Tuesday, June 26, 2012


The above plates are examples which are normally put forward to support the use of a strike which I call "sniping".  I personally do not think that sniping has much use in a real combat.  There are several types of strike which are pretty much useless when a real sword is used.  Those plates do NOT support the use of sniping.  And here is why....
     1.  It depends on a strike with the foible of the sword.  Tests done here at the forge have proven that the vast majority of strikes which use the foible simply dissipate the energy of the strike among five or six mini strikes which result from the normal vibration of the sword.  Is it possible to hit hard enough for that dissipation to not matter?  Well, of course.  But it requires a very crisp "crunch" of energy.  Just snapping the sword out quickly and "touching" or "pinking" is not sword fighting...its just annoying...like speed bagging an opponent with back handed jabs in boxing.
     If you examine the first and second plates above, the swordsmen are hitting one another with the upper harmonic...NOT the foibles.  

     2.  The sniping shot can work beautifully when you have a scoring system.  For instance, in the game of Kendo, a snap strike to the wrist is considered a very good way to gain points.  Is it that effective in a real fight?  Well, one often overlooked (by people on the outside) component to Kendo is the "wind up" and explosive release of power.  One way to ensure that power is to demand a sword travel more than ninety degrees before it can be considered "good".  Another is to demand that the sword move at least ninety degrees to even count AS a strike.  Pretty artificial IMHO, but then, you DO have to have SOME way to score!  I have proven to my satisfaction that a Kendo style wrist strike with the foible will fail against an armoured opponent nine times out of ten, so I do not teach it. So as loathe as I am to throw out a third of the strikes in a popular sword art, I reluctantly must point out that a wrist is a moving target, it gets knocked away very easily, that the creation of the power to make it effective takes the sword out of the close area, leaving you exposed to a counter cut. 
    Again, a good look at the first two plates above illustrate the stepping in, the delivery of explosive power under control.   Compare to this....at 0.39 in this link...
and note that the professionals on that field did not even count it.  Why didn't they do you suppose? (the answer has to do with the scoring method actually...)

3. Plates 223, 228, and 229 are often used to support the whole concept of single strikes.  Actually, they show the exact opposite...why you should not do them.  The fellow on the left has decided to completely throw away any advantage of height and guard, and gambled it all upon a strike onto his opponent's head.  The shortened measure and upward strike into the wrist is shown in graphic detail. 

4.  The final plate illustrates another result.  The fellow on the right stepped back, got his guard up, and the gentleman on the left has to overextend to get the shot in.  This will not end well.

      What do we think works then?  Well, if I may put aside (for the moment)  the VERY controversial idea that you simply cannot kill a trained armoured man with a sword, I believe that using draw cuts, joint locks, planted thrusts, half sword work, wrestling and cuts of wrath would have a good chance to work in real life.  Its what they taught back in Talhoffer's day, and they must have taught it for a reason.  Therefore, if we are going to score this as a game, we should score the above techniques, not the ones which we think don't work or the ones which we think only work one time in ten. 
        A strike with the foible simply has no effectivity, and so it garners no points.  A strike to the head has no effect due to the good armour...there is no way that a sword strike to the head with a real sword can possibly injure an opponent, so it garners no points either.   Again, Kendo strikes are reluctantly set aside as ineffective....A single strike will be turned away by the armour, so it must be backed up over and over again for it to count. 
     There is not a single example of the number one strike to the head, (plate 229 above?  Plate 240?  two VERY extreme cases don't you think?)  nor a single example of a foible strike to the hand or wrist in any plate in Talhoffer's book.  If any of my readers can find it in any other medieval text, I will persue this further.  Until then, in order to further THIS game,  we assume that it takes three fairly committed strikes to break through steel armour, two fair strikes against chain mail to open it up and be effective, and if you have no armour at all,  you pretty much take any committed fair strike.  I recognize that this is pretty artificial...and is subject to modification at need. (One sword group of my aquaintance demanded five strikes against armour instead of three.  Well, same idea....)
    The glass sword technique has always been taught...the only difference is the scoring.  Go ahead and do the strike to the "men", just drop it on the shoulder and draw it out.  Go ahead and target the hand and wrist...teach the guy to keep his hands moving, but make sure you hit with the upper harmonic if you expect it to count. 

