Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Clements #20 Studying the Long Sword of War

Studying the Long Sword of War At my private school of arms, the longsword is the foundational introductory weapon of my curricula in the Art and Science of Defence. At present, I have a particular novice student who is challenging to teach. It’s a challenge for me not because of any lack of aptitude or effort on the part of the student, but because every student needs to be taught a little differently. This might mean taking a certain approach to a lesson, following certain material in a particular session, or typically, presenting drills and exercises in a different sequence.

Now, sometimes, I have a student that’s just difficult because they don’t have a lot of aptitude —meaning, they flinch too much, or they have poor fitness, or they lack spatial awareness and therefore have poor balance. This means that they don’t absorb the core principles easily and their form will need a lot of work before they can progress in techniques. This is why a good instructor must to some degree adapt the craft to meet the needs and ability of each student. In this particular case though, the challenge I face with my student is partially because of the disparity in our physical builds —which means I must adjust instructions and continually point out exceptions occurring because of our height and weight difference. 

On top of this, the student’s reflexes and coordination need improving. I have several proven activities that specifically help in acquiring the critical factors of sensing leverage and pressure as well as increasing speed and strength. But I don’t really have lessons that directly teach how to improve innate reflexes or spatial awareness. In my experience, those things come about organically and holistically from the totality of everything we study. In studying martial arts I have always been a big advocate of doing nothing that is artificial or unnatural and instead only doing drills and exercises that directly relate to the established principles and  ore elements of fighting. Even then, it has to be a drill and exercise that I am convinced has proven value because I’ve witnessed how it accelerates learning and experienced the long term benefit it provides. All of this is one of the reasons why I enjoy using the long double-handed sword of war as the primary weapon that I teach with and personally practice. In my opinion, no other weapon provides as many aspects of the art as readily and quickly. 

The longsword lets you practice everting in terms of: striking, thrusting, warding, covering, binding and winding, plus learning the central elements of timing, distance, and leverage, as well as perform single and two hand actions along with halfswording and applying unarmed techniques. Everything connects easily and melds beautifully. 

From this foundation I can jump effortlessly into explaining the dagger or pole-arms, teaching any single-hand sword (with buckler, shield, or dagger) and certainly move right into basic grappling and wrestling. All of this then flows right into teaching the rapier. With the longsword we can also address armored or mounted combat with only a few additions to the material. It’s versatility in size, length, shape and hilt means it’s immensely adaptable. One need only explain the contextual and situational conditions to understand the distinction among the weapon’s many variations. For battlefield, judicial combat, tournament, or duel, the long double-handed blade is one of the most distinctive personal arms in the history of weapons. Indeed, one of the very first things I’ll tell anyone I take on as a student is, “get yourself a longsword." The diversity of its different styles developed over the centuries is remarkable and the nuances of how each handles and performs is a delight to explore. There are few historical weapons as rewarding to practice and satisfying to learn. 

Trust me, I know. I train with them all. No matter your build or conditioning, no matter your experience level or your area of historical interest, there is a longsword for everyone.

The Differences between the Maintz and Pompeii styles of Gladius.

The Roman Gladius was effectively used for centuries and during that time saw few changes in design, but the ones it did see were significant. The Maintz pattern being an evolution of the spatha and the Pompeii evolving further from the Maintz pattern. The most easily identified differences are the body style of the blade and the point of the sword.

Right from the beginning a person can see that the body of these two styles vary from each other. The body or waist of the Maintz patterngladius blade is concave on both sides, also known as wasp waisted. This was taken from the spatha and added extra cutting power to chops and slashes. After years of use and armor improvements, the Pompeii blade was put into use which eliminated this curvature. By making the Pompeii's waist straight, it added strength behind the point making it a stronger thrusting weapon.

The change in body also had ties to the change in tip. The Maintz pattern had a longer and therefore more narrow point. While still effective at thrusts and stabs, this did not lend any strength to the tip. The Pompeii shortened this point and combined with the strength behind the straight blade, made for a weapon that was superior and stronger for thrusts. Being that the Romans found the straight thrust as the most effective and defensible attack, it made clear sense to evolve the gladius in this way.

Of course you don't have to take my word for it. You can find both styles of this sword on sale at Museum Replicas, where you can make your own comparisons on this historic short sword!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rapiers vs. Sabers

At first glance the differences between sabers and a rapiers appear obvious. Although both are one handed swords, the shape of the blade and how it is used are vastly different. Let's take a closer look at these fascinating blades.

