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Author Topic: Medieval Talk  (Read 205 times)

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Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Medieval Talk
« on: September 06, 2017, 01:07:51 PM »
So, my interest in HEMA (Historical European Martial Arts) and medieval history in general came up in my introductory post, and Kho said that it might be best to create a thread for talk about it elsewhere.

Later, Hades and I had a fun little discussion in the ShoutBox about throwing axes.

I was thinking this might be a good place to set up a persistent thread for the discussion of anything historical and medieval (used as a rough term for anything predating the 18th century, even though only a small window there is actually considered medieval), and it would be fun to kick it off with people naming their favorite weapons! Because anyone who enjoys writing medieval fantasy has some sort of favorite weapon, and I'd be baffled by a history buff who didn't have at least two.

I personally love sideswords and basket hilted broadswords/backswords. Not really partial to one or two edges with a basket hilt since false edge cuts (not parries) seem even rarer with them. Concerning knives, I'm partial to long, fixed blades, and don't care much for switchblades or other variations of such, and my favorite polearm is probably the spear--simple and incredibly effective.

I'd love to hear about your guys's tastes, and maybe some about what does and doesn't interest you about medieval history!

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #1 on: September 07, 2017, 07:43:21 PM »
The spear, pike, halberd and the like are my favorite weapons in pretty much any time period. Back in my "Amtgard" days, I would use a spear. I tucked a few daggers into my belt for throwing or close up scut work in case someone stepped inside my guard.

The morning star was sometimes fun to use. If you don't know what you're doing you are more liable to hit yourself with the thing than someone else.

If I were to use a sword, I preferred a two weapon style. I would wield a longsword in my right hand and use a short sword in my left. We had a few weapons with a basket style hilt. Those weapons were handy for tying up your enemies blade.

Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #2 on: September 07, 2017, 08:24:25 PM »
Hey, thanks for the reply!

Amtgard looks like it must have been fun. Occasionally I boff with friends. Being a casual group who used to fight with sticks and bare PVC, our standards are generally loose and seldom spoken. I've tried to create my boffer weapons close to historical measurements.

Two weapon swordplay is a very interesting subject, and I've waffled on my stance with it quite a bit. As a kid, the cool factor was strong. As an adult learning about history, I first came to an overly adamant and unhealthy denial of it as a viable, or even historical technique. Since then, I've learned that that was dumb, and have found it interesting to explore. Most popularly in European history, Sidesword/Rapier and (Parrying) Dagger are the closest examples of two weapon fighting you'll find, but that's not to say it wasn't done, and that's generally the message you'll get from people who study it. That it was done, but rarely.

In Eastern culture of course, we have plenty of examples of it in modern practice, but whether that was common historically is totally unknown to me.

Generally, the way I see it: There's almost no point in using two weapons when you can use a weapon and a shield in serious combat. This is because of the way most of our brains work in that it's difficult to divide our focus between two things simultaneously. The ability to multitask isn't a thing I want to get into with that, however. Multitasking is rapidly switching between focuses, which would fundamentally limit you when using two weapons in a way that other things wouldn't. Say, my left sword blocks, and my right sword attacks. If that's all you're doing, a shield would block and control an opponent much more effectively than a sword, and leave you much less vulnerable to manipulation due to the predictability of your chosen assignments. Note also that this method tends to create a gap between your actions where you consciously block, and then consciously attack, which is also bad.

So, in my theory, which is a thing I've wanted to put to practice for some time, the way to make dual wielding effective would be to put a lot of practice into specific actions where you're using the weapons simultaneously. Basically the same as training in other weapons, knowing which cuts are more effective and what parts of your deadly little tool belt fit together, but placing an emphasis on everything you do with these weapons being simultaneous, and flowing between them. Perhaps this means you deal with an overhead blow by combining a thrust and a hanging parry, leading the thrust further in while you follow the typical slashing repost from such a maneuver, or enter a bind to further arrest the offending weapon while you again, continue forward with the thrust...

Perhaps that's a bit convoluted or incomplete, but it's something of a look at my thoughts on two weapon fighting. So how about I give you some fun questions just in case I haven't roused enough opposition with these statements: If you were to choose a set of weapons to dual wield with, which do you think would be most effective? Would you stick with the longsword (though I think you meant arming sword) in your main hand and a shorter sword in your right?

Personally, I'd choose something with a lot of hand protection and a relatively straight blade. Perhaps cavalry sabers. Maybe-maybe basket-hilted broadswords. I think cavalry sabers might be most appropriate due to their length and minimal curvature, and having effective hand protection without something as cumbersome as a basket hilt.

