Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

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Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Erdrick » Fri Oct 28, 2011 9:57 pm

Something the TK series made me wonder about... generally, the perception of "Asian" swords is the Katana, but yeah, Chinese swords had more in common with European swords than Japanese... Of course, the scimitar (a mostly middle eastern sword), is more akin to a katana-style than a straight blade sword.


So, my question is, why? What would precipitate a difference that seemed to continue even after contact was made with cultures who used the variant? Was there a specific reason on the battlefield, in the blacksmiths, religious, culturally...? I figure, there should be a reason, (maybe it IS this looks cooler than *that*), but I'm not really sure. Discuss, and if you have sources, sweet


(And if people want bonus cookies, a breakdown of the regions/countries who favor 1 sided curved blades vs 2 sided straight blades, go for it)
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Stedfel » Sat Oct 29, 2011 6:05 pm

I would assume it is primarily cultural, as that seems (to me, at least) to be one of the big things that prevents cultures from moving forward or accepting new ideas.

On the note of the katana, however, the earliest Japanese swords were two-sided and akin to what you would see in China and Europe.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Erdrick » Wed Nov 09, 2011 2:49 am

Stedfel wrote:I would assume it is primarily cultural, as that seems (to me, at least) to be one of the big things that prevents cultures from moving forward or accepting new ideas.

On the note of the katana, however, the earliest Japanese swords were two-sided and akin to what you would see in China and Europe.



Which would bring the additional question of when/why cultures turn to different styles as a primary...
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Tigger of Kai » Wed Nov 09, 2011 9:52 pm

My totally non-expert understanding has always been that 1-sided curved swords are designed solely for hacking off limbs and heads, and are best against unarmored or lightly armored opponents. For example, Arabs are obviously not going to be running around in big heavy suits of armor when fighting each other in the desert, so they gave rise to the scimitar.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Thu Nov 10, 2011 5:15 pm

I think it makes sense. European men-at-arms walked around with those enormous zweihanders and claymores for a reason-what else was going to penetrate iron plate? The Japanese were more about speed, and the katana was designed for a warrior to draw his weapon quickly and make rapid slashes. The same applies for the scimitar, except the Arabs designed it primarily as a cavalry weapon. The Chinese used both. The Dao is curved, whereas the Jian is straight. However, the Dao was more commonly wielded by the rank-and-file due to the difficulty involved in learning how to wield the Jian, though I understand the latter was a more effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior/martial artist.

Here's the thing, though-when the Europeans and Arabs fought each other with their respective weapons, how did either side attempt to adapt?
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:23 pm

TooMuchBaijiu wrote:I think it makes sense. European men-at-arms walked around with those enormous zweihanders and claymores for a reason-what else was going to penetrate iron plate? The Japanese were more about speed, and the katana was designed for a warrior to draw his weapon quickly and make rapid slashes. The same applies for the scimitar, except the Arabs designed it primarily as a cavalry weapon. The Chinese used both. The Dao is curved, whereas the Jian is straight. However, the Dao was more commonly wielded by the rank-and-file due to the difficulty involved in learning how to wield the Jian, though I understand the latter was a more effective weapon in the hands of a skilled warrior/martial artist.

Here's the thing, though-when the Europeans and Arabs fought each other with their respective weapons, how did either side attempt to adapt?


^ This.

The Japanese were living in an environment where metal was very scarce; armour was made from lacquered leather and usually wouldn't survive more than one direct hit from a katana or a wakizashi - though it would give the wearer a second shot at survival. As a result, sabres were the mark of a nobility which could afford the amount of metal ore needed to make one, and were wielded by the least-expendable troops. (The rest had to make do with spears - if they were lucky - or farm implements if they weren't.) Japanese swordsmanship, also (劍道, or kendou) focusses on long strides and powerful forward and downward sweeps.

Those forms of 'hard' Chinese martial arts focusing on the sabre are likewise simple, straightforward, and focussed on long strides and powerful sweeps... but sabre use is fairly easy to learn. I practiced a form of 苗刀術 miaodaoshu when I was in college; it didn't require that many special techniques that varied overmuch from bare-handed wushu. I believe the Chinese expression is 百日練刀、千日練槍、萬日練劍 (practice 100 days with the sabre, 1000 days with the spear and 10000 days with the [two-edged] sword)... and yes, it was generally regarded in the Qing and Republican eras as the weapon you could put in the hands of your run-of-the-mill grunt before you toss him onto the battlefield two days later.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Striga » Fri Nov 18, 2011 10:26 pm

Two sided is generally used by armoured infantry, and one sided by lightly armoured or un-armoured. However, I would think it should be the other way around, as with two sided, you could swing it back and forth and do damage with either side. One sided however, if you're going to overpower someone, you could place your other hand on the back of it to strengthen your hold. This doesn't make much sense.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby TooMuchBaijiu » Fri Nov 18, 2011 11:52 pm

Remember, two-sides swords tend to be heavier. Heavy=slow. Slow=bad. The exception to this rule is when you're dealing with armored soldiers, in which case you need a weapon with penetrative power.

Also, as was mentioned earlier, it took a week for a soldier to become proficient with the Chinese one-sided sword, whereas it would take the same man a year to learn the two-sided sword. Considering that most armies of the age were comprised of conscripts and not professional soldiers, this made an enormous difference.

The Chinese used the two-sided sword in their ancient period, but it was superseded by the one-sided sword during the Han Dynasty, as the cavalry loved them. I doubt many Xianbei warriors fought in armor, after all.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Striga » Sat Nov 19, 2011 12:00 am

But there are exceptions with the rapier as an exception for heavy double edged swords, and falchion as an exception for light and fast single edged swords.

Edit: Cutlass as well for heavy single sided.
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Re: Swords- 1 sided vs 2 sided

Unread postby Aygor » Wed Apr 25, 2012 3:19 pm

TooMuchBeijiu already gave the general paradigma.
Cutlass is not a heavy sword (surely heavier than many other one sided weapons however) it was used in naval battles. Marines did not wear armour and therefore a swift weapon was needed.

Falchion is an attempt to mix the power of an axe with the versatility of a sword. Again it is an attempt to balance strenght and swiftness, with more attebtion to strenght than to swiftness, .

Rapier has a completely different origin, as it was made in an era where firearms had substituited white weapons.
It was designed mainly to be swift, as no armour was necessary anymore, it was mainly used by lords, (who used it as an ornament) and in some forms, by cavalry whose duty was to charge and erase musketeer units.

Any weapon has it's reason, but it's important to remember that most ancient weapons are evolutions of farmer's instruments, becose usually peons couldn't afford anything better. I would say that, for example, this was Falchion's case.
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