight later? In the second context, if you and I decided to fight right then and there, the small guard, the short blade, the long hilt are all advantages. Let's say you're a Spanish sailor with a rapier and I am a samurai with brace of swords and we meet somewhere in the streets of Singapore. If you want me to get out of the way and I tell you to fuck off, there's a moment when both parties know that you are going to throw down. I have a katana and you have a rapier. Who dies here? You do, almost every time. Here's why.

    Where are the weapons? In their scabbards. After all, why would either of us be walking around town with our swords drawn? So who has the advantage here? Obviously the first guy to get his sword out and deployed does. If I have cleared my sheath and have already begun my attack (the moment the blade clears wood, the first stroke commences) while your rapier is still halfway in the sheath or not drawn at all (more likely), you have a serious fucking problem. But not for long, anyway.

    Now, close your eyes. Touch your left knee with your right hand. With eyes still closed, (read all of this first, obv.) touch your right elbow with your left hand. Now clap. Unless there is something neurologically wrong with you, your body knows where its other body parts are. Your right hand can always find the left hand, regardless of level of stress, clothing, weather, lighting, so on. Corollary to this is that the further away from the body an object is, the less instinctive locational spatial awareness you have of it.

    The first step in drawing a weapon is usually to locate and fix the position of the scabbard so you know where your hilt is. Only then can you begin the actual act of drawing your weapon. Where do you wear your rapier? Or for that matter, most Europeans throughout history? In dangling scabbard, sometimes in a fancy multi belt rig and sometimes on a simple loop. One thing this ensures is that the scabbard is not in a fixed position. Moment to moment, you don't know the exact position and alignment of your own sword.

    On the other hand, a samurai effectively wears his swords strapped to the side of his body, fairly high on the torso. The hilt is almost directly under his left armpit and he has multiple points of contact between scabbard. Who will fix the position of his scabbard and have his hand on his hilt first? I will, every time because my left hand will never miss the scabbard. The right hand, at the same time is coming to meet the left hand, The only thing between them is a small metal disc guard. There is nothing in the way of the hand to obstruct it gaining a firm grip on the hilt. By the time this happens, you might be lucky to have even found the scabbard, much less trying to find the opening in the guard of a rapier so you can actually draw. This is harder for you because of the dangling and the fact that your hand position on the rapier is actually some distance away from your left hand.

    Let's say we both clear our sheaths at the same time. Advantage me. Your weapon is pointed in the wrong direction. Mine is beginning its attack. Who wins this one? Me.

    What the modern katana critic (such as Matt Easton or Skallagrim) and the legion of unbelievers doesn't understand is that they have the context for the usage of the katana wrong. Much as in MMA, the fight doesn't start on the ground, it starts standing up. Doesn't matter if you're Roger Gracie. You gotta get the fight to the ground. In the samurai's way of thinking, the fight doesn't start when both swords are drawn and at the ready, the fight starts when he has decided to kill you. The baring of weapons is a part of the fight, not a part of the escalation to a fight. That's why of the dozen or so surviving ryus of combat that were founded in the 16th century both before and following the establishment of the long peace of the Shogunate, two or three specialize in iai, or cutting on the first draw.

    The katana is actually unequalled by a large margin and no other sword or sword like weapon is in the same league in terms of efficacy for its optimization - killing on the first strike.

    This is also true in the battlefield context, only with small differences, but I will start and finish that post later when I have time because this post has become overly long.
     
    #261
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2017
  2. KBE6EKCTAH_CCP Arrow sash belt with Lederhosen

    KBE6EKCTAH_CCP
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    All excellent points. I agree with everything you said in a context where the sword has to be drawn quickly.

    I don't think however that Matt Easton is a katana hater. Also, as he likes to say, "context!!". I don't think that Easton would deny that when cutting on the draw is required, that the katana is superior to a rapier.

    For fuck's sake, a rapier has a straight blade of more than a meter. For most people who aren't giants (and especially people of the time), drawing a rapier isn't the most fluid of movements (not to mention that your hand needs to get in the elaborate guard and you need to finger the quillon with the index).

    That being said, I do not believe that drawing is emphasised much in european swordsmanship. Rapier fencing systems that developed in the mid 16th century (and later on smallsword in the late 17th century) were seen mostly as a civilian, gentlemanly arts to prepare oneself to a duel, which was highly codified and was supposed to display one's valour and moral attributes. Therefore drawing quickly simply isn't that relevant in rapier fencing.

