Sunday, August 16, 2020

Now That's a Knoife!

 So, the barbarians are at the Gates, what should you do?

Well, smart people will already have done something about it, but, well, troubled times, troubled times.  Nobody expects the Visigoths, Mongols, Ottomans, Frisians, Norse, Dane, Swedes, Rus, Rhode Islanders to come crashing through your peaceful estates far from the rough border regions.  Sure, the Border Lords are supposed to keep all the riff-raff on the other side of the invisible barrier between "Us" and "Those uncivilized barbaric nomadic uneducated mean people."

But, unbeknownst to we civilized folk, the very people who rule over us and tax us have let the very barbarians they are supposed to keep away from us in to be around US!  What is wrong with people?  The Nerve!!!

Now what?  Well, hmmm.  What are we to do?  Oh, sure, one can arm oneself with one's relative's cavalry weapons, but there's an issue about that.  Cavalry weapons are long and designed to be fought with while on a horse.  In the open.  Wide open.  Wide wide open.

Unfortunately, turn around.  We are all surrounded by walls, furniture, household staff, all things that get in the way of wildly swinging a cavalry spatha, sword, saber, longsword etc.  I mean, you can get new household staff but the lady of the manse probably would get perturbed with slashes in tapestries, furniture, the housecat or dog or both, her, and, yes, household staff.

What to do?  The concept of a sword is a good one, and very useful outside if your estates are vast, but in these fallen times, we all live crammed together almost on top of each other.  Long length is a no-go.  So, well, let's look at other tools of the trade.

 Spears and other daggers-on-a-stick - way too long, need room to maneuver, but keep that idea around.

 Swords-on-a-stick (like glaives, naginata, rampele etc) - better than a spear, but still too long, but keep that idea around.

Axes-on-a-stick (like halberds, two-handed axes, poleaxes etc) - Come on!  Anything-on-a-stick is too long and unwieldy in one's domicile.  Plus, some of them require way too much training (you don't just pick up a great axe and start swinging, as there is an art to not getting yourself killed using one while killing one's opponent.)

What about smaller axes, like hand axes and tomahawks and boarding axes and and and... Think about it.  Hand axes are for fighting outside.  Same with tomahawks (plus, tool of barbarian, duh!,) and boarding axe means you are on a boat or ship and that's a whole different type of fighting, totally uncouth for us gentle folk.

And what about broadswords and single-edge cleavers like cutlasses, falchions, falcata?  Getting better, but unless you live in a palatial home, still too long.

 Which leaves... daggers and swords.  You know, civilized weapons.  "But Beans," you say, "you told us swords are too long!"

Well, broad swords and falchions and cutlasses are still to long

No, not all swords.  For there is a class of swords that are designed to be used in close quarters, and they are called "Short Swords."

Like, well, short double-bladed swords like the Gladius Iberius and it's cousin the Xiphos and the  Cinqueda.

The Gladius - Short, double-edged, stabby point.
The Xiphos - Short, double-edged, stabby point. 

The Cinqueda - Short, double-edged, stabby point.

Beginning to get the hint here?  Short, great for close quarter combat.  Double-edged to cut on either a forehand cut or backhand cut.  Stabby point, for, duh, stabbing.  All three are short enough to use in pretty much even the most cluttered house, heavy enough to chop through one's target, and, well, STABBY-STABBY!

So how does one use one of these wunder-weapons?

First, determine whether you are right or left handed.  Place handle in that hand.  Now extend your non-sword foot forward and to the side, point that foot at your target.  Slightly turn your swordside foot outward.  Bend your knees a little.  Stand up straight.  Rotate on your hips back and forth, back and forth.

Did you do that?  Good.  Does it feel comfortable?  This is a basic stance in all fighting.  Some call it a boxer's stance, or horse stance, or fighter's stance.  From this stance comes all other movement.

Now, bring up your sword hand, up, up, up to around your face level, with your hand, well, like a boxer's, protecting your face. Your other hand, can have another shorter blade, or a hand axe (yes, there is a place for a hand axe in the house, but it's for defensive purposes,) or a shield, or your mother-in-law (if you don't like her) or one of the domestic staff, or a pan, or shield (Do Not Try to Use Cat. Cat will Keeel You) and if so filled, left hand lower and more forward  (you can even use the scabard.)

