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Sword on Sword Contact in Real World Combat?

Discussion in 'Sword Discussion' started by BePrepared, Jul 17, 2012.

  1. BePrepared

    BePrepared

    Aug 26, 2010
    with my meager understanding of swords and metals, it occurs to me that full contact sword on sword edge impact would do MASSIVE damage to the edge of most of my favorite kinds of blade (katana, Chinese blades etc)

    Was this really what happened? A sword requiring hundreds or even thousands of man hours to forge having severe (and apparently irreparable) edge impact damage after one or two fights?

    I know that some forms of Japanese sword combat were designed around the idea that there wouldnt' BE an impact of sword on sword, but can anyone clue me in as to the reality of this situation?

    also, are european swords, due to their thicker edge and geometry, more able to take this kind of abuse? i know that many medieval forms of combat did see a lot of sword on sword combat.

    thanks!
     
  2. crimsonfalcon07

    crimsonfalcon07

    Dec 27, 2010
    Theres also something to be said for flat on edge parries. But for many chinese sword techniques, you do end up with edge damage, which gets sharpened out. The damage isnt usually that bad.
     
  3. horseclover

    horseclover

    Nov 21, 2000
    There were/are a great many varieties of swords through the ages and not just limiting that to European swords of the medieval period, edges and cross sections were not really that different in the way edge damage occurred. Many period medieval swords were/are thinner in cross section than a katana. Don't forget that the target is the object to injure, not a sword. Please don't take films as a basis on fact.

    There are endless internet threads regarding edge damage and whether to block with a flat or an edge. Most binding/grinding moves in sword on sword contact were met at the base of the blade where they were often not sharp at all. Other deflections often less than direct hits edge to edge. In the end, would you block with an edge if it saved your life?

    Yes, swords got damaged then, just as those bouting now. Fencers taking time to dress out burrs, etc.

    Cheers

    GC
     
  4. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Look at it this way--swords are replaceable. Your life is not. While you would likely TRAIN to avoid edge-on-edge contact, if it was something you absolutely had to do in the spur of the moment you ARE going to do it to save your own hide. If you damage your sword in the process, who the hell cares? You're alive, and the sword did the job it was meant to do.

    The most catastrophic form of edge-to-edge contact would have been a full static block, which is a very rare form of defense with swords. If parrying, even damage from edge on edge contact is minimized because you are deflecting the force and direction of the attack out of line, and thus the sword is not forced to absorb all of that energy at the edge.
     
  5. crimsonfalcon07

    crimsonfalcon07

    Dec 27, 2010
    To be fair, a lot of blocks for the dao are static. I went through a bunch of practice swords when I was training.
     
  6. SeaxyBeast

    SeaxyBeast

    932
    Feb 2, 2011
    I know that there are many different schools of though about edge parries and that many historical fencers practice edge parries as part of their saber repertoire. Expert opinions vary.

    The founder of my escrima association, a veteran of actual combat encounters, said that he would only parry with an edge when he had no other choice and would otherwise parry with the side or back of the blade. He'd seen bolos broken in half during combat when they made edge-to-edge contact with a bayonet or shin gunto and he'd broken at least one bolo himself and had to fight with an ironwood flatstick for a while until he could get a replacement. He stressed to his students that not having to parry was always best but not always possible. If you were caught behind the count against an opponent you might have to parry. If you had to parry then it was always best to parry in such a way that you save your edge to prevent damage or breakage. Bottom line, though, is that it was always most important to save your own life or the lives of your squad than to save your blade, so sometimes you just do whatever you can to keep the opponent's blade from connecting.
     
  7. crimsonfalcon07

    crimsonfalcon07

    Dec 27, 2010
    Also, parrying > blocking where possible. Parrying often won't involve significant damage because you're redirecting force instead of just stopping the attack, while a block can cause lots of damage. And a lot of techniques involve parries or blocks to the opponent's arms, not to their weapon.
     
  8. SeaxyBeast

    SeaxyBeast

    932
    Feb 2, 2011
    True. I often get sloppy with my descriptions and use parry/block interchangeably. It's hard to say, really, since I've heard others in escrima describe identical techniques as blocks, stops, parries, meeting blocks, following blocks, etc. for both bladed hand and live hand techniques. I think for a lot of escrima players the way they describe a technique depends on how far behind they are in the count and whether the technique puts them even or ahead. Probably not the most scientific or methodical approach, but feel is more important than terminology in my (limited) experience.

    But, yeah, agree with what you say above, and for where I say 'parry' above, read 'parry or block'.
     
  9. JParanee

    JParanee

    Dec 23, 2006
    I practiced Kendo for many years , I even competed for a time

    Kendo is a sport based on points not sword fighting, but even then you might deflect another Shinai or smack an oponents shinai/ blade out of the way there was not to much clanging or wacking blades off each other with what would be called edge on edge blows

    I have a few antique nihonto and some I am sure where used in battle they show signs of being repolished and nicks taken out. I would not call them tired but well used and what I am trying to say is actual sword play is not like in the movies :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2012
  10. Justin King

    Justin King

    Nov 8, 2009
    Two well trained fencers facing each other with swords don't usually take wild, full-speed swings at each other. Fencing/defending yourself with a sword, against another sword, requires that you keep your blade more or less directed at your opponent. Take some practice and you will see that most of the blade to blade contact is not the kind of clanging, spark throwing drama that you see in the movies, it's more like pushing your opponent's blade off line to open them to a strike, or closing their line of their attack.
    Obviously not all styles of sword fighting are the same and blanket assumptions are always misleading, so this comes with a grain of salt. Looking at surviving medieval swords, though, you will see pronounced edge damage on some of them that could only come from edge-edge contact, so it did happen, and it did damage blades.
     
