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Weapons UnderGround >> if you had to pick one sword...


4/1/04 2:11 AM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 01-Apr-04
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""Wasnt part of the reason why the rapier was replaced by the smallsword that the rapier was a bit impractical for self defense? "" I think the switch from the rapier to the small sword had mostly to do with the continuing change in preference from a slashing to a thrusting type of fencing. The smallsword is just a much purer weapon -much quicker, better point control- in that respect; it's not really possible to execute the fundamental techniques in modern fencing with a sword that has the weight and balance of the rapier. Against a broadsword it's length is an advangtage, but this would be somewhat negated, I think, when facing another, faster thrusting sword that relies on the lunge. I'm not sure, though, whether a ss could parry a heavy slashing sword like a saber or broadsword. I guess it's possible, so long as the steel it's made of isn't too brittle -right? ""A rapier tends to have a very long blade, so it's slower to draw, and i imagine it wouldnt be very practical in confined spaces. "" Rapier method teaches the use of a dagger in the left hand as part of it's technique. Here's an in depth explanation: http://www2.nau.edu/~wew/fencing/swetnam-man.html ""If you got room, the reach of the rapier is very useful though, so its probably a great dueling weapon."" The rapier ought to be good against any weapon but the ss. If the two were to go against each other, the person with the rapier would be facing a weapon similar, except with much greater tactical depth.
4/1/04 7:45 AM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 01-Apr-04 09:56 PM
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On rapier vs. smallsword: The rapier ought to be good against any weapon but the ss. If the two were to go against each other, the person with the rapier would be facing a weapon similar, except with much greater tactical depth. 18th century French smallsword masters were well aware of both the regional variations on smallsword use (Italian and German), as well as the continued Spanish use of the cup-hilt rapier. They taught their students what to expect when going up against these adversaries. Don't assume that a rapier vs. smallsword encounter will be a cakewalk for the latter, as that isn't necessarily the case. Ironically enough, the rapier probably has a better chance against a smallsword than it does against many other weapons. Ideally, the rapier (like the smallsword) was best used against other swords of the same type. It's utility against more robust cut-and-thrust swords (broadswords, backswords, etc) has been in question for centuries, and it was a hotly debated topic for a long time (still is, actually). Against polearms, it was probably more useless still. On the transition from rapier to smallsword: I think the switch from the rapier to the small sword had mostly to do with the continuing change in preference from a slashing to a thrusting type of fencing. The emphasis on the thrust already existed during the rapier's heyday, and the introduction of the smallsword may have been at least partially influenced by mere fashion (as was probably the case with the rapier as well). The smallsword is just a much purer weapon -much quicker, better point control- True, but it is also a weapon with virtually no cutting capacity (many are in fact edgeless, with a trefoil-section blade like a modern epee), and shorter reach. ...in that respect; it's not really possible to execute the fundamental techniques in modern fencing with a sword that has the weight and balance of the rapier. Define "fundamental techniques". In rapier-play you had parry-ripostes, disegagements, and counter-disengagements, just as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Rapierists also made use of the lunge, as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Even the cut-over, which is more normally associated with the French smallsword, was first described in Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 rapier treatise. On smallsword vs. broadsword: You also have disengages Against a broadsword it's length is an advangtage, but this would be somewhat negated, I think, when facing another, faster thrusting sword that relies on the lunge. I'm not sure, though, whether a ss could parry a heavy slashing sword like a saber or broadsword. I guess it's possible, so long as the steel it's made of isn't too brittle -right? Donald McBane preferred the smallsword to the broadsword, but he taught how to use each weapon against the other. It's no surprise that he advocated cuts to the hand and wrist of the smallswordsman, when wielding a broadsword or spadroon. TFS
4/1/04 3:40 PM
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Bull_in_chinashop
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Edited: 01-Apr-04
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4/2/04 7:00 AM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 02-Apr-04
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Regarding the changing fashions in weapons: ""Ironically enough, the rapier probably has a better chance against a smallsword than it does against many other weapons. Ideally, the rapier (like the smallsword) was best used against other swords of the same type. It's utility against more robust cut-and-thrust swords (broadswords, backswords, etc) has been in question for centuries, and it was a hotly debated topic for a long time (still is, actually). Against polearms, it was probably more useless still. "" and ""The emphasis on the thrust already existed during the rapier's heyday, and the introduction of the smallsword may have been at least partially influenced by mere fashion (as was probably the case with the rapier as well). "" Western swordsmanship was nothing if not empirical, and, in that respect, I don't think you're giving the men of the time enough credit. I find it hard to believe they'd arm themselves with an inferior sword when their lives depended on it, just for the sake of fashion. Joseph Swetnam (I've linked to him above), who taught rapier and other weapons(but preffered rapier), in a time when there were many different weapons and styles current, finishes his manual with this open challenge to anyone who takes exception to what he's written: "" Now if my booke doe come unto the view of any such, I will impute it unto the Idlenesse of their braine, or unto the spitefulnesse of an envious minde, which will never commend nor allow any other mans man-hood, opinion of judgement to bee so good as their owne, not mcuh like unto the proude Pharizee, who said that his life in all respect was better then any other, now mistake mee not, for I doe not say so, because you should thinke that this