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Thread: Debunking European Sword Myths.

  1. #1

    Post Debunking European Sword Myths.

    Hi everyone!

    There are still plenty of sword myths out there which seem to be indestructible without sources of proper information. Unfortunately all the info is scattered around the Net so everyone has to pick all the pieces by himself, which is not good if someone desires instant “readable” article about European swords how they really are.

    I've spend many times at searching the Net for articles and information where all the sword myths (still perpetuating on TV and other popular media) actually come from. Now I found a very interesting thread in a German forum:
    http://www.kampfkunst-board.info/for...mythen-128548/

    This one has very good links and books, so I'll try now to translate it in English. My English isn't very good, so moderators are invited to edit my thread in order to make some corrections. My intention is to have a thread with “concentrated” information – which can be linked everywhere in Internet when you are forced to fight urban legends and plain bias in an another forum out there.

    1). European swords were clumsy, unwieldy, hunks of steel weighting up to 40 pounds

    What Did Historical Swords Weigh?
    Journal of Western Martial Art
    Ewart Oakeshott: Sword In Hand © 2001


    According to this data most of survived originals are residing between 1,43 and 3,1 pounds. The most heavy of them could reach 4,5 pounds having a good balance at the same time. The so called Bidenhaender (Two Handed Swords of Renaissance Era soldiers) could weigh as much as 13 pounds (source: The Two-Handed Great Sword)
    A video example of “wieldability”:
    YouTube - The Hanwei Scottish Lowlander
    The so called “bearing swords” are not true weapons but decorative fakes (“sword like objects”), some of them are reported to have full 24 pounds (same source as above).

    The medieval longsword lost its purpose as a anti-armor weapon in the 16th century and was replaced by the rapier. Longswords of old days were now regarded as unwieldy because they couldn’t be worn like rapiers. But when 19th century came and Romanticism swept around Europe interest for European knightly swords began to arise. People rushed into museums and found large collections, featuring many Renaissance bearing swords, which could survive pretty good. Jousting armors were also there. “Strong big hearted and naive barbarians” was the depiction of medieval warriors at those days, big swords in big hands powered with blood from big hearts – that was really appealing to a Victorian era romantic. As a result, heavy bearing swords were regarded as “true medieval battle weapons”. Fencers like Egerton Castle naturally felt themselves to declare Victorian Era fencing sport as “pinnacle of fencing art ever” – the myth of super heavy knightly swords was born.

    Walter Scott (1771-1832) created some of the most known sword myths which are perpetuating even today. „Talisman“ – the tale of Saladin meeting Richard the Lionheart is pure fiction, just like their famous sword test between a “two handed European sword” and Saladins “damascene scimitar”. Interestingly, this fantasy is still used as a “proof” that European swords were somehow inferior to eastern swords.

    When “asian hype” arrived the western world in the 1970-s the interest in European swords was resurrected, and unfortunately those sword myths as well. Through the portrayal of European and asian swords in movies the notion of “crude western swords” became very widespread, just as belief that asian swords were almost magical in their performance.
    Video example of a 1970-s European sword fight portrayal:
    YouTube - Robin Hood vs. Sheriff of Nottingham - Final Duel (Robin and Marian)

    Some data of real antiques can although debunk those beliefs pretty quickly:
    http://zornhau.de/source/schwertexkursion/index.htm
    Zornhau - historische Fechtkunst e.V.-

    2). European swords were not sharp.

    The Towton Mass Grave Project
    Veronica Fiorato, Anthea Boylston, Christopher Knüsel: Blood red roses: the archaeology of a mass grave from the Battle of Towton AD 1461. 2000
    Depictions from Hans Talhoffer’s manuscripts, Maciejowski-Bible, Codex Manesse


    Forensic evidence is now available that weapons which slashed all the soldiers found in mass graves has to be sharp. In some cases even teeth were cut and not broken. According to this, many techniques are found in medieval/renaissance fighting manuals which requires a very sharp weapon.

