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Author Topic: Sword myths, help me out  (Read 37317 times)
Ashren Va'Hale
Member

Posts: 427


« on: June 23, 2004, 08:06:12 AM »

I went to an RPG site and they had a little FAQ about swords that was so horrid that I have decided to compile an essay about swords and teh common myths. If you have a chance please write down here your favorite myth about swords (any type) medieval combat etc. If you can't think of a myth, put down a question you always wanted an answer to.

Here's an example of a myth:

Myth:
European swords were heavy, the claymore weighed 16 pounds and the scotts carried them in to battle over their shoulders, swundg them once at a run then drew their other swords.

Truth:
European swords, and that includes the claymore, were light and agile weapons. See http://www.thearma.org/essays/weights.htm
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Philosophy: Take whatever is not nailed down, for the rest, well thats what movement is for!
Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2004, 08:17:48 AM »

Some misconceptions I've run across:

- A sword is (always) the best weapon
- The best-made (strong, light, sharp) weapons are katana's
- It's no hassle wielding a '1.5' hand sword 1-handed
- Swords that only have a point to lunge with are useless
- Swordfighting is all arm-work
- Swordfighting consist of lots of banging swords against each other
- Swordfighting is best done in (heavy) armor
- Swordfighting was obsolete after the middle ages
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
Ashren Va'Hale
Member

Posts: 427


« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2004, 08:52:24 AM »

good ones, keep them coming! More more!
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Philosophy: Take whatever is not nailed down, for the rest, well thats what movement is for!
F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #3 on: June 23, 2004, 09:47:51 AM »

Some things I learned in stage combat:

Rapiers were given a razor edge not to slash with, but to prevent a defender from grabbing the weapon with their bare hand, something that can be done with a foil or epee.  

Heavy bladed wepaons like the Claymore can parry.  The technique is called Glaise and is performed from the sixth position.

A knife loses all control if thrown farther than three paces.

You can parry with a "soft" wepaon like a chain or rope and it's easier to disarm with one.

It's nearly impossible to disarm with a "hard" weapon unless you are literally hacking your opponents arm off.

Blocking a sword strike is not impossible with a katana, it's just not the preferred technique.  The preferred technique is to slash your attacker across the hands.

Sweeping blade techniques are amongst the hardest to dodge.  You're better off blocking.

Polearms were intended to kill horses, not their riders.

The mace is quite possibly the most perfect weapon for close-quarters combat.  It crumples armor and requires little to no skill.

If you're using a sword, the less armor, the better.

In medevial Europe, the most common weapon was the quarterstaff, not the sword.

There's a bunch more, but these are just off the top of my head.
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Tobias
Member

Posts: 446


« Reply #4 on: June 23, 2004, 09:59:35 AM »

Amen on the mace/staff/club thing.

As to katana(-esque) fighting - very correct on that aspect as well. I could tell you a tiny but more about that, from ninjutsu and katori shinto background, but it would be more pointing you the right way than much experience.

Kendo is NOT a battle-form.
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Tobias op den Brouw

- DitV misses dead gods in Augurann
- My GroupDesign .pdf.
Ashren Va'Hale
Member

Posts: 427


« Reply #5 on: June 23, 2004, 10:05:32 AM »

be sure that if you are trying to say something is true you specify, if you are listing a myth, specify.

Quote
As to katana(-esque) fighting - very correct on that aspect as well. I could tell you a tiny but more about that, from ninjutsu and katori shinto background, but it would be more pointing you the right way than much experience.



I know crap about using a katana. Go ahead and list the fact/fictions and sources if you get a chance.
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Philosophy: Take whatever is not nailed down, for the rest, well thats what movement is for!
F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2004, 10:14:34 AM »

Kendo...the helmet swordfighting thing?  I thought it was a sport.

I studied a little martial arts too, but never learned anything about ninjitsu.  Well aside from the crazy crap that people who get all their info from movies say that is.

Ohhh, ninja myths.

Despite what Final Fantasy says, there were very few ninjas in medevial europe.  None actually.  If you have ninjas fighting paladins, shame on you.

Ohhh...the Ninja To was usually left inside the body of it's victim.  Removing the weapon would cause the person to scream and reveal the ninja's presence.  Much of the samurai's disdain for ninja tactics centered around the treatment of the sword as a mere tool.   That...and fear.