worke cannot bee mended, for it is farre from my thought to thinke that this booke is so wel penned as to be without fault, or to please all, neither is it so wel as it might have beene, if my leisure would have served me to amend some faults which I know in it my selfe, indeed, I must confesse that there are many in this land of this noble and worthy art besides my selfe, which might have taken this matter in hand, because many of them are most fit both for wisdome and learning, but I see they have not gone about it, wherefore if any blame me for shewing my god will, I hope those which have knowen mee and seene my behaviour wil answere for me with reasonable speech against those which object against me: no, if reason will not rule them, but like Ballams Asse, will strive agaisnt weapons, then I pray you referre the quarrell unto myselfe,and let me answere my owne wrong which I have done them heerin, for I had rather loose my life in defence of my reputation and credit, if there were such a danger in fighting, then nyfriend should loose one drop of bloud in my quarrell: therefore while I am living, wrong me not, for hee which fighteth for another, seeketh his owne distruction, so praying you if I have offended any, let me answere it my selfe while I am living, for when I am dead hee deales unchristianlike, that will abuse me: and will abuse me: and so I rest, Thine ever to helpe that hereafter in what I may, Thy friend Joseph Swetnam "" My point being that this obviously wasn't the academic sword instruction and theorizing of today. Now, I'll be happy to debate thrust vs cut, or argue about how the rapier matches agaist the katzbalger, how the smallsword would do vs. the croat battle pitchfork, etc.. Every weapon has it's trade offs. But, these weapons weren't created in vacuums, they were made specifically for the purpose of countering existing weapons. If the rapier were ineffective against the heavier slashing weapons of it's day, then why did it gain such predominance throughout Europe? Fashion may have had to do with the sweep of the hilt, but not much more.
4/2/04 7:01 AM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 02-Apr-04 07:00 AM
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--continued-- on cutting capacity: ""True, but it is also a weapon with virtually no cutting capacity (many are in fact edgeless, with a trefoil-section blade like a modern epee), and shorter reach. "" The rapier is very nearly just as lousy, though, at cutting. From what I know, cuts play a very small part in either technique. On the difference between the rapier and smallsword: "" Define "fundamental techniques". In rapier-play you had parry-ripostes, disegagements, and counter-disengagements, just as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Rapierists also made use of the lunge, as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Even the cut-over, which is more normally associated with the French smallsword, was first described in Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 rapier treatise. "" They could do all that with a 3 1/2 pound sword!? Maybe if they had 21 inch biceps -even then I doubt they could do it very long. I assume they were using a much lighter, more modern sword than what people usually think of as rapier -the 39 inch, swept hilt style swords that I was thinking of when I wrote that. When you say parry/riposte, do you mean in double time (parry, then riposte)? I seem to remember being told that rapier fencing was conducted in single time.
4/2/04 8:42 AM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 02-Apr-04
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Cornpone, Western swordsmanship was nothing if not empirical, and, in that respect, I don't think you're giving the men of the time enough credit. I find it hard to believe they'd arm themselves with an inferior sword when their lives depended on it, just for the sake of fashion. Joseph Swetnam (I've linked to him above), who taught rapier and other weapons(but preffered rapier), in a time when there were many different weapons and styles current, finishes his manual with this open challenge to anyone who takes exception to what he's written: [long Swetnam quote...] Swetnam's "challenge" proves nothing. Silver (who came from the opposite opinion) made an actual challenge to test Saviolo's skills, and Saviolo refused to fight. My point being that this obviously wasn't the academic sword instruction and theorizing of today. No, you're right--you actually had incidents where fighters with cut-and-thrust "short swords" (broadswords & backswords) defeated rapierists--including Saviolo's buddy, Jeronimo. Now, I'll be happy to debate thrust vs cut, or argue about how the rapier matches agaist the katzbalger, how the smallsword would do vs. the croat battle pitchfork, etc.. Every weapon has it's trade offs. But, these weapons weren't created in vacuums, they were made specifically for the purpose of countering existing weapons. If the rapier were ineffective against the heavier slashing weapons of it's day, then why did it gain such predominance throughout Europe? Fashion may have had to do with the sweep of the hilt, but not much more. The rapier prevaled predominantly because it was not simply the weapon itself that was adopted--the entire duelling culture was adopted along with it. In addition, we must remember that the rapier was a civilian weapon--it was sometimes seen in the military context (where it was decidedly ineffective), and this generated strong condemnation. And note that stouter cut-and-thrust swords did not disappear--they remained the weapons of choice for soldiers, adventurers, and anyone travelling abroad, during the rapier's height of popularity (late 16th and 17th centuries). on cutting capacity: The rapier is very nearly just as lousy, though, at cutting. From what I know, cuts play a very small part in either technique. First of all, it depends on what kind of "rapier" you're talking about. There are plenty of weapons that we now refer to as "cut-and-thrust swords" that were actually known as "rapiers" in their own time. Take, for example, the stout-bladed rappir of the German masters--Jakob Sutor's books shows this weapon as capable of severing a hand at the wrist. But let's stick with the weapons that more closely fit the modern-day conception of what a "rapier" should be--ie., thinner-bladed swept-hilts and cup-hilts. In all of the later "classic" rapier treatises (Capo Ferro, Marcelli, etc), cuts still play a role. The emphasis is definitely on the thrust, but cuts are still intelligently employed. This would naturally require a sword with enough cutting capacity to execute those cuts. In fact, even with the longer, thinner Spanish cup-hilts, cuts were employed. The great smallsword master Angelo commented as thus about the Spanish rapier, in 1787: "The Spaniards have in fencing a different method to all other nations; they are fond to give a cut on the head, and immediately after deliver a thrust between the eyes and the throat. Their swords are near five feet long from hilt to point, and cut with both edges..." (continued below)
