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#409660 - 10/13/08 11:36 PM German Swords?
lore_tex Offline
Stranger

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 3
Loc: Texas
Hello, new here, hope y'all will please excuse my shaky entrance into the world of swords - and hopefully someday soon into the art of sword fighting. For now, I just have a question about a sword itself. Can anyone tell me about two handed swords? As the name suggests, they require two hands for actual use, yes? Forgive my ignorant sounding question, but I have to ask in order to learn. I'd really like to know about those two handed swords of German variety. I saw one once that was either Swiss or German and it greatly intrigued me. However, it was antique to the point of "don't touch that!" Thus a beauty to be admired but not reached for. (Actually it wasn't much to look at but the ancient age and obvious durability was what charmed me.) Now, I could search the Internet to my heart's content on this topic and never come up with anything truly promising since I'm a novice. Instead I'm here asking for firsthand knowledge if anyone would so kindly oblige, and of course I would like to see one that's fully functional. Thanks in advance.

Lisa

p.s. I'm not going to go off the deep end and buy a sword before I even practice with wooden implements (or whatever they're rightfully called, again excuse the current ignorance on the topic.) Just curious about German swords and would like to get some ideas beforehand...

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#409661 - 10/14/08 05:32 AM Re: German Swords? [Re: lore_tex]
Prizewriter Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 10/23/05
Posts: 2573
Welcome to the forums.

I was chatting to a guy from Norway in a fencing class about big swords. I believe the sword you are referring to may be a Zweihänder: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zweih%C3%A4nder

It is somewhat similar to a Scottish Claymore, but not exactly the same (as is my understanding): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claymore

Here is a good discussion from Sword International Forums:
http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=22626&highlight=pike+and+zweihander

For proper training, it is best to try and find a historical fencing/weapons society.

If all else fails, go to a fencing school. It will give you the basics of judging distance and timing, even though the weapons may be different. You may also be able to find people who train in said historical weapons through modern fencing schools.

Good luck.
_________________________
"Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food" Hippocrates.

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#409662 - 10/14/08 01:41 PM Re: German Swords? [Re: Prizewriter]
lore_tex Offline
Stranger

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 3
Loc: Texas
Interesting info, thank you for sharing it, and for the advice, and for welcoming me to the forums. The first link you gave me, those images are very similar to the sword I saw indeed. I like the top one best. I love the Zweihänder's history, I'll be reading more into it.

Lisa

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#409663 - 10/14/08 11:39 PM Re: German Swords? [Re: lore_tex]
tsafa Offline
Member

Registered: 04/27/05
Posts: 144
Hi Lisa. I have been studying European fighting arts for a few years now and I will to give you some general information.

True two-handed swords like Zweihänders, Claymores and the earlier Great Swords are typically defined as having a grip long enough so that the pommol extends past you elbow when you hold it just under the cross guard. The blades are often 40 to 50 inches. So the whole sword can be between 50 and 65 inches. They weight between 5 and 8 lbs. These weapons feel and act like polearms. You would use them on a battlefield to oppose other polearms and crush armor. You would not carry such a large sword on your belt but rather hang it from your horse. You might at the same time keep a smaller sword at your waist for personal defense. There is little historical documentation detailing the use of these large two-handed swords. The SCA has discovered some pretty effective ways to use these swords that you can pursue if your wish.

When people think of Germen sword these days they more often think of the longsword. The is because there is a good deal of surviving documentation on their use and it is in German. These swords have grip that usually extend half way between the elbow and wrist when you hold the sword below the crossguard. The whole sword is 36 to 40 inches, 3 to 3.5 lbs. These swords are typically personal defense swords used in duels. We have texts that shows armored and unarmored dueling. They served in battle as a personal defense weapon (back up). If you wish to pursue the study of this weapon there are numerous Western Martial Arts groups around the country that can teach you.

The costs associated with the study of these martial arts are is usually just purchasing your own equipment and perhaps a monthly dues of $20. Most groups that study European sword arts are set up as "not for profit" organizations.

There are two other areas of European swordmanship you might want to look into. One is Sword and shield. This is one of the oldest weapon forms in Europe. I have a webpage you can look at for more info on that.
http://mysite.verizon.net/tsafa1/pell/index.htm

The other is rapier which I have been practicing the longest. It is a good place to learn fundamental footwork. This one usually attracts more women then the other sword types I mentioned because the swords tend to be lighter between 2 and 3 lbs. Because they usually focus on a thrusting style of fighting the hitting calibration is also the lightest which appeals to women... but that said... there is one women I know of in the SCA that is half my size and can beat me 7 out of 10 times. She has been fighting 10 years longer then me. In fighting experience and training is everything.

Feel free to ask any further questions.

p.s. Lisa hold off on buying swords until you have done more research. You should go to a few Renaissance fairs and feel some out first. Then price shop on the internet. Stay way from wallhanges, which are swords with hollow handles. You want full-tang carbon steel swords that have been tempered.

Read through my website for some ideas of what is out there:
http://mysite.verizon.net/tsafa1/swordreview.htm


Edited by tsafa (10/15/08 12:08 AM)
_________________________
An unused weapon is a useless weapon...

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#409664 - 10/15/08 12:28 AM Re: German Swords? [Re: tsafa]
lore_tex Offline
Stranger

Registered: 10/13/08
Posts: 3
Loc: Texas
tsafa, thanks for the response. During my research, I've already read over much material in the same vein as what you've posted, but I do appreciate your effort. Also, I did mention that I would not be buying a sword until significant practice is underway. I'm not a jump the gun sort of gal. I prefer to take my time and do things the right way.

Again, thanks for your response.