    Bear in mind that I am talking about rapier fencing and its successors starting mid 16th century. This is when fencing for duelling really developed. Otherwise swordsmanship was mostly aimed at self-defense, where fast drawing is certainly relevant.
     
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  3. Thycidides Blue Belt

    Thycidides
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    Rapiers can actually pretty heavy and awkward ... people in my stage combat class tended to prefer smaller and lighter blades than the heavier ones.
     
    #263
  4. Doughbelly αlpha-nerdette, action scientist

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    Folding a minimum number of times is required to work out the slag, but also to intentionally to work out the carbon to produce the softer steel that will form the inner core on which the harder, but more brittle steels that will form the outer layer of lamination. The repeated heating and cooling process also creates the crystalline lattice structures between the iron atoms, which is something you do want to a certain extent to create smooth transitions between layers.

    For clarification, the weakness between the welds is not between the layers of the same type of steel but between the layers of different types of steel - the soft inner core to the harder outer layer that will actually carry the edge. Or either to the medium steels which could be sandwiched between the two layers. And yet, after all this incredibly labor intensive and extremely resource intensive process, the result is that the blade you end up with is STILL weaker and inferior in pretty much every single way to MAINLAND (not European) blade making processes.

    All of the commonly cited major weaknesses of the katana comes directly as a result of the Japanese being forced to go through this process.

    The katana is heavy for its weight because it must be thick enough to have meaningful layers of steel of different qualities. Because of this, katanas cannot have meaningful fullers, to lighten the blade while maintaining structural rigidity. Because it is so thick and heavy, it must be shorter, to have a reasonable center of percussion and balance. Even so, it carries so much weight balanced towards the tip that it requires two hand to wield effectively. Yet, after all of the compromises the sword has undergone to be effective, it is still a markedly more fragile design - the Japanese emphasis on perfect edge alignment for each sword stroke is due to the tendency of blades to snap when not aligned properly. Mainland blades will bend and spring back and are much more forgiving of imperfections in technique - the tip is much less likely to snap off and come flying back at your face than a katana that has very, very little comparative flexibility.
     
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  5. MadSquabbles500 Gold Belt

    MadSquabbles500
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    I thought the Katana has a long blade too. Are you guys sure you are not talking about the wakisashi?

    And didnt the Euros and chinese have shorter blades too?
     
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  6. Doughbelly αlpha-nerdette, action scientist

    Doughbelly
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    The problem here with everyone saying "European" is that it is ethnocentric thinking. Sure, there were European types of blades and smithing methodologies, but the reality is that from Europe to China, everyone (Chinese, Persians, Arabs, Indians, Central Asians, SE Asians, etc) all had comparable metallurgical skills because most cultures did not have the geographical luxury of being able to isolate themselves in the manner that the Japanese did. You kept up with the Joneses or you were at a disadvantage.

    The Chinese had the metallurgical capability of producing everything huge two handed scimitars, one handed broadswords to thin, swords with almost whiplike flexibility.
     
    #266
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  7. Doughbelly αlpha-nerdette, action scientist

    Doughbelly
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    An infantry saber as a sidearm for a warrior whose main role on the battlefield was that of a heavily armored mounted archer and preferred weapon when dismounted was the spear.

    As a dismount who has had to resort to his sidearm, the samurai has one primary advantage over the vast majority of opponents he will be facing - they are not samurai. Which is to say he can afford expensive, personally fitted armor and they cannot.

    Matt Easton IS absolutely overcritical of the katana BECAUSE he doesn't consider the context and/or gets it wrong.

    Look at his series on the langmesser and the falchion. He refutes many of the criticisms that people place on the falchion for not taking into consideration for the context of use - as a knightly weapon of a heavily armored man mowing down peasant levies. Well, what does Matt think was the original intended use of the katana? Nearly every reason Matt Easton states for why the falchion is not a bad weapon but a good one suited for its purpose can be directly applied to the katana.

    And the most ironic thing about this is that most of Matt's reasoning are reasonably well educated guesses and conjecture. On the other hand, one of the surviving koryu of battlefield combat from that era emphasizes and both directly and explicitly states that this is what the katana is to be used for. By the time a dismounted samurai draws his katana on the field of battle, it is about time for him to die. He has lost his horse, his bow and his spear, which means he is almost certainly in the thick of melee battle surrounded by masses of enemy footmen. The only thing he has left to do at this moment is to kill as many of his enemy before he himself is killed.

