Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Swordfighting: Not What You Think It Is (Medieval Swordfighting Much Different than in the Movies)
109.com ^ | June 12, 2012 | John Clements

Posted on 08/23/2012 9:52:00 PM PDT by PJ-Comix

To borrow a famous line, the problem with most people trying to understanding the true nature of historical sword combat is not that they're ignorant — it's just that they know so much that isn't so.

It's amazing, really, how a subject that so permeates our modern pop culture, and is so ubiquitous, is one which virtually no one any longer has any real world experience in, nor pursues for its original function. As a result, most all our conceptions of sword-fighting get it wrong. The reality of it is not what you think it is.

(Excerpt) Read more at io9.com ...


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: swordfighting
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-94 next last
It goes without saying that popular culture today, including the closet-industry of self-certifying professional stunt fencers whose job it is to fake fights for movies and television, have no real clue as to what actual bladed combat was really like.

I had a feeling that movie swordfighting was way too "gentlemanly."

1 posted on 08/23/2012 9:52:07 PM PDT by PJ-Comix
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
Black Knight Pictures, Images and Photos

"Tis but a scratch!"

2 posted on 08/23/2012 9:58:03 PM PDT by Snickering Hound
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
I had a feeling that movie swordfighting was way too "gentlemanly."

Especially when the hero narrowly escapes being killed by his adversary, averting death at the last possible moment. But when he has disarmed his opponent, the hero shows mercy and spares his life. I wonder how often that happened.

3 posted on 08/23/2012 10:04:07 PM PDT by luvbach1 (Stop the destruction in 2012 or continue the decline)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
Yep. Get it done quickly.


4 posted on 08/23/2012 10:06:10 PM PDT by PA Engineer (What if the rabbit hole is endless?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

I have fenced for years but I recently started doing daggerfencing.com with a wireless system. Kinda fun!


5 posted on 08/23/2012 10:09:02 PM PDT by badpacifist (Romney/Ryan Half right is better than all wrong)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

bkmk


6 posted on 08/23/2012 10:09:42 PM PDT by Sergio (An object at rest cannot be stopped! - The Evil Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

From the descriptions I have read about, not movies, basically opponents hacked each other to death. The last one standing wins.


7 posted on 08/23/2012 10:09:51 PM PDT by Conservative4Ever (The Obamas = rude, crude and socially unacceptable)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

me ping to read later


8 posted on 08/23/2012 10:12:17 PM PDT by razorback-bert (I'm in shape. Round is a shape isn't it?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

“There can be only one!”


9 posted on 08/23/2012 10:12:27 PM PDT by FoxInSocks ("Hope is not a course of action." -- M. O'Neal, USMC)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Conservative4Ever

Yeah, combat by sword back in medieval times was incredibly brutal. Remember when the followers of William Wallace followed him on the battlefield. Me? I would have run a few steps forward...and then dropped my sword and run straight back outta there. And I don’t think most modern men would do any differently.


10 posted on 08/23/2012 10:15:44 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Beware the Rip in the Space/Time Continuum)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

My understanding is these things weren’t really all that sharp; it was more of a bludgeoning operation than a slicing one.


11 posted on 08/23/2012 10:15:58 PM PDT by eclecticEel (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: 7/4/1776 - 3/21/2010)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Ramius

Beat you to the ping!


12 posted on 08/23/2012 10:17:05 PM PDT by 300winmag (Overkill Never Fails)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: eclecticEel

I think I just got an idea for my 10 Things blog.


13 posted on 08/23/2012 10:17:21 PM PDT by PJ-Comix (Beware the Rip in the Space/Time Continuum)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: All
It goes without saying...

Off-topic, but since I teach writing and have awards for public speaking ...

If something is so obvious that it it goes without saying, please don't waste my time saying it.

14 posted on 08/23/2012 10:19:57 PM PDT by Jemian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Snickering Hound

“alright then...we’ll call it a draw eh”


15 posted on 08/23/2012 10:24:01 PM PDT by wardaddy (this white hair don't cover up my redneck......)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

Well the early clan Scots had their women fight along side...blue woad and all. I got some of that fighting spirit from my Scottish sisters.


16 posted on 08/23/2012 10:26:16 PM PDT by Conservative4Ever (The Obamas = rude, crude and socially unacceptable)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: PA Engineer

Funny thing about that scene. The screenwriters had a complicated sword fight written in, but Harrison Ford was ill so the script was changed to Indy shooting the swordsman.


17 posted on 08/23/2012 10:36:25 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Recycled Olympic tagline Shut up, Bob Costas. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
Mostly a worthless “I know it and you don't” ego-masturbation of an article. Not one single mention of anything relevant to the “proper” way to use a blade.

