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With Sword in Hand [Jun. 30th, 2008|07:19 pm]

Well, this time I've really done it.  There's a reason (there's always a reason, rationalization being what it is...)   I'm working on the new fantasy, and both Kieri Phelan and Dorrin Verrakai use longswords.  Yes, you can sort of do longsword moves with a rapier, but ever since a couple of people in our fencing group armored up and did a bout with the longer blades...which is exactly how I "see" Phelan and his officers and the Lyonyan nobles working out--I've realized that I really need...for research purposes...to mess about with a longsword myself.  After all, I used a scythe and a sickle and made pseudo pole-arms to drill local kids with, as aids to writing the Paks and Gird books.  I have a crossbow and have lost a number of bolts in the big field.  This is just the same, right?  I mean, I'd have used such a sword then, if I'd known then what I know now.  I handled one of the longswords--the balance is different, the kinds of moves are constrained (as they are with all blades) by the shape and center of gravity and other physical characteristics of the blade, as well as by the skill of the swordsperson.

So here's my new blade (not yet here, but maybe in the next 2-3 weeks.)


I don't expect to do anything full-speed with this (for one thing, I'd need far more serious armor and I'm not willing to put the time or money into that.)   Learn the movements until I can do them fast when alone, and then some quarter-speed work with a partner so I can write a believable scene or two.   I need to know the feel of it, where the user gets tired, where hands get callused, etc.


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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 01:12 am (UTC)
It's a combination of style and length. Longswords are not point weapons; they're edge weapons (many have rounded tips, in fact.) My rapier's actually longer (48 inches overall to the 44 inches of the longsword--it's actually a couple of inches too long for me, in technical terms, but I love that two inches of reach.)

The rapier's more flexible, faster despite being longer because there's less weight at the end of the blade. The rapier at its best is a precision weapon, offering the swordsperson a choice of an accurately placed puncture or a slice. But though a rapier slash at full speed can break some bones (forearm, if not heavily muscled or protected by armor) and is certainly captable of killing, bone-breaking damage is not its primary purpose. Poking holes is preferable.

Longswords, on the other hand, are designed for the cutting and bone-breaking strike with the edge of the blade. Some have points; some don't. Originally, they were made to order by individual swordsmiths--no two were alike. A rich-enough patron could get anything he (or she) wanted.

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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2008-07-01 01:08 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2008-07-01 02:39 am (UTC)
Now that's what a working sword should look like, to my fantasy-reader mind.

It's also great to hear about the lengths that an author can go to to get verisimilitude in their writing.
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[User Picture]From: cunningplan
2008-07-01 02:46 am (UTC)
That looks like a nice, serviceable sword - I used to be involved in the SCA, and did some fencing with a schlager, but I never tried heavy fighting. I kind of wish that I had, but I didn't really have the money at the time for armour
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 04:26 am (UTC)
I don't plan to get the armor and actually do full-speed bouts with it...luckily, there are two people in the group with this model or one very like it, and they're willing to show me the basic moves and do half-speed or slower, for which I don't need all the armor.

But I should learn a lot and write better scenes because of it.
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[User Picture]From: silverbackbutch
2008-07-01 03:51 am (UTC)
Yum! What a lovely blade. I've done a bit of stage fighting (and stage fight choreography) and that looks like it would ring nicely. I usually love the sound of the steel ringing off the other sword, it's a jewel-like tone when it's a quality sword.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 04:23 am (UTC)
Oooh, yes. The sound of steel against steel--as you say, when good steel--is *wonderful*.

I have a small steel buckler that is more clang than ring--but it has the aftertones and it's such fun when I make a good parry with it and it goes clannnnggggg.

This would be an excellent blade for choreographed fights because it is so visible. And also slower...one of the reasons fencing isn't as popular a spectactor sport, I suspect, is that foil and epee are just too fast for the width of blade, and spectators (unless also fencers) just can't see what's going on.

Whang, whang, whang...I wish it could arrive sooner....
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From: kalinmoor
2008-07-01 05:44 am (UTC)
That is indeed a comely blade, I must say I have always had a soft spot for the Longsword; they just have a noble aura about them you could say.

We have, what I can only assume is a Longsword (although it might actually be an unusually short broadsword do to its weight) it’s a lovely thing, probably not my choice weapon if I had to go into combat, an arming sword would fit my build better, but just holding it can really give you an impression of the amount of damage you could inflict with it, the weight in particular gives the feeling that this thing could easily be a limb cleaver in the right hands.

Oh how I do so wish that Dark Age Mêlée Combat was an Olympic sport, we have archer, why not swordsmanship? Or even jousting. ^_^
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[User Picture]From: tracey_claybon
2008-07-01 05:48 am (UTC)
I wanted to make sure to thank you for the insights into your techniques and writing styles - I did wonder how you developed a lot of the info on Paksenarrion's world where the farming aspects in particular were concerned - I remembered mention of you having military background and figured that went into Paks' life as part of Phelan's army, and thought (and I still think!) it was one of the best books (and series of books - read in both omnibus and trilogy forms) that I've EVER read - most of all because it was a complete experience.

I admire your work even more now that I know you go the extra step to make your characters physically work and come to life - only other authors that I know that do this are Mercedes Lackey and CJ Cherryh...

Also - thanks for the info on the reenacter swordsmith - I wish I'd known about him when I still lived in Austin 3 years ago! I hope he ships nationwide! *g*.

Thanks for the insight on King Kieri, too!