Nine was a ninja's lucky number and they usually carried their tools in multiples of nine.

Samurai armor is laquered wood, not metal.

Almost all of a ninja's weapons are tipped with poison.

All of a ninja's weapons are tipped with poison.

Dual wielding is a style in and of itself.  Learning how to use a weapon single-handedly is a detriment to learning how to use two simultaneously.

In all combat, footwork is more important than arm speed, upper body strength, and weapon skill combined.

Elbow strikes are the great equalizer in bare-handed fighting.

Horses have to be trained to trample humans.  They will not do so willingly.

Hmmm, I think I'm getting off the swords thing.  I'll stop now.
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Sir Mathodius Black
Member

Posts: 132


« Reply #7 on: June 23, 2004, 10:40:42 AM »

Regarding what Tobias said about Katana's not being the strongest and sharpest swords, I was under the distinct impression that they were.  They were certainly more effective than european swords for a number of reasons.  First, they are folded and not made of cast iron, making them much less brittle and more durable, not to mention that when a european sword is struck, strong vibrations go down to the hilt making it very uncomfortable.  That also gave them a much longer lasting sharpness because of all of the "edges" folded into the weapon.  As far as speed, I'm not sure, but i would guess that training has more to do with that than the making of the weapon.    
Also, ive seen guys with katanas slice through trees with a diameter of six inches.  How many european swords can do that?

As far as ninjitsu goes, of course there is a lot of exageration from the movies but there are some people out there that can do some pretty crazy stuff.  Ill post a specific instance when i have time to look it up.
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"God helps those who helps themselves."
Caz
Member

Posts: 272


« Reply #8 on: June 23, 2004, 10:43:08 AM »

Wow, I'd be really careful about not creating new myths.  Maybe you should compile a list of the articles already on the subject.  Here's one.
http://www.jref.com/culture/sword.shtml
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #9 on: June 23, 2004, 10:43:45 AM »

Interestingly, there was an article in Military Heritage recently that included some erroneous info on sword weight.  Some gent wrote in the letters section correcting their data using that exact Arma link, Ashren.

Thought that was pretty cool...the word is spreading...
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


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« Reply #10 on: June 23, 2004, 11:17:53 AM »

Hey Mathodius your distinct impression contains tons of the myths Ashren's trying to dispell.

The katana was in no way shape or form of superior quality to a European blade of the period.  The vaunted "folding" was primarily an ingenious technique to compensate for the fact that Japenese steel was of shitty quality...not a technique for inventing a super blade.

Also, I'm reasonably certain that samurai armor was not wood.

Further Europeans never made swords out of cast iron.  Cast Iron wasn't even commonly used for tools and utensils until the 1400s when furnaces that could be made hot enough to reliably melt large quantities of iron were invented.

The earliest swords were wrought iron, and there is some evidence of their use by the celtic tribes who scared the bejeezus out of the early Roman Republic.  There are Roman references to celtic warriors standing on their sword blade to bend it back into shape...a characteristic of wrought iron.

But steel has been known since ancient times and was the standard material for swords.  The problem with steel was that until the invention of better furnaces it was hard to make in quantity.  

Standard practice was to use bars of wrought iron, low carbon steel, and higher carbon steel and bang and beat them into a single bar in a process called Pattern Welding.  That was pretty much the standard sword making technology in Europe for most of what would be considered dark/middle ages.  

Subsequent improvements in smelting technology allowed for all steel blades in later periods that were every bit as effective as any sword made anywhere.
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timfire
Member

Posts: 756


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« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2004, 11:50:54 AM »

Quote from: Valamir
Also, I'm reasonably certain that samurai armor was not wood.

I think some armor was made from laquered bamboo, but it wasn't very common. It was more common for Japanese armor to be made from laquered strips of leather, laced with silk. More expensive armor, especially in later periods, had metal plates instead of leather.
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--Timothy Walters Kleinert
F. Scott Banks
Member

Posts: 200


« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2004, 12:05:17 PM »

You're right...samurai armor was not made largely of wood.