To be blunt, if you have any clue how to cut quickly and effectively with a blade and have the will to do so, you'll win against someone who doesn't. So you're not going to be using “proper” medieval form. Who cares? Unless you are or come across a true blade master, knowing how to effectively make the first quick cut means you win.

Again, mostly a worthless “I know it and you don't” ego-masturbation of an article...

18 posted on 08/23/2012 10:36:36 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: piytar
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that. Give an example of how it was different.

One thing that I did learn from a History Channel show on medieval fighting was than men in armor were surprisingly nimble. Knock one down and he's not like a flipped turtle. He'll be back on his feet in a couple seconds.

19 posted on 08/23/2012 10:44:05 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Recycled Olympic tagline Shut up, Bob Costas. Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio

Didn’t know that. The expression on his face was not acting. It worked better anyways.


20 posted on 08/23/2012 10:49:36 PM PDT by PA Engineer (What if the rabbit hole is endless?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio
I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that. Give an example of how it was different.

Heck, *I* will give one, and I'm no blase master (which he clearly believes he is):

The typical sword fight in the real world lasts less than 3 seconds. If it lasts longer than that, you're both probably going to bleed out. The way to win is to close, cut first, and cut brutally. Anything else is likely to end in a "you both die" tie...

21 posted on 08/23/2012 10:50:58 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio

blase = blade. Apparently I’m no typing master, either...


22 posted on 08/23/2012 10:51:59 PM PDT by piytar (The predator-class is furious that their prey are shooting back.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

Check out Ridley Scott’s “The Duelist”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075968/


23 posted on 08/23/2012 11:05:11 PM PDT by Dead Dog
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PA Engineer
Might take more than one bullet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjnALze3ydc

24 posted on 08/23/2012 11:11:57 PM PDT by Errant
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: eclecticEel

Yep.

Sharp swords got damaged and lost their edge quickly.

Butterknife sharp they were.


25 posted on 08/23/2012 11:12:17 PM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Conservative4Ever
I've long believed that the most accurate portrayal of ancient sword fighting was the end fight scene from the movie "Robin and Marian"

In fact..here it is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ubpQE2IrG0

26 posted on 08/23/2012 11:16:00 PM PDT by The Duke
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

Studied E-Tool (entrenching tool) extensively during my military career with some side study on claymores....not the sword kind.

Swords .....not so much. Machetes, bolos, parangs, etc... Carried and used em in jungle environments to battle “wait a minute vines” but never swords.

Elephant grass feared me !

That’s my BTTT comment PJ”...:o)

Stay safe.


27 posted on 08/23/2012 11:16:55 PM PDT by Squantos
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
And I don’t think most modern men would do any differently.

Do you know the term Decimation?

28 posted on 08/24/2012 12:38:16 AM PDT by itsahoot (Write in Palin in 2012, Just to pi$$ off the Romney botts.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Jonty30
Sharp swords got damaged and lost their edge quickly.
Butterknife sharp they were.

I use a machete as one tool to help with gardening. Hard to keep it sharp, constantly sharpening it, so you are probably right. I suppose swordsmen plunged their blade into flesh with the sharp point to cause the most harm. I have an antique Japanese sword but have never used it against a living creature, so this is of interest to me (in case the Obummer zombies run wild soon).

29 posted on 08/24/2012 12:49:17 AM PDT by roadcat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: roadcat

Sharp blades are also useless against armour.

Swords were used to batter opponents into submission, until they were too weak to fight, then they were either run through or hacked until they died from a loss of blood.

And my mom told me that Dungeons and Dragons was an unproductive hobby. :)


30 posted on 08/24/2012 12:54:50 AM PDT by Jonty30 (What Islam and secularism have in common is that they are both death cults.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 29 | View Replies]

Bone breakers.


31 posted on 08/24/2012 12:55:21 AM PDT by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Squantos
Elephant grass fears everybody!

Now, if you can get dollar weed to mind....

;o)

32 posted on 08/24/2012 1:14:48 AM PDT by papertyger ("And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if..."))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Squantos

Bayonet training at Parris Island with pugil sticks was as close as I got to close combat fighting. Those bouts were usually 3-5 seconds and despite the padding could inflict some pain. One guy was actually knocked out cold.

That training convinced me that medieval weapons were a good thing to have when and if the fighying gets up close and personal.


33 posted on 08/24/2012 1:16:03 AM PDT by NTHockey (Rules of engagement #1: Take no prisoners)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: Jonty30
And my mom told me that Dungeons and Dragons was an unproductive hobby. :)

In a similar vein, I note "that Rock and Roll Crap" my grandmother always bitched about has held its value a whole lot longer than the "forties music" she thought of so highly!

34 posted on 08/24/2012 1:27:58 AM PDT by papertyger ("And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if..."))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: piytar
if you have any clue how to cut quickly and effectively with a blade and have the will to do so, you'll win against someone who doesn't.