4/2/04 8:44 AM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 02-Apr-04 08:50 AM
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On the difference between the rapier and smallsword: "" Define "fundamental techniques". In rapier-play you had parry-ripostes, disegagements, and counter-disengagements, just as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Rapierists also made use of the lunge, as in smallsword-play and modern fencing. Even the cut-over, which is more normally associated with the French smallsword, was first described in Nicoletto Giganti's 1606 rapier treatise. "" They could do all that with a 3 1/2 pound sword!? Maybe if they had 21 inch biceps -even then I doubt they could do it very long. I assume they were using a much lighter, more modern sword than what people usually think of as rapier -the 39 inch, swept hilt style swords that I was thinking of when I wrote that. They were actually using various styles of swept-hilt and cup-hilt rapiers. My own maestro, Mark Holbrow, once received a private tour of the weaponry in the Tower of London--he was amazed at how light and well-balanced most of the swords were (rapiers, broadswords, and so on). He commented that virtually all the replicas he had handled were clumsy, when compared to the originals in the Tower. His most noteworthy comment was, "Dave, you could actually fence with these things." I, too, have bee lucky enough to handle a few original rapiers (swept-hilts), and they felt good in the hand--they were well-balanced and comparatively light. People often talk about how rapiers are supposedly heavy--this may have been the case with some examples, but I don't think that 3.5-lb clunkers are representative of rapiers as a whole. When you say parry/riposte, do you mean in double time (parry, then riposte)? Yeah. I seem to remember being told that rapier fencing was conducted in single time. They used both single and double-time. Peace, TFS
4/4/04 12:32 AM
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shovelhook
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Edited: 04-Apr-04 12:26 AM
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cutlass I like Laci Szabo's Gladius too
4/4/04 8:42 AM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 04-Apr-04 08:48 AM
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TFS: ""Swetnam's "challenge" proves nothing. "" His words are worth as much as he was. Swetnam was a prominent instructor of the day, who fought many duels. His pupils included Prince Henry and his brother, Charles I of England. ""Silver (who came from the opposite opinion) made an actual challenge to test Saviolo's skills, and Saviolo refused to fight. """"My point being that this obviously wasn't the academic sword instruction and theorizing of today."""" No, you're right--you actually had incidents where fighters with cut-and-thrust "short swords" (broadswords & backswords) defeated rapierists--including Saviolo's buddy, Jeronimo. "" Yes, that's certainly too bad for Geronimo, but I don't think the matter can be resolved on the basis of a few anecdotes. The other camp had it's share of victims too, no doubt. ""The rapier prevaled predominantly because it was not simply the weapon itself that was adopted--the entire duelling culture was adopted along with it. "" There's probably some truth to that, but I think the larger reason is that the rapier was simply well suited to the personal combat of the time. After all, people have fought duels, in one form or another, with many types of weapons, before and after the rapier's time. There is nothing other than it's efficacy (or lack of it, if you're of that opinion) as a dueling weapon that would or would not connect the rapier to the duel- a rapier is not some intrinsically evil object that makes anyone who picks one up want to go looking for a fight. There has to be some reason why someone would use it as a dueling weapon in the first place. ""In addition, we must remember that the rapier was a civilian weapon--it was sometimes seen in the military context (where it was decidedly ineffective), and this generated strong condemnation. "" That would seem to make sense. I would think a rapier would be awful for cavalry. Someone armed with a rapier would be at a disadvantage against an armored opponent and the rapier would be much more difficult to use effectivly, for a relativly untrained soldier, than the short sword.
4/4/04 8:44 AM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 04-Apr-04
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--continued-- ""But let's stick with the weapons that more closely fit the modern-day conception of what a "rapier" should be--ie., thinner-bladed swept-hilts and cup-hilts. In all of the later "classic" rapier treatises (Capo Ferro, Marcelli, etc), cuts still play a role. The emphasis is definitely on the thrust, but cuts are still intelligently employed. This would naturally require a sword with enough cutting capacity to execute those cuts. "" I've read that the edge on a rapier is mostly for helping the thrust go thru and to keep an opponent from grasping the blade. Regardless, so long as the edge is there.. Slashing someone with any sort of edged sword, even a smallsword, is obviously going to produce gruesome results. Cutting with the rapier, though, would seem to be playing against it's strength. ""I, too, have bee lucky enough to handle a few original rapiers (swept-hilts), and they felt good in the hand--they were well-balanced and comparatively light. People often talk about how rapiers are supposedly heavy--this may have been the case with some examples, but I don't think that 3.5-lb clunkers are representative of rapiers as a whole. "" It is, most likely, the most dramatic examples that seem to get lodged in peoples minds -maybe only because they're the most often displayed. "" """"When you say parry/riposte, do you mean in double time (parry, then riposte)? """" Yeah. """"I seem to remember being told that rapier fencing was conducted in single time. """" They used both single and double-time. "" Yes, but almost always single, it seems, due to the rapier's weight. Here's an article on the subject by Stephen Hand: http://ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2000/jwmaart_hand_0500.html Hand quotes Salvator Fabris as saying: "In treating of the rule of the dui tempi, although it may succeed against some, it is not to be compared with the rule of parrying and hitting at the same time, because the true and safe method is to meet the body as it advances, before it has had time to withdraw and recover."
4/4/04 11:23 AM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 04-Apr-04