    I didn't come up with this. The current headmaster of Jigen-ryu directly states this in a Japanese documentary I was watching, "The purpose of teh sword to a samurai is to kill as many of the enemy before being killed." There is no consideration to defense, just offense. Each opponent will be dealt with one stroke and one stroke only. Next! One interesting drill they did was a charge through multiple targets at interval. These guys would scream and charge at a near full tilt run while cutting through each target in turn. No measuring of distance, no changing stances, no lateral movement, no parries, no blocks, no stopping, no second stroke. Just killing, one right after another until you go down yourself.

    This isn't even getting into the fact that he completely appreciates the existence of angled points on percussion weapons but misses the utility of the a curved blade with a chisel point. There is a reason a pickaxe head is shaped the way that it is, with the curvature of the pick aligned with the arc of the swing for maximum penetration. The techniques of surviving koryu specialized in the combat between two armored men wielding the katana is well thought out. The katana is used in many techniques in what Matt would recognize as half swording, made even more effective by the fact that one side of the blade is dull and thick, allowing for a much more secure grip. Most of the time, the blade is held up and the curvature of the blade aligned with the arc of the angled thrust, which allows the distinct chisel point of the katana to catch and penetrate weak points in the joints of armor even better than a straight tip as you might see in an arming sword of an Oakeshott typology.

    That Matt gets the purpose of the pyramid points on the heads of hammers and maces, but misses the utility of a curved chisel point aligned with the arc of an angled thrust points to his willful blindness in considering the katana in context. Odd, considering that one of the self proclaimed catch phrases and trademarks (other than double entendres and sexual innuendos about penetration) is "CONTEXT!"
     
    #267
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  8. Thycidides Blue Belt

    Thycidides
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    Yeah I don't think Matt knows anything about Japanese swords or martial arts. Which is kind of odd, None of those YouTubeers that make sword content seem to have any knowledge of it, even Metatron who claims to have studied kendo in japan for several years.

    Also despite sometimes mentioning armored fighting none of those channels really explain how it was done or show it. Im really annoyed that Matt Easton hasn't demonstrated anti amoure techniques on camera for example.


    Do you know of any good videos that try to represent armor fighting? Is any of that Koryu on film?
     
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  9. KBE6EKCTAH_CCP Arrow sash belt with Lederhosen

    KBE6EKCTAH_CCP
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    Honestly, Metatron is full of shit IMO.

    And yes, I agree that I am abit confused by Matt's (and generally youtubers) take on swords vs armour.

    I mean the sword is largely useless against plate armour, except if you thrust in armour gaps. But then, most longsword techniques are regular cutting techniques and a bunch of treaties show cutting against armour.

    Then, the sword is only a side arm, to be used if you loose your spears. If so then why practice it so much ?

    Then, there is the idea that not everyone was armed with full armour, and that therefore the sword still had its use.

    I don't know, I am abit confused about the battlefield applications of sword fighting. That's why I focus mostly on the duelling aspect of it. It's more simple.

    Oh and lastly : most longsword treatises show 1 on 1 fighting with armour on. How does this make sense ? On a battlefield melee it's not like in the movies, i.e. 2000x 1 on 1 fights happening at the same time. It's clusters of soldiers packed together attacking other clusters of soldiers packed together. Therefore I suspect that most treatises techniques don't apply to melee fighting.
    Ok, so the treatises apply to individual duels ? Why talk about the armour, then, since most duels were fought unarmoured ???

    *confused.
     
    #269
  10. KBE6EKCTAH_CCP Arrow sash belt with Lederhosen

    KBE6EKCTAH_CCP
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    BTW if you don't believe me that Metatron is full of shit, just check out his top10 martial arts vid.

    After that he lost all credibility in my eyes. Anyone who uploads that shit seriously lacks the most basic common sense when it comes to combat.
     
    #270
  11. Thycidides Blue Belt

    Thycidides
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    It depends on the treatise, the one's written after about 1500 focus on unarmored fencing. Mostly the duel, self defense and more or less sport application. However starting in the late 1700's professional militaries are issuing training manuals to their soldiers . These have more of a military focus and are designed to be used by new recruits.

