Real Sword Fighting - European style

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Real Sword Fighting - European style

Postby Captain America » Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:26 am

The following comes from the Sword Forum International...

This extended excerpt describes some of the battle field action taken from written first hand accounts...

What I found interesting, and a little disconcerting, was to really try and imagine being there, and trying to imagine actually being engaged in sword combat up-close and personal.


CAVALRY COMBAT AND THE SWORD
by Martin Read
July 14, 2003


British Cavalry Swords in Use

The use to which the British cavalry swords were put is best illustrated by quoting the comments of those who wielded them and other eyewitnesses.

The following passages refer to the 1796 pattern light cavalry sword. The first shows a rather unorthodox use of swordsmanship, though the effectiveness of the sword in cutting is well illustrated. The third and fourth quotes describe vertical cuts to the head delivered to great effect. These were not cuts prescribed in the regulations, which illustrates that although the regulations formed a framework for the cavalry's swordfighting they were not slavishly adhered to in the heat of combat. Indeed this was in accord with Le Marchant's intentions, personal initiative being a key element in his combat philosophy. However, the final quote is a textbook example that could have been taken directly from the Rules and Regulations. The thrust of a French trooper is parried and once inside his opponent's guard the British cavalryman makes a cut to his enemy's face resulting in a severe and disabling wound (evidently cut 5 or 6).

Lieutenant William Hay, foraging during the Peninsular War.
In an instant we were amongst the unfortunate sheep, and one fellow's head off his body from the powerful blow of my friend's sharp sword. Just at this moment a tremendous hollering commenced in our rear, there were the shepherds coming to the rescue. No time was to be lost! The Duke of Wellington's orders were most strict on the subject of anything bordering on plundering the inhabitants.

William Tomkinson, 16th Light Dragoons, Villagarcia/Llerena 1812.
The prisoners were dreadfully cut, and some will not recover. A French dragoon had his head nearer cut off than I ever saw before; it was by a sabre cut at the back of the neck.

An officer of the 13th Light Dragoons, Campo Mayor 1811.
The French colonel (Chamorin, 26th Dragoons)?...was killed by a corporal (Logan) of the 13th; this corporal had killed one of his men, and he was so enraged, that he sallied out himself and attacked the corporal - the corporal was well mounted and a good swordsman, as was also the colonel - both defended for some time, the corporal cut him twice in the face, his helmet came off at the second, when the corporal slew him by a cut which nearly cleft his skull asunder, it cut in as deep as the nose through the brain.

Pte. George Farmer 11th Light Dragoons, involved in a skirmish on the Guadiana River 1811.
A) Just then a French officer stooping over the body of one of his countrymen, who dropped the instant on his horse's neck, delivered a thrust at poor Harry Wilson's body; and delivered it effectually. I firmly believe that Wilson died on the instant yet, though he felt the sword in its progress, he, with characteristic self-command, kept his eye on the enemy in his front; and, raising himself in his stirrups, let fall upon the Frenchman's head such a blow, that brass and skull parted before it, and the man's head was cloven asunder to the chin. It was the most tremendous blow I ever beheld struck; and both he who gave, and his opponent who received it, dropped dead together. The brass helmet was afterwards examined by order of a French officer, who, as well as myself, was astonished at the exploit; and the cut was found to be as clean as if the sword had gone through a turnip, not so much as a dint being left on either side of it.

B) The wounds inflicted in this trifling affair were all very ghastly. Being inflicted entirely by the sword, and falling, at least among the French, chiefly upon the head and face, the appearance presented by these mangled wretches was hideous; neither were we, though in every instance pierced through, one whit more presentable. It is worthy of remark, that the French cavalry, in nine cases out of ten make use of the point, whereas we strike with the edge, which is, in my humble opinion, far more effective. But, however this may be, of one fact I am quite sure, that as far as appearances can be said to operate in rendering men timid, or the reverse, the wounded among the French were much more revolting than the wounded among ourselves. It is but candid to add, that the proportion of severely wounded was pretty equal on both sides.

Lieutenant George Woodberry 18th Hussars, Morales de Toro 1813.
I had a cut at one man myself, who made point at me, but which I parried. I spoil'd his beauty, if I did not take his life for I gave him a most severe cut across the eyes and cheek and must have cut them out. However, in the scene of confusion, when the enemy fired their first shot (French artillery), he and many other prisoners made their escape.

The next two quotes describe the use of the 1796 pattern heavy cavalry sword. The second of these excerpts shows the manner in which this sword, undoubtedly with a modified point, could perform against the lauded Klingenthal thrusting swords of the French cuirassiers. Both of the British cavalrymen concerned appear to have been very practised and effective swordsmen. Probably a good pointer to the excellence of the swordsmanship training they had received.

Sgt. Charles Ewart, 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys), Waterloo 1815.
It was in the charge I took the eagle off the enemy; he and I had a hard contest for it; he made a thrust at my groin I parried it off and cut him down through the head. After this a lancer came at me; I threw the lance off my right side, and cut him through the chin upwards through the teeth. Next, a foot soldier fired at me, then charged me with his bayonet, which I also had the good luck to parry, and I cut him down through the head; thus ended the contest.