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Cornpone, TFS: ""Swetnam's "challenge" proves nothing. "" His words are worth as much as he was. Swetnam was a prominent instructor of the day, who fought many duels. His pupils included Prince Henry and his brother, Charles I of England. I wasn't aware of Swetnam's duelling record--could you please supply sources for this? ""Silver (who came from the opposite opinion) made an actual challenge to test Saviolo's skills, and Saviolo refused to fight. No, you're right--you actually had incidents where fighters with cut-and-thrust "short swords" (broadswords & backswords) defeated rapierists--including Saviolo's buddy, Jeronimo. "" Yes, that's certainly too bad for Geronimo, but I don't think the matter can be resolved on the basis of a few anecdotes. The other camp had it's share of victims too, no doubt. Bust out some anecdotes, then--as opposed to Swetnam's "tobacco pipe" insults. ""The rapier prevaled predominantly because it was not simply the weapon itself that was adopted--the entire duelling culture was adopted along with it. "" There's probably some truth to that, but I think the larger reason is that the rapier was simply well suited to the personal combat of the time. After all, people have fought duels, in one form or another, with many types of weapons, before and after the rapier's time. There is nothing other than it's efficacy (or lack of it, if you're of that opinion) as a dueling weapon that would or would not connect the rapier to the duel- a rapier is not some intrinsically evil object that makes anyone who picks one up want to go looking for a fight. There has to be some reason why someone would use it as a dueling weapon in the first place. I am not saying that the rapier was totally ineffective--it was excellent for what it was primarily designed for--ie., fighting duels against other rapiers. However, the introduction and rising popularity of the rapier was not due to some "linear evolution"--check out J. Christoph Amberger's Secret History of the Sword, and Alfred Hutton's The Sword and the Centuries.
4/4/04 11:24 AM
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Edited: 04-Apr-04 11:24 AM
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(continued from above) ""In addition, we must remember that the rapier was a civilian weapon--it was sometimes seen in the military context (where it was decidedly ineffective), and this generated strong condemnation. "" That would seem to make sense. I would think a rapier would be awful for cavalry. Rapiers were sometimes seen used by both cavalry and "footmen pikers" (pikemen). Sir John Smythe, the famous English soldier of fortune, criticized this practice in his Certain Discourses Military of 1590: "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." He also commented on the overly long rapier blades, which were hard to draw, let alone use effectively, in the middle of the "pell-mell". Someone armed with a rapier would be at a disadvantage against an armored opponent and the rapier would be much more difficult to use effectivly, for a relativly untrained soldier, than the short sword. Soldiers weren't necessarily "relatively untrained". Di Grassi's True Arte, despite being concerned only with single combat, was written specifically for soldiers--this is what di Grassi himself said. In addition, any soldiers who fought as "armed men" or "corselet men" (pikemen, halberdiers, & targetiers) had to have adequate sword training (indeed, for targetiers, the sword was their primary weapon).
4/4/04 11:25 AM
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Edited: 04-Apr-04 11:25 AM
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(continued from above) I've read that the edge on a rapier is mostly for helping the thrust go thru and to keep an opponent from grasping the blade. Regardless, so long as the edge is there.. Slashing someone with any sort of edged sword, even a smallsword, is obviously going to produce gruesome results. Cutting with the rapier, though, would seem to be playing against it's strength. Yet, I've provided you with period sources regarding the fact that even the thin Spanish cup-hilts were used for cutting. Angelo mentioned this because cuts were not used with the smallsword. Maestro Ramon Martinez teaches reconstructed Spanish rapier, and he points out the cutting aspect in many of his articles. ""I, too, have bee lucky enough to handle a few original rapiers (swept-hilts), and they felt good in the hand--they were well-balanced and comparatively light. People often talk about how rapiers are supposedly heavy--this may have been the case with some examples, but I don't think that 3.5-lb clunkers are representative of rapiers as a whole. "" It is, most likely, the most dramatic examples that seem to get lodged in peoples minds -maybe only because they're the most often displayed. I'm not sure why people hold that conception. In any case, both well-made rapiers and cut-and-thrust "short swords" are comparatively light weapons. "" """"When you say parry/riposte, do you mean in double time (parry, then riposte)? """" Yeah. """"I seem to remember being told that rapier fencing was conducted in single time. """" They used both single and double-time. "" Yes, but almost always single, it seems, due to the rapier's weight. Here's an article on the subject by Stephen Hand: http://ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2000/jwmaart_hand_0500.html Hand quotes Salvator Fabris as saying: "In treating of the rule of the dui tempi, although it may succeed against some, it is not to be compared with the rule of parrying and hitting at the same time, because the true and safe method is to meet the body as it advances, before it has had time to withdraw and recover." The general consensus is that the single-time was preferred with the rapier, but there is some dispute as to how this action is categorized. Stephen Hand originally referred to the single-time as a counterattack with opposition, whereas Professor William Gaugler considers the single-time to still be a type of parry-riposte. Either way, the line is being closed and a thrust executed, in one motion (or what at least appears to be one motion). To this day, Italian fencers prefer ripostes that arrive so quickly after the parry, that it appears to be one motion or tempo. Gaugler describes this in his retort to Hand's criticisms of the former's book, The History of Fencing. Here's Hand's original review: http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/hand.html And Gaugler's reply: http://www.swordhistory.com/excerpts/hacareply.html I think Gaugler gives a good case for the single-time still being a form of parry-riposte. The fact that he can actually read early modern Italian, German, French, etc., is a great asset. Gaugler mentions that the parry-riposte being broken down into two motions is more a feature of the French school. Still, even then, the parry may be immediate (tac au tac). Gaugler states in his Dictionary of Universally Used Fencing Terminology that there may be instances where the riposte may be delayed (a temps perdu) for tactical reasons. In any case, I think I have shown that the so-called "fundamental techniques in modern fencing" were known in the days of the rapier. Peace, TFS