But who knows? I haven't played with two weapons!


Offline Inkidu

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2017, 08:26:05 PM »
I always liked the arming sword with a really aggressive hilt.  You can use it with one hand or two and use a buckler or small heater shield strapped to your arm, so you don't have to hold a whole lot. I also want a pommel that is a pommel.

Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2017, 08:29:19 PM »
I always liked the arming sword with a really aggressive hilt.  You can use it with one hand or two and use a buckler or small heater shield strapped to your arm, so you don't have to hold a whole lot. I also want a pommel that is a pommel.

Cool! What do you consider a really aggressive hilt? Something with relatively extreme curvature in its quillons, perhaps?

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2017, 08:35:04 PM »
Cool! What do you consider a really aggressive hilt? Something with relatively extreme curvature in its quillons, perhaps?
Something you can smash into someone's face without it breaking.

Offline Vellys

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2017, 08:50:15 PM »
I have an advantage over most fighters. I'm left handed. So most people I went up against expected me to fight a certain way and I didn't. I let them all think I was right handed since I used the larger sword in my right hand, but that was just a battering ram. Even though my right hand is not dominant, my right arm has always been stronger while the left one got all the finesse. I would slam away with the longer sword to break their defense and use the shorter one once i got inside their guard and then stabby stab stab!

Something you can smash into someone's face without it breaking.

Agreed a sturdy enough basket hilt made an effective mace and I used that to my advantage many times... not in the face though - that was a ticket to the penalty box.

Offline Spear80

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2017, 01:41:30 AM »
Out of curiosity, wouldn't they have beaten your lefthandedness out of you in the olden days. I seem to recall old folks mentioning that.

Offline RedRose

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2017, 09:43:50 AM »
Out of curiosity, wouldn't they have beaten your lefthandedness out of you in the olden days. I seem to recall old folks mentioning that.

Maybe it depends where and when?
I have older friends who went through the whole "left hand immobilized, learn to write with your right" thing. Certainly people belonging to my parents' generation. But again, not everyone, not everywhere. One of my parents is a lefty and never was given trouble.

Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2017, 11:19:20 AM »
That idea actually doesn't come from general historic traditions so much as Catholicism. So, when and where the Catholics ruled we may have seen it, but throughout history most things are designed for right handers while left handers most seek accommodations with many things. Much like today.

Interesting that ambidextrous roughly translates to having two right hands though.

I have heard from some sources that depending on your upbringing or your profession, you may or may not have been discouraged from left-handedness. For instance, being left handed is actually really valuable in fencing and combat, as most people are trained to fight right handed opponents.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 01:59:48 PM by Wanderlost »

Offline Spear80

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2017, 01:35:54 PM »

I have heard from some sources that depending on your upbringing or your profession, you may or may not have been discouraged from left-handedness. For instance, being left handed is actually really valuable I'm feeling and combat, as most people are trained to fight right handed opponents.

I could see that, in one on one as a single indivudual, but larger scaled in military formations, would probably want the spears to go into the same hand. Or so i'd think, Militaries are like that.

That said, when the melee happens, i can imagine a sword coming from the left be very surprising.

This thread wise though, i prefer a simple broadsword, limited decorations, none if possible. No fancy hilts, or hand protectors, it's sharp to cut and if i decide to beat your face in with the hilt, it's still steel so it will hurt you like a frakker. If my forehead can break a nose, my sword hilt can most certainly do so.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2017, 01:43:18 PM by Spear80 »

Offline Missy

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2017, 10:56:29 PM »
If the point of having your shield in your left hand is allowing you to block strikes from right handed attackers, wouldn't it necessarily become a disadvantage to have your shield in the wrong hand?

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2017, 11:01:55 PM »
It comes from dextra and sinistra in Latin.

And yes, just as someone can be ambidextrous you can be ambisinister.

But historically people have always hated left-handed fighters.

Mainly because if you ever look at the stairs in a wartime castle they always disadvantage ascending righties, and but lefties have no such issue.

Offline Missy

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2017, 11:43:32 PM »
Yeha I remember reading that now that yu mention it actually. I'm no medieval buff though

Offline SINless

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2017, 04:19:09 AM »
As a lefty I always giggle inwardly when people use the word sinister. "There's something sinister in that house." Like what, Left handed scissors?

As for fighting left handed, there is little disadvantage, as just like your shield is on the wrong arm, so is your right handed opponent's one. If you're fighting in close formation, like say a phalanx, you won't be swinging your weapon, so changing to right handed is really easy.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #15 on: September 19, 2017, 06:20:16 AM »
As a lefty I always giggle inwardly when people use the word sinister. "There's something sinister in that house." Like what, Left handed scissors?

