Funny bent arms in messer treatises

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Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby swordflasher » 27 Apr 2014 17:42

Are like bowie back cuts, right? Where you go from thumbs up to thumbs down' to left or right with a flick, to put the whole weight on the point and protecting yourself while attacking from an unexpected angle?

I was watching Bagwell and Keating demonstrating bowie back cuts, and wondered if that's what I'm seeing in the messer (and indeed longsword) treatises

Sorry for the noob question.


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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby Andrew Shultz » 28 Apr 2014 16:11

It's not a newb question and it's not something I've seen much discussed. We've actually been looking at this a lot in Leckuckner (I can't spell that worth a damn) as we work our way through. Very often the messer is in a reversed grip, so thumb on the true edge side of the hilt. This happens both for people doing simple actions and for those doing complex actions. We just went through the krump section and it is almost every plate. It seems obvious that the grip is pretty dynamic, but how?

A couple of hypotheses we're working with:

1) the messer is in a thumb grip, so actually sideways to the arm, a lot of the time. This makes it very easy to be a little more shifted around the grip like that and look reversed or a little less and look normal. A lot of moves are very interesting with this grip.

2) the grip shifts around a lot while winding. This is problematic in how it can shift that much with a one handed weapon without losing it. It's easy to shift when you're not clashing, but once you are... trouble.

3) bonus hypothesis, some of these happen in the clash as the messer is forced around in someone's hand. The problem with this is while tempting we can't really make it happen well.


Since this is part of a tradition with the longsword it also calls into question longsword grips. Of course a reversed longsword is the same longsword, but the process of reversing could be very interesting.


(edit - I'm not familiar with bowie back cuts so I can't address that at all)
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby swordflasher » 28 Apr 2014 23:25

I was wondering if it is not a grip depicted but the end point of an action, with various moves possible from ending in that position.

Put your thumb up in front of you, then twist it to the left to point down while straightening your arm forwards in front of you. Do the same with a flick. Now do the same thing holding a knife with a clip point and sharpened false edge. You are stabbing down putting all the weight of the blow into the point and a tearing cut with the false edge.

Now put your thumb up in front of you, and twist it to the right to point down while straightening your arm. Try the same thing with a knife, and you end in another position familiar to messer. Add another hand to the hilt and you're in a position familiar to longsword too.

Do try the bagwell back cut video on youtube if you have a moment and let me know what you think. After all, a messer is just a bigger bowie, I suppose?

Thanks for replying
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby Dave Long » 28 Apr 2014 23:28

back when we were discussing tulwar discs, I'd thought they might serve to promote a certain wrist action. Is this related to your knife back cuts?
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby swordflasher » 28 Apr 2014 23:59

What an interesting idea! I suppose if you look at cutting down or up from both sides with a tulwar - arm kept at 45 degrees, wrist twisting but not bent, using back and not arm muscles - and then reverse the action back to lead with the false edge and strike with the point, then that could be a back cut?

I've not seen that done, although I have seen the false edge used to cut up under a shield or a cut made top right to bottom right and then using the elasticity of the arm to bring the point up out and in at mid level to hit with the false edge, again round a shield. These are more strikes with the false edge, not thrusting back cuts though. Thrusts as such are not used in gatka displays or competitions.

Matt may have more input on tulwars of course.
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby Phil C » 29 Apr 2014 09:23

The Bowie backcut is explained here-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZ0wxIvKs34

The action is simply pulling the back edge through the target by turning the thumb from up to down very quickly.
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby admin » 29 Apr 2014 10:15

Tulwars very rarely have sharpened false edges - even when the design makes it look like the false edge will be sharpened they often aren't. I suspect that they simply copied earlier Turkish and Persian blade designs because they liked the look of them, without copying the functional use of the yelman, whatever that may have been.
Traditional tulwar attacks and training, as far as I can glean from documented pre-1900 sources, focused almost entirely on the use of the front edge in drawing and pushing cuts. Thrusts were used with swords, but very rarely according to all the contemporary sources, the push cut generally being employed instead of a thrust.
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby Andrew Shultz » 29 Apr 2014 16:25

Looking at that video (sadly sound off, at work), you definitely could make that motion with a messer but I don't think it explains reversing the messer in the grip, I think part of what makes it work is that it turns the direct chop into a stab-cut. So if you turned the blade around it would be less stab to cut and more just cut.

Also he cheats like crazy. His regular cuts are these lazy bouncing things, and then he does the back cut with a whipping motion. The blade is moving two or three times as fast in the back cut, no wonder it works better. Possibly if his forward cut was moving that fast it would work almost as well.

Anyway this could explain the bent arms but not the funniest part of the bent arms which is the complete grip reversals. I've definitely used a somewhat broader version of this mechanic in messer sparring and it is useful, it's basically a schielhau motion but one handed... I forget what the messer name for that cut is. Winker maybe.
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby swordflasher » 30 Apr 2014 01:01

OK, thanks gentlemen, it was just a thought. :)
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Re: Funny bent arms in messer treatises

Postby Dave Long » 30 Apr 2014 15:44

Well, your arguments had me ready to bury my tulwar hypothesis, and Burton puts a stake through its heart: in the footnote starting on p.34 he distinguishes the "sliding cut" along with its typical confining hand guard, from "whip cuts" and especially "reverse cuts" (pp.50-53) ... (I can't quite follow Burton's instructions, but from his comment that they have "the immense merit of not uncovering the swordsman" I imagine these would be analogous to the sport sabre video supra or the wrist snap of a tennis serve)
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