Why are light swords (less than 3 pounds) feel so heavy to wield?

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Closed
Sep 2016
211
Australia
Sculptingman, I feel like you have a bias against European weaponary. Most of the "facts" you stated out are associated with how the western media sees European weaponary of any age. I will write a detailed response for you when I get back from the clinic.
 
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Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,008
MD, USA
Straight swords as used in the west were often in leather scabbards that could flop and flex as you drew... but even then were more awkward and slower to draw.
Every surviving medieval and Renaissance scabbard has a WOODEN core. All-leather ones are common in the 18th century--often for curved swords like sabers and cutlasses. Not sure when leather scabbards first show up, probably the 17th century. And I've never seen or heard of anyone using a straight sword that described drawing it as "awkward" or slow.

A western broadsword is NOT a 'cutting' sword. Its a HACKING sword. It works the same way battle axe works, except it can also be used for Stabbing.
Well, that WOULD be news to the guys who wrote the swordsmanship manuals that we have!

Western swords CAN be quite heavy. A claymore is a rather heavy sword- because it is a hacking sword, its heavy on purpose because once you get it swinging, its very difficult to STOP. That's the whole idea.
You're kidding, right? I mean, yes, a 2-handed sword like a claymore will probably be heavier than the typical one-handed sword. So? A no-dachi is probably heavier than a wakizashi, too, eh? You aren't still thinking of western blades as comparative sledgehammers, are you?

There is no sword, anywhere, that can be drawn and brought into contact faster than a katana.
So? The chances of being in dire trouble because you don't have half a second to draw your sword are REALLY low. Remember, EVERYone on the battlefield has the same kind of sword in the same kind of scabbard, so the 0.16 second advantage of the katana really didn't worry many European warriors...

Counter to popular movie imagery... the average sword fight with a katana lasts less than two strokes.
A lot of ancient and medieval fights went that way, too.

Matthew
 

Thegn Ansgar

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
5,638
Canada
I don't really agree with this. Yes the Katana might seem more durable because it has a thicker spine, but the actual problem is the edge. Since the edge is made out of a poor, high carbon content steel, it can give away easily to contact with other blades. Since the edge is so hard, it is very prone to chipping and can sometimes ruin the bevels forever.

Plenty of depictions of Samurai in battles show a ruined edge on the Katana.

This site somewhat tells me broken Japanese blades were that not rare. https://www.japaneseswordindex.com/kizu.htm

Baseball grips are basically like hammer grips. If your edge is true, then it'll cut. It just that you lose much of the flexibility and reach you can get from a "shifted" grip. Not to mention the risk of a broken wrist.

It doesn't matter IF THE SWORD IS STRAIGHT OR CURVED, a bad alignment will ruin your cut regardless. Japanese swords aren't so much curved that they would give advantage to a Early Korean Hwando or European Oakshott types.
Where at all did I say katana were durable because they have a thicker spine? I said they are more forgiving of bad form and can give adequate cuts because of their thicker spine, in combination with their curvature, and stiffness. A stiffer sword is exceptionally more forgiving in a cut than a more flexible sword. My point about durability is that swords used in the period of war in Japan were polished differently, and had different edge profiles than ones of later periods. Most of the surviving examples of katana today are shinto, or gendai. Very few koto swords are found. But koto era swords have much more robust edges (as they needed to).

All swords will get edge damage, whether it's from contact with other swords, contact against armour, contact against belts, etc. As your link shows, there are also non fatal damages to katana. Not to mention the majority of the swords shown on that page are shinto and gendai era. They were polished differently, and had much sharper edges, that were more fragile and susceptible to damage.

Judging all katana as being fragile on the basis of shinto and gendai era swords, is not at all dissimilar as judging all European swords on the basis of sabres designed for first blood duels (thin, very sharp, fragile edges).

Yes bad alignment will ruin your cut. However, bad alignment with a katana is more forgiving and can still give an adequate cut to flesh compared to bad alignment with a straight sword. It's not just that a katana is curved. It's the combination of curvature, spine thickness, stiffness, and edge geometry that allows it to be more forgiving of poor form than straight swords. Bad alignment with a straight sword will likely fail to even scratch what you're trying to cut (unless of course your straight sword is stiff, but stiffer straight swords tend to be optimized for thrusting, and sacrifice their cutting power to do so, therefore it's mostly irrelevant). At most you'll bruise the target. Bad alignment with a katana you will still cut what you are trying to cut. You'll make a very poor quality cut, perhaps even a superficial wound, but it will be a cut nonetheless.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2016
211
Australia
Where at all did I say katana were durable because they have a thicker spine? I said they are more forgiving of bad form and can give adequate cuts because of their thicker spine, in combination with their curvature, and stiffness. A stiffer sword is exceptionally more forgiving in a cut than a more flexible sword. My point about durability is that swords used in the period of war in Japan were polished differently, and had different edge profiles than ones of later periods. Most of the surviving examples of katana today are shinto, or gendai. Very few koto swords are found. But koto era swords have much more robust edges (as they needed to).