Rapiers are straight, thrust-oriented swords. Athough it is not common, there are historical examples of the top third of the blade being sharpened and honed to a fine edge so that the blade can double as a draw cut specialist increasing the usefulness of this type of blade.  They are double edged generally, and often have some form of basket hilt of bent bars, stamped metal, D guard or other full hand protection offering an extra level of safety for the hand. With a reputation for being both elegant and deadly, rapiers came to prominence in the early European Renaissance and were made famous with movies and books like the Three Musketeers and Robin Hood. While the rapier sword made an excellent thrusting weapon, it was also adept at cutting and many martial art styles focused on inflicting several cut wounds on an opponent causing them to fatigue or perish from loss of blood. While thicker and longer versions dubbed "battle rapiers" existed for use in prolonged combat, the rapier saw the most popularity as a civilian blade. A status symbol for nobility and the weapon of choice for settling heated disputes. There were so many duels fought in France a law needed to be passed outlawing the practice.  Too many good fighters were dying and getting hurt which is not a good thing when soldiers are needed while contemplating war with England.  In this way the rapier preceded what would come to be known as the "court sword" which is a sign of nobility and honor.

As for the saber, this sword was usually curved and is more of a cut-oriented blade. Single edged, but frequently has the back edge of the blade near the tip sharpened to make piercing easier. Some hand protection ranging from a metal bar to a more complete shell guard can be found in examples of this sword. Sabers and their curved shape evolved from Eastern blades where the style was prominent. Although the sword was adopted by civilians in some cases, the saber largely remained a military weapon.  The most beloved swords in military history were the sabers of Napoleon, Wellington, Robert E. Lee, Grant and others.  So efficient was this shape at cutting bone, flesh and even chain mail that the east adopted it early in history as the preferred battle sword of its day.  Genghis Khan, the prophet Mohammed and many emirs treasured such blades for court use, directing the military and for cutting down foes.  They could be used extremely well in trained hands from horseback making them a decisive weapon before projectile weapons took over the battlefield.

To conclude a saber evolved from Eastern origins and favored heavy cuts and slashes, while the European styled rapier used it's finesse to effectively thrust and slice at opponents. While neither of these swords was restricted to these types of cuts, a clear preference can be seen.

Get in Gear with Steampunk Costumes for Halloween!

Want to really wow at your next big Halloween party? For the best looks and the most visual appeal hardly anything beats good steampunk. Whether designed as a rugged sky pirate or regal steam socialite, steampunk costumes can cover the whole spectrum. It's a great choice for any age range as well! Ladies can dare to bare in leather corsets like the Leather Underbust Corset and stunning skirts such as the Engineer Skirt.

You could also embrace the refined look of a full length dress like the Empire Woman's Steampunk Gown or perhaps a fashionable German Airship Tailcoat. The men certainly aren't lacking for options either! 

Sleeveless doublets and vests like the Regent Street Vest showcase your physique can easily be paired with an elegant Clockwork Shirt with Cravat and then topped off with an exquisitely handsome Skyship Long Coat. That's just getting started!

One of the most entertaining aspects of steampunk are steampunk accessories! Adorned with gears and playful moving parts Museum Replicas has steampunk everything! Jewelry, goggles, hats, boots, canes, non firing blasters, parasols, telescopes and that is barely scratching the surface of the gadgets and devices! The Onyx Lace Choker is very popular with this year and works well in other styles of costume as well, where as the Electrical Telegraph Finger Tapper Ring is clearly and proudly steampunk all the way. Choose the Flying Goggles for an authentic vintage look or go with the Cybersteam Googles for a more flashy feel.

A Victorian Coachman's Top Hat is the prominent style for steampunk Halloween costume ideas and for the price it is certainly hard to beat! If boring footwear has plagued you, steampunk had the cure! Pairs like the Eiffel Pump are seriously stylish.

With our series of sword canes now produced as venue friendly walking sticks, you don't have to worry about being welcome strolling in with your Phantom Walking Cane. That doesn't mean leaving yourself defenseless though, the Martian Hand Blaster will surely keep the beasts of other planets at bay! Let's admit though that it can be a little hot out in the sun when in a full steampunk costume. That's where carrying something like the Black Skulls and Scrolls Parasol can be a real saving grace.

With all the effort that's going into these outfits it's reasonable to want to be able to see it all! Telescoping items like the Folding Oculator Encompassor Opera Glasses w/ Compass will help you there while adding a level of gadgetry for fun. While it might be hard to carry all these extra items, our Steampunk Utility Belt is a great way to keep your pants up and take your items with you. It has multiple pouches and a place for your saber too! There are so many great items at Museum Replicas that we know you'll find something to help with your Halloween costume ideas. The amount of steampunk costumes for sale is simply astounding. But don't just take our word for it, come in and see for yourself!http://www.museumreplicas.com/s-50-steampunk.aspx

Great Ideas for Men's Pirate Costumes.

Guys, are you looking for more Halloween costume ideas? One of the timeless, tried and true outfits to consider is that of a dashing pirate! Museum Replicas collection of men's pirate costumes is certainly vast, ready to outfit the most prestigious captain to the lowest scallywag. One of the best reasons to put together a pirate costume this year is that it doesn't have to be just for Halloween! The story book pirate enjoys a lot more acceptance than they did so many years ago. Making their appearance at Renaissance Festivals almost a requirement. A pirate costume is also absolutely necessary if you ever plan on enjoying the coastal pirate themed parties that have sprung up across the globe. For instance the Gasparilla Pirate Festival takes place every year and brings thousands of pirate enthusiasts! When putting together a man's pirate costume you can go the individual route and make a persona all your own, or you can embody one of the many already famous pirate figures both real and fictional! Edward Teach, better known as the pirate captain Black Beard, is a popular choice and MRL gives you a head start with the Blackbeard's Coat.