William Morris, 73rd Foot, observing combat between the Life Guards and French cuirassiers, Waterloo 1815.
I noticed one of the Guards, who was attacked by two cuirassiers at the same time; he bravely maintained the unequal combat for a minute or two, then he disposed of one of them by a deadly thrust to the throat. His combat with the other one lasted about five minutes, when the Guardsman struck his opponent a slashing backhanded stroke, and sent his helmet some distance with his head still in it. The horse galloped away, the headless rider sitting erect in the saddle, the blood spurting out of the arteries like so many fountains.

Finally, the following is the view of an enemy cavalry officer on the use of British cavalry swords. He exaggerates the width of blade of the British swords, though not their cutting effect.

Captain Charles Parquin, Chasseurs a Cheval of the Imperial Guard.
We always thrust with the point of our sabres, whereas they always cut with their blade which was three inches wide. Consequently, out of every twenty blows aimed by them, nineteen missed. If, however, the edge of the blade found its mark only once, it was a terrible blow, and it was not unusual to see an arm cut clean from the body.




The next portion quoted from the article are these observations from Mr. Read... It really drives home the point that times have changed. The ideas Mr. Read talks about segway into my slowly developing article about the "Pussification of San Soo."

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Though there exists an air of chivalry around the use of the arme blanche, particularly when associated with the spectacle of the thundering charge of massed horsemen, we should not ignore the fact that sword fighting was a vicious business. Melee fighting, consisting as it did of men vigorously engaged in attempting to kill one another with yard-long bars of sharpened steel, can only have been searingly brutal to participate in or to witness. In these days of long distance combat, when the pull of a trigger kills at yards or hundreds of yards distance, or indeed the push of a button will send missiles to kill many miles away, it is difficult for most to imagine how it must have felt to fight hand to hand. Sword combat was very intimate; it took place at a distance where the expression on the face of an opponent could be clearly seen and where death or injury was inflicted directly by the strength of arm of the combatants. It is almost a clich?, but is still worth stating, that the people of the Napoleonic era were of a different stamp to the people of the developed world today. They lived in times where casual brutality was relatively more common and this cannot but have had a profound influence on their outlook. It was a less squeamish age by far, and one where death was a more familiar occurrence in day to day life than is the case in the modern world. The society in which these people lived, with its public executions, widespread corporal punishment, bare-knuckle fighting and many other sanguinary aspects perhaps goes far to explain how so many participated in hand to hand fighting with, apparently, so few qualms. It is clear that alongside psychological distinctions to today's population other differences are discernible; there are many examples of the people of the Napoleonic period showing phenomenal physical toughness. Frederick Ponsonby, commanding the British 12th Light Dragoons at Waterloo, was wounded and unhorsed in melee by French lancers, he sustained incapacitating wounds to both arms, a severe sabre blow to the head and suffered a lance thrust which pierced his back. He survived in this state, lying in the open, from around 2:30 pm on the 18th June to 8:00 am the following morning before being taken for treatment. That this treatment largely consisted of repeated bloodletting is further testament to his robust constitution.

In addition to the possibility of death in combat, sword wounds could leave a man crippled or appallingly disfigured for life. A prominent example of the effect of sword wounds is the fate of the French general Durutte at Waterloo. During the collapse of his division (part of D'Erlon's corps) in the closing stages of the battle Durutte was attacked by a Light Dragoon of Vandeleur's brigade, he lost his right hand to a sabre cut and in this defenceless state received a severe blow to the head and face. This blow left him physically debilitated and blind in the right eye. However, he survived his injuries and lived to a reasonably old age. Despite their often frightful appearance sword injuries were usually much cleaner, both in regard to the extent of tissue trauma and the likelihood of infective material being introduced into the wound, than those inflicted by smallarms or artillery. Sword wounds were therefore easier to treat and much less likely to lead to post-operative sepsis and gangrene. The importance of effective weapons training and the self-confidence this engenders in the cavalryman cannot be over emphasised. Mounted combat was inherently more fluid than combat on foot and had a higher tendency to sudden reversals of fortune; cavalry were a potentially devastating battlefield tool for a commanding general, but one which was distinctly less resilient than the infantry. A cavalry arm that was confident in its weapons and skill in using them was a great advantage. Whatever other faults the British cavalry had, notably a tendency to run out of control in pursuit of a broken enemy, these advantages it had in great measure. In the actions of Sahagun and Benevente, and in later clashes the British cavalry seem to have asserted a level of moral superiority over their foes. Indeed after Campo Mayor the French cavalry in the Peninsula operated with less confidence and elan when faced with substantial bodies of British cavalry than was their wont in other theatres of war against other mounted forces. Not that the French cavalry fought badly, in general they stood up well to the charge of the British. For example at Campo Mayor British and French cavalry repeatedly charged and threaded one another and it was not until a general melee developed that the French were broken and put to flight. This action, I feel, is an exemplar for many others, seldom indeed did the French cavalry break before contact, and they seem to have taken the shock of the impact of a charge well. It is only in the subsequent melee that, on many occasions, they were bested and subsequently put to flight. The quality of mounts, collective discipline or skill in manoeuvring of a body of cavalry had no substantial impact on the result of a melee. It was the horsemanship and more importantly the swordsmanship of the individual combatants which decided it. The availability of swords of good quality and workmanlike design and especially the provision of thorough and intelligently designed sword fighting training were, I would maintain, the greatest factors in the British cavalry successes of the period. Both of these advantages were the direct result of the insight and applied intelligence of John Le Marchant.

