Why longsword?

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Why longsword?

Postby MEversbergII » 08 Nov 2015 02:51

I was watching one of Matt's more recent videos, during which me mentions that the longsword is the overwhelming majority of (visible) HEMA practitioners' weapon of choice.

Why is that?

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The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Phil C » 08 Nov 2015 11:08

Lots of people like knights

Longsword looks the least like modern fencing

Medieval treatises focus on the longsword
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby KeithFarrell » 08 Nov 2015 13:55

Phil C wrote:Lots of people like knights

Longsword looks the least like modern fencing

Medieval treatises focus on the longsword


I think those first two points nail it. I'm not so sure that the third point is so valid - I don't think people would care if the treatises were medieval, from the renaissance, early modern, or from antiquity, just as long as they could swing a two-handed sword and feel cool while doing so!

However, there's another reason, that the issue is self-perpetuating: because the longsword has (historically, in terms of this reconstruction movement) been the most popular, that's what most of the current instructors have themselves learned and therefore now teach to a new crop of students. Because it has been so popular, it has the best foundations and infrastructure in terms of schools, instructors, equipment, literature, etc to continue and indeed grow its popularity.

To improve the popularity of other disciplines would require more instructors to teach the stuff, to set up schools and raise new crops of students, and encourage some of these students to go on and open new clubs and pass the discipline to yet more students. To grow something in popularity requires a focus on numbers, and that's not always what every instructor wants to do. A lot of longsword instructors are so engrossed by just how cool their weapon is that they try to share the coolness with everyone they meet, and thus the popularity spreads further!
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Phil C » 08 Nov 2015 16:40

Longsworders certainly occupy the most internet time and come across as the most evangelical- but then they have more to discuss when it comes to tournaments, equipment and interpretation.

It was rapier, rapier and more rapier when I started out, longsword only gaining a spurt in 2004 when Guy, himself a rapierist, smallsworder and sabreur when starting out ten years previously, brought out his "how-to" book that took us on a leap from staring at secondhand photocopies with words we couldn't understand but still largely limited by the lack of safety equipment. However I suspect that this is down to the scene I was in at the time since Scotland and northern England were strongly affiliated with the WMAW, FISAS and Martinez Academy crowd.

As for foundations etc I can think of rapier teachers who have been full-time professionals for twenty years or more and can't think of any longsword teachers that can claim that, but again, admit, bias.

Anyway- as for the original post: yep- knights and big swords are cool to more people.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby KeithFarrell » 08 Nov 2015 17:04

Phil C wrote:Longsworders certainly occupy the most internet time and come across as