    The treatises from before 1500 tend to show armored and unarmed fencing and include wrestling, spear pole axe, and dagger material as well as the sword. They were for a much more limited audience. These tend to be about individual combat and dueling in armor WAS practiced during this time period, but seems to be unusual. There are records of duels to the death and it seems like seems like throwing someone to the ground and stabbing them was the preferred way to win. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trial_by_combat#Judicial_combat_of_1386

    http://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=T+8CLlG2&id=93488C36F4CD94643D4F9A2CC29739B33DEB273D&q=last+judicial+duel&simid=608041970360386830&selectedIndex=0&adlt=strict&ajaxhist=0

    To be honest unarmed fighting and grappling gets just as much if not more attention In these sources than the sword does.

    Unfortunately Matt Easton doesn't really mention this and neither do those other channels.
     
    #271
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2017
  12. Gregolian .45 ACP

    Gregolian
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    Know what pisses me off about these people that build swords on YouTube (Master at Arms annoys me less for some reason in this regard)... is how a ton of these idiots act like they know how to properly swing these things and it's obvious everything they know about swinging a sword is from movies.
     
    #272
  13. SweetDaddySiki Orange Belt

    SweetDaddySiki
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    Katanas are fairly short. The Katana is about 8 inches shorter than a longsword. The older tachis were much longer.
     
    #273
  14. SweetDaddySiki Orange Belt

    SweetDaddySiki
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    Sounds about right.
     
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  15. Gregolian .45 ACP

    Gregolian
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    I can't remember the name of it but there is a longer Japanese blade that is almost (with the grip) as tall as a man but they're are ridiculously difficult to use properly and were mostly for show.
     
    #275
  16. SweetDaddySiki Orange Belt

    SweetDaddySiki
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    That would be the odachi
     
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  17. KBE6EKCTAH_CCP Arrow sash belt with Lederhosen

    KBE6EKCTAH_CCP
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    Did my first épée competition.

    Won 7 of 28 fights at 5 points each.

    Arrived second from the bottom (lol).

    Very humbling as usual, although I need to figure out how I can mathematically win 1/4 th of the bouts and arrive almost last. Wtf.

    Anyways I fought with an old dude with a French grip. These shits have so much reach. Was thinking ok I ll beat the shit out of his blade but he kept his blade way to the side.

    Then I fought against a dude who won 5-0 and I didn't even touch him. That s right. The tip of my blade never even touched him.

    Oh and I lost again another old guy. 70 years old to be exact.

    Anyways my performance was good for a first competition I hear.

    Great expérience btw.
     
    #277
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  18. SweetDaddySiki Orange Belt

    SweetDaddySiki
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    One of the great secrets of this stuff is that we are not really sure at all how people actually fought in mass battles. We have impressions from art and literature..but the nitty gritty details of how engagements were conducted between two organised masses of people is something outside our experience.

    The fight books are mainly focused on duelling or small melees, and dont give much beyond that.
     
    #278
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  19. MadSquabbles500 Gold Belt

    MadSquabbles500
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    I pretty sure the shield wall was prevalent, and you want to bunch up to cover all holes then drive the opponent back by pushing like in a rugby scrum.

    Also I dont believe the spear took precedence over the short sword.

    You really cant use spear if you in the front and walls are locked together. A short sword can give you defense as well as more options for striking when in close quarters. A spear you can only hold overhand, and you cannot block shots with it. If you are all the way in the third or fourth lines, and behind maybe you can use it.

    Also what if you need to use two hands to push your shield? A short sword you can sheath in your scabbard, but a spear you cannot.

    And how can you keep someone carrying a shield at bay with a spear? It seems like if opponents have shields, there is nothing that can keep them from closing distance.
     
    #279
  20. SweetDaddySiki Orange Belt

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    You arent killed in a rugby scrum if you make a mistake :p psychology makes an immense difference. Keep in mind that the spear is considered by many cultures to be the king of the battlefield. My own experience suggests that someone with a few scant hours with a spear can defeat experienced swordsman most of the time. But how was spear phalanx conducted? We dont know. We can simulate, but without the psychology of death we cant know.

    Take a pike wall..All our simulations and attempts to reproduce a clash between pikes indicates gruesome casualties in the first few ranks when two pike walls meet. the first few ranks on both are always annihilated. Given that casualties for the vanguard are close to 100% how exactly did pike combat happen? how would you convince people to take the front ranks, knowing they would most certainly die? How were the greatswords used in the pikewall? it takes several whacks to break a pike with a greatsword, and in that time you are being poked multiple times. So what were they used for? We dont really know.
     
    #280
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