  11. JParanee

    JParanee

    Dec 23, 2006
    Exactly good post
     
  12. GMAHN

    GMAHN

    183
    Sep 30, 2010
    You mention hundreds or thousands of hours to forge a sword........ya, I don't think the Europeans needed that much time to make one.
     
  13. BePrepared

    BePrepared

    Aug 26, 2010
    i'm thinking japanese...

    europe, for standard issue swords, a few hours... maybe a little more

    in japan it was an art, and i'm sure the same is true in europe to a lesser degree
     
  14. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    100,000 hours would be almost 11 & 1/2 years of non-stop labor, not even including time to eat, sleep, or use the little boy's room. Even the Japanese didn't care about their swords THAT much. :D

    And European swords, if anything, commonly have thinner overall cross-sections than Japanese blades.
     
  15. BePrepared

    BePrepared

    Aug 26, 2010
    100,000 hours?

    i didn't not say 100k.. i said Hundreds or even thousands not hundreds of thousands

    and when i say thicker, i'm referring to the edge, not the spine thickness

    european blades (that i've seen) have much more obtuse blade edges... japanese blades make "sharp" into an art in itself
     
  16. SeaxyBeast

    SeaxyBeast

    932
    Feb 2, 2011
    Agree with JParanee -- good post.

    Just want to add, here that what you are describing is dueling or single combat. A lot of the principles at work in single combat also work much of the time in massed combat (or mizcla contras), but the more opponents you are faced with, the more likely it is that you will find yourself behind the count and in a disadvantageous position to an opponent who you were not engaged with a moment before. Still not as much clang as one might expect from the movies*, but there's probably a lot of clang overall, just spread out through the lines. Facing multiple opponents takes away a lot of the strategy and turn things into a game of position and awareness.

    * Leo Giron said the longest 'fight' he witnessed in actual combat was two hits, either you got him or he got you after he made you miss. Someone else might need to finish off the loser, but, with real intent, after that initial clash the loser was effectively unable to fight.
     
  17. Triton

    Triton Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 8, 2000
    I would submit that it's entirely likely that high quality European swords took just as much time to create as high quality Japanese swords at least in the time periods before production and semi-production blades were produced. If one examines the remains of the Sutton Hoo sword for example one will quickly discover that there is a complexity there that easily equals anything coming from Japan.
     
  18. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Even adjusted to 1000 hours is still almost 42 days of non-stop work. If translated into 8-hour workdays that would be 125 work days on one sword. :)

    Remember that swords were not made by a single individual in most cases--either Eastern or Western. The blade was made by the smith, while the fittings, handle, scabbard, etc. were all handled by separate craftsmen.

    In terms of the edges, the overall geometry of the sword does the cutting as well--not just the edge. So regardless of the angle of the edge itself the geometry of the whole blade will affect how well the sword cuts.
     
  19. HoosierQ

    HoosierQ

    Feb 9, 2010
    I think this is a falacy...no offense. The sword was every bit as important to the medieval knight as it was to the samurai. Every bit as much time was lavished upon their manufacture. There was no such thing as a "standard issue" sword. The sword in Europe, just as in Japan, was the personal property of a gentleman (=knight, =samurai). Probably his most prized possession. Rank and file soldiers were armed with polearms of various types, clubs, knives presumably, and axes which were easy to make in the large numbers needed to equip an army. Also bows and arrows which were a whole different kettle of fish, especially in England...and off topic.

    We think this not the case because the traditions associated with the Japanese sword culture have been preserved completely intact from the 12th century to today. In Europe, the exact opposite occured. When firearms came into use, Europeans threw all they had down that avenue and while gentlemen carried swords right up until the early, mid 19th century, they were a far cry from those used in the middle ages.

    So Japanese swords are not better than medieval swords, their tradition just survived intact.
     
  20. horseclover

    horseclover

    Nov 21, 2000
    Barrels and barrels of blades as well as entire swords were commonplace and the price of a daily wages pay for many laymen. Certain parts of Europe may have seen different circumstance but it iis easy enough to look at, say, the Bayeux Tapestry depicting barrels of swords being loaded on the Norman ships to cross the channel to go play at Hastings. That is 1066 and all that. Consider even Roman times, even before that. Masses of swords were made for the masses.

    By the 14th century, one could note the ship manifests of barrels of unfinished blades arriving in England.

    The whole "swords belonged to only gentlemen of means" is nonsense in the worst sense of it.

    Here is a snapshot of medieval economy and there are hundreds of sources for looking at this
    http://web.archive.org/web/20110522064216/http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/medievalprices.html

    Archers fit right into the equation in that a cheap sword for them would have been a couple of days pay. Look a little further when the "militia" common men at arms of medieval England were required to have arms. Irregardless, a peasants sword cost quite attainable and plentiful.

    Here are a couple of other legs up for the curious and interested online. More than any can read.

    www.british-history.ac.uk/

    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/Sbook.html

    Cheers

    GC
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2012

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