    The blade geometry is pretty much the key to sharpness: European antiques were found to have a pretty slim bevel angle, see image Fig. 3:
    http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/...47/7/1050/_pdf
    Some modern reproductions featuring historical edge bevels:
    http://www.templ.net/pics-making/bla...section01v.jpg

    Many excellent preserved european medieval swords are reported to be sharp even after centuries:
    myArmoury.com: Sword of St. Maurice of Turin
    It is quite as useable today as it was in the 13th century I think you could use the edge to sharpen a pencil: it is still that sharp.
    In the 20th century stage combat was born, a modern sport using flexible soft blades with a rounded edge bevel. Such SLO’s (SLO = Sword Like Object) became very popular and soon they were recognized as “real” – the theatrical bashing at armor was also taken as “historical” supporting the notion that European swords “has to be blunt to crush armor”. Nothing of it can be found in contemporary sources and fighting manuals. The contrast between “ultra-sharp” asian swords has done the rest, creating a depiction of European swords which completely runs contrary to survived specimens.

    3). European swords were crudely made and of bad steel.

    Salter, C and Ehrenreich, R M 1984. Iron Age metallurgy in central southern Britain, in Cunliffe and Miles 1984.
    Alan Williams: The Knight and the Blast Furnace. Brill Verlag © 2003
    (The knight and the blast furnace: a ... - Google Books)
    Alfred Pothmann (Hrsg.): Das Zeremonialschwert der Essener Domschatzkammer. Aschendorff, Münster © 1995
    Stefan Mäder: Stähle, Steine und Schlangen. Zur Kultur- und Technikgeschichte von Schwertklingen des frühen Mittelalters. © 2001
    Janet Lang: Study of the Metallography of some Roman Swords © 1988
    Radomir Pleiner: The Celtic Sword © 1993

    Ian Peirce: Swords of the Viking Age. Boydell Press © 2007
    Swords of the Viking age - Google Books


    Modern research has revealed that even Celtic swords from 500 BC were made of different steels welded together. Roman swords were made just like their celtic counterparts; piled construction and occasionally differentially hardened. Swords from the so called “Nydam-Ship” (3-4th century AD) were complex pattern welded blades which were found to be differentially hardened. This trend continued to 10th century, where pattern welding was abandoned and laminations were used – up to 18th century.

    Some research papers:
    http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/inde...ewFile/218/222
    http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/inde...download/50/51
    http://gladius.revistas.csic.es/inde...wnload/141/141
    Metallurgy and Production of European Armor
    myArmoury.com: Sword Blade Hardness: the current research

    Typical „knightly sword“ which was used in first and second Crusades:
    http://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/...47/7/1050/_pdf
    Metallographic research has shown that piled construction of European blades was typical for the majority of European swords, and research of Stefan Mäder (a German archaeometallurgist who brought some early-medieval blades to Japan to be polished and examined by Amada Akitsugu, a leading expert of Nihonto) reveals extensive folding up to 10 times, which is commonly believed to be a Japanese sword feature. An alamannic seax was even differentially hardened and had a distinctive “hamon”.

    The popular depiction of a “barbaric blacksmith pounding on a piece of low quality steel” is actually not only misleading – it is completely false. Medieval swords were found occasionally to be from very pure steel which rivals modern tool steels like W1 (see Alfred Pothmann: Das Zeremonialschwert der Essener Domschatzkammer.) Those steels were laminated and masterfully heat treated, just like they did it in China, Japan, India and Persia. Interestingly, there are some accounts from Arab World praising European swords: Ibn Miskawaih (11ct.) reports raids of Viking graves with the intention of finding high quality swords. Nasireddin al-Tusi (13 ct.) describes european swords which were extremely flexible and so hard they could hack iron nails. And the famous Al-Kindi writes about european swords being combined from iron and steel to attain flexibility and sharpness (http://www.vikingsword.com/bibliography/alkindi.html).

    Ironically, Arabs seem to have appreciated European swords at those days, so the only source of “superior damascene scimitars” we really have is Walter Scott’s fantasy. Let alone the fact that there were no “scimitars” or "two handed great swords" in the 12th century.