True that.

In one - on - one combat with swords, the winner is the one with superior training and motivation.

The "Kill Bill" films part I and II to see how it works.

35 posted on 08/24/2012 1:36:44 AM PDT by spokeshave (The only people better off today than 4 years ago are the Prisoners at Guantanamo.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

May I humbly suggest a related, and quite fun documentary? Reclaiming the Blade (both a website and documentary, which I think is on youtube, and Netflix, iirc.)


36 posted on 08/24/2012 2:29:37 AM PDT by sayuncledave (et Verbum caro factum est (And the Word was made flesh))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix

I once saw a fascinating documentary shot at the Royal Armory at Leeds. They came across some Medieval(?) manuals of swordsmanship for the Claymore, and re-enactors at the Armory worked out a full-speed display of sword combat based on what was in them. The Claymore was an amazingly agile instrument in the hands of a trained man- it wasn’t the swing-it-like-a-baseball-bat meat cleaver that it’s shown to be in the movies.

I’ve been looking for that documentary online for years (granted, I haven’t looked in a while) but I’d love to watch it again.


37 posted on 08/24/2012 2:44:52 AM PDT by Riley (The Fourth Estate is the Fifth Column.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Jonty30

Sharp blades are also useless against armour.

Swords were used to batter opponents into submission, until they were too weak to fight, then they were either run through or hacked until they died from a loss of blood.


I’ve read elsewhere that the War-Hammer and the Mace were the preferred tools of knights vs. knights. Also on the Connections videos Burke shows that the preferred place to strike a man in battle was in the lesser armored legs. That was confirmed by examination of several burial mounds in France and England.


38 posted on 08/24/2012 2:48:04 AM PDT by The Working Man
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: piytar
"Not one single mention of anything relevant to the “proper” way to use a blade."

DITTO, I kept reading looking for where he was gonna show me his chops and nada.

I would like to see him in a match with a veteran martial artist trained in the use of the katana. I am willing to bet he wouldn't fare well.

39 posted on 08/24/2012 2:52:16 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: piytar
I watched a show on the History Channel and dance instructor and armorer for the Royal Family (he maintained historical weapons) worked out a dueling sequence from a medieval wood cut. The whole sword was used with pommel strike upper cuts etc. The killing move was strangulation with the guard. When enacted it was quick and lethal.Not your typical medieval movie sword fight.
40 posted on 08/24/2012 2:55:17 AM PDT by carcraft (Pray for our Country)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
Well, considering that medieval broad swords (made of folded, carbonized steel) weighed between 10-15 pounds, sword fights didn't last very long before the opponents were worn out.

And yeah, it was brutal hack and slash stuff...very bloody and gruesome.

Japanese sword-fighting on the other hand was a little more refined (but still bloody and vicious) because quite simply their swordmaking was superior and the blades much lighter. The same for Damascus blades, which originated in India and Persia.

41 posted on 08/24/2012 3:01:59 AM PDT by Timber Rattler (Just say NO! to RINOS and the GOP-E)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Duke
I always thought that the Salkind Productions of the Three Musketeers and the Four musketeers were a lot closer to the truth. Especially Atho's technique: "Use whatever is at hand and beat the living shit out of your opponent until he dies."

Its one of the reason's I liked those movies, the combat looked real, not staged. And the behind the scenes interviews on my Special Edition DVD reveal it was close to real with many of the actors getting hurt. Though there was still an air of swashbuckling swordplay to it all.

42 posted on 08/24/2012 3:02:52 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio
"Knock one down and he's not like a flipped turtle. He'll be back on his feet in a couple seconds."

IIRC that particular meme got started because of the gear Knights wore for a joust, not actual combat. Many did have to be helped onto their horses and if they got knocked down they couldn't get right back up. But the reason was you were trying to protect the knight from a head on collision with a total impact speed that could exceed 50 miles an hour (Two horses moving towards each other at around 25 miles an hour each at the gallop)

Jousting Armor over the years got bulkier and heavier to try and compensate for the hard knocks jousters took. But I doubt any would have worn such versions into battle. It would have put them at a great disadvantage.

43 posted on 08/24/2012 3:11:39 AM PDT by Mad Dawgg (If you're going to deny my 1st Amendment rights then I must proceed to the 2nd one...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Jemian
If something is so obvious that it it goes without saying, please don't waste my time saying it.