As always, I invite comments. I will delete the rude ones....

Friday, June 8, 2012

powder steel

what IS powder steel? 

I was asked once why a katana was so solid compared to, say, a leaf spring of the same width.  The answer is NOT the material.  Not the prayers.  Not what your game designer says it is.    The reason for the solididity, the "stiffness"  is the tension/compression created by the uneven shrinking during the differential tempering.   Imagine lifting up a shelf of books by squeezing the stack of books together.  You have a beam.  If you really really squeezed that pile of books, you would have a beam strong enough to sit on.  That's the physics behind it.  If you were to go to the same trouble to heat treat a tool steel sword the same way the national treasures of Japan treat their folded swords, you would get similar results.  I can't even imagine how many ways there are to screw it up though.  My hat is off to the people who do this for a living!

Karl says it better....
(Karl is a regular member of the "sword forum", and is worth following ON the sword forum.  Below is the nicest explanation I have ever seen of Powder Steel.  And why it is a "little" better than folded steel for some purposes.)

Karl --->   I believe I read something once that said there is a difference between powdered steel, and particle steel (CPM steels). This link:


is a post by a fellow who describes the CMP process very well. He says the CPM process is a powdered metal process. If I recall, there is a difference between powder and particle methods, but it isn't significant for a person wanting a general idea of what is going on.

Advantages of the powdered methods is that you get perfectly homogeneous steel. Think of steel as a chocolate chip cookie. The dough is the regu;ar steel parts, and the chips are the carbodes. Carbides are very hard aloyed bits that can really make a nice toothy edge in a knife. Mr. Larman said that Howard Clark's 1086 blades take longer to burnish than "regula" blades, and they wear his burnishing tools faster. This is because of the vanadium carbides in the steel. There are all kinds of carbides. In stainless steel you'll get chromium carbides. Some carbon steels have chromium in them too (not at levels to make them stainless), forming chromium carbides. As you cut with yopur blade, you are going to wear away the steel. As you sharpen, you wear away the steel. Imagine if your chogolate chip cookie had clusters of chips with lots of dough spaces in it. you can pictire the dough crumbling away and leaving these odd clumps of chips, that now have little dough support and such. In regular steel, you can get clumping of carbides nad such because of migration of the carbides as the steel cools. With particle metallurgy, you start with a bunch of tiny particles of the perfect elemental make-up, and then you press them all together into a solid billet. No migration, nothing. Just a perfect chocolate chip cookie!

Oh, I think that another advantage of this method is that you can make alloyes that you can't make by traditional methods. Crucible (the company, the makers od the CPM steels among others) has steels with crazy amounts of vanadium, and amounts of carbon exceeding 2%!!!

The above was shamelessly ripped off from Karl's post on the Sword Forum.

  Karl Rejman's Avatar Karl Rejman

Karl is a regular member of the "sword forum", and is worth following ON the sword forum.  The above is the nicest explanation I have ever seen of Powder Steel.  And why it is a "little" better than folded steel for some purposes.  


Thursday, June 7, 2012


Above is Mr. Talhoffer's method of dealing with a thrust.  The thrust is a funny one...it comes along the "wrath" line, delivered from over the head.  Why would anybody do that?  Well...it would go neatly over the other guy's shield hmmmm?   I like how Talhoffer shows the consequences of not getting off the line of attack.

 The trust is coming in on the fellow in red.  He sways off the line of attack.  He "could" have taken a step forward and to the right with his right foot, and knowing him, he will do so right ...  about... now.

and here he has put a wall of steel between my sword and his sword.

What will he do now?  Well, lots of things come to mind.  However the fact that he has stepped in to well within my comfort zone means I should do something about that.  Step back with my right foot...bring my sword up to a number two ox guard will keep me alive until I think of something else.
       What do you think would happen if I slammed forward, bringing my left foot forward and my sword up into an over the shoulder hanging (number two ox) guard?  All I would really need to do would be to bring my sword handle straight up.

I have given you two options.  Do I have others?