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 02:40 pm (UTC)
About the farming: I grew up in an area where agriculture was (then, at least) the primary way of making a living. Early morning radio was all about ag prices; we were surrounded by fields and orchards. The rhythm of farming, the smells and sights, were in my head early on: the people who raised hogs, the people who raised dairy cattle, the diversified family farms with cash crops of winter vegetables and red-top in summer. (I am not a cow person but if I were rich enough to hire the help, I'd have a Jersey cow or two--that milk and cream, is out of this world good. I have four beef cows, but I don't have to clean them up and milk them...) The second money I ever made was from growing and selling parsley to the local grocery store. (First was for painting a fence behind the hardware store where my mother worked.) Then my mother went to work for a small oil/gas company and ended up mapping and tracking (for all purposes) all the parcels of land her millionaire boss owned, which included farms and ranches in various parts of Texas. We got to visit some of them, as she needed on-site data.

When I lived in cities, I nearly always had some sort of garden (most productively in San Antonio, where we grew over a dozen different vegetables organically...access to a hunter-jumper stable for manure and stall shavings helped a lot!) I've made pickles, jams, and jellies; have baked bread for almost 30 years.

I live now in a farming/ranching area (less so than when we moved here--rapid urbanization in this county is, in my view, disgusting and nonsustainable as gas prices increase. Commutes will become unaffordable.) I have good friends who are ranchers and have worked cattle with them. I've done home butchering on occasion and expect to do more as the demise of small custom slaughterhouse-and-packing businesses means the nearest is now an expensive drive away. I'd rather haul a calf to someone else than do it myself, but...if I have to...

Unfortunately, writing itself takes so much time, and managing the 80 acres takes time, so I'm not gardening the way I used to, and I miss it. Everything's better, fresh out of the ground.

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[User Picture]From: dunkelza
2008-07-01 10:16 am (UTC)
Ooohh.... Phelan and Verrakai!

That's an interesting blade. That triple fuller to twin fuller thing is pretty cool. That thing is pretty light for its length, which is probably a good analog to Phelan's sword.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 11:48 am (UTC)
Especially Kieri's *new* sword...elfblades are light for their length compared to human-forged blades because of superior metallurgy.

But it's necessary for me because I'm older, shorter, and not half-elf. (grin)
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[User Picture]From: green_knight
2008-07-01 10:19 am (UTC)

If you need a qualified source, zornhau will probably be able to help you out; he's been practicing German longsword for years and had me drooling many a time...
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[User Picture]From: la_marquise_de_
2008-07-01 10:54 am (UTC)
My other half is a former sword-smith and very knowledgeable about Western sword techniques: I will happily pass on technical questions if you wish (he loves to talk/write about swords).
Kari in the UK
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From: thefile
2008-07-01 11:01 am (UTC)
In the swordschool (Aegis Academy of Swordsmanship) that I attend, longsword is the primary weapon. Italian longsword specifically. It's both a cut and a thrust weapon. However, we don't practice for armored opponents.

Edited at 2008-07-01 11:01 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 11:51 am (UTC)
Italians, as far as I know, retained the point option all along in their sword designs, whereas the far-northerners didn't. Always wondered if that was a matter of the quality of ores, the skill of swordsmiths, or simply the direct connections of history from the _gladius_ on up.
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[User Picture]From: red_day_dawning
2008-07-01 11:09 am (UTC)
Am so very excited that you're writing a new Paksenarrion novel - The Deed of Paksenarrion is one of my favorite books.
It's impressive that you're training with a longsword to learn about them to write scenes - no wonder your writing feels so grounded and authentic. It's a beautiful sword (speaking aesthetically, & without any knowledge of weapons).
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[User Picture]From: touchstone
2008-07-01 12:12 pm (UTC)
Nice choice!

I suspect that if you /wanted/ to try a few bouts with armor, just to see (among other things) what being hit in training would feel like, you probably have either a local-ish SCA group that wouldn't mind giving you some loaners for a day, or else readers who might send you some spare pieces :) I'm guessing that there's only a smallish percentage of 'people who own and wear medieval armor' who haven't read Paks.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 12:23 pm (UTC)
The group I fence with nearby is mostly SCA but not exclusively. The local baron and baroness are the ones who told me where to find this blade (twin to the baronness's blade) and I've watched them use theirs. However--they're younger than I am and have been fighting everything from heavy to rapier a lot longer than I have.
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From: indywind
2008-07-01 01:25 pm (UTC)
Oooh, longsword is such fun!! I've done archery, rapier, heavy (various weapons) in SCA, and bastard-sword has been my favorite, for the powerful fluidity of motion. Many of the most efficient moves are arcs, rather than linear as is the case for a shorter sword (thrust or cut). Mine have been two-handers, though, so experience is likely to be different for the user of a true hand-and-a-half.
I'd be interested to know what drills you do, if you feel like sharing.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2008-07-01 01:48 pm (UTC)
When I get the sword and start learning, I'll post about it, if I have time. Right now the preliminary stuff is "Oh--heavier blade--better get out the weights and the squeezer-thingie..."

Between travel, music, and then the back-to-back bronchitis things, I had lost strength in places I need it, so the ramp-up to full training had already begun.
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[User Picture]From: calcinations
2008-07-01 03:40 pm (UTC)
You could also do worse than have a look at demonstration videos on you-tube.
Quite a few WEstern Martial arts schools have them up, and they show a variety of styles and moves, usually taken directly from treatises of the periods.
Randomly found German style longsword work, making no promises as to their accuracy:

I can't seem to find anything so good for Italian style.

A friends new sword:
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From: thefile
2008-07-01 07:11 pm (UTC)
I wish my instructor would let us post some videos. We're primarily Italian longsword. However we didn't get it from historical records. :)

Our instructor's family handed down the skills from generation to generation originating from sometime in the 1500's. ...so it's guaranteed not to be accurate, since his family picked up and incorporated "anything that worked".
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