4/6/04 5:03 PM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 06-Apr-04 05:08 PM
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""I wasn't aware of Swetnam's duelling record--could you please supply sources for this? "" I took that from this passage in Swetnam's own manual. Of course, if you think he'd lie about that.. ""I have knowen some besides my selfe, that have fought with Rapier and Dagger twenty times, and never had one droppe of bloud drawne, and yet were accounted men of sufficient vallour and resolution, those which weare short swords, depend onely upon the taking of the enemies point, which is not to bee done if they meete with with one that is skilfull: "" ""Bust out some anecdotes, then--as opposed to Swetnam's "tobacco pipe" insults. "" My point was that arguments aren't won on individual anecdotes. There's no best of 7 in a duel to the death- it doesn't necessarily even tell us who is the better fencer, much less which is the better weapon. I don't think the handful of incidents that I've read about are enough to reach a conclusion with, as to which was the better weapon. ""I am not saying that the rapier was totally ineffective--it was excellent for what it was primarily designed for--ie., fighting duels against other rapiers. However, the introduction and rising popularity of the rapier was not due to some "linear evolution"--check out J. Christoph Amberger's Secret History of the Sword, and Alfred Hutton's The Sword and the Centuries. "" That's an odd standard by which to judge a weapon's effectiveness. If I say that the Yugo is an excellent race car, but only when it's raced against other yugos, does that make it an effective race car? It's a meaningless distinction. It's impossible to judge the rapier's effectivness, except by comparison to other weapons. Also, I find it difficult to believe that the rapier's designer would primarily design a sword to be inferior to every other weapon of the day, except another rapier. ""Soldiers weren't necessarily "relatively untrained". Di Grassi's True Arte, despite being concerned only with single combat, was written specifically for soldiers--this is what di Grassi himself said. In addition, any soldiers who fought as "armed men" or "corselet men" (pikemen, halberdiers, & targetiers) had to have adequate sword training (indeed, for targetiers, the sword was their primary weapon). "" I think you've misunderstood what I wrote there. Here it is again: ""the rapier would be much more difficult to use effectivly, for a relativly untrained soldier, than the short sword. "" I've used the indefinite article to refer to a soldier of the time who was relativly untrained. It was not my intention to say that all soldiers of the time were untrained. "" I wrote: I've read that the edge on a rapier is mostly for helping the thrust go thru and to keep an opponent from grasping the blade. Regardless, so long as the edge is there.. Slashing someone with any sort of edged sword, even a smallsword, is obviously going to produce gruesome results. Cutting with the rapier, though, would seem to be playing against it's strength. you wrote: Yet, I've provided you with period sources regarding the fact that even the thin Spanish cup-hilts were used for cutting. Angelo mentioned this because cuts were not used with the smallsword. Maestro Ramon Martinez teaches reconstructed Spanish rapier, and he points out the cutting aspect in many of his articles. "" I'm not here questioning your sources or disagreeing with you. I was making the observation -whether it's true or false- that cutting with the rapier would seem to be playing against it's strength. ""In any case, I think I have shown that the so-called "fundamental techniques in modern fencing" were known in the days of the rapier. "" I have considered fencing in double time to be one of the main marks of modern fencing. It's a possibility that's a prejudice of French technique, but, regardless, it seems the rapier would be too heavy to parry-riposte effectivly within two steps, in most situations.
4/7/04 2:19 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 07-Apr-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 5700
Cornpone, ""I wasn't aware of Swetnam's duelling record--could you please supply sources for this? "" I took that from this passage in Swetnam's own manual. Of course, if you think he'd lie about that.. I don't necessarily think that Swetnam would lie outright about a duelling record, but there are enough points in Swetnam's book which seem so opposed to common sense, that I must remain dubious, and thus take much of what he claimed with some hefty grains of sodium chloride. For example, take Swetnam's overly-optimistic views regarding the use of rapiers in battle: "Also a short sword is good to encounter against a naked man, I mean a man unweaponed, and it is good to serve in the wars on horse-backe or on foote, yet a Rapier will doe as good service in the wars as a short sword, if a skilfull man have him in hand: we have divers examples of those which come out of the field sore wounded, and they will say it was because their enemy had a handfull or a foot ods in length of weapon upon them; wherefore I say one inch is great ods and enough to kill a man, if they both have skill alike, and doe observe a true distance..." Swetnam clearly ignores battlefield realities (unlike his battle-hardened contemporary, Sir John Smythe), when he speaks of observing "true distance" in a battle. The ability to observe "true distance" is a luxury that a man on a battlefield may or may not have. See Symthe's excellent Certain Discourses Military for a counter to Swetnam's ideas. Or what about Swetnam's various methods for holding his rather long rapier? "Then the third is but to have onlie the fore-finger and thy thumbe within the pummell of thy Rapier, and thy other three fingers about thy pummell, and beare the button of thy pommel against the in-side of thy little finger; this is called the Stokata fashion, and these two last are the surest and strongest waies... This is a grip still used by some epee fencers today, to give themselves just a little extra reach. Far from being the "surest and strongest" way to hold any sword, it is, in fact, a weak grip, as was observed by J.D. Aylward in The English Master of Arms. And then we have Swetnam's peculiar claim which presumably concerns the temper of dagger blades: "I have often knowen a soft dagger cut in twaine with a Rapier." ?!?! We seem to disagree on the role of cuts in rapier-play, but we at least concur that the rapier couldn't cut like a "short sword". No dagger is going to be cut in half with any sword. What is Swetnam talking about?