Swing your hips from swordside to off-side while bringing your sword hand from sword side to off side.  Like, well, a tennis racket.  


Swing again.  Does it feel good?  Keep swinging.

 Now imagine your opponent is a post sticking out of the ground (this is called a pell.  You can use a tree or a boxing bag or your mother-in-law.  Don't swing hard, just swing.  Swing away, swing so that your sword hand is past the post towards your offside.  This is called 'cutting through.'  Always cut through, as that is how you actually cut.

Do it again.

Now, try this.  Swing like that again but stop at the end of the swing  with your hand past the pell, and now swing back, like a backhand in tennis.  Again, cut through the target (you may need multiple mothers-in-law, about the only good thing about polygamy I can see) and bring your hand back up to your resting stance.


Swing forward, swing backward, reset.  Swing forward, swing backward, reset.

Hack and slash, hack and slash.  This is what real swords are for.  Chop, chop, chop.  Like a butcher, which is what you are now.  Swing hack, Swing slash, chop, chop, chop.

Now, once in a while, take the pointy end and go stabby-stabby towards the eyes or the gut.  This is called a fake, makes one's opponent jump back.  The secret to a fake is to not make it a fake.  If you stab at thee eye, stab the eye.  If you stab at thee gut, stab the gut.  If the idiot at the other end isn't smart enough to jump out of the way, well, he's stabbed.

Got it?

Swing and a chop, backswing and a slice. Same Same, Stab.

Now here's where the skull-sweat comes in.  And it's called "The Rule of Three."

Which is... Don't do the same thing more than three times in a row as it sets up a pattern your opponent can predict.  Be unpredictable.  Which includes... once in a while break the rule of three.  Because unpredictable.

You can do this wearing a toga.  Pajamas.  A tunic and hosen.  Armor.  A flight suit.  Maybe not a space suit, unless it's one of those snazzy SpaceX spacesuits, but not one of those antiquated NASA orange flight suits that make you look like you're about 3 times your weight.  You can even do this naked, which can be considered a weapon all unto itself.

Easy, peasy.

Swing and a chop.  If you miss swing back and slash chop.  Poke him/her/it.  Keep it up.  Barbarians recognize a determined opponent and will respect you as they bleed out.

About that other hand... If the object is heavy enough, like a shield or a pan or an axe, you can, if able to, hit your opponent with that object.  Shield bashing works.  Whacking someone with a fry-pan (preferably cast iron as aluminum doesn't have much mass behind it) works.  

And this is how you protect your house against random barbarians with a short sword.

Oh, okay, you can use a single-edged blade the same way, as long as it has a point.  Like a Kukri, or a smaller Sax, or a long-Bowie, or an artillery short sword.  

Same thing.  Swing-chop, Swing-slash, stabby-stabby. 

Stay tuned for how to defend your yard with X-on-a-stick.


  1. Asides from the sharp pointy ones, there were the spoon end shaped swords, also used by us squinty eyed folks for eating. Also sharpened, with a rounded point. That seems most commonly found in the uncivilized areas amongst the grave goods. Good story

    1. Drop point blades, like the kukri and the falcata, are nice. Putting the impact point ahead of the movement arm of the blade gives you effectively a long axe. Nice to use. I have a Cold Steel kukri that is wicked sharp and keeps an edge.

    2. Second the kukri suggestion. Aside from being damn handy around the yard for trimming undergrowth it tends to discourage riff-raff.

  2. The older you get, the less of an option hand-to-hand is, at least for me although there is a Cold Steel Gladius machete around somewhere. Ya, I know Cold Steel and all but one of the handiest blades I carry around the yard is their Tuff Lite, gotten my money's worth from that one. For me my first choice in crowd control is gun powder, several like-minded neighbors can also help so that you're not alone when the barbarians come to play. Interesting to read "how to" from someone experienced in medieval combat.....thanks Beans.