Quote
The Samurai armor remains one of the most interesting and rare components of the Samurai era. The armor was constructed from bamboo, cloth and metal. Unlike its better known counterpart, the medieval armor, the Japanese example was much lighter, which provided for ease of movement but compromised protection. The armor had to be light weight because the Samurai would often engage into hand to hand combat, requiring fast and precise movements. The majority of the armor was made from bamboo. The chest plate was usually one piece of metal while the arms and neck were composed of small pieces of metal tied together with colorful strings


Apparently it was made largely of bamboo.

And yes, I see the references where metal is used.  The armor is mostly bamboo however.

Also the japanese method of folding steel has somewhat gained mythical status, but it's only unimpressive when compared to modern metalurgy.  No forging system of the time was the equal of the gendaito style.  Also, though, Japanese steel is very impure, I'd hesitate to call it shitty.  Then again, shitty steel could be seen as a compliment.  Damasucs steel is made from scrap metal, containing little actual steel and a lot of tin, silver, copper and gold.  Pure steel is extremely brittle, so mixing lesser metals produces a better grade of metal.  This is how one gains the flexibility that allows a blade to bend without breaking and cut without losing it's edge.

But yes, the Samurai sword is impressive, but it's not the uber-blade it's made out to be.  Blocking with a european sword isn't terribly uncomfortable so long as it's done properly.  The design speaks to the difference in combat styles moreso than the quality.  Europeans needed heavier weapons to circumvent the armor, or at least damage it enough to make it hard for the person inside to move.  Japanese didn't develop armor to any appreciable degree and so their weapons were curved in order to easily cut through the body without getting caught on bone.  It is only in retrospect that one wespon seems more useful than the other because steel armor is a thing of the past (unless you count tanks).  Whereas light, moveable armor is a reality.  When you compare each weapon to it's intended purpose during the time period in which it was invented, they're very good for what they do.

But, since the styles will meet up in a fantasy setting, the katana has the advantage in speed and efficiency against unarmored opponents.  The european longsword wins against armor, having the durability (a definate weak point with the katana) to crack open plate.  Speed is sacrificed (though, not to the degree most people think) but against a walking refrigerator, how fast do you have to be?
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Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2004, 12:43:19 PM »

Quote
Armor of Gusoku type
Edo period (16151868); 18th century; Japanese; lacquered iron and leather, shakudo, silver, silk, horse hair, and ivory; H. as mounted, 58 1/8 in. (148.8 cm); The Metropolitan Museum of Art,



Quote
Japanese, Sengoku Period (mid-16th-17th century)
Samurai Armor
Steel, iron, silk, leather, wood, hemp, and lacquer
Utah Museum of Fine Art
Museum # 2002.8.1A-D


Actual period suits of armor, with nary a mention of wood or bamboo to be found.
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Ashren Va'Hale
Member

Posts: 427


« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2004, 12:59:21 PM »

Quote from: Sir Mathodius Black
Regarding what Tobias said about Katana's not being the strongest and sharpest swords, I was under the distinct impression that they were.  They were certainly more effective than european swords for a number of reasons.  First, they are folded and not made of cast iron, making them much less brittle and more durable, not to mention that when a european sword is struck, strong vibrations go down to the hilt making it very uncomfortable.  That also gave them a much longer lasting sharpness because of all of the "edges" folded into the weapon.  As far as speed, I'm not sure, but i would guess that training has more to do with that than the making of the weapon.    
Also, ive seen guys with katanas slice through trees with a diameter of six inches.  How many european swords can do that?

As far as ninjitsu goes, of course there is a lot of exageration from the movies but there are some people out there that can do some pretty crazy stuff.  Ill post a specific instance when i have time to look it up.


Thank you Black for giving me yet another myth to add to my list, once I finish the essay I will post it here and clarify the whole  katana superiority myth for you.

I will also destroy the Katana's cut through cars bull crap that you have listed in its more tame version of trees.

Quote

Wow, I'd be really careful about not creating new myths. Maybe you should compile a list of the articles already on the subject. Here's one.
http://www.jref.com/culture/sword.shtml


Thanks for the link and point well made. I am planning on only posting that which is researched and supported by copious amounts of evidence.
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Philosophy: Take whatever is not nailed down, for the rest, well thats what movement is for!
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