4/7/04 2:32 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 07-Apr-04
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Posts: 5701
""Bust out some anecdotes, then--as opposed to Swetnam's "tobacco pipe" insults. "" My point was that arguments aren't won on individual anecdotes. There's no best of 7 in a duel to the death- it doesn't necessarily even tell us who is the better fencer, much less which is the better weapon. I don't think the handful of incidents that I've read about are enough to reach a conclusion with, as to which was the better weapon. I honestly don't either, but I personally prefer swords of a more well-rounded and practical configuration (ie., the "short sword"), and the fact that Cheese was successful against Saviolo's #1 boy is therefore potentially significant. ""I am not saying that the rapier was totally ineffective--it was excellent for what it was primarily designed for--ie., fighting duels against other rapiers. However, the introduction and rising popularity of the rapier was not due to some "linear evolution"--check out J. Christoph Amberger's Secret History of the Sword, and Alfred Hutton's The Sword and the Centuries. "" That's an odd standard by which to judge a weapon's effectiveness. If I say that the Yugo is an excellent race car, but only when it's raced against other yugos, does that make it an effective race car? It's a meaningless distinction. It's impossible to judge the rapier's effectivness, except by comparison to other weapons. Precisely, and when one compares the rapier to the other weapons of the day, one is left with the feeling that the rapier is best left to the duelling ground. And let's not forget the 3 Spanish rapier-and-dagger men who were clobbered by the quarterstaff-wielding Richard Peeke... Also, I find it difficult to believe that the rapier's designer would primarily design a sword to be inferior to every other weapon of the day, except another rapier. It was a civilian weapon. It was used by members of a class who quarreled chiefly amongst themselves. Therefore, the main function for such a sword would be for it to be used against others of the same type. Gentlemen didn't typically walk around the streets of Elizabethan London (or Milan, Naples, Toledo, etc), carrying two-handed swords or bills. I subscribe to the "vantgages" as laid out in Silver's Paradoxes of Defense. I personally believe that Thibault's views on the rapier vs. the two-hander to be more wishful thinking than anything else. Ditto for Swetnam's claims about the rapier's utility in battle. Egerton Castle commented in his Schools and Masters of Fence that the "short sword" was "never complete as a weapon without the buckler". What is ironic here is that, if anything, the reverse is true--the rapier (at least in its ultimate, very long-bladed incarnation) was never complete as a weapon without the dagger, unless it was used only against other rapiers. The addition of a dagger to the rapierist's arsenal makes closing the gap by the "short sword" fighter obviously more dangerous. It complicates the game overall.
4/7/04 2:34 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 07-Apr-04 07:23 PM
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""Soldiers weren't necessarily "relatively untrained". Di Grassi's True Arte, despite being concerned only with single combat, was written specifically for soldiers--this is what di Grassi himself said. In addition, any soldiers who fought as "armed men" or "corselet men" (pikemen, halberdiers, & targetiers) had to have adequate sword training (indeed, for targetiers, the sword was their primary weapon). "" I think you've misunderstood what I wrote there. Here it is again: ""the rapier would be much more difficult to use effectivly, for a relativly untrained soldier, than the short sword. "" I've used the indefinite article to refer to a soldier of the time who was relativly untrained. It was not my intention to say that all soldiers of the time were untrained. I've never been very technical-minded in regards to writing, and my judgement of English grammar is akin to a musician who "plays by ear". It still sounds somewhat ambiguous to me--as if you are inferring that soldiers in general were comparatively unskilled. As for a "short sword" being better for a soldier than a rapier, I don't think this has as much to do with any lack of training (as again, "armed men" would have had to have a certain amount of sword skill, due to the very nature of their role in battle), as it does with basic functional advantages--a dual-purpose sword of manageable length, with a really decent (incapacitating) cutting capacity, is going to serve a soldier far better than an overly-long weapon suited principally for the thrust. The "short sword" requires skill to use effectively too, but it is also a weapon whose use is based primarily on gross motor movements, as opposed to fine motor movements. This is exactly what a soldier--who is repeatedly put in very dangerous and unpleasant melee situations--needs. I'm not here questioning your sources or disagreeing with you. I was making the observation -whether it's true or false- that cutting with the rapier would seem to be playing against it's strength. It's not that the use of cuts is "playing against" the rapier's "strength"--cuts are simply still a part of the weapon's repertoire, albeit a comparatively limited one. The rapier is not an edgeless estoc--it's a rapier. ""In any case, I think I have shown that the so-called "fundamental techniques in modern fencing" were known in the days of the rapier. "" I have considered fencing in double time to be one of the main marks of modern fencing. It's a possibility that's a prejudice of French technique, but, regardless, it seems the rapier would be too heavy to parry-riposte effectivly within two steps, in most situations. The fact that many Renaissance masters debated the issue indicates that both methods were used--heck, they even had a name for it (dui tempi). The stesso tempo is likewise a form of parry-riposte, as indicated by Gaugler. In any case, you never defined the "fundamental techniques of modern fencing". I offered a list of many techniques that are common to both the rapier and the modern sports weapons--are they not "fundamental" enough for you? TFS
4/7/04 8:01 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 07-Apr-04 07:56 PM
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Another thing that should be considered when examining the "ascendancy" of the rapier is the fact that the "short sword" in its various forms (spada da lato/"sidesword", broadsword/backsword, etc.) did not disappear--it in fact remained the weapon of choice amongst soldiers, travellers, and so on.