    4). There were no martial arts or advanced swordsmanship in Europe

    Royal Armouries Manuscript I.33 © ca. 1300
    Nürnberger Handschrift GNM 3227a © 1389
    Fiore dei Liberi: Flos Duellatorum © 1410
    Sigmund Ringeck: MS Dresd. C 487 © 1440er
    Peter von Danzig: Cod. 44 A 8 / MS 1449 © 1452
    Hans Talhoffer: 6 manuals from 1443 to 1467
    Paulus Kal: Cgm 1507, 95 folia © 1460
    Filippo Vadi: De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi © zw. 1482-1487

    The depiction of “heavy clumsy knights” bashing with their blunt swords using brute strength only, is a product of 20th century stage combat, movies and Renaissance Fairs, utilizing old romantic fantasies about “big strong but not very intelligent barbarians”. Nothing of it is accurate, whether “dumb barbaric medieval culture” nor the lack of sophistication in medieval swordfighting. Such fighting as depicted in movies was never reported historically – medieval/renaissance fighting manuals teach us a completely different way to fight in armor. It has more of 19th century arrogance and contemporary ignorance rather than of real medieval martial arts.

    5). Katana is the best sword ever

    1). Katana has inherently more speed, finesse and killing power than other swords
    Such sentiments are commonly shared by Anime watchers, RPG players and those who rely on movies as their main source. There is no actual evidence that Katana are somehow “better”. All comparisons which can be found in popular media have been made with SLO’s, not historically accurate swords. Inherent “speed” or “finesse” is typical computer-game-thinking, that’s how games are made – those features do not correlate with reality in any way.
    2). Katana cuts anything and is indestructible
    Once again, the main source of this opinion is Anime and ninja movies, mainly from the 1980-s. The very most of spectacular tricks presented in mass media can be easily replicated with other swords or even knives:
    Cutting bullet YouTube - Kingdom Armory - Knife abuse test - bullet split
    Paper cuts YouTube - How sharp can European Medieval swords be?
    Tatami YouTube - Global Gear Viking Sword
    Stainless sheets YouTube - Viking Challenge! Long Sword cutting Steel Plate Thrand , Reply to Samurai Challenge
    Deflecting an arrow YouTube - Sword Vs Arrow

    The only one thing we can see there is that the myth of “japanese super swords“ lives from European swords being crude, unwieldy and exceptionally bad. The very most of infotainment documentaries, popular books and shows always employ “comparisons” of japanese swords with their European counterparts just to show how “superior” Japanese blades are. And pretty often facts which prove European swords on par with Japanese are taken as a offense to Katana and Samurai in general. It is pretty obvious that our popular culture wants some swords to be “crude” and some to be “superior”.

    Some simple facts:
    - There is no video or written evidence that Katana can cut solid steel or do other "magical" things we keep hearing, but thousands of Katana in collections with bent and chipped blades.
    - There is no metallographic evidence that Katana are somehow different to other steel swords in the world.
    - There is no evidence that Chinese, Koreans, Mongols and Europeans were impressed by japanese swords and bought them in huge amounts to replace their own "crude" swords.

    Metallography of a japanese sword:
    http://www.yamakawadojo.com/Japanese...per%202009.pdf
    There we have a good insight in the inner life of a Katana. Pretty soft body, prone to bending, only the last 5mm of the edge are really hard. Nothing magical or “superior” to other blades.

    From the information above it is clearly seen that European swords are on par with Japanese ones, no matter if it’s weight, balance, sharpness, craftsmanship or steel quality. If there were no “crude blunt heavy European swords” the myth of Katana wouldn’t even be there… Who knows?

    ***

    Recommended authors
    Ewart Oakeshott, Alan Williams, Yoshindo Yoshihar, Manfred Sachse, J.D. Verhoeven, Alfred Geibig, Herbert Westphal, R. Pleiner, Stefan Mäder, Anne Stalsberg, Ian Peirce.
    Last edited by Greg Volevach; 05-20-2011 at 01:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    Well said! for years now I have been having to explain to people who don't know much about swords (other than what they have seen in films of course) that European swords are in fact quite sophisticated. But it seems that everyone I meet and speak with on the topic of swords thinks that Katana's are superior in everyway and are they only swords worth talking about, very frustrating!! Your right in saying that films and the like play a massive part in fermenting the myths, and its not only the films that show Katanas as godlike that do the damage, but also as you said by portraying European swords as clumsy, heavy and ill refined they basically seal the deal. But thats Hollywood for you, its always the case of "What's right is not always popular. Whats popular is not always right". Shame really because I for one find reality the most intriguing.
    "I have only my sword, and that I gladly give for my country" - Nikitaras

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    The European swords were dull heavy clubs vs the katana are light sharp swords debate: I like to point out that the average weight of both types was very nearly the same and that european swords are not nearly as thick as a typical katana. As for quality; well that's based on use case; though I like to refer people to why the katana profits from ashi and european swords do not...
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  4. #4
    My intention is actually not to bring something new to this forum, but provide all the information in one piece for all who needs it. Here it contunues...

