Sorry, perhaps 'bend' was not the term to use. Yes, what I mean is that from what I've read European swords had more give than the katana (obviously depending on the sword). However, what I'm coming to realise is that this is possibly more a function of blade geometry than of material. I am not a metallurgist, and I don't have access to my fancy software at the moment that shows me stress under load.
Eclectic Dreck said:
The typical rapier fighting distance (obviously depending on the length of your lunge etc.) seems to be roughly with the blades engaged at the foible, from there it's not an inconceivable distance to get to the wrist, which is one of the few viable targets with the rapier - and you don't have to inflict a significant wound to disable the sword hand (those tendons are awfully close to the surface). But you're quite right that said cut can probably be largely negated by several layers of sturdy cloth. Whether or not that would have been worn during duels I can't say. One thing I have recalled is that a lot of the cutting actions only took place after taking the opponents blade off line first or otherwise binding it in some fashion.
As for the grip - my instructor seemed to be perfectly happy with a grip that engaged two fingers or three, so long as it was a neutral position, but whether or not that's traditional or not I don't know.
As an interesting aside; I've heard very little about French styles/manuals/treatises in HEMA. I'm sure it exists, it just doesn't seem to be as popular.
Nice post though.
Eclectic Dreck said:
Really, if we assume the weilder of the rapier is using a classic rapier and not the small sword, he would have some other implement at his disposal to defend himself with because this implement was a fundamental and necessary part of the style.
Only part I disagree with here is the off-hand weapon (which a few people here have mistakenly referred to as a main gauche, which really only refers to the left hand) being necessary
. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a rapier treatise that doesn't also contain rapier and some offhand weapon, but they also contain the single rapier with no accompanying weapon.
Alex Lai said:
while the katana is certainly not a super fragile sword by any means, if it bends it will stay bent - the core is not spring steel.
Please provide some sources before repeating that claim again and again! Modern reproduction swords might make use of spring steel, but I don't think it was available in the 16th century...
Also read this article by John Clements. Under the subheading 'Ancient Art and Modern Science" he outlines reasons why middle ages swords were certainly NOT made from spring steel.
So, a lot of the guys I do HEMA with are history buffs, and I had a lot of half-remembered conversations with them wherein I recall it being mentioned at some point that one test for the quality of a sword was the amount it could flex, etc. etc.
Obviously this is about as dodgy a source as they come, so I decided to do a little reading of my own. The main sources I came across are this one [http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_bladehardness.html] on the hardness of blades, (this one [http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_euroedge.html] also gives a brief description and history of the rapier, which is nice). There is also this video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnkVlK3BFLw] from one of the instructors from Schola Gladiatoria (worth reading his responses in the comments too, and you'll find his other videos on katanas here [http://www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria/search?query=katana]. Given his career is in HEMA I'd tend to defer to his judgement.
Now, the main problem has been that I've been giving people the impression that the Europeans were making steel similar to modern spring steel, which is wrong. The blades were stiffer, and the steel was not as uniform. However, I do think that European blades (obviously very much depending on the particular sword) tended to have more 'give' than katanas (see earlier bit in post talking to Lightknight), which may have been more a function of geometry than material, I don't know (which is mentioned in the ARMA link you posted).
As for the ARMA and John Clements... I've said it previously in this thread and I'll say it again. From what I've seen and heard of John Clements from other people involved in HEMA, the guy comes across as a twat. Which is not to say that he's stupid, but the consensus seems to be that he's very sure of his own opinions and doesn't like to hear criticisms about them. Possibly as a result it seems that the ARMA has become quite isolationist compared to other HEMA schools (e.g. it seems they've never participated in WMAW, and I've heard anecdotes of Clements angrily denouncing those who've tried to show him that his ideas were wrong by besting him in combat and then banning them from returning to his school - I can't comment on the truth of these anecdotes). This is not to say that ARMA doesn't do some good things - I'm sure they do, and some of their articles I've read seemed pretty good. However, largely it seems a case of quantity over quality.
The reason I'm explaining all that is because it makes me distrustful of the article you posted - that may be bias on my part. The part you reference seems to be mostly okay other than a few general things - he seems to imply that a blade with more flex (e.g. one made of spring steel) would not cut as well as a softer blade that would deform. I would not agree with that, at least not without qualification. For example, some might imagine some kind of material that would maintain an edge and be flexible like a whip - I would expect such a material to be capable of cutting without too much difficulty. However, a sword that has deformed and bent is much harder to cut with because the angle of the cut isn't uniform (depending on the severity and uniformity of the bend). The other thing is that even modern spring steel rapiers that are designed to flex could easily pierce with the thrust if they had a sharpened point - the rapier was not a weapon designed for use against armour, it was primarily a civilian weapon (not that swords cut through most armours anyway...). However, I will certainly concede that this would not be ideal for thrusting and a stiffer blade would be desirable.
Seeing my 2m tall friend who practices iaido and competes all over the world, it's pretty frightening just how fast he can strike with his katana(which is appropriate to his height) and that includes thrusts(hence the blood grooves on some katana, which some say are to reduce weight, while iaidoko say its to pull out the sword so it doesn't get stuck in people).
My best technical guess is that the heavier katana could swat away the rapier and give an opening for a thrust.
The 'blood groove' is called a fuller [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuller_%28weapon%29], and has nothing to do with the sword not getting stuck in somebody. As far as I'm aware, that's not even a problem that needs addressing. I'm sorry to say that the iaidoko don't really have a leg to stand on in this case.
As for beating aside the rapier - beats (the action of trying to knock aside the sword) are generally inadvisable against a weapon like the rapier that is designed to disengage. In fact, even against cutting weapons such an action is only useful in very particular circumstances. This is why almost all offensive actions in historical fencing systems (including in kenjutsu) involve attacking the person, not the weapon.