The early 16th century cut-and-thrust spada of Marozzo & Viggiani survived as the so-called rappier (or rappir) of the later 16th and early 17th century German masters (Joachim Meyer, Jakob Sutor, et al).  Marozzo's manual was reprinted as late as 1615, a time which was certainly the heyday for the long, thin, rapier.  Meyer's treatise was reprinted as late as 1660. This was also the time when Jakob Sutor was teaching what a keen-edged cut-and-thrust sword could do to someone who constantly menaces you by "giving point". 

We also have a multitude of Silver-approved (in terms of blade length, blade form, & hilt form) swords from the late 16th and 17th centuries, in the form of various "short swords", backswords, reitschwerts, schiavonas, and "claymores", not to mention all sorts of dussacks, messers, stortas, sciablas, cutlasses, hangers, and other shorter cut-and-thrust types, that were popular with sailors, pirates, privateers, farmers, merchants, hunters, and so on.  

These stout-bladed weapons survived in the form of broadswords, backswords, sabers, and cutlasses, right into the early 20th century--long after the rapier had been discarded in all but a minority of Spanish schools.

 

TFS

4/9/04 7:39 PM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 09-Apr-04 07:59 PM
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Posts: 32
TFS, I do not have very much that is new to say about your last post. I'll address some of your points, then leave you with the last word, if you'll have anything to add. ""The fact that many Renaissance masters debated the issue indicates that both methods were used--heck, they even had a name for it (dui tempi). The stesso tempo is likewise a form of parry-riposte, as indicated by Gaugler. In any case, you never defined the "fundamental techniques of modern fencing". I offered a list of many techniques that are common to both the rapier and the modern sports weapons--are they not "fundamental" enough for you? "" Well, I think there are very few techniques more fundamental than the double time parry-riposte. Again, the instructors of the time rejected double time fencing entirely or only allowed for a highly qualified version of it, due to the difficulty in overcoming the rapier's inertia. Hand's interpretation of a single time defence - a counterthrust with opposition - is a time hit rather than any sort of parry-riposte. Given Hand's practial experience in interpreting rapier technique, I don't think this interpretation ought to be lightly dismissed. Many rapier instructors seem to have thought that the best defense was to just move out of the way. To quote George Hale (a contemporary of Silver and Swetnam): "neither in Longe or Passage is the force required so much as sift of body, to which the Eye must like a fairthfull Centinell give warning, and the feete nimbly give performance: for if the Eye faile in perceiving opportunitie, or the feete in taking it, in vaine is the force of arme: on these two then we ground Abilitie, to which the judgement gives the crowne or conquest. ". About cuts: By way of analogy: when a power hitter bunts, he is playing against (maybe it would be better to say that it doesn't play to) his core talent, but sometimes it is usefull. That's something like what I'm trying to get at by saying that it plays against the rapier's strength to cut. Also, I don't think the rapier has much cutting power, but this particular point ought to be easy to prove. It'd only involve hacking away at something (rolls of carpet or maybe slabs of beef, like in the rocky movies) with several different types of swords, then comparing the results. I'm a little surprised someone on the internet hasn't already done this . Here, though, is an article that discusses the theoretical capacities of the rapier's cutting ability, it's employment of cuts, as well as it's other physical properties: http://swordforum.com/articles/ams/char-rapier.php About Swetnam: -What your saying about distance on the battlefield sounds true enough, but Swetnam was a soldier, too. -I've never fenced gripping the pommel, but I think that's a matter of personal preference. -I don't know exactly what he means about the dagger. It does sound strange, but I can't imagine why he'd lie about that.
4/9/04 7:40 PM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 09-Apr-04 07:52 PM
Member Since: 09/07/2003
Posts: 33
""It was a civilian weapon. It was used by members of a class who quarreled chiefly amongst themselves. Therefore, the main function for such a sword would be for it to be used against others of the same type. Gentlemen didn't typically walk around the streets of Elizabethan London (or Milan, Naples, Toledo, etc), carrying two-handed swords or bills. "" But, of course, a broadsword is shorter than a rapier and weighs about the same. It seems to me that there would be nothing to keep these same gentleman from wearing a broadsword, if they thought it would be more useful. Anyhow, I don't think I've said anything disparaging about the broadsword's effectiveness as a weapon in any of my posts -at any rate that's not my opinion. I only think that the rapier would, on average, come off better in personal combat. As for how matchups would play out; the men of the time, who obviously had a much greater knowledge of the period's weapons and techniques than any person alive today, managed to concoct conflicting scenarios about that. It be interesting if modern historical fencing could provide a more definite answer.
4/9/04 7:42 PM
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cornponebrauch
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Edited: 09-Apr-04 07:40 PM
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Posts: 34
*double post*
4/12/04 7:54 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 12-Apr-04 11:08 PM
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Cornpone,

I do not have very much that is new to say about your last post. I'll address some of your points, then leave you with the last word, if you'll have anything to add.

Fair enough, sir.

""I offered a list of many techniques that are common to both the rapier and the modern sports weapons--are they not "fundamental" enough for you? ""

Well, I think there are very few techniques more fundamental than the double time parry-riposte.

You're not answering the question.

The parry-riposte was only one of several "fundamental techniques" that I listed.  What about the straight thrust, the lunge, the disengage, the cut-over, et al.?  These are techniques found in both rapier fencing and modern fencing. 