All swords will get edge damage, whether it's from contact with other swords, contact against armour, contact against belts, etc. As your link shows, there are also non fatal damages to katana. Not to mention the majority of the swords shown on that page are shinto and gendai era. They were polished differently, and had much sharper edges, that were more fragile and susceptible to damage.

Judging all katana as being fragile on the basis of shinto and gendai era swords, is not at all dissimilar as judging all European swords on the basis of sabres designed for first blood duels (thin, very sharp, fragile edges).

Yes bad alignment will ruin your cut. However, bad alignment with a katana is more forgiving and can still give an adequate cut to flesh compared to bad alignment with a straight sword. It's not just that a katana is curved. It's the combination of curvature, spine thickness, stiffness, and edge geometry that allows it to be more forgiving of poor form than straight swords. Bad alignment with a straight sword will likely fail to even scratch what you're trying to cut (unless of course your straight sword is stiff, but stiffer straight swords tend to be optimized for thrusting, and sacrifice their cutting power to do so, therefore it's mostly irrelevant). At most you'll bruise the target. Bad alignment with a katana you will still cut what you are trying to cut. You'll make a very poor quality cut, perhaps even a superficial wound, but it will be a cut nonetheless.
Do you have any evidence for this? Because I can easily say that "straight swords are more forgiving for cutting because they have a straight spine, adequate width, stiffness and edge geometry".
 
Sep 2016
211
Australia
"Oy-
Curved swords are curved because they draw easier- your arm moves in an ARC.
If the scabbard is rigid- ( as in japanese swords ) the sword ends up curved because you can draw it faster.

Straight swords as used in the west were often in leather scabbards that could flop and flex as you drew... but even then were more awkward and slower to draw. ( a curved blade only held at one end is NOT any stronger than a straight blade.)"
No, why would you think that European scabbards are any different from Japanese ones? European swords have a wooden core for a scabbard with a leather wrapping, that why you might think they were only made of leather.

"A western broadsword is NOT a 'cutting' sword. Its a HACKING sword. It works the same way battle axe works, except it can also be used for Stabbing."
There is no such thing as a "Western broadsword" but only a Scottish broadsword.
The fact that you referred to the cutting motion of a Longsword to a battle axe slightly concerns me as they are not similar at all.
"Western swords CAN be quite heavy. A claymore is a rather heavy sword- because it is a hacking sword, its heavy on purpose because once you get it swinging, its very difficult to STOP. That's the whole idea. Even if you are wearing chainmail, a claymore will still break your arm. Its center of gravity is NOT in the handle."
Zweihanders or any other types of two handed swords are not that heavy when in motion. The mercenaries would swing it in 8 like motion to deter pikemen from advancing and to create an opening for others. Here's a link on historical Greatsword weights. The Two-Handed Great Sword
Also people didn't wear hauberks by the time claymores were in use. Levies with a month of pay used munition grade plate armour during from the 1500s
"As time went on, swords became lighter as TECHNIQUE began to play a larger role. Fencing swords, like rapiers and basket hilted broadswords, were much lighter, and with their center of gravity closer to the hand."
Rapiers should feel heavier than a Longsword per say. On this graph shows the weight vs length graph for rapiers. You can easily tell that the longest rapiers weight as much as Longsword. You also need to hold them with only one hand while the Longsword has leverage with two hands. Also, European fencing techniques emerged as early as the 13th century with Arming sword and buckler mechanics and was perfected in the 16th century when all the prominent fencing masters such as Johannes Liechtenauer (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Liechtenauer),
Fiore de liberi (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiore_dei_Liberi), Filipe Davi started popping up.