    1. Oh, indubitably gun powder is the answer. Just in these fallen times if you haven't already secured some sort of firearm, then a blade is basically all you have left.

      The best medievalists I have known look more like blacksmiths or framers doing their tasks than dashing swordsmen. Because it's not about looking like Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" but more like, well, pounding out a horseshoe on someone's head, or giving someone the worst case of shingles they've ever seen.

      Chop chop. It's a way of life.

      Just wait until you read all about -on-a-stick weapons. They actually are useful for older, less active folk.

      Not as useful as a 4lb black powder howitzer loaded with nails, but the HOA might frown upon you using one of those. Still want one, just got no room for one. (Though I do have a supply of freedom seed delivery vehicles, if'n you know what I mean. (wink-wink, nudge-nudge.))

      Glad to be of service.

  3. Nice tutorial, Beans. My 'experience', such little as it is, is more oriental in nature from Chinese and Japanese martial arts. The swords in those disciplines are usually longer, and in China are much more flexible in some models. The Japanese have a plethora of different styles and blade lengths. But one thing in common to what you described is the use of one's center of gravity to produce power, just as a boxer would. You might jab just using shoulders and arms, but you have to use your hips to produced focused max power. Nylon mentioned gun powder, and I'm with his and Indiana Jones' strategy - bring a gun to a knife fight whenever possible! And the stance you describe is close to what is used in shooting, especially a handgun, especially the strong side foot slightly back from the leading weak side foot. Although the 'horse stance' descriptor in China refers to a wider, much lower crouch that is a bit more reminiscent of horseback riding than a fighting stance.

    1. My personal preference is bring artillery to a knife fight, but the BATFE and FBI really frown upon you dropping rounds on someone's head. Something about splash damage or such. Sigh. Spoilsports.

      The Oriental methods taught are more surface strike and slashing attacks, not the heavy cut through. Both are effective against unarmored opponents. Surface and Slash are effective against certain types of armor. While Cut Through is pert near effective against anything. Surprisingly the Cut Through against most armor is more of a bash attack to damage the meat puppet behind the armor rather than actually cutting through the armor, though that's nice too.

      The standard martial arts stance is pretty universal. Boxer, box, horse, whatever you call it. One of my teachers described it as if you were sitting on a rotating barstool and some plane dropped a piece of rebar from on high and it vertically penetrated. You can rotate left or right, while slightly crouched. Leaning gets you killed. (Seriously, stick your head forward and you are inviting someone to whack it. Lean back and someone's going to chop your knee off.)

      Arm strength is good, and even wrist strength. At my peak I could deliver a whollop with just a simple wrist snap and a "12 inch dagger" and one of my favorite strike moves was against something-on-a-stick fighters by closing, jamming their weapon against them with my shield, and just dog-pounding their sides and hips until they called 'good.' Both involved little-to-no hip work. But that's advanced techniques and you have to have a zen-state feeling for what the other dude's body is doing to be effective that way.

      Most blows require hip motion. Which peeved other people off because, well, I have, as one person described it, chick hips. I can way over-rotate (like a belly dancer, thanks to mom's genes) so when I wanted to really cut through, I could really hit hard. So hard I got complaints from people I was hitting them too hard with a single-handed weapon. Which was actually fun.

      And, yes, as one Escrima teacher described it, Gun-Fu wins over Kung-Fu most any days.

      Most people past the age of 50 can't really Horse Stance, though in Historic Medieval Martial Arts (or whatever they call it) it is also a thing. Crouch low and strike upwards or start almost barely crouched and drop into a deep crouch while striking. It is an effective technique to drive a man like a tent peg.

  4. Very well done. I bought a Gladius for the purpose of chewing up a pell. Then never planted one. I will start the practice when I get that 4x4 in the ground. I also have a pike, I figured for poking through a choke point (door way) it would work well.... A couple hawks round out the pointy bits... Food for thought....

    Thanks for the good instruction, like Nylon12, hearing from someone trained in medieval battle is pretty neat.