Again, the instructors of the time rejected double time fencing entirely or only allowed for a highly qualified version of it, due to the difficulty in overcoming the rapier's inertia. Hand's interpretation of a single time defence - a counterthrust with opposition - is a time hit rather than any sort of parry-riposte.

Professor Gaugler, who based his analysis on his own translation of Italian and German editions of Fabris's treatise, has a different theory.  Gaugler wrote:

"Marozzo already indicates the necessity to parry and riposte (my History of Fencing, pp. 2 and 434). The word ferire was used in the past both to designate an attack and a riposte. If it followed the word "parry", it was a riposte. Fabris (1606) Book One, Chapter Six, is chiefly concerned with criticizing those who draw the arm back to gain greater force in the thrust, and in the same chapter (p. 16) says "meglio è parare e ferire in tempo medesimo", which is translated in the Italian and German edition of 1713 as "besser...in einem Tempo zugleich pariren und stoßen". Even today the German word for riposte is either Riposte or Nachstoß, that is, to thrust after, meaning after the parry (see Karl Kerstenhan, Florettfechten, [München, 1978], p. 220).

Only if you had taken lessons from a variety of Italian masters would you know that a principle of the Italian school is to riposte immediately after the parry in such a way that the parry and riposte blend into one another, and are seemingly delivered in one motion or the same tempo. It was the later French school that stressed clear-cut separation of parry from riposte. The Italians, however, have always been conscious of the danger in delaying the riposte. In my Science of Fencing (p. xxv) I quote Aldo Nadi in reference to his brother's parry-riposte. He says: "For as soon as [the adversary's] blade was found, the riposte followed with lightning speed...." Indeed, every Italian master I worked with said that the riposte must arrive come un fulmine, like a thunderbolt. That is what the passage in Fabris means. If he had intended to speak of a counterattack, then he would have specified the type of counterattack as Francesco Marcelli does when he discusses body evasions (my History of Fencing, pp. 53-55)."

 Given Hand's practial experience in interpreting rapier technique, I don't think this interpretation ought to be lightly dismissed.

Nor should we lightly dismiss the findings and opinions of a maestro from the Scuola Magistrale--an existing fencing tradition that is arguably our closest "living link" to the use of the rapier.

(continued)

4/12/04 7:55 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 12-Apr-04
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About cuts:

By way of analogy: when a power hitter bunts, he is playing against (maybe it would be better to say that it doesn't play to) his core talent, but sometimes it is usefull. That's something like what I'm trying to get at by saying that it plays against the rapier's strength to cut.

But again, it's not as if cutting isn't part of the rapier's repertoire.  Rapier's can be used to cut, whereas most smallswords cannot.

Also, I don't think the rapier has much cutting power...

Compared to broadswords, backswords, etc., they admittedly don't.  I'm not contesting that.

Nevertheless, they had enough cutting capacity to cause an opponent problems, as noted by the great rapier master Thibault:

"Our scholar must not hold cuts with the edge in slight esteem, because there are occasions which render the one as necessary as the other.  Also, if he does not know how to counter it correctly, the edge stroke used aptly in the right circumstances may throw him into disorder just as much as the thrust.  For, by it, the adversary will gain the time to pursue his advantage."

About Swetnam:

-What your saying about distance on the battlefield sounds true enough, but Swetnam was a soldier, too.

Is this also in his manual?  I ask this only because it is likewise news to me.

-I've never fenced gripping the pommel, but I think that's a matter of personal preference.

Sure, but it's also a weak grip.  That may not be a big deal to the modern fencer, but it surely must have been a concern for duellists.  Considering the rapier's greater weight (which you have pointed out numerous times on this thread), I would think it would be an even weaker grip.

And yet, Swetnam curiously describes it as the "surest and strongest waie" to hold a rapier.

-I don't know exactly what he means about the dagger. It does sound strange, but I can't imagine why he'd lie about that.

Like I said, it's just one of several peculiar things in Swetnam's manual which tends to make me doubt him across the board.

(continued)

4/12/04 8:04 PM
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TrueFightScholar
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Edited: 12-Apr-04
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""It was a civilian weapon. It was used by members of a class who quarreled chiefly amongst themselves. Therefore, the main function for such a sword would be for it to be used against others of the same type. Gentlemen didn't typically walk around the streets of Elizabethan London (or Milan, Naples, Toledo, etc), carrying two-handed swords or bills. ""

But, of course, a broadsword is shorter than a rapier and weighs about the same. It seems to me that there would be nothing to keep these same gentleman from wearing a broadsword, if they thought it would be more useful.

Some probably did, at least in countries where cutting-play was more emphasized.

Then again, most "gentlemen" (the folks who used rapiers) would generally not have needed a more "useful" or versatile weapon (when in civilian circles), since the code duello was something that was essentially limited to their particular social class.

Anyhow, I don't think I've said anything disparaging about the broadsword's effectiveness as a weapon in any of my posts -at any rate that's not my opinion.

 Okay.

I only think that the rapier would, on average, come off better in personal combat.

Why?

As for how matchups would play out; the men of the time, who obviously had a much greater knowledge of the period's weapons and techniques than any person alive today, managed to concoct conflicting scenarios about that. It be interesting if modern historical fencing could provide a more definite answer.

No doubt!

 

Peace,

 

TFS

4/13/04 12:17 AM
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killacox
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Edited: 13-Apr-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 974
2 swords katana and wakizashi that would be mad max situation in home protection its bokken and shoto (wood katana and wood wakizashi i wouldnt want blood on my carpet

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