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#409665 - 10/19/08 08:15 PM Re: German Swords? [Re: lore_tex]
berserkerofdeath Offline
Member

Registered: 02/23/08
Posts: 25
Loc: Spokane, WA
These were used by German mercenaries to chop the heads off of enemy pikes before the German pikemen attacked. They could then be choked up on for close fighting (Hence the extra long ricasso) but it was more common at this point to draw the short back up sword known as the Katzbalger.
There are quite a few manuals on fighting with them still in existance. Unfortunately, some of these are forgeries.


Edited by berserkerofdeath (10/19/08 08:17 PM)

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#409666 - 11/25/08 01:59 PM Re: German Swords? [Re: tsafa]
Armed_Man_Piker Offline
Member

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

True two-handed swords like Zweihänders, Claymores and the earlier Great Swords are typically defined as having a grip long enough so that the pommol extends past you elbow when you hold it just under the cross guard. The blades are often 40 to 50 inches. So the whole sword can be between 50 and 65 inches. They weight between 5 and 8 lbs. These weapons feel and act like polearms. You would use them on a battlefield to oppose other polearms and crush armor. You would not carry such a large sword on your belt but rather hang it from your horse.





Since two-handed swords were most commonly used by specialist infantry, they were not "hung from a horse", but simply sloped over the shoulder, like a modern soldier holds his rifle. Knights occasionally fought with two-handers in the lists, and sometimes used them in warfare, but I've never seen any evidence of a big zweihander being suspended in any way from a horse's saddle, etc.


Quote:

You might at the same time keep a smaller sword at your waist for personal defense.





Indeed, the landsknechts, who most commonly used two-handers, typically wore some sort of short sword as a sidearm--eg., the straight, double-edged katzbalger, as well as the cutlass-like fechtmesser.


Quote:

There is little historical documentation detailing the use of these large two-handed swords.





On the contrary, there are many period manuals that document the use of two-handed swords--eg., Johannes Leckuchner's (aka "Hans Lebkommer's") book from 1531, Achille Marozzo's Opera Nova from 1536, etc. In addition, Giacomo di Grassi's manual from 1570 covers the use of the two-hander in single-combat, focusing on what later bayonet instructors referred to as the "long throw point", and George Silver covered the use of the shorter-bladed style of two-hander that was apparently popular in England, in his Brief Instructions from c. 1605.


Quote:

The SCA has discovered some pretty effective ways to use these swords that you can pursue if your wish.




There are more serious fight organizations out there, that cover the weapons of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) and Western Martial Arts (WMA)--with ARMA (The Association of Renaissance Martial Arts) being the most obvious example.
_________________________
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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#409667 - 11/25/08 03:00 PM Re: German Swords? [Re: lore_tex]
Armed_Man_Piker Offline
Member

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

Hello, new here, hope y'all will please excuse my shaky entrance into the world of swords - and hopefully someday soon into the art of sword fighting. For now, I just have a question about a sword itself. Can anyone tell me about two handed swords? As the name suggests, they require two hands for actual use, yes? Forgive my ignorant sounding question, but I have to ask in order to learn. I'd really like to know about those two handed swords of German variety. I saw one once that was either Swiss or German and it greatly intrigued me. However, it was antique to the point of "don't touch that!" Thus a beauty to be admired but not reached for. (Actually it wasn't much to look at but the ancient age and obvious durability was what charmed me.) Now, I could search the Internet to my heart's content on this topic and never come up with anything truly promising since I'm a novice. Instead I'm here asking for firsthand knowledge if anyone would so kindly oblige, and of course I would like to see one that's fully functional. Thanks in advance.

Lisa

p.s. I'm not going to go off the deep end and buy a sword before I even practice with wooden implements (or whatever they're rightfully called, again excuse the current ignorance on the topic.) Just curious about German swords and would like to get some ideas beforehand...





Many different martial cultures have produced weapons classified as "two-handed swords"; those of the European variety were especially popular amongst the German-speaking peoples--both those of the Swiss cantons, as well as the Imperial Hapsburg territories. Such swords could be referred to by a variety of names, including zweihander ("two-hander"), bidenhander (beide meaning "both" or "the two"), and schlachtschwerter ("battle-sword"). The German two-hander's use is most commonly associated with the Swiss reislaufer and, even more so, with their Imperial German landsknecht opponents. It was not a commonly used weapon, and its use was restricted to a small number of elite doppelsoldner (lit., "hirelings who draw double-pay"). The majority of doppelsoldner who were equipped for close combat actually preferred the hallebart (halberd), the weapon with which their Swiss enemies had orignally gained such notoriety. The doppelsoldner armed with two-handers and halberds were responsible for support of the frontline pikemen when two pike-blocks crashed together. They were also responsible for the defense of the army's colors. Finally, doppelsoldner were also used in the rear ranks, to "discourage" any green troops from running away in the heat of battle.

Other European soldiers used the two-hander as well. In Northern Italy, there was a fairly widespread exchange of weapons and combative ideas with the Germans, and the two-hander entered the Italian arsenal as the spada da due mani ("two-handed sword"), and later as the spadone or "great sword" ("great" meaning "big"). The French referred to it as the espee a deux mains, and the Spanish and Portuguese knew of it as the espadon.

In England, the two-hander was somewhat popular, where it was known variously as a "two-handed sword", "great sword", and "slaughter-sword" (an English phonetic corruption of the German schlachtschwerter). One interesting feature of English two-handers is that they featured the long grip of Continental European examples, but the ideal length of blade (as described by George Silver in his Paradoxes of Defence from 1599) was the same as that for single-handed swords--i.e., only 37"-40", much shorter than those preferred by the Germans.
_________________________
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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