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....