    1. If you really want to do pell work, get a 4x4 post and then take two tires. Cut 4x4 holes on opposite sides of the tread of one tire. Cut the other tire in half, cut one half in half again. Put round tire onto pell, push down a tad and nail. Put half piece over top like a head, nail. Take the two quarter pieces and either affix to the solid tire using drill and rope or nail to the post.

      Then... Get a fiberglass or oak sledgehammer handle. Cut it about the length of your sword. Then use that to wallop upon the pell. If you do a hammer strike (face the pell in stance, bring 'blade up' like a hammer and then swing down like a hammer,) don't forget that tires will cause pell-sticks to bounce back and whack the snot out of your head. It happens.

      Look down, watch your feet as you rotate. It should be comfortable and stable. Swing slowly at half speed with no ass behind the blade when starting. You are trying to muscle-memory the blows. Then start picking up speed. Then start picking up power.

      As to a pike, if it's a boarding pike or spear, stab-stab is all you've got in an interior setting. Yes, good for stabbing out of murder holes but you'd better have that blade or axe ready.

      And the Classic Gladius Move is literally either an almost vertical chop from your right to your left, or, a belly-height punch into your opponent's gut. Very satisfying when completed well.

      Glad to help.

      Though a good torsion-powered ballista firing through the mailbox slot would work, too. Hmmm... Hmmmmm.....

  5. The Cinqueda looks a lot like a fancy Arkansas Toothpick. Like others my hand-to-hand days are behind me but I still have my issue K-bar.

    1. The Arky-pick is just a derated Cinqueda. The Cinq's design includes several fullers to drop weight and stiffen the blade, making it quite effective against Renaissance clothing (which, let's see, linen shift, shirt, vest, doublet, caplet is about 8-10 layers of linen and wool, maybe some silk and cotton and et voila you have effective body armor.)

      K-bars are awesome. One of the best modern-bowie style utility knives. I have one that I use for leather and armor work and it is just great.

  6. I have a variety of edged weapons. While I wouldn't attempt to use the French heavy cavalry saber or my katana indoors, my Navy cutlass (27" blade) or any of my bayonets are good for close in work. (Bayonet off the rifle, of course...)

    Most entertaining post Beans!

  7. A fine dissertation. Well done. A few points--

    In my case, as already mentioned, age is beginning to limit my stamina and mobility, although I can counter this somewhat with exercise.

    If your attacker is flying on recreational chemicals, the time is takes them to bleed out could be an issue.

    Common garden tools can be pressed into use. Even the lowly shovel with a sharpened front can do good work.

    Personally, I intend to keep any goblins beyond arms reach, so yeah, gunpowder. By far that is my primary skill. That said, my front line weapons have bayonet mounts.

    1. Surprisingly, most pharmaceutically-enhanced attackers recognize long blade weapons as a no-go. It's weird, like it's implanted in racial memory or such.

      And as to age, that's why short sword. If you can move a hammer, you can move a gladius or Cinq. They're about the same weight as a decent claw or framing hammer.

      Weapons-on-a-stick, which most common garden tools are, are actually better for the strength and mass challenged people. Which will be covered later. But, yeah, a good sharp shovel? Can't beat it for it's versatility.

      Bang sticks are still the best. God made all men, Samuel Colt made all men equal. (to a point.)

    2. (Don McCollor)...I believe one of the WW1 close in weapons was an entrenching tool with the blade honed to a razor for garden tools, how about that old pitchfork?...

    3. Sharpened entrenching tools have been a weapon-thing since the time of the Roman Legion, along with mattock and pickaxe.

      As to the pitchfork, highly unbalanced as a fighting weapon. Really useful as an anti-equine tool but as an anti-human tool, well better than nothing, but sucks rocks big time. Using them to hold foe at arms reach while others pelt said target with rocks is about all they are good for.

    4. (Don McCollor)...Beg to differ being from a more western farm background. Perhaps termed hay fork or bundle fork- long handled, three (sharp) tines, light, used for pitching hay and grain bundles (not a heavy short handled multiple tine manure fork). Once having learned to using it, I could build eight (binder cut) bundles into a shock without (and faster than) touching them...