    6). European swords were not polished

    It is well known that japanese swords are polished very finely. European swors are mostly portrayed having lots of patina, being roughly sharpened by a piece of stone - we actually see this kind of "sharpening" in many movies, like "Conan", scratching across the blade with a intimidating noise.

    Nistorical sources however often mention swords having a mirror polish. The most famous one is the so called "Letter of Theodoric I" (source: http://www.tf.uni-kiel.de/matwis/ama...t/serpent.html) who praises the beauty of pattern welded finely polished blades. Depictions in the Maciejowski Bible show us highly decorative swords:
    http://www.manesse.de/manesse/img/kf...80-348-422.jpg
    Fortunately, an excellent survived sword exist which proves such depictions:
    http://www.myarmoury.com/view.html?f..._spotxii20.jpg

    The sword of Sancho IV of Castile has not only a mirror polish, the darker corpus (probably a kind of bluing) and shiny edges are remarkably similar to the approach of japanese swords. This sword dates from the second half of 13th century. Theodoric I. spoke of a "polishing powder" some 800 years earlier, and there are indeed medieval images showing a piece of leather or wood which is used to polish the baldes:
    http://www.myarmoury.com/view.html?f...hardness11.jpg

    The popular belief european swords were not polished is coming from movies (what else) where SLO's are used, which actually are crudely made things. Real swords were indeed far from being "crudely sharpened".

  5. #5
    Why do old myths still perpetuate? I think I know the answer: AwS (Actors with SLO's)!

    There is almost no "sword show" or "infotainment documentary" produced before 2010 having real experts and real authentic replicas. Mike Loades' documentaries and the recent "Medieval Fight Book" by National Geographic (featuring John Clements wielding an Albion Talhoffer) are rather exceptions to the rule.

    National Geographic "Samurai sword", same infotainment was aired at Discovery Channel, featuring Ian Bottomley, Victor Harris, Stephen Turnbull and James Chambers. The guy with "european broadsword" was an actor wielding a sword of unknown origin. Fail...

    History Channel. "Lock-n-Load" with Lee Ermey was one of the worst. They invited stage combat instructors, gave some stage swords a rough bevel, bought stainless fake breastplate and sold all that as "medeival swords testing." Even worse was "Conquest" with Peter Woodward, 100% AwS with 0,0% authenticity.

    There is an excellent and entertaining rant on TV by an academic:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqC_squo6X4#t=10m03s

    What I try to say - it is not the glorification of japanese swords which is inacceptable (mythic super swords are cool! ), but the undeserved denigration of european weapons which is quite annoying. Those myths are repeated thousands of times and finally become "truth" - creating pseudohistory! Taking actors who never wielded any real swords, cheap SLO's, and then make conclusions which sword is "better" - That's the real problem!

  6. #6
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    Greg

    Absolutely agree in principle, though just to be a pedant: the vast majority of "infotainment documentaries" (****ing History Channel...) use historical re-enactors working for little or free, not professional actors - this is a budget thing. They want cheap thrills for the edit and aren't really bothered about anything else, so they'll just use a shaky handheld camera and intercut it with close ups with no real attempt at doing the fight properly.

    When actors are used and the results are poor this is usually down to shoddy Fight Direction (that or the production not giving the Fight Director enough time to work with the actors). Though yes, there are plenty of substandard Fight Directors and Stage Combat Instructors out there, there are also plenty of exceptionally skilled and knowledgeable ones who produce fantastic and accurate results. What's more, even if the actors are willing and the Fight Directors are skilled and given enough time and resources, if the Director doesn't like it and wants to make a change then that's what happens.