Following his practical involvement in teaching the sword exercise to both regular and yeomanry cavalry Le Marchant was rewarded with a lieutenant colonelcy in the 7th Light Dragoons (Hussars) in 1797. However, his penchant for military education soon took him away from active service. He became convinced that there was a need for a central military college to educate officers in the art of war. Despite opposition from some quarters he succeeded in enlisting the decisive support of the Duke of York and the Royal Military College was brought into being. This later became the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst which educates British army officers to this day. Le Marchant was transferred from his position as the Lieutenant Governor of the college in 1811 to return to active soldiering; he was given command of a brigade of heavy cavalry in the Peninsula. It was here that he had his first opportunity to see both his sword and swordsmanship training in action. At Villagarcia Le Marchant led the 5th Dragoon Guards in a charge which ensured the rout of Lallemand's French cavalry (2nd Hussars, 17th and 27th Dragoons). Later, at the Battle of Salamanca, Le Marchant led his dragoons in one of the most devastating charges ever made by a single brigade of cavalry. The irresistible onset of his scarlet-coated troopers converted the imminent defeat of the left wing of the French army into an utter devastation. At the end of this epic attack, after personally cutting down half a dozen enemy soldiers with the sword of his own design, he fell struck in the groin by a shot. In this undeniably heroic manner died a soldier who perhaps deserves to be more widely remembered, especially by the nation he so notably served.

A finer epitaph could not be written than the following quote.

An officer of the 13th Light Dragoons, Campo Mayor 1811.

The French certainly are fine and brave soldiers, but the superiority of our English horses, and more particularly the superiority of swordsmanship our fellows showed, decided every contest in our favour.



Here is an image of the 1796 Light Cavalry Saber...

Image

And here is a video demonstrating the Cold Steel modern day 1796 Light Cavalry Sword in action...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZWcyga9 ... r_embedded

This Cold Steel sword beats my old dress uniform NCO saber issue all to heck. If any of you come after the old Captain, be sure to bring a firearm, as I wisely prefer to never fight barehanded...
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Postby Captain America » Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:03 am

And to continue discussion the use of the long knife for home defense, check out the Chinese War Sword... Has more utility for tighter quarters, than the 1796 Saber, and cuts pretty good, no?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PQiaurIiDM
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Interesting back story to the 1985 San Soo Exposition.

Postby San Soo Sifu » Fri Mar 19, 2010 3:32 pm

Interesting back story to the 1985 San Soo Exposition.

Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo had a real Da Dao (Chinese War Sword) that looked very old. Perhaps from the timeframe when he lived in China, and then left for the USA (1930s). Anyway, it was made of real steel, and it was very old looking, and it was really heavy.

Grand Master Jimmy H. Woo had it on loan to Master Al Rubin (it was only on loan, because Jimmy definitely wanted it back).

Master Al Rubin was working with Jamie Hill (a female black belt student of his) to incorporate the Da Dao (Chinese War Sword) into a Kung-Fu San Soo form to be demonstrated during the 1985 San Soo Exposition.

Unfortunately, the real-life Da Dao (Chinese War Sword) proved to be to heavy, cumbersome, and unwieldy for Jamie Hill to use effectively.

So, Jamie Hill ended up demonstrating a Kung-Fu San Soo form with an aluminum, practice, long Jian Gim (Tai Chi Sword) & short Jian Gim (Tai Chi Sword).
Hit First...Hit Hard...Hit Often...and Finish Him Off!
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Postby Captain America » Fri Mar 19, 2010 6:17 pm

Since you brought up the Gim Sword, this shows that it ain't no slouch in the slicing department either...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-8y1Q0rA3n8
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Postby Captain America » Fri Apr 02, 2010 12:51 pm

And to anyone who thinks martial warcraft is NOT about weapons, go ahead and be a martial artist against these butterfly knives....

Especially check out the pig at the end of the short video. Imagine you are UNARMED and have some fantasy about beating an edged weapon.

If you have been reading the forums for a number of years, you will see that one of my forum arch nemesis, Ron Gatewood himself, has also been arguing that against an edged weapon, you will be in very big trouble.

Think of yourself as facing the butterfly swords and then look closely at the pig.

Almost a work of art by the weapon wielder.

Is that why folks call themselves martial "artists?" Hmmmm...Could be...

Next time you get a little cocky thinking you are a match for a decent opponent armed with an edged weapon, play the end of this video again (as many times as needed) to knock your senses back to something approaching reality. Watch it BEFORE you engage an edged weapon...

http://tv.coldsteel.com/?id=88BF
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Postby Captain America » Sun Apr 04, 2010 4:05 am

With reference to the above...

That is why I am almost always armed with a projectile launcher, or a blade of some sort.

Or both.



Just being prudent...
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