  8. I second Tom in NC - a pistol in your weak and would be a great addition

    1. Ably demonstrated by Captain Jerome (Steve Kanaly) in "The Wind and The Lion" at the 20:10 mark--

    2. And the scene when Mrs. Pedicaris is taken shows what happens when you fail to have a reload handy, or a second weapon.
      Great movie.

  9. The front door in our domicile opens into a hallway with the staircase slightly offset from the opening. I keep a Brown Bess (unloaded) with a 17" bayonet fixed out of sight at the head of the stairs. As the television room and the bedroom is on the 2nd floor and being geezers we retire there immediately post supper. I sleep nekkid. Taking advantage of the laws of gravity and physics in addition to shock and awe with a screech to raise the dead, I would pin any intruder to the wall like a butterfly. Old Guns (If the situation deteriorates from the present state I have a 6 lb. carronade which loaded with 6 lbs. of 00 buck will clear the area).

    1. OOOOhhh. Good combo that Bess and bayonet. The Bess has the mass and ass to do a good butt-stroking to the face, too.

      And a 6lb carronade? Ouch. And roll that down the stairs after firing if there's anything left alive.... hehehehehehe

      Though a brace of pistols would be nice to add, too!

    2. Screeching naked geezer in full charge mode has a distinct distracting/demoralizing effect. Old Guns

    3. Yeah, but I prefer to at least wear boxer-briefs as the angle of the dangle can get hit accidentally or on purpose, which takes the fun out of life.

      Screeching mostly naked geezer in full charge mode, man-boobs flapping in counter-point to the bouncing gut, has a distinct distracting and demoralizing effect. As some raccoons and an armadillo have discovered much to their chagrin (just scared the 'dillo, though I shot the coons.)

  10. Sounds like you have a lot of practice!. The barong seems ideal for close quarters. Some of them are very finely forged laminated steel. Not as heavy as a big kukuri. Or maybe it's the balance point being much closer to the hilt. Any thoughts on them?

    The first real bladed weapon I ever handled was my dads WW2 bring-back katana. I had seen western D-hilted swords, most sort of blunt, picking up the katana was a "look around for something to cut the crap out of" moment. Still a good criteria, perhaps. If it makes you want to cut something, it probably a good blade....

    1. Tip-heavy blades are for chonking through bone and stuff. You have to watch out as you need to lead the weight or it will lead you.

      Hilt-balanced blades are great as you just move your hand and the blade follows. It's much more important to over cut with a hilt-balanced blade as it won't want to cut through as easily as a tip-balanced blade. It's what works for your body and for the moment. Me? I prefer hilt-balanced swords for normal work, but when in a shield scrum, a tip-balanced cleaver is my favorite as there's no need for finesse in a shield scrum, just hack away, hack away, haaaack aaawaaaayyyy!

      That war trophy katana can either be a 16th or 17th century gem, or some mass-produced piece of garbage. And the mounting may be different than what was original. Standard katana has the blade up, as it's shoved through a kimono sash. But armor carried and belt carried swords have the mountings for blade down, more like a European weapon. You need room for a proper katana swing, though you can fight it like a short-handled spear with tip cuts and stabs. But in that case, the wakisashi is better, being a 'short sword' by definition.

      Personally I don't like the curved blades, whether a scimitar, or a saber or a katana/waki style blade, all those are for a more slashing flowing style of fighting. Me? I'm just a brute. Brutal hack fighting is my forte, and I love to get into it close and hot and just whacking things. Which I tend to go a tad beserk when fighting (due to the way I learned from getting beat on by everyone as a kid, every day is Ragnarok, every day is Gotterdamerung, you go down swinging taking as many of the bastiges as you can.

      Fight the style that your body wants to fight. That's the ticket right there.

  11. Beans! Well done! There's more of a barbarian in you than I thought! (It takes one to know one!) Which is why in fencing I always preferred saber to foil. The foil has stabby stabby, but not slashy shashy. And little is more satisfying than whacking your opponent on the top of the head, which for some strange reason. is not permitted with the foil!

    1. Real saber is cool, but takes a lot of room to do. Most house hallways and doors are too narrow for effective saber slashes. Better than nothing.

      Same with real epee.

      Now, you can do saber or epee moves with a small sword (that's what they call it, small sword) like the one George Washington favored. It's like a shortened epee (epees can get up to 42" or more in length) being around 24-32" long. Just, well, you can't whack the carp out of your opponent with a small sword. Good for poking lots of holes and slashing faces though.

  12. Amazing post, Beans!

    I've got a good Ka-Bar, and very "stabby" double-edged dagger that would probably get me thrown in the slammer if I carried it.

    I know (or thought I did) few knife-fighting skills. At least until I read this, and realized these are the same basic moves my Korean martial arts buddy insisted I learn when he saw the knives. So he taught me, and I took him to the range a whole bunch.

    As far as bayonets go, I keep telling myself (and others) that "I really need to get a bayonet for my M1 Garand".....or a few.

    Seems the problem is that the "real" ones cost a small fortune, while a lot of the repops are very poorly made. If I'm going to spend the $$, I want a good one, but most definitely not a "collector quality" one.

    Any suggestions, Readers of the Chant?

    1. You can order, or used to be able to order, decent ones from CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program.) The repros they sell are moderate to good.

      The same manufacturer who puts out the K-bar and it's replacements, Cutco (used to be this, then that,) at one time put out a good Garand bayonet.

      You can also use the Springfield '03 sword-bayonet on the garand.

      When you get one in, from whomever you get it from, if it's a real store and not Flea-Bay, test fit it and reject if the fit sucks.

      You really need your bayonet to properly seat.

      As to fighting moves, about the only difference between Eastern Martial Arts with Weapons and Medieval European Martial Arts is Euro-Arts focus more on forward movement, always forward, forward forward forward. To back up is to foul the line of battle, so go forward. That's pretty much it. A little more emphasis on shield work. Other than that, a cut or poke or slash or hack is a cut or poke or slash or hack. And any move that puts your weapon behind your head is a killing move - for you, as it exposes your head.

      Yes, I've beaten the dog-snot out of people trying to do all that kung-fu flippy twirly stuff. I just slog forward playing whack-a-mole with their body parts. Oh, a leg. WHACK. Oh, an arm. WHACK. Oh, fancy dangly bits... WHACK right next to fancy dangly bits.

      The only time I directly targeted a female's mammary glands was when she was purposely targeting my man-boobs. I taught her not to do that, well, to me.

  13. Great post.
    I'm not sure of the why, but many people who don't think you will shoot them are positive that you will cut them.

    I need to learn and practice edged weapon skills.

    1. It's weird, like those that aren't scared of a real gun but act all sissy when a taser comes out. What? Worried about a taser? Just wear 4 layers of heavy clothing, like a denim vest and a denim jacket with a sweat shirt and then another layer of cloth. That right there, unless they hit you some unlucky place like the neck, will defeat a taser, but won't stop a bullet. Might screw up the expansion of a hollowpoint, but the bullet will still work.

      Stupid people.

      For practice, I use a door and a cardboard tube. Open door so it's edge on to you, get in stance and practice muscle memory movement with the cardboard tube by hitting the door lightly with it. It allows you to build your skill without having to muscle-power it. (kind of like programming a factory robot, you insert the program (soft movements) and then dial in the hard movements.)

  14. Sorry, Beans, I got my sword fighting training from the Indiana Jones school of self defense.
    John Blackshoe

    1. Oh, I'm all into blowing a hole through the opponent. Or picking him out from a distance. But sometimes the idiot with a blade doesn't stand in front of you twirling his/her/its swords or doing extraneous kung-pow-fu movements for to impress the crowd when you're running a 100 degree fever and you're 30 feet away.

      (Really. Harrison Ford was sick as a dog on that day (the sweat was real) and he was supposed to use the whip. He was sick of being sick and endlessly shooting the same scene so he whipped out the pistol and Lucas loved it.)

      Actually I'd prefer to have someone else shoot him while I am comfortably sitting at home far away, but sometime you just gotta get it stuck in. I am a weirdo and really want to see his/her/its eyes close up as I put paid to his/her/its life. I have learned way too much about my darker sides. Eh. Just don't really want to find out for true.


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