    The shoddiness of those awful documentaries is usually not because they've got actors with SLOs, but rather because they haven't got actors or fight directors (or practitioners or instructors, for that matter), just whoever turned up for the promise of a free sandwich. Furthermore, even if they get a HEMA expert or a good Fight Director, they will be advisors at best; unless the documentary is theirs specifically (you mentioned the Mike Loades docs - excellent example) - if the director throws in a costume change or reshoots something or cuts something or adds something to make it more "exciting" then that's entirely up to him and his judgement, and entirely out of everyone elses control.

  7. #7
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    That said, I do certainly agree with you on this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Volevach View Post
    it is not the glorification of japanese swords which is inacceptable (mythic super swords are cool! ), but the undeserved denigration of european weapons which is quite annoying. Those myths are repeated thousands of times and finally become "truth" - creating pseudohistory
    I am merely niggling on a detail.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Brice Stratford McFarlane View Post
    I am merely niggling on a detail.
    That's OK. I didn't use the term "actor" properly, I thought more of people who "play" someone instead of being one (swordsman, expert, etc.).

  9. #9
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    OTOH James Burke on one of his programs (The Day the Universe Changed or Connections), demonstrated what a medieval european sword could do---as an over weight middle aged rather sedentary pendant he picked it up and with one swing nearly cleaved a free hanging side of beef in two! Much more impressive than a "pro" showing off.
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

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    I think you are getting worked up over nothing, and singing to the choir.
    The vast majority of people will only ever think about a sword in the context of movies. Movie sword fighting has nothing to do with actual sword fighting because the real thing just isn't entertaining enough. Therefore, the majority of people will always have the wrong idea about swords. This is not a big issue folks. Those that find out that we actually practice the sword arts may ask about the myths. In that case you tell them as much as they want to hear about the reality of swords. Most people won't want to hear much.

    What the majority of people think about swords really has no impact on what we think about swords, so it just isn't worth getting up in arms about. (so to speak. )
    Paul Smith
    "Keep the sharp side and the
    pointy end between you and
    your opponent"

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    I think you are getting worked up over nothing, and singing to the choir.
    Yup. (not a bad thing though, on occasion?)

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    Movie sword fighting has nothing to do with actual sword fighting because the real thing just isn't entertaining enough.
    Not at all. Though of course the vast majority of film fights can be rightly tarred with this brush, such a sweeping and dismissive generalisation is unfair and untrue; a significant and steadily growing number of Stage Combat Teachers, Practitioners and Fight Directors are and have been working incredibly hard to remedy this and to promote realistic and accurate practise where appropriate. I could name Bill Hobbs, I could name Jonathan Howell, I could name Mike Loades, I could name Tony Wolf, I could name others. To ignore and dismiss their work, efforts and skill is not only unfair, but also counter productive. One could directly compare the struggle of an increasing number of Fight Directors (to promote realistic performance, representation and understanding of historical combat), with the all-to-recent (and ongoing) struggle of sword and historical fight experts and practitioners to promote the exact same thing in the face of ongoing Victorian myths in the fencing, Martial Arts and historical communities (the very myths this thread bemoans in fact, which though they may have been propogated by movies, were instigated by experts, fencers and historians).

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    Those that find out that we actually practice the sword arts may ask about the myths. In that case you tell them as much as they want to hear about the reality of swords. Most people won't want to hear much.
    Quite right; HEMA experts, historians and practitioners cannot stuff truth down peoples throats, only offer the truth when asked. Fight Directors and Stage Combatants, on the other hand, can. If the HEMA community wants to help spread an understanding of and respect for (and, consequently, interest in) the reality of HEMA amongst the vast, disinterested public then instead of dismissing films and Fight Directors out of hand (and very often in a quite snide and disrespectful way - I'm not referring to anyone in this thread, just to what I have witnessed, read and overheard in the past) surely the community should be giving support to the Fight Directors who do and are working for this same thing; they are in a position to influence public consciousness in a way that no number of expert practitioners and historians ever could.

    If you honestly think that film fights are a lost cause I point you towards The Duellists.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Smith View Post
    What the majority of people think about swords really has no impact on what we think about swords, so it just isn't worth getting up in arms about. (so to speak. )
    Absolutely

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    I think a lot of fight choreography has three main goals: move the plot along, impress the lay-folk, and don't injure the talent.

    That being said, there are a lot of period moves that would look really cool on the screen. In rapier, the inquartata and passata soto come to mind, and the plays against the zornhau could be rich ground for longsword. It would take good choreography and the right camera angles, but I think it could be done.

    I wonder if the idea that western swords are dull comes from halfswording. Maybe people didn't realize that just because the forte and mezzo can be gripped doesn't mean the foible isn't sharp.
    Jim Mearkle

    Swing low, sweet nebenhut!

    "A sharp point is a peremptory fact, which makes quick work of illusions..."
    Baron de Bazancourt

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Mearkle View Post
    I think a lot of fight choreography has three main goals: move the plot along, impress the lay-folk, and don't injure the talent.
    I'd say the order of importance was:
    1) Don't injure the talent
    2) Tell the story
    3) Make it appropriate contextually

    But just because that's the order of priority it doesn't follow that only one or two of those is fulfilled; a good Fight Director will succeed in all three elements.

    Points 1) and 2) are fairly self explanatory, but 3) is the one which has relevance here. Sometimes it'll be appropriate to exaggerate and stylise, sometimes it'll be appropriate to chreograph clumsy and comedic, sometimes gritty and raw, sometimes fluid and beautiful, sometimes believable and accurate. Up until relatively recently fights on film were almost completely from the exaggerate/stylise school or the clumsy/comedic. Sometimes that's appropriate; when a film is mythic and legendary and epic then surely the fights should be just as heightened as the situations, the characters and the story? For historical precedent in literature I site the heightened and "unrealistic" accounts of combat in Beowulf, Gawaine and the Green Knight, The Mabinogian, The Odyssey, The Ilyiad, etc. Sometimes the characters don't know the first thing about combat, or have terrible habits; under these circumstances it's perfectly accurate and perfectly realistic for the most ridiculous fights to unfold, regardless of what more technically proficient individuals might do in their stead.

    Sometimes however, and this is what we're finding more and more, directors deem it appropriate to treat the film as a real story unfolding about real lives and real individuals and real emotions. Under these circumstances realistic Fight Choreography is very much appropriate, and very much the done thing. The belief that realistic combat has no place on screen is not a new one; compare the unarmed combat in The Sweeney (1970's) or The Rockford Files with unarmed combat in The Wire. It is perfectly accepted that (though certainly not seen in every instance) realistic unarmed fights can be seen on film, where appropriate; 30 years ago boxers, martial artists and the like would have told you (for the most part) that
    Movie fighting has nothing to do with actual fighting because the real thing just isn't entertaining enough
    - if realistic unarmed fights can be appropriate and effective it's daft to think that realistic armed fights can't be, especially in the face of multiple recent examples of realistic sword combat on film. The shift in standards of unarmed combat on film didn't happen by chance, it happened because of the struggles and efforts of Fight Directors (many of whom were once dismissed by Martial Artists, Boxers, Wrestlers, etc just as they are now by Historians and HEMA Practitioners); that struggle continues with historical combat.

    The problem is not fights on film per se, but rather inferior fights on film. Nobody is working harder to remedy this than Fight Directors.
    Last edited by Brice Stratford McFarlane; 05-21-2011 at 05:32 AM.

  14. #14
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    Hi Brice,

    In a not so distant thread regarding the new three mouseketiers film, there was a fairly sage remark from someone kind of giving up on film production and correctness.

    Quote Originally Posted by luke laFontaine View Post
    Well, having worked in this industry for 21 years now. I am truely on the verge of giving up hope. No point in trying to work w directors and producers w a seventh grade education level. There is no Talk simple understanding that you choreograph traditional swordsmanship and amplify rythem and tempo and good camera work not ninja video game zack synder,anderson useless CRAP!! You know youre dealing w complete idiocy when they didnt learn what not to do after "Musketeer" this is my favorite period and my alltime favorite subject. I hate them for wasting all that money on something so shamefully vapid.No way to redeem themselves.
    More of that discussion here

    http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...s-2011-trailer

    That speaks a bit as well to what Paul mentions of singing to the choir but also that Hollywood and media productions at large are still apt to be looking for the entertainment and ratings factor. We have yet another Pirates of the Caribbean episode to regale in Yarrrrrrrrr splendor without having to wonder too much about the exactness and correctness because the object of the film is entertainment. I personally find it no great hurdle to separate the martial arts and scholarly aspects of spathology from films. There is certainly a middle ground and one can always hope that at least some history leaks out but the grist mill of production is always going to go for the fantastic to sell tickets.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; don't mind me too much for appreciating both the compromises of media and the truths as we try to explain them

  15. #15
    Movie fighting, whether bad or not, is one thing...