Technically, he didn't *say* those things, he *wrote* them. ;-)

44 posted on 08/24/2012 3:35:40 AM PDT by exDemMom (Now that I've finally accepted that I'm living a bad hair life, I'm more at peace with the world.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: exDemMom

“Technically, he didn’t *say* those things, he *wrote* them. ;-)”

Goes without writing. . .just sayin’


45 posted on 08/24/2012 3:57:05 AM PDT by will of the people
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: PJ-Comix
"Medieval swordfighting" casts a pretty wide net. The elegant Hollywood style duels present one extreme; simple hack and slash butchery, the other. In actuality, I imagine a lot depended on variables like single combat vs. small groups vs. general melee; the weaponry being carried by participants on both sides (highly variable); the availability and quality of shields, helmet, and body armor (highly variable); troop quality (highly variable), individual weapons handling skill (highly variable); not to mention morale, leadership, terrain, etc.

Ultimately with edged weapons, combat must have devolved into one-on-one, one-on-two, or one-on-three matches. Most of these must have been very short, although I suppose that two skilled swordsmen, equally matched, could occasionally have had extended fights, assuming their comrades did not rush in to overpower the opponent. The individual challenge matches between champions that occured occasionally throughout history probably had some of this character. A general melee or small group fight would have been different affairs. One of the tests for any warrior would have been the ability to adapt to different circumstances.

I am not a reenactor, but I do respect the ability of reenactors to generate microhistory on interesting subjects. Perhaps a couple can pitch in on this thread. One thing we don't know nearly enough about is small unit tactics on ancient and medieval battlefields. Professional warriors would presumably have learned to fight in organized teams. (They weren't stupid; they wanted to survive; and combat is an fast and effective teacher.) We just don't have enough in the written record to picture it easily. I imagine serious reenactors have rediscovered some of these lessons.

We have probably better detail about the Romans in the heydey of the legions: they were disciplined and trained, which was important; they fought in formations that allowed for mutual support; they were armored, and therefore much more willing to close with often unarmored barbarian opponents; and their training, tactics, and formations were such that they could relieve the front ranks in combat, keep fresh men to the front, and pass wounded men to the rear. It's probably an error to assume that medieval warriors were incapable of the same things, at least as far as the professionals were concerned.

46 posted on 08/24/2012 3:57:49 AM PDT by sphinx
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sphinx
Re: small team combat. In our copybook ideas about medieval warfare, a proper knight had his squire(s) and men at arms, who were typically less well equipped; some knights commanded "lances." The duties of these troops presumably included direct combat support. That might involve stepping into the line and fighting alongside their leader. It would also have probably included covering a withdrawal if the team leader was beaten or wounded, as well as a rescue attempt if he went down. All that would of course depend on the broader circumstances. A swirling mass of thousands of bodies with everyone in a crush would degrade small group teamwork, but good warriors would presumably attempt to maintain order and position, and avoid overcrowding. It would have been the untrained levies who tended to flock together for the slaughter.

We don't even really know the typical spacing of medieval forces, or the depth of formations. Pikemen presumably stood should to shoulder, but swordsmen need more room.

47 posted on 08/24/2012 4:15:02 AM PDT by sphinx
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: Jemian
Off-topic, but since I teach writing and have awards for public speaking ...

If something is so obvious that it it goes without saying, please don't waste my time saying it.

If you teach writing and have awards for public speaking (?), please don't end sentences with prepositions.

48 posted on 08/24/2012 4:21:44 AM PDT by IncPen (Educating Barack Obama has been the most expensive project in human history)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: KarlInOhio
One thing that I did learn from a History Channel show on medieval fighting was than men in armor were surprisingly nimble. Knock one down and he's not like a flipped turtle. He'll be back on his feet in a couple seconds.

Full plate armor was only around 50 pounds. Our troops are expected to run around in combat with more than that, when you add up body armor, weapons, ammo, water, radio, etc, etc.

A man in his prime, who works out every day practicing fighting in armor as the ancient knights did, would get to the point where he hardly noticed the weight of his armor.

And the way they fought bore no resemblance to Hollywood sword fighting, which was patterned on fencing (alias "playing tag with car antennas"). Real fighting is FIGHTING: you try to hack off hands, slash legs, knock his sword out of the way with your gauntlet-protected hand so you can smash him on the head with your sword hilt before chopping it off, etc.

49 posted on 08/24/2012 4:34:14 AM PDT by PapaBear3625 (A deep-fried storm is coming, Mr Obama.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: piytar
The typical sword fight in the real world lasts less than 3 seconds. If it lasts longer than that, you're both probably going to bleed out. The way to win is to close, cut first, and cut brutally. Anything else is likely to end in a "you both die" tie...

Movie depictions of the use of the Japanese katana mostly focus on the "draw & quick strike" aspect of the brutal art, and are therefore much more representative. The Japanese through martial arts have preserved much of medieval swordplay, so perhaps it's understandable.

50 posted on 08/24/2012 4:34:23 AM PDT by Tallguy (It's all 'Fun and Games' until somebody loses an eye!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-94 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson