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#111185 - 10/15/01 08:55 PM What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
cricket Offline
Newbie

Registered: 10/14/01
Posts: 6
I suppose that this is a stupid question, but it is one to which I have not been able to find an answer or reason out on my own. Japanese swords (as far as I know) are only sharp one one side. Originally, I imagined that this was so for the strength of the blade; European broadswords, however, seem to be just as strong as any Japanese sword. I suppose that the quick answer to this question is because the sword is curved (another question I have regards the advantage of a curved sword, anyone know?). It would seem to me that while it would not be an ideal cutting surface (the concave back side of the sword) it would do in a pinch (to defend from a second attacker advancing from behind, for example). Anyways, please excuse the longwinded above. I'm sure there is a good reason, and I'm sure that one of you knows.

Thank you.

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#111186 - 12/15/01 08:24 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
fifthchamber Offline
Newbie

Registered: 11/18/01
Posts: 10
Loc: London, U.K.
Hello,
The advantages to a one sided sword really depend on the way it is designed to be used.
The Katana was designed as a cutting weapon..unlike the 'broadsword'(which was more a smashing type of sword..designed to stab) This meant that the curve in the blade would allow a smooth cutting motion to be used when the sword hit an object..the object would naturally 'run' along the length of the blade and be cut easier by it.
This curved design meant that the Katana would be one sided as it added strength to the blade in a cross section (the triangle shape working the best) and also meant that the blade could be made of two types of steel a harder type on the 'Ha' cutting edge and a softer metal on the rear of the blade to absorb the impact of the strike to the weapon. These two metals meant the blade could be incredibly sharp on the cutting side and still retain its strength and durability..Making the blade with only one metal meant that the whole sword would be 'damaged' per strike and this is why the broadswords are just that..Broad. They were never designed to be as sharp as the Katana and as I mentioned earlier were used with more brute force to stab into the enemy rather than cut into him. (neccessary because of the design of European armour..full metal jackets meant a sword would be easily damaged in a cut but knock a man in armour down and stab him was a option given by the size of the blade and it's weight.
Hope this helps clear up the question.
Abayo.
Ben Sharples

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#111187 - 12/20/01 04:07 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
frank Offline
Newbie

Registered: 12/01/01
Posts: 6
Loc: England
[QUOTE]Originally posted by fifthchamber:
Hello,
The advantages to a one sided sword really depend on the way it is designed to be used.
The Katana was designed as a cutting weapon..unlike the 'broadsword'(which was more a smashing type of sword..designed to stab)

I am sorry, but this is a myth, the European broadsword, Backsword, Bastard sword, Longsword, etc were all swords made with razor sharp edges, they were meant to cut as well as any blade in the world. The fighting in armour was a short time historically, and swords were adgusted to these methods, swords such as the estoc.But remember the large majority of people did not wear armour, and so needed sharp swords, and very lethal martia skils behind them.

In the WMA we have, as you in the OMA our myths and stories of great swordsmen, whose swords were so sharp they cut through cannon barrels, rifle barrels.

Our swords were also able to cut men in half with a single strike.

This meant that the curve in the blade would allow a smooth cutting motion to be used when the sword hit an object..the object would naturally 'run' along the length of the blade and be cut easier by it.

The west also has its curved blades, Ie Saber, and some backswords.

This curved design meant that the Katana would be one sided as it added strength to the blade in a cross section (the triangle shape working the best) and also meant that the blade could be made of two types of steel a harder type on the 'Ha' cutting edge and a softer metal on the rear of the blade to absorb the impact of the strike to the weapon. These two metals meant the blade could be incredibly sharp on the cutting side and still retain its strength and durability..Making the blade with only one metal meant that the whole sword would be 'damaged' per strike and this is why the broadswords are just that..Broad.

Western swords were works of art, as just as the japanese smiths were held in awe, so were the western smiths held in awe, our swords were patterned welded, not just a sharpened iron bar, they were so light, that a broadsword would only weigh about 3 pounds.

They were never designed to be as sharp as the Katana and as I mentioned earlier were used with more brute force to stab into the enemy rather than cut into him. (neccessary because of the design of European armour..full metal jackets meant a sword would be easily damaged in a cut but knock a man in armour down and stab him was a option given by the size of the blade and it's weight.

I have already answered this, but it is so wrong to assume this, suits of armour were so light, that if you threw them into water, a lot of thesuits would float, European swords were made to be as sharp as any sword in the known world, this is a complete myth.

Frank
Provost in the company of maisters

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#111188 - 01/11/02 11:22 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Brewer Offline
Member

Registered: 01/15/01
Posts: 468
Loc: Arizona,U.S.
Hey Cricket,
One can utilize the flat edge to block without having to damage his blade,break a bone or joint without having to cut or maim and can use it for techniques that envolve utilizing the other hand on the back of the blade.
Your Brother in the Arts

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#111189 - 05/24/02 01:52 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
TAZ Offline
Stranger

Registered: 05/24/02
Posts: 4
Loc: Regina, SK, Canada
Cricket,

There really isn't much advantage to a one-sided sword, at least in combat on foot. The blunt side of the sword is useful for blocking limbs and weapons without cutting or damaging those limbs/weapons, but in real combat, where the objective is to dispatch your opponent as quickly as possible, I doubt wether most swordsman would have worried about not hurting their opponent.

Curved, one-sided swords such as the Japanese katana were originally designed for use on horseback. The aristocratic warriors upon whom the samurai are based were mostly cavalrymen, fighting from horseback with bow and sword. Fighting from a horse, you use mostly slashing attacks, with the occasional stab to finish someone off. So you hit your opponent on the side with a slashing attack, use the momentum of you and your horse to draw the sword along or through your target, and race off to find another target. The attack uses only one side of the sword, so there really isn't much need for a second edge. Defending from the back isn't really a problem when you're on horseback, because you're always moving forward at a good speed.

The curve of the blade helps the sword maintain contact with the target throughout the entire slashing attack, which again is especially important when fighting from horseback, where you really have only one or two good attacks on an opponent before you or he moves out of range. If you look at most swords used by cavalry or horse soldiers, such as the American or European cavalry of the 19th century, or the wickedly curved blades of the Arab nomad horsemen, you see the same curved, one-sided pattern as the Japanese katana.

So when you see a curved, one-sided sword being wielded by a samurai warrior, you're actually seeing a holdover from an earlier era. The samurai kept the curvature of the blade and the one-sided pattern as much for tradtion as anything else, and adapted their style of sword fighting to accomodate the sword's shape.

P.S. There are Chinese and Japanese long swords with two blades. The two-sided, straight-bladed swords are common in Chinese martial arts such as T'ai Chi, but less so in Japan. As you can probably guess, these swords were designed for use on foot, where stabbing, thrusting and chopping actions are more common than quick slashing.

Hope this helps. Cheers

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#111190 - 01/18/03 01:37 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
Study Iaido, and you will quickly learn one value of a curved sword. Have you ever tried quickly drawing a large straightbladed sword? You have to pull the sword straight out, then around. With a curved sword, you can draw and strike in one motion. The katana is optimized for this. As far as single edged versus double edged, IF you have decided on a curved weapon, it will be CHEAPER, lighter, and stronger if it is only single edged. In the case of the katana, it will also be suitable for armored or unarmored ground fighting, cavalry style slashing, and just plain all around usefullness. If you really want to get technical, look at the effects different grinds and blade geometries affect cutting. Get Sir Richard Burton's "Book of the Sword".
BTW, Taz, your history lesson was right on target.

[This message has been edited by Jamoni (edited 02-11-2003).]

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#111191 - 04/17/03 03:11 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
ImmortallyWounded Offline
Stranger

Registered: 04/17/03
Posts: 2
Loc: Oregon city OR USA
My guess would be so that unintelligent people wouldnt cut themselves if they were goofing around and decided to block like they do in some movies by putting the hand on the backside of the blade [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/smile.gif[/IMG]

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#111192 - 07/24/03 10:32 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
MAGon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/22/03
Posts: 1737
Loc: Miami, Fl.
Great thread!!! Learned a lot!
Frank, I loved your input on the Western side of things.

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#111193 - 07/25/03 09:28 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
MAGon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/22/03
Posts: 1737
Loc: Miami, Fl.
Frank: BTW, what's a backsword?

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#111194 - 07/25/03 09:38 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
MAGon Offline
Veteran

Registered: 07/22/03
Posts: 1737
Loc: Miami, Fl.
Frank: Also, is it true that bastard sword technique strongly resembles Kenjutsu technique, despite the lack of known contact between countries?
Sorry to be a pest, but you're the first Western fencer I've been able to pose these questions to.

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#111195 - 07/26/03 05:49 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Vulk Offline
Newbie

Registered: 05/27/03
Posts: 24
Loc: Pretoria, Gauteng, South Afric...
Maybe so you don't kill yourself? I remember the first time we practiced "men-suriagi-men" in Kendo class. My partner deflected my blow with such force that the bokken flew backwards and hit my head with the back edge of the blade. I was like "Damn, so that's why they only put the sharp edge on one side" :P

MAGon, I don't know much about Western swordsmanship apart from what I've read, but I was definitely under the impression that there's quite a big difference between Western swordsmanship and Kenjutsu. In Kenjutsu they teach you to cut with the tip of your sword, because the design of the katana makes that possible. When using straight-edged Western swords, you're supposed to hit more with the centre of the blade.

Obviously, I'm open to correction on all of this.

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#111196 - 08/02/03 09:05 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
From what i understand, western schools of saber and epee teach cutting with the last third of the blade, and blocking with the first third. Could be wrong.

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#111197 - 08/08/03 06:48 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
charles mckey Offline
Veteran

Registered: 05/09/03
Posts: 1368
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jamoni:
From what i understand, western schools of saber and epee teach cutting with the last third of the blade, and blocking with the first third. Could be wrong. [/QUOTE]

I don't know about western schools, but that's certainly the case with the chinese broadsword (sabre), afaik. The part that's intended to be used in attack is the last third of the blade, on both sides (top and bottom). On the top, the first two thirds (from the guard to sharpened tip) aren't sharp at all, and a hand can be placed on it and used to reinforce the blade whilst blocking or attacking.

On the bottom of the blade the first two thirds are sharpened, but as I understand it, not to the keen edge that's maintained on the tip, and it's this portion that's used for parrying.

I should stress that I've not done a huge amount of training with the broadsword, and so will be happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood the little I have done [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/smile.gif[/IMG]

There's a transcribed sabre manual here (from the early 1900, if memory serves) which might help explain parrying techniques etc) http://www.thehaca.com/pdf/ColdSteel.pdf

Whilst trying to find that, I also found this, which may be of interest (Misconceptions in comparing Japanese blades vs. European blades) http://www.thehaca.com/essays/hype.htm

Taz
Again, referring to the chinese broadsword, but my understanding is that the weapon was in use in many different roles, in different (but most curved and one sided) forms. My understanding is that it was most widely used as an infantry weapon.

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#111198 - 08/16/03 05:03 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Ad Noctum Offline
Stranger

Registered: 08/16/03
Posts: 2
Loc: Minnesota
reason 1 - so you only had a 50% chance of cutting yourself.

reason 2 - Curved blade = more cutting angles. This is the same principle of serreration, only on the convex edge of the blade.

Reason 3 - curved blade = when slicing someone's midsection a straight sword, I'd imagine, would have a better chance of becoming lodged in something or another (may be wrong, don't have much experiance with slicing people in half)within the human body than a curved sword. so maybe it's more designed for repeated mid-depth glancing blows than melee chops?

I'm interested to hear the reason for it also, 'cause I'm sure mine are half-bogus [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/smile.gif[/IMG]

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#111199 - 09/18/03 01:51 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
BaiginLong Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/03
Posts: 56
referring to frank's comments about western swords: personally I prefer eastern swords regardless of shape and size
reason: the metallurgy was far more advanced
making the blades much more tensile and making the edge last longer

also if you're talking about the sharpness of swords well try the drunken swords of China now those were sharp (in other words the Green Destiny was real people)
the real question is whether or not it could retain that sharpness

in reference the the original question:
here's a short history of the Japanese swordin context with your question
the original japanese sword (called the Ken by the Japanese) was actually very simlar to a Chinese sword (it was a thrusting weapon).

After some development they gave the blade curve and thus made it a cutting weapon (however it is still effective for thrusts if you study the bujutsu)
with a curved sword the convex edge is the cutting edge and the concave edge is thus used to support the cut
also the curve was tailored to each Samurai to make the draw as easy as possible thus making the development of Iajutsu possible

Ad Noctum:
reason number one was funny but not true if anything the flat edge allows you to support the back of the blade with your hand for certain situations

and reason number three the curve of the blade actually does not do that nearly as much as the curve of the surface of the edge

also there are double edged katana's and one special kind that was double edged but had the back edge running only halfway down

I liked frank's explaination of the Japanese sword though very much though good job

TAZ.. slightly bs because though they may have originally been designed for horseback they adapted it to ground fighting and there you see the many styles of japanese swordsmanship being taught on foot

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#111200 - 09/18/03 01:54 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
BaiginLong Offline
Member

Registered: 09/18/03
Posts: 56
also fyi
I've been in western fencing (boo french grip go orthopedic) and Iajutsu and Kenjutsu

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#111201 - 11/15/03 09:35 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
Balgin, the construction and mettalurgy of eastern versus western swords is NO different. There is no technique or material that the japanese used that the west didnt use. It's a myth. They made damn good swords, yes. But so did the germans. so did the french. So did the persians/turks, for that matter.
It's one of those myths that has been told so often it seems true, but its NOT.

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#111202 - 12/08/03 03:24 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Grappler Offline
Member

Registered: 07/09/03
Posts: 32
Loc: sayville,New York, United Stat...
I think this is for better strength in the blade.

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#111203 - 02/11/04 03:07 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Ozmo Offline
Member

Registered: 12/22/03
Posts: 142
Loc: Kuopio, Finland
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jamoni:
Balgin, the construction and mettalurgy of eastern versus western swords is NO different. There is no technique or material that the japanese used that the west didnt use. It's a myth. They made damn good swords, yes. But so did the germans. so did the french. So did the persians/turks, for that matter.
It's one of those myths that has been told so often it seems true, but its NOT.
[/QUOTE]

Did western swordsmiths use the "hard metal on the edge, soft metal on the back" thing as well?

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#111204 - 02/13/04 08:55 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
Sure did. It was a specialty of viking swordsmiths. Their version consiste of a v shaped high carbon edge welded around a softer center piece, or two soft flats welded to either side of a high carbon flat. The Japanese admittedly used more complex versions of this, (the most complex I've seen had a hard edge, two medium side slabs, an IRON core, and a soft steel back rib), but the basic techniques are the same.

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#111205 - 02/14/04 01:19 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Ozmo Offline
Member

Registered: 12/22/03
Posts: 142
Loc: Kuopio, Finland
Thanks, that was interesting to know. I'll be sure to tell it to the next drooling katana-fanboy I come across. [IMG]http://www.fightingarts.com/forums/ubb/tongue.gif[/IMG]

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#111206 - 03/28/04 03:34 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Winduril Offline
Newbie

Registered: 03/27/04
Posts: 14
As I'm sure people have already said, the curvature was so it could be drawn in one smooth quick motion and slay the opponent with ease. The dull end makes a nice touch when wanting to implement the other hand in sword techniques, not to mention with the sweeping slashes of the sword, it would be a bit more dangerous to have the back edge sharpened.

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#111207 - 04/18/04 11:04 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Meryine Offline
Stranger

Registered: 04/17/04
Posts: 4
Loc: London, England, Uk
Blocking again. If you know how to use it then you have many a advantage.

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#111208 - 04/22/04 02:38 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Theone Offline
Stranger

Registered: 04/22/04
Posts: 2
When unsheathing a samurai sword, the sword is curved away from you. When you try to move quickly, you may slit your side. That is assuming that you are pulling the sword from your side. Also when drawing a straight sword you must extend your arm further to get the whole sword out because it is straight. With curved swords you can draw it out diagonally, and not take so much time drawing your sword. If anyone has a different opinion do tell.


[QUOTE]Originally posted by cricket:
I suppose that this is a stupid question, but it is one to which I have not been able to find an answer or reason out on my own. Japanese swords (as far as I know) are only sharp one one side. Originally, I imagined that this was so for the strength of the blade; European broadswords, however, seem to be just as strong as any Japanese sword. I suppose that the quick answer to this question is because the sword is curved (another question I have regards the advantage of a curved sword, anyone know?). It would seem to me that while it would not be an ideal cutting surface (the concave back side of the sword) it would do in a pinch (to defend from a second attacker advancing from behind, for example). Anyways, please excuse the longwinded above. I'm sure there is a good reason, and I'm sure that one of you knows.

Thank you.
[/QUOTE]

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#111209 - 04/25/04 10:06 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
thecap Offline
Stranger

Registered: 04/25/04
Posts: 2
Loc: austin, tx, u.s.
Its very simple.
Japanese Sword-sharpest, light strong
(folded steel!) meant for cutting
Euro armor-big; therefore big dull swords needed! None of this crap about who made what best and sharpest sword and that the germans made as sharp of sword etc. that simple.

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#111210 - 04/26/04 01:14 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
javaman Offline
Member

Registered: 07/04/03
Posts: 179
Loc: calgary, alberta, canada
Thecap, that is a ridiculous reply, Japanese swords were not ultra-light, European swords were not heavy,
European swords were not dull,
European armour is not excessivly big,
Japanese armour is just as big,
European swords were folded steel,
Japanese swords were folded steel

The reason there is so little variety in Japanese swords is because of the Japanese culture and the shinto-ist religion emphasis on honoring ancestors, and a society that generally did not encourage experimentation.

The reason that Japanese swords are curved is during the tempering process the two types of steel that are used cool at different rates, so one pulls the other, resulting in the curve of the sword.

there is no real advantage in a sword with one sharpened side, but depending on how the sword is designed to be used; i.e
a large curved sword made for fighting un-armored oponents by using draw-cuts (Katana)
only one side is necessary.

Tempering a double edged sword is more difficult that tempering a single edged sword, so it just makes sense that the Japanese swords are one sided, as making them double edged would probably have been more trouble than it would have been worth, given the sword techniques for the katana and the dificulty in tempering a double edged sword.

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#111211 - 04/30/04 10:52 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
DelatarPeredhel Offline
Stranger

Registered: 04/30/04
Posts: 2
Loc: Oxford, Kansas, USA
This is coming at the question from the other side (ha ha, but it is a valid to ask "why a sword with two edges?"
As was observed above, another edge doubles (or greater) the complexity of the construction, and you can only hit with one edge at once.

One of the reasons that the western sword has two edges it that it was not simply a tool of war, but a symbol of authority and position. The double-edged sword evolved from the Chivalric tradition that symbolized the duties of the Knight in the sword. Not just the cross made by the hilt and blade, but the two edges themselves. One edge was might, the ability to kill, and the other was mercy, the willingness to refrain from taking life when it is not necessary. Every time a knight drew their weapon, they were reminded of their duties and responsibilities.

BTW, saber, epee, and rapier dueling all emphasize cuts with the last third of the blade and blocks with the last two thirds, as the light and flexible weapons are not effective at blocking further up the blade. Blocking low on your blade matches your strength to our opponent's weakness.

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#111212 - 05/01/04 09:22 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Jamoni Offline
Veteran

Registered: 01/17/03
Posts: 1514
Loc: St. Louis, MO, USA
I think that double edged swords primarily get their shape from their roots as stabbing weapons. This stems from bronze-age construction, where cutting weapons bent or broke easily, so your best bet was a short, thick stabbing weapon. Look at how curved weapons are used: very little thrusting is done, most techniques are cuts. With double edged straight blades, it is a mixture of cut and thrust. Weapons like rapiers and stilettos rely almost exclusively on the point. Cause and effect.

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#111213 - 05/12/04 10:01 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by TAZ:

Curved, one-sided swords such as the Japanese katana were originally designed for use on horseback.
[/QUOTE]

Just to say, the katana was developed for use on foot, when the samurai were cavalrous, the sword used most was longer and had a greater curve, this was the tachi.

Practically all the other points have been well displayed and discussed in this long thread

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#111214 - 05/16/04 06:37 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


I agree with all of the western sword views except the idea of the viking sword making. Viking swords were among the worst ever forged. The blacksmiths used a technique called piece forging or patch forging. Basically, the smith would start where the handle would be and piece together the sword from there, building it from hilt to tip. X-rays or other such devices have shown this in almost all of the museum pieces. With this type of forging, the sword had many stess points that were relatively (it was still a sword) easy to break.

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#111215 - 12/13/04 05:14 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by sammyrai:
I agree with all of the western sword views except the idea of the viking sword making. Viking swords were among the worst ever forged. The blacksmiths used a technique called piece forging or patch forging. Basically, the smith would start where the handle would be and piece together the sword from there, building it from hilt to tip. X-rays or other such devices have shown this in almost all of the museum pieces. With this type of forging, the sword had many stess points that were relatively (it was still a sword) easy to break.[/QUOTE]

That is utter nonsense exactly the opposite they used pattern welded techniques that the middle was soft Iron while the edges were hardned steel and the x rays proved it and also proved they were among the best swords made at that time.

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#111216 - 12/14/04 06:15 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


Well, there's quite a few misconceptions here.

European smiths were able to produce swords that were just as good as Japanese ones.

Asian swords (from Japan, Continental Asia, Philippines, etc) are usually made by differential hardening of the blade and back. The cutting edge is made super-hard, while the back is left fairly soft. The super-hard edge will hold its edge for a long time, and is extremely sharp. However, in order not to shatter in combat, the back must be left soft, in order to take up shock. It should also be noted that, while strong, the edge (being very hard) is still prone to chipping.

Originally, European smiths used a comparable method, called pattern-welding, where different grades of iron and steel were forged together in one piece, combining strength and flexiblility. The edges were of course hard. The swords made by the Vikings, and by the many famous Frankish smiths of the Rhineland, were of this type. The best ones were worth a small fortune in their day.

After about 900AD, European smiths introduced a totally new method of construction, where swords were made from a single, piece of steel, given a stiff "spring" temper throughout the blade. The carbon content in these blades was generally higher. This became the standard Medieval and Renaissance method of blademaking.

These swords will still take a keen edge, but because the edge is softer (tougher), they need to be sharpened more frequently than ones that are differentially heat-treated. They will not hold an edge as long. However, they are also generally more durable. Japanese blades, for example, cannot be bent too far out-of-line, or else they will stay bent. European blades, on the other hand, can be bent several inches out-of-line, and flex back perfectly straight.

As for single-edged vs double-edged, there are several reasons involved, regarding both. Generally speaking, single-edged blades can be made somewhat sharper, due to the more acute bevel of the blade. That is why double-edged swords meant for delivering disabling cuts are rather broad-bladed, and thus they can cut really well too. Double-edged, cross-hilted "knightly" swords, and later basket-hilted broadswords, have amazing cutting capacity, in fact. They can sever heads and limbs, just like katanas can. Their design will produce more "drag" in making cuts, but the tradeoff is that they are generally handier for thrusting, due to the straight blade and centered point.

One can also execute falsos (false-edge cuts) with double-edged blades. Many European schools featured these techniques. It is said that the Frenchman Jarnac, who fought a judicial duel with Chastaigneraie in 1547, used a falso to the hamstring of his opponent. He learned this cut (which became celebrated as the so-called "coup de Jarnac") from an Italian soldier of fortune named Captain Caizo, who had been teaching fencing at the French court. Caizo, in turn, is thought to have learned this technique from the great Bolognese fencing master, Achille Marozzo.

About curved blades--they aid in the execution of the draw-cut, which is very effective. In addition, a curved blade can be used for hooking-type thrusts, which can reach around an opponent's guard or parry. In Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, etc), where the saber was a national weapon, this approach was favored, and developed to a high degree.

It is also interesting to note that European sabers are often sharpened for 6 or 7 inches on the false edge, so they have some double-edged cutting capacity, in a predominantly single-edged design.

Peace,

A_M_P

[This message has been edited by Armed_Man_Piker (edited 12-14-2004).]

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#111217 - 12/14/04 06:25 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by sammyrai:
I agree with all of the western sword views except the idea of the viking sword making. Viking swords were among the worst ever forged. The blacksmiths used a technique called piece forging or patch forging. Basically, the smith would start where the handle would be and piece together the sword from there, building it from hilt to tip. X-rays or other such devices have shown this in almost all of the museum pieces. With this type of forging, the sword had many stess points that were relatively (it was still a sword) easy to break.[/QUOTE]

Sammy,

As Thunar already noted, what you posted above is nonsense, and the reverse is true.

I have personally had the honor of handling a late Frankish pattern-welded sword, and it was quite an eye-opening experience. Most modern replicas of such a blade would be ill-balanced and clumsy, but this thing weighed perhaps 1.5lbs, certainly no more than 2lbs flat. It was extremely responsive in the hand. The owner bent it in what seemed almost like a semi-circle (as my friend and I cringed in horror), and it flexed back, perfectly straight. Despite this extreme flexability, the temper of the blade was very stiff.

Peace,

A_M_P



[This message has been edited by Armed_Man_Piker (edited 12-14-2004).]

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#111218 - 12/14/04 06:32 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by MAGon:
Frank: BTW, what's a backsword?[/QUOTE]

MAG,

"Backsword" is a European term for a cut-and-thrust sword with a single cutting edge (though some have sharpened false edges)--hence, it has a "back".

Peace,

A_M_P

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#111219 - 12/14/04 10:27 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jamoni:
I think that double edged swords primarily get their shape from their roots as stabbing weapons. This stems from bronze-age construction, where cutting weapons bent or broke easily, so your best bet was a short, thick stabbing weapon. Look at how curved weapons are used: very little thrusting is done, most techniques are cuts. With double edged straight blades, it is a mixture of cut and thrust. Weapons like rapiers and stilettos rely almost exclusively on the point. Cause and effect.[/QUOTE]


This brings up an interesting point - look at certain japanese artisan's tools, for example, the saw and the wood shaver. These are designed to saw and shave on the pulling motion, whereas the western version of these instruments work in the opposite fashion - on the pushing motion.

Could it be that the difference between western and eastern (japanese) swords is simply an extension of this cultural difference into the military realm of 'tools'? It does seem that the western blades would tend to work better on a pushing motion, the japanese blades on a pulling motion.

And what would be the reason for this cultural difference?

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#111220 - 12/15/04 06:56 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Jamoni:
I think that double edged swords primarily get their shape from their roots as stabbing weapons. This stems from bronze-age construction, where cutting weapons bent or broke easily, so your best bet was a short, thick stabbing weapon. Look at how curved weapons are used: very little thrusting is done, most techniques are cuts. With double edged straight blades, it is a mixture of cut and thrust. Weapons like rapiers and stilettos rely almost exclusively on the point. Cause and effect.[/QUOTE]

I disagree.

The problem with your thesis above is the fact that, even after iron was introduced, and swords effective for cutting came into use (i.e., the kopis, machaira, falcata, etc), straight double-edged blades remained in use too, and they were not pure thrusting weapons. For example, take the classic, straight, double-edged Roman short sword--the so-called gladius Hispaniensis. Casually described as a "thrusting sword" by most people, the gladius is in fact a cut-AND-thrust weapon. Yes, it is acutely pointed and obviously well-suited to thrusting attacks, but its blade also swells at the COP (center of percussion), and is very broad, which betrays a weapon optimized for cutting as well. Period accounts likewise attest to the gladius being used for cutting--it shocked the Macedonians, who noted that it could sever limbs and heads. Skulls recovered from British hillforts taken by the legions likewise reveal damage from cutting blows.

Peace,

A_M_P

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#111221 - 12/24/04 07:48 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


First of all. I think it should be noted that swords have never been a primary battlefield weapon, that role would go to the spear.

Secondly, honestly. Is there really that much difference in European and Asian weaponry?

Admittedly I do have somewhat less respect for weapons introduced during the medieval period in europe. But the achievements of classical europe on the other hand are rivals to anything of asian make.

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#111222 - 12/24/04 08:26 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Subedei:
First of all. I think it should be noted that swords have never been a primary battlefield weapon, that role would go to the spear.[/QUOTE]

Actually, there were indeed times when the sword was a "primary battlefield weapon".

The most obvious example would be the Roman legionaries' use of the gladius. Roman heavy infantrymen were swordsmen.

The rodeleros (sword-and-target men) of the late 15th/early 16th century Spanish army are another good example of troops were were armed with swords as their "primary battlefield weapon".

The broadsword-armed Jacobite Highlanders of the 17th and 18th centuries also come to mind.

[QUOTE]Secondly, honestly. Is there really that much difference in European and Asian weaponry?[/QUOTE]

That's a pretty general question...

[QUOTE]Admittedly I do have somewhat less respect for weapons introduced during the medieval period in europe.[/QUOTE]

Why? Countless fine weapons were made in Europe during the Middle Ages.

[QUOTE]But the achievements of classical europe on the other hand are rivals to anything of asian make.[/QUOTE]

The same would apply to the Middle Ages and Renaissance.



[This message has been edited by Armed_Man_Piker (edited 12-24-2004).]

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#111223 - 12/25/04 07:12 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


Are you honestly trying to argue that medieval era Europe equalled Rome technologically?

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#111224 - 12/26/04 04:24 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


I don't want to sound like I'm favoring a perticular side on this arguement, I love the eastern as much as the western style of blades, but I would have to go with the eastern style being more effective. Both variants are equally sharp, previously argued, but the eastern style blades are much lighter. Allowing a lot more dexterity and grace in your cuts and slices. Now if you want to come in swinging a broadsword when then can simply draw the sword from its sheath and cut you down, be my guest. Simply put the eastern blades win because of the lightness of the blade.

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#111225 - 12/26/04 11:59 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


I'd have to disagree. There are plenty of heavy eastern blades, and plenty of light western ones.

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#111226 - 12/27/04 08:03 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Subedei:
Are you honestly trying to argue that medieval era Europe equalled Rome technologically?[/QUOTE]

In terms of things like swords? Yes.

Why does that come as such a surprise to you?

The finest European pattern-welded swords, which were at least as good as--if not downright better than--Ancient swords, were made long after Rome had fallen.

And the homogenous steel swords that generally replaced the pattern-welded types were made after that.

During the Renaissance, metallurgy advanced even more. For example, Renaissance armorers were able to fashion suits of plate that were proof against pistol and even (in some cases) arquebus balls.



[This message has been edited by Armed_Man_Piker (edited 12-27-2004).]

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#111227 - 12/27/04 09:02 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


[QUOTE]Originally posted by Toranaga:
I don't want to sound like I'm favoring a perticular side on this arguement, I love the eastern as much as the western style of blades, but I would have to go with the eastern style being more effective. Both variants are equally sharp, previously argued, but the eastern style blades are much lighter. Allowing a lot more dexterity and grace in your cuts and slices. Now if you want to come in swinging a broadsword when then can simply draw the sword from its sheath and cut you down, be my guest. Simply put the eastern blades win because of the lightness of the blade.[/QUOTE]

No offense bro, but the notion that Eastern blades are "lighter" than Western ones is pure, Grade A, 100% BS.

Western and Eastern swords are in fact of comparable weight (which really should come as no surprise).

And I have handled enough originals to know.




[This message has been edited by Armed_Man_Piker (edited 12-27-2004).]

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#111228 - 12/31/04 09:49 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Anonymous
Unregistered


there are no real advantages just diffrences

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#111229 - 05/08/05 08:16 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side?
Ace Offline
Member

Registered: 05/04/05
Posts: 101
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
If you have ever delved into the history of sword forging, three names come to mind.. Damascus- Damascus steel
Damascus steel is a type of steel alloy that is both strong and malleable, a material that is perfect for the building of swords. The term refers to the metal used by the artisans and swordsmiths of Damascus, Syria. The process for making Damascus steel, was used between about 900 and 1600 in the Middle East, and then disappeared for reasons that are not entirely understood. It is said that when it was first encountered by Europeans during the Crusades it garnered an almost mythical reputation—a Damascus steel blade was said to be able to cut a piece of silk in half as it fell to the ground, as well as being able to chop through normal blades, or even rock, without losing its sharp edge. Recent metallurgical experiments, based on microscopic studies of preserved Damascus-steel blades, have claimed to reproduce a very similar alloy via possible reconstructions of the (still unknown) historical process.
Japanese- already discussed, made by folding the steel seven times while hammering straw into it to add carbon, creating felixibilty.. note: it had two completly difrent steel types, the core-flexible and the blade-hard but brittle, had many properties as above mentioned damascus steel.
and... Spanish metorite Iron swords- said to be forged at extremly high tempretures, these swords were prized by royals everywhere becuase of their keen blades and almost indestructable steel.... sorry, thats all i got on it, if anyone has any more info, please tell me...
But, as with the arguement, all these swords generally have one blade, becuase to create steel in this manner with two blades would counteract many of the benifits of making them in this manne in the first place.
1) sword loses flexibilty, not being able to flex backward.
2) Smith must devote less time to keening of blade, and forging proccess takes longer, putting intergratity of blade at risk (they can only be forged for a short time before oxygen and carbon are burnt out of blade)
3) blades with two sides are generally wider, and are hardier to weild effectively at high speeds.
3) most two sided blades are produced for thrusting or chopping, and were mass produced for armies, japanese blades etc. were made over a period of days, and allowed the smithy to devot more time to creation, integrity and keen of blade, which were best expressed through a one edged weapon.
4)armor at the time was effective at slowing down thrusts and chops, but high velocity blades with a concentrated striking area (created by V shape of blade) allowed swords to penetrate this arour to greater effective, while allowing a well balanced weapon. As to the wesern sword veiws in general, what make of swords are you talking about? and were there any noted swordsmiths you can bring up the names of so i may research them? i have many famous japanese swordssmiths names if you wish to trade...

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#111230 - 05/08/05 04:24 PM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side? [Re: Ace]
ken harding Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 04/21/04
Posts: 721
Loc: UK
Predictably the argument surfaces about European blades versus Eastern, notably Japanese blades. As usual the argument ends up contextually incorrect aside from the normal factual cock ups.

For example, let's take Viking blades and Japanese blades.
The Vikings roved until about 900 AD ish. So to be reasonable one has to compare a Viking (pattern welded blade - yes they were by the way) blade with a blade from the same period in Japan. At this point you'll find no real superiorority on either count.Put two armies of Vikings and 8th century Japanese warriors in the field and I know who my money would be on....yep the Vikings. Why because they did not bother with ritual and fought only to win.

Anyway back to the blades. The tendency is too often to compare an Edo blade, often regarded as the pinnacle of Japaense sword making with something else and then say "Oh better blade ergo all Japanese sword making was superior to anyone elses throughout history" . This is plainly rubbish.

Saracen blades of Damascene steel were every bit as good as the Japansese blades of the 12th century for example.

Come further forward in history and Japanses blades do excel for one simple reason. They carried on making them, fighting with them and regarding them as the main weapon of choice when large parts of the world were using guns.

So, to get the "who's sword is best argument" right one has to say ultimately the Japanese blades as they took the craft further than anyone else, but while everyone used swords I do not think they were more effective on a period for period basis.

To go back rather belatedly to the question of this thread though, triangular shape of the blade reinforces the cutting edge.

For more reading on swords of the West I'd recommend Oakeshott by the way.
_________________________
Heijo Shin

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#111231 - 05/09/05 12:04 AM Re: What are the advantages to a sword with only one sharpened side? [Re: ken harding]
Nik_Miller Offline
Member

Registered: 05/08/05
Posts: 28
First I would like to introduce myself, my name is Nik Miller, and my style of swordsmanship is German Longsword in the style of master Johannes Leichtenauer.

I dont think the single edge really has any advantage, but the curve does mean more edge area so a draw cut is helped by it. As for a double edged western sword, short or false edge attacks(attacks with the edge that would normally be faceing towards you) can be very usefull because the angles they can be delivered at can put you in a safe possition for opposeing their blade and attacking at the same time. and for those who argue that a single edge is supported better because the shape is a triangle behind the edge, well a diamond cross section double edged sword is just two triangles back to back. alot more could and probably needs to be said on blade geometry vs. cutting abliity and such things, like the level of convexivity the planes of the blade have, sectional mass(blade thickness/width at the point of impact) actual sharpness only really matters if you set the sword on an obect and draw it to cut but on a sword in motion blade geometry plays a much bigger part in cutting that the actual sharpness of a blade.

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#111232 - 05/09/05 04:56 AM Curved Swords, and Europe Versus Japan. [Re: cricket]
Ambrosius Offline
Newbie

Registered: 05/09/05
Posts: 15
This should actually be divided up into separate questions what are the differences between a straight and curved sword, and what is the benefits to having a one or both sides sharpened.

In short, the advantage to having only one side sharp is that you can safely touch the back of your sword. This is done quite a bit in Chinese broadsword forms and to a lesser extent in some Japanese arts.
Having both edges sharpened allows you to use the back edge for cutting attacks. I recently sparred against someone trained in single edged sword fighting (chinese broadsword) with a european broadsword style. He was very surprised with my combat rhythm, because there was several fast beat moves that I could do that he simply could not, because I could use the back edge.

Now, on to curve:
A sword curved back (like a katana or european saber) has a larger cutting length and also is easier to withdraw from someone as you ride by on an attack. Many calvary swords are made this way, the european saber, the Japanese swords, the Saracen scimitar, and several others. A curved blade also allows you to deflect attacks easier because they more readily slide down the blade. A curve allows you to draw a slightly longer sword faster. (try to quickdraw a katana, then try to quickdraw a european hand and a half sword (aka [censored] sword). Though they are similar (not exactly but close) sizes and weights, the straight sword will be harder to draw quickly. Oh, and yes I almost forgot, the curve makes the blade stronger so you can use slightly harder steel on the edge. The edge on an Edo era katana was incredibly hard, which have it an incredibly sharp edge, but unfortunately made it more likely to chip.

A straight blade has some advantages too, its better for stabbing. A straight sword also tends to have a different combat rhythm than a curved one. For a good comparison compare a the Chinese Jiann (straight sword sharpened 1/3 of the way down from the tip on both sides) and the Japanese kodachi (like a small katana). The jiann's combat rhythm is very different from the kodachi and quite fast.

Now on to what this threat has evolved to, european versus eastern (specifically Japanese) swords.

Now, the reason the japanese katana evolved the way it did was because it took *much*, *much* longer for the japanese to get high quality mass produced steel. The Spanish had good steel mass production by the thirteenth century. The far east did not develop high quality mass-produced steel until much later, and their sword design reflects that. The type of folding that was done to a katana was less than ideal (A very well controlled blast furnace, combined with proper tempering is better), but it was necessary to properly mix in the carbon to make the steel. The Japanese used the technology they had and took it out farther than the west did. (The west just got new technology)

Don't get me wrong, a katana is a great sword and a marvel of ingenuity. However most of the time, European swords are misrepresented as crude objects. First of all, a knight's sword was not his main weapon knights tended to rely on lances then use their swords for close in work. By the 1500's many other weapons in europe were also replacing swords. Various large clubs became popular (the war hammer and guetentag are examples of this) for their ability do disable armored knights despite their heavy armor. The Swiss popularized a style of fighting with pole-arms that was incredibly hard to beat (even by armored mounted knights.)
Another myth is that european swords were not well crafted or sharp. Henry the fifth showed that was false when he cut through an iron bar with his sword without damaging it.

To summarize how I feel, a sword is a tool. Some are better at some things, some better at others. To assign a mythic quality to a sword is in my humble opinion, a silly thing to do.

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#111233 - 05/09/05 07:25 PM Re: Curved Swords, and Europe Versus Japan. [Re: Ambrosius]
Nik_Miller Offline
Member

Registered: 05/08/05
Posts: 28
a deep curve does enhance the fluidity of the draw, but one great factor that has been over looked is that an average japanes katana is around 27 inches, while the average hand and a half sword was 36 inches, and longswords were around 40 inches long. So the more than 9 inches of added length will also make the european sword slower to draw. Maybe thats why there are no iaido like arts for longswords and the like

Ambrosius Can you provide me with proof that a curved blade is stronger than a strait one, or even a reasonalbe argument?


Edited by Nik_Miller (05/09/05 07:30 PM)

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#111234 - 05/09/05 10:37 PM Re: Curved Swords, and Europe Versus Japan. [Re: Nik_Miller]
Charles Mahan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 06/14/04
Posts: 2502
Loc: Denton, Tx, USA
Quote:

Maybe thats why there are no iaido like arts for longswords and the like





I beg to differ. There most certainly are. 36" is about a 3-0. That length is not outside the technical ability of a competently trained average height MJER guy assuming the sword is of a traditional shape(ie not a straight sword). I can perform nukitsuke with my 2-4-5(roughly 29") by grasping at the tsuka down at the end rather than up by the tsuba(crossguard) easily simulating a sword 6" or so longer. I can perform most if not quite all of the nukitsuke that I am familiar with. Requires some extra hip movement but is entirely possible. Heck Komei Jyuku guys use swords nearly this long on a regular basis by all accounts.
_________________________
Iaido - Breaking down bad habits, and building new ones.

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#111235 - 05/09/05 11:12 PM Re: Curved Swords, and Europe Versus Japan. [Re: Charles Mahan]
Nik_Miller Offline
Member

Registered: 05/08/05
Posts: 28
Thanks for correcting me. I was mainly refering to why you dont see that kind of thing on the european side, the whole long and strait thing. I was also aware of very large swords used by the Kage ryu, but I wasnt aware blades around 3 feet long were used in iaido. thanks

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#111236 - 05/10/05 12:37 AM "European Iaido" [Re: Nik_Miller]
Armed_Man_Piker Offline
Member

Registered: 09/24/04
Posts: 440
Loc: East Coast U.S.A.
Quote:

...an average japanes katana is around 27 inches, while the average hand and a half sword was 36 inches, and longswords were around 40 inches long. So the more than 9 inches of added length will also make the european sword slower to draw. Maybe thats why there are no iaido like arts for longswords and the like.




For what it's worth, it should be noted that there was some "iaido-like" material in Europe during the Renaissance.

Angelo Viggiani, a Bolognese master who was a soldier under Charles V, wrote a fencing treatise, Lo schermo, which was published in Venice in 1575. In this book, Viggiani outlined a cut-and-thrust swordfighting system that was particularly point-oriented. The very first guard position in Viggiani's method was called prima guardia defensiua, imperfetta ("first guard defensive, and imperfect"). Viggiani call this guard "imperfect" because the point is not presented towards the enemy. The accompanying illustration shows a swordsman simply standing alert, with his sword still in its scabbard. His right hand is holding the hilt, and his left hand is holding the scabbard. He is prepared to draw his sword. More significantly, Viggiani states that, from this position, a cut--the riuescio ascendente (an ascending backhand cut)--can be executed. I suppose that this cut was comparable to the "ground to sky" iaido cut with the tachi.

I'm not saying that cuts from the scabbard were as well-developed in Europe as they obviously were in Japan, but I thought it was still worth noting that the concept itself still existed in the West.
_________________________
And the rapier blades, being so narrow and of so small substance, and made of a very hard temper to fight in private frays... do presently break and so become unprofitable. --Sir John Smythe, 1590

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