    But what really concerns me are academics (historians, japanologists) who seem to really buy into the myths I listed above. Remember Ian Bottomley on National Geographic's "Samurai Sword", who simply stated "samurai sword is perfectly capable of cutting iron plates and even sword plates without becoming damaged." The we have a respected japanologist Dr. Stephen Turnbull: http://www.swordforum.com/forums/sho...one-too-strong

    There are also some people who are not historians or martial artists. Nevertheless they proclaim themselves "swordfighting experts" and "historians", having no real knowledge at the same time. They simply summon all the well known myths and praise them as 'historical'. Myths are declared to be "scientific", not only by pretend historians but also by real academics. And that's what I call "creation of pseudohistory." I'll excuse an academic who is simply not competent in a particular science, but those who simply SHOULD know it, are not so easy excused.

    I was simply shocked when I've read some Internet stuff about "Katana" and found some writers who really claimed "Katana is best - proven scientifically!" Their scientific proof consisted of Ian Bottomley's citation, Lee Ermeys 'Testing' and experise of 'Deadliest Warrior' stuff - those people REALLY thought it was "real science"!

    Bad TV fights are one thing, but I think blatant pseudoscience and pseudohistory are the worst parts of the story.
    Last edited by Greg Volevach; 05-21-2011 at 09:32 AM.

  16. #16
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    Hi Greg,

    I am not sure if you are endorsing a decade old rant regarding Turnbull or disagreeing with that decade old rant? Some here already have their own opinions on media of all types and if Hollywood seems the worst and most apparent, the other forms ofvisual media follows close in hand. What any can hope is that someone truly interested in history is less likely to assign such blame to the readers and viewers but instead understand the same push for ratings of any television production. Most television productions you have mentioned get discussed here somewhat ad nauseum and you are really only trampling paths well traveled here.

    Greg, would you care to offer your own credentials and a brief resume of your own expertise?

    Cheers

    Hotspur; Myself? Naught but the class clown and bus boy
    Last edited by Glen C.; 05-21-2011 at 09:39 AM.

  17. #17
    First of all, I mentioned those threads just to remind the audience that some problems still exist. It's not about beating a dead horse. Pseudoscience on TV and in popular media is still alive, even after a decade of debates. It was not my intention to reanimate those old discussions but to show how little is changed in the last time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Glen C. View Post
    Greg, would you care to offer your own credentials and a brief resume of your own expertise?
    I am not an expert or swordfighting instructor, I just started my HEMA training a year ago and have read some books.

  18. #18
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    Thanks for your time and clarifications Greg. I am going to place this thread in an FAQ section for beginners where any looking for such truths can be found in one place. Continued discussion in the thread is welcome to all that might want to add more.

    Although some of it dated, the front page of http://swordforum.com also has leads to much of what is being described.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; iirc, one of my very old bookmarks was Matt Galas' sword stats that predates these boards. Matt can be found penning more articles and information in the HES subforum here and elsewhere

    http://www.palus.demon.co.uk/Sword_Stats.html

  19. #19
    Thanks Glen, it seems to be a more appropriate part of the forum for my thread. I'll edit my starting post step by step in order to add more information, so that all sorts of beginnerns can see it at once.

  20. #20
    7). European swords were used for blundeoning and crushing armor.

    Here we have some specs of real european swords.

    12th century "Norman" sword:
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwertexkursion/ZEF-5.jpg
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwertexkursion/ZEF-5.pdf

    10th century spatha:
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwert...F-11-gross.jpg
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwert...blattZEF11.pdf

    15th century "broad" sword:
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwert...F-12-gross.jpg
    http://www.zornhau.de/source/schwert...blattZEF12.pdf

    As we see all of them are only 3mm thick (0,126") around their Point of Percussion! Their weight is residing between 2,2 and 2,6 pounds. Such low thickness and slim edges just do not allow such abuse like bashing at metal things, those edges are made for cutting and not "crushing". We see no rounded bevels. At least no plate armor can be crushed with a sword - poleaxes and maces are just right for this job.

