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RL swording: The "great sword"

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RL swording: The "great sword"

PostAuthor: llhht » Sun Apr 10, 2016 7:09 pm

Rather than clog up things with a super post, I'll work on posting a topic every few weeks discussing weapons and their realistic usage. NOTE: This is not a critique of anyone's role playing, I view it as either fun info to know or player research into a character's use of a weapon.


Now then, the "great sword"/montante/zweihander. If you didn't catch my previous post, I will remind you that this sword type was never called a Claymore. A claymore has always specifically referred to a Scottish basket-hilted broadsword.

We have very few historical manuals and no lineage left on this type of weapon's usage. From our Portugese friends, Maestro Figueyredo on the Spanish Montante, and a few basic plays with it from the Bolognese masters, where it was called either a (translated) longsword or 2 handed sword. We have nothing from the Germans other than paintings. So anyone teaching/showing off zweihander is either making things up or attempting to bridge technique from another system.

Key points of the weapon:
Spring steel is not simple to forge and make into a standard European sword. These beasts would have been incredibly expensive and likely prone to failure.

Measurements: A good comparison on size and length for swords: 2/3-3/4 your height is a longsword, 5/6 and up is a montante. BIG swords. For fun, here's an example:
Total length: 167cm
Blade: 124,5cm
Hilt: 42,5cm
Weight: ~2250-2300g
PoB: 15-16cm

Usage: This would have been an awkward weapon to use, simply due to balance and length. You'll notice in the picture above the protrusions above the crossguard. While they could be used as a mini hand protector while one is half swording the weapon into a spear, the main theory on them currently is simply another normal crossguard. With a weapon this long, you do not want an opponent sliding down the blade and getting close to you. Big weapons are for fighting at distance. So ideally an opponent sliding a blow down the blade length would be stopped by these further out protrusions, allowing a counter strike or at the least a nick of time to drop the sword and pull a knife.

Here is an example of a beginner level student doing some light sparring against a b-h broadsword:
A bit slow (I wanted everyone to be able to keep up easily) but you can see both the incredible amount of care needed to even practice this weapon. Figueyredo simply states in his manual that the weapon is too dangerous to even practice with. Broken bones suck. A quick thing to watch here is how a shorter weapon can easily deflect, grab the blade with the off hand, and close in to cut (the exchange at ~2:45). Long weapons had their advantages, but were also quickly abandoned when their range was no longer useful. Here's a note from Master Fiore on pole axes that applies to any long/big weapon:

"I am the poleaxe, heavy, vicious and deadly. I deliver blows more powerful than any other hand-held weapon. If my first strike misses, then my poleaxe becomes risky to hold on to and is no more of any use to me. But if my first blow is powerfully made on target, then I can stop any other hand-held weapon."

As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I'm writing from my phone, so my post is less link-happy and likely much more incoherent than the norm.
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Re: RL swording: The "great sword"

PostAuthor: llhht » Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:44 pm

For some higher level looks at this class of weapon:

An example of a solo drill from a very small English manual attributed to Ledall:

A quick note on that video is the full spin. Rule 2 of fighting with a weapon is to never turn your back to your opponent. Weapons with great reach and power potential allow you do safely do this, on occasion. (Rule 1 for those curious is to stab them and not get stabbed.)

Another video demonstrating other drills from the Ledall manual:

This practitioner has a bit more experience with the weapon, and is in better shape. It shows. Big weapons do not need strength to swing at someone, they need strength to control the weapon WHEN you miss or are deflected.

I'll dig for some solid montante vs montante footage later.

As always, shoot me your questions or comments!
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