"There is no sword, anywhere, that can be drawn and brought into contact faster than a katana. Counter to popular movie imagery... the average sword fight with a katana lasts less than two strokes. That is, you either strike your opponent a disabling blow, or, if in parrying your strike, he instantly strikes you a disabling blow. Because of the edge.... even a very light contact can cleave muscle from the bone inches deep."
Why is this any different than Longsword fighting? You don't need to draw your sword as fast as the Japanese as in eraly modern times because a judicial match would be organised for you. And it's not like you are going to walk to battle with your sword out, it's unnecessary. I agree with you on everything else.


https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmLaZHStmI

"As to the op. Swordsmen do not need big muscles... In learning tai chi, you spend about half an hour at a time, simply bending your knees and then straightening them out- VERY slowly.
Not lifting anything more than your own weight. But if you try it, you will find that after only just a few minutes of this your legs will start to shudder, burn and jerk. Its not the strength that is an issue, its that your muscles are not accustomed to having to support your weight AS THEY STRETCH OR CONTRACT very gradually.
Keep practicing, and you will eventually be able to do these knee bending movements super slowly, and for hours at a time without any cramping or fatigue.
A sword is not a dumbbell. A Katana has a CofG outside of your grip. You are Leveraging its weight and momentum well away from your grip. Every motion you impart to the blade results in a lever arm moment that you have to counter to keep control of the blade or bring it to a stop."

"If you want to learn how to handle a katana- take a Kendo class."
This is a personal opinion but I think Iaido or Kenjutsu might be a better a alternative to historical fencing. Kendo is a fine martial art, but you don't learn to cut with a round handle.
 
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Thegn Ansgar

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
5,638
Canada
Do you have any evidence for this? Because I can easily say that "straight swords are more forgiving for cutting because they have a straight spine, adequate width, stiffness and edge geometry".
Of course you can say straight swords are more forgiving for cutting if they have a straight spine, adequate width, stiffness and edge geometry, but only if they are a sword specifically designed for cutting. A stiff sword that is designed for thrusting will often sacrifice its cutting ability for thrusting (thus requiring the stiffness), meaning that while cutting with those types of swords are possible, they're giving superficial wounds when cutting with good form. You're not cleaving someone's arm off with an Oakeshott Type XV for example, even with really good cutting form, any cutting wounds you give to them will not be substantial. A type XI or XIa? Those are powerful cutters, but with poor form, they're quite flexible and won't be nearly as effective as a cut from a katana done with poor form.

I'm amazed you're asking for evidence of a common thing though. That straight swords designed for cutting have considerably more degree of flex/springiness in them than katana. The benefit of that flex means that they can bend and return to their original shape easier, resulting in a sword that is less likely take a set when it does bend. The downside of that flex means that the blade is less forgiving of poor form.

Heck, you can even watch videos from Matt Easton on Scholagladiatoria on YouTube where he talks about katana being more forgiving in a cut than a typical straight European sword designed for cutting.
 

Thegn Ansgar

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
5,638
Canada
No, why would you think that European scabbards are any different from Japanese ones? European swords have a wooden core for a scabbard with a leather wrapping, that why you might think they were only made of leather.



There is no such thing as a "Western broadsword" but only a Scottish broadsword.
The fact that you referred to the cutting motion of a Longsword to a battle axe slightly concerns me as they are not similar at all.

Zweihanders or any other types of two handed swords are not that heavy when in motion. The mercenaries would swing it in 8 like motion to deter pikemen from advancing and to create an opening for others. Here's a link on historical Greatsword weights. The Two-Handed Great Sword
Also people didn't wear hauberks by the time claymores were in use. Levies with a month of pay used munition grade plate armour during from the 1500s.


Rapiers should feel heavier than a Longsword per say. On this graph shows the weight vs length graph for rapiers. You can easily tell that the longest rapiers weight as much as Longsword. You also need to hold them with only one hand while the Longsword has leverage with two hands. Also, European fencing techniques emerged as early as the 13th century with Arming sword and buckler mechanics and was perfected in the 16th century when all the prominent fencing masters such as Johannes Liechtenauer (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Liechtenauer),
Fiore de liberi (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiore_dei_Liberi), Filipe Davi started popping up.



Why is this any different than Longsword fighting? You don't need to draw your sword as fast as the Japanese as in Pre modern times because a judicial match would be organised for you. I agree with you on everything else.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmLaZHStmI



This is a personal opinion but I think Iaido or Kenjutsu might be a better a alternative to historical fencing. Kendo is a fine martial art, but you don't learn to cut with a round handle.
Why are you quoting me as the author in these split up quotes? Can you please fix this, otherwise you'll run afoul of Historum's quoting rule.
 
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