As for fighting left handed, there is little disadvantage, as just like your shield is on the wrong arm, so is your right handed opponent's one. If you're fighting in close formation, like say a phalanx, you won't be swinging your weapon, so changing to right handed is really easy.
Ironically if I put in the time. I probably could train my self up to ambidexterity. I used to do a lot of karate as a teenager and part of that was learning how to use two weapons in equal measure.

I'd have to get back at it to test though.

Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 05:32:21 PM »
Glad this thread functions pretty well even without me. :)

As far as left-handers versus shields, yes you're more vulnerable to a left-hander than a right hander as a right-hander with a shield and a weapon, but the context variable creates a lot of issues with simply saying that as a generalization. A shield with a boss grip will see little issue, as you can cross the shield under your main hand and protect the other side pretty easily. A shield strapped to your arm is stuck in a more limited range of motion (though they're generally bigger). If we're just considering a one-on-one kind of situation, it doesn't take much to turn off center enough to cover your body with your shield against a left-handed attacker. In a Roman-esque phalanx, well, you're in a shield wall. I don't think the handedness of an opponent will prevent them from getting jabbed at the side while they try to stab over your shield.

So... There are things that can be done to combat the advantage of left-handedness. The issue is in things like the stairs example, and on the topic of better trained combatants. Those who have seen more training have likely practiced heavily with right-handed fighters. They're used to seeing certain kinds of attacks from certain angles, and even if they train against people of other disciplines, they still may not have ever faced a left-handed fighter, because being left-handed is a rare thing, then and now. So, when you get someone who seldom faces that kind of opponent who now suddenly has to adapt to these things being mirrored, they have to figure out how to fight that. Sometimes they'll be successful, sometimes they won't, and it's a frightening variable that, at least in my experience, creates self-doubt.

I don't think that's all that is to be said on the subject, but those are the things that come to mind.

Also, the term "broadsword" came up earlier, referring to what those in the HEMA community would identify as an arming sword (I think), and I figured I'd throw in my few cents. Historically, broadsword is as vague a term as it is today. I think it comes up mostly in the Renaissance era and after, as that's when we develop particularly thin swords, like rapiers, and later smallswords. So we see people referring to swords whose blades are relatively wider as broadswords. Arming swords are seen most commonly in earlier time periods. 15th century and before. Broadsword, in HEMA, is a term that only often comes up in the case of basket hilted broadswords. Mostly on a point of clarity. It's understood that the term, "basket hilted broadsword," Refers to one of these:



Often, in historical documents, we find most swords of pretty much any type simply referred to as a sword. The terms we use to describe different types of swords today are modern conventions to help set them apart in the discussions we have today. The typical one-handed sword with a crossguard everybody sees everywhere is oft referred to, again, as an arming sword. ^^

I love history.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 05:34:22 PM by Wanderlost »

Offline SINless

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #17 on: September 21, 2017, 04:03:44 AM »

Often, in historical documents, we find most swords of pretty much any type simply referred to as a sword. The terms we use to describe different types of swords today are modern conventions to help set them apart in the discussions we have today. The typical one-handed sword with a crossguard everybody sees everywhere is oft referred to, again, as an arming sword. ^^

I love history.

To be fair, most discussions about sword types can be blamed on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Their complete misclassification of swords, and weapons in general led to confusion and wrong claims which then led to actual weapon historians classing weapons themselves. Take for example the standard arming sword of the 11th-15th century. Most fantasy readers and gamers would immediately identify it as a longsword, while an actual longsword is of course over 6 feet tall.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #18 on: September 21, 2017, 04:47:27 AM »
Even the term arming sword wasn't used until about the 15th Century, well after the actual sword it's describing fell out of favor for lighter blades we associate with the Three Musketeers. It was a weird transitional period.

Offline WanderlostTopic starter

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #19 on: September 22, 2017, 07:15:42 PM »
To be fair, most discussions about sword types can be blamed on Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Their complete misclassification of swords, and weapons in general led to confusion and wrong claims which then led to actual weapon historians classing weapons themselves. Take for example the standard arming sword of the 11th-15th century. Most fantasy readers and gamers would immediately identify it as a longsword, while an actual longsword is of course over 6 feet tall.

This is all very true. Except that longswords aren't necessarily six feet long. They're two-handed, surely, but they're not greatswords/zweihanders. The longsword that I own (a modified Hanwei Tinker) is almost four feet. 47".

Offline The Dark Raven

Re: Medieval Talk
« Reply #20 on: September 22, 2017, 07:56:57 PM »
Ooooh fun thread!