Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Sword -A Brief History

It has been a while since I blogged about war. But rather than talk about war itself let's look at one of the tools of war and how they are used.

Swords are obsolete nowadays, but they have been around for well over 4000 years and for most of that time they were the primary symbol of raw military power.

I'm not going to move onto the specific types of swords, not when you can just look them up so easily on wikipedia. 

In some ways we are lucky to have moved on beyond such crude tools of battle; I can't imagine how it would feel to spend second after second and possibly minute after minute trying to hack away at your opponent until he died. But maybe "hack" isn't the right word for it.

The styles of swordplay vary with the sword and the culture of people who are using them. Unfortunately over the centuries that sowrd shave been redundant, much of the art is lost. By and large the eastern swordsmanship lives on, but the european styles are lost to us. Some may argue that sport fencing lives on, but sport fencing does not in the least part represent european medieval fighting styles.

I do know (or at least I think I know) some of the basics...
It does depend on  your opponent and your own sword/armor/skill so lets firstly categorise it by armor and weapon:
1.two handed sword and full plate mail vs two handed sword and full plate mail
In this kind of a fight most succesful combatants aimed at unbalancing their opponent. If you could get your opponent to fall, then they would not be able to get up again in that heavy armor without help. Then it's just a matter of dealing the killing blow with a thrust between their plates (like the neck).
Another tactic was to unbalance your opponent such that you could then physically grab or knock off their helm and strike their head.

2.short sword and shield vs anything
The short sword and shield combo was made famous by the romans but lived on into the medieval ages where the saxxons used it to great effect with their shield walls.
This kind of set up of course works best in formation since a shield only provides protection in one direction, and so one's flanks can be a vulnerability. The basic principle of this style though is to used the shield to get up close and then to use the short sword for quick thrusts in between (or underneath) the shield/s. It's very effective.

3.light armor and sword vs light armor and sword.  When no armor is involved, swordplay can be a bit more direct than with armor. Unbalancing your opponent is still a good strategy but the end goal is to either deliver a killing cut or thrust or if you cannot manage to do either then just keep giving them nicks on their arms and legs until they slowly bleed to death. In some ways the latter tactic is easier since strikes on the extremities don't put the attacker off balance, whereas killing blows do. If an attacker makes a cutting strike and is parried then he himself is now off balance and the defender can essentially take a pot shot.

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