If fantasy pirates hold more interest for you, there are options like the popular mascot Capt. Morgan or the villainous Captain Hook, both looks that you can get a jump on with the Captain Morgan Coat

More iconic than a pirates fabric is probably the awesome head pieces that come with the territory. A simple Pirate Bandana or High Seas Stocking Cap can get the job done but something that blocks the suns rays usually wins out. Of course tricorns rule the day with prime examoles such as the Gov'nah Tricorn HatCapt.Jack Tricorn HatPirate King Leather TricornSkull and Crossbones LeatherTricorn and many more! But being a pirate doesn't have to mean dressing to the nines. 

The Pirate Vest and Scoundrel Long Pirate Vest enable you to enjoy the look without having to sweat for it. A simple Sea Dog Shirt or Tortuga Shirt will have the top half of an outfit ready to go. Of course dressing the top and not the bottom will have you looking out of place and possibly quite inappropriate. MRL has plenty of options that perfectly embody the visage of privateer. Trousers like the Tortuga PantsWayfarer Pants and apply named Pirate Pants were literally made for this role. Pull it all together with a good belt, perhaps the Wide Pirate Belt or Pirate King Belt and then you just need matching boots! Our footwear selection is especially large at this point. Journeyman's BootsCaptain BootsHigh Seas Boots, and Caribbean Rogue Boots are all ready to embody the life of glory and plunder. All these options and that's just scratching the surface of what we have to offer! There are many more items to see like sashes, handsome dummy pistols, eye patches, hooks and of course, pirate swords! We've tried to make your pirate costume shopping as easy as possible and even gathered the products into one big Pirate Category! So make a costume worth your salt, for this year and many more, by shopping Museum Replicas!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Clements #19 The Glorious Geometry of Swords

The sword is a product of the wonderful harmony of shape and proportion ergonomically refined by generations of violent trial and error. It represents an achievement of forging deadly utility of form from earnest function. It expresses mastery of the mysteries of hand-working nature’s iron into man’s steel. As an instrument it evokes both a challenge to rediscover it's artistry of creation and recover its artistry of application.

After handling literally hundreds of antique specimens of real historical swords and hundreds of replicas of all quality and accuracy and training in the authentic source teachings for almost four decades now, I take a particular view towards appreciating the subtle geometry of fighting blades. The qualities that make them handle and perform, inflict impacts with edge and penetrate with point, as well as ward off or deflect forceful blows is what it's all about for me.

In particular, the swords of Western Europe from ancient times through the Medieval and Renaissance eras reflect a certain awareness of Euclidean geometry. Just how much of the proportion and dimensions of their design is a deliberate matter of a craftsman’s intention and how much may be a matter of subjective pattern recognition on our part today is the question. 

It's possible to look at a sword and make judgements about its proportions and infer relationships between them that may or may not really be there. It's possible to take near infinite measurements of a sword's shape and cross-section to then imagine we can deduce the conscious intentions of its maker. But whatever or not was known about geometry by a historical swordsmith and how it might then have been applied to any single specimen or model, the end goal was to make a durable and effective fighting weapon. A blade was only deemed of value if it could reliably serve its user in combat.

It's easy enough to make a replica copy of a historical sword by looking at a side profile of its blade and then matching its hilt components. But to do it right the hilt of the original should be detached to look at the tang and the blade itself should be turned in every dimension, especially edge on, so that its three-dimensional cross-sectional differential can be closely replicated. This full profile —intended to meet a specific function— is what a good bladesmith achieved with his knowledge and skill. Along with overall shape and length, the variety of fullers, shallows, spines, and risers that were historically used in blade profiles is absolutely enormous. Any such profile will differ from blade to blade over the centuries and even within the same historical period. Many achieve the very same results through distinctively different compositions. But whatever a blade’s profile, it ultimately had to be fitted with a handle and grip as well as some kind of guard configuration that together optimized its manner of use in combat. An awareness of this was surely factored into the blade’s design itself. It's not difficult to see how this choice would have reflected some notion of a harmonious geometric relationship to the finished piece. It's impossible to say if doing so was a matter of aesthetics, practicality, or a little of both. 

We may notice geometric elements in some Medieval and Renaissance swords and wonder to what degree they may have been by conscious design according to some philosophical assumption or else merely serendipitous of the kinesthetic elements of tool use. Perhaps the most important thing about the geometry of swords is the most obvious yet most easily overlooked: design is a direct factor of their ability to inflict wounds and defend against them. Having tested, experimented on, trained with, broken, and explored the use of all manner of ethnographic sword forms for many years —cutting, thrusting, slicing, and warding with them— I can attest with certainty to this fundamental truth. …But what of it? All I can say is that, when it comes to swords there is more than one way to achieve an effective fighting blade.