Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sword weights

In a comment to my second Mudthaw post, Time Meyer asked a question that was important--so much so that I'm going to repeat it here:

Tim wrote, "Do you find it's easy to grow attached to a particular sword? I was having a lot of difficulty this evening with my heavy field battle stick this evening at the local practice because I don't use it a lot in tournament-style fighting. My regular sword is lighter, but was down for repairs this evening."

First let me say that I have always been a "use whatever is in my hand" kind of guy. A stick is a stick is a stick to me. Sometimes, though, that has gotten me into trouble. I do best with a lighter sword. I've fought with a lot of heavy swords in my time, and a lot of light swords, and switching back and forth can cause a lot of problems. There would actually be a point when I switched. I would go to a heavier sword so my blows woudl hit harder, and for awhile I would, but then my whole body would start to slow down, match the time of my sword and I start to get killed. Then I'd switch toa lighter sword. My hand would spped up, my body would speed up, I'd do really well, but then I'd start to get sloppy in my technique (heavy swords require better technique, or so I thought in the old days) and my power generation would suffer. Then I'd repeat the whole process all over again. I now know how to generate power with both heavy and light swords, which require different techniques as I explain below.

Bellatrix always said that you should only have one style sword: never go back and forth from a light sword to a heavy sword. He was speaking of people who use a heavy sword in training and then a lighter sword in tourneys, but the same applies in your situation. In tourney fighting you move your sword much more than in mellee, and in a greater variety of ways. You may not through a lot of molinees, but if you throw them in wars you are wasting motion. A heavy sword is very hard to throw a molinee with. As my example shows, your technique suffers. But Paul is only teaching one technique.

Most of the time, however, it's not really about weight, and therein lies the real issue. I find that when people talk about a heavy vs. a light sword what they are talking about more often than not is balance. A heavier sword with the same style basket hilt will balance more toward the tip, a lighter sword more toward the hand. This effects the mechanics of a blow more than anything else can. A long, tip weighted sword is best for the Bellatrix style, because the weight of the tip adds impact to the blow and, if technique is proper, also increases tip speed. The sword is thrown forward using the hips and the arm guides it. A sword that is balanced more toward the hand uses rotation to create momentum. It's good for molinees or the Gendy style snap. Speed is the imperative. It doesn't really matter how heavy the sword is. Gendy himself uses a relatively heavy sword, but because of the way the sword is balanced it rotates almost on top of the hand. This allows him to build power by moving his elbow and closing his hand, creating a very fast rotation of the sword. Remember: impact = mass x momentum. A sword balanced near the hand allows for a quick rotation and fast tip speed even in a heavier sword. But I have always found that the gendy style doesn't allow me to create as much pwoer as I want, and it messes up my timing to the point where my footwork and defense disapear. Plus I can't use it for the varried offense I like.

My own preference is for a sword balanced a hand's breadth from the top of the quilions/basket hilt, in the formula developed by Kevin Peregrin back in AS single digits. This allows me to to some of the molinees and rotation snaps and the Bellatrix technique but not much of the Gendy technique. But I still on occasion have trouble generating power for some shots, like the offside body which, paradoxically, I land better if I'm using a lighter, hand balanced sword, because I can generate more tip speed, ala Gendy.

My point is this: don't think of it as heavier vs. lighter. Think in terms of balance and that should help you with your problem. Know how the balance of each sword can dictate technique. All things being equal, I would advise you use the same swords in wars that you do in tourneys, whichever design that is.


Tim Mayer said...

Thank you very much for your counsel, Sir Knight.

Western Spartans said...

Hey, I am the offical blog commentator!

I actually agree with much of what Val says here... although I do disagree on a couple of points.

1) It's pretty universal among the top level guys that I talk to is that ALL your (tourney) swords should be exactly the same (or as close to). The paradox is - when you stop changing your sword and make them like that forever? So, "exact" is not really exact. Similar length (+/- 1") similar balance, similar mass.

2) As you say - it greatly depends on your particular style. I like a stout, tip heavy sword becuase it helps me generate power, especially on the offsides - but I use a (modified) bellatrix snap, with the occasionaly sword-forward modification. I like "average" length - 36". More and I have trouble whipping it around. Less and I have range issues.

3) But that's with a strapped heater or square - with a centregrip shield especially a big war scutum (40-42" long) I fought with a very short (33" ish) heavy fishbat. But that is becuase my hand is mostly forward and I am not throwing typical snaps.

One trick that I believe (although have never proven) is that if you take a big (1 5/8ths or more) stick, and shave the sides you gain some stiffness in the sword while shedding some weight. You can also shave asymmetrically to balance (usually take more off the hilt side to make it more tip heavy). It probably makes the swords mush faster though (never did a real experiment).

JoeHardcore said...

I know from Duke Darius that he goes through quite a few swords in record time. In fact most of us shave the sides and they are much more prone to pulp within weeks if you're fighting twice a week and working the pell 3x or more as well.

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!