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Myths Of Medieval European Sword Techniques
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The sword is perhaps the most iconic weapon in human history. Cultures throughout the world used it for several thousand years due to its lethal efficiency. However popular culture ironically now looks at the European broad sword, long sword, bastard sword, and greatsword as large, heavy, and awkward weapons often depicting them being used like clubs lumbering bouts. Where has this inconsistency come from and is it correct?

The Average Blade Weight

Well there are a few ways in which we may answer this question. Firstly, we shall look at the specs of most average Medieval European bladed weapons. The weights of most replica swords you will find most of the blades from the time period weigh less than 4 pounds. Even the larger greatsword exceeding 5 feet in length weighed less than 8 pounds. Additionally, properly made swords are balanced an inch or two above the cross-guard. This balance allowed for swift and accurate control of the weapon, minimizing the effort required to deliver a lethal cut to an intended target.

The Science of Technique

The next piece of evidence we shall consider to dismantle this myth is the evidence given by the existence schools for training proper sword technique. These schools approach weapons combat from a very scientific and tactical understanding. A quick examination of even simply the illustrations within the manuals will clarify the importance placed upon proper footwork, stances, and striking techniques. These all require the soldier to maintain his mobility and dexterity. This is especially true given the light weight of the weapons being used in combat. For example, long swords were fast, lethal, and extremely versatile weapons. Every part of its anatomy could be used to strike the opponent, from the pommel or cross-guard to the blade. Different techniques were also taught for defeating armored opponents as well, including grappling, throws, and half-swording techniques.

How the Myth Began

Why has this myth come about? Possible reasons include the increased popularity of the rapier and smallsword. With the advent of efficient gunpowder muskets and arquebusiers, armor became less and less effective. Therefore as it became unnecessary, larger swords also became less necessary. As people became accustomed to smaller blades they began to look upon the older and slightly larger weapons as 'heavy', 'obsolete', and 'clumsy' weapons in comparison. This comparison has continued, perhaps in part due to the lack of official documentation on the weight of most classifications of medieval swords.

So ultimately we realize that medieval weapons are not so unwieldy as popular media likes to portray them. The soldiers who trained with them no doubt possessed a vast array of skills and techniques to use with their blades. This makes the belief that medieval weapons were awkward and inferior a false statement which ignores the vast array of evidence demonstrating the lethal efficiency of the swords crafted by sword smiths across the continent for thousands of years.


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