    The misconception of "blunt bashing tools" comes mainly from the presence of stage combat props with rounded bevels and almost no distal taper, which are beaten at armor and other swords with noise and brutality in modern swordfight shows. No sword can cut armor or other swords, because of very high tensile strength of iron and low cabon steel, as physics are telling us.

    There are absolutely no historical accounts of bashing/denting/cutting plate armor with a broad bladed sword of Oakeshott Types X-XIV.

  21. #21
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    my two cents:

    One must debunk myths about European armor/armour as well. I hear at least once a week 'isn't that armour realy heavy'? or 'how do you move in all that stuff'?

    I think that the it goes beyond European Sword Myths and the whole field of historically accurate European martial arts of all kinds have this odd and inaccurate mythology around them.


    random person "So you sword fight"?

    DLS "not really but I study European medieval martial arts".

    "European martial arts? There is no such thing"

    DLS Grinds Teeth, then smiles, " well actually....." 40 to 60 minutes later completes statements

    Random person "but don't swords way over 40 pounds"?

    DLS Grinds Teeth, then smiles, "Hey, i got to get back to work, catch you later".

  22. #22
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    If European swords were not sharp, Liechtenauer would only have had two wounders.
    Jim Mearkle

    Swing low, sweet nebenhut!

    "A sharp point is a peremptory fact, which makes quick work of illusions..."
    Baron de Bazancourt

  23. #23
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    Of course Greg, two of those swords cited predate plate armour in Europe.

    The Wallace Collection Catalog provides a good number of well documented blades to base size/weight statistics on.

    As I recall we actually have more period written sources on Western Martial Arts than they have on Eastern ones.

    Armour does have some of the same problems---Norman Cantor, a rather famous medievalist, edited the Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages and yet it still has the "armor was so heavy that Knights required cranes to be lifted into the saddle" fallacy.
    Thomas Powers
    CoFounder of the Intergalactic Union of Bladesmiths
    "when you forge upon a star"---you better have your union card handy!

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Powers View Post
    Of course Greg, two of those swords cited predate plate armour in Europe.
    There is an another sword from the plate armor era (ca. 1400 Germany) which seems to be a military blade for battlefield use. It's reinforced point is quite similar to an Estoc:
    http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-c...ef-7-gross.jpg
    http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-c...blattZEF07.pdf
    This sword is clearly intended to defeat plate armor. It's weight is rather suprising, only 2,75 pounds, the thickness of the blade is like typically found on japanese blades, 0,225" at PoP. It can't be considered as a excellent cutter, but still there is not enough mass or blade presence (PoB: 6" from hilt) to "bludgeon" anything, let alone "to crush and cut armor".

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Greg Volevach View Post
    There is an another sword from the plate armor era (ca. 1400 Germany) which seems to be a military blade for battlefield use. It's reinforced point is quite similar to an Estoc:
    http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-c...ef-7-gross.jpg
    http://www.zornhau.de/wordpress/wp-c...blattZEF07.pdf
    This sword is clearly intended to defeat plate armor. It's weight is rather suprising, only 2,75 pounds, the thickness of the blade is like typically found on japanese blades, 0,225" at PoP. It can't be considered as a excellent cutter, but still there is not enough mass or blade presence (PoB: 6" from hilt) to "bludgeon" anything, let alone "to crush and cut armor".
    Hi Greg

    Meant to work around plate, not through it. Be careful not to build on your own misconceptions and speculation before reading a good bit more. It is quite easy to parrot information from any number of sources but then (first) writing such a sword is obviously engineered to defeat plate because of the point may overlook how the swords were employed against armour of all types.

    Few on the battle grounds had full plate (in the gothic sense) by 1400 and that was still very much a transition stage. Spend some time in the armour section here at SFI and also over at sites such as myArmoury and the Armour Archive.

    "Typically found on Japanese blades" I think you will find in time that such a statement doesn't even begin to explain why newly read explorers (no matter how well read they may feel they have covered all bases) are quite apt to miss an awful lot they are churning out as links and "facts" while only skimming much deeper valleys of knowledge.

    Cheers

    Hotspur; the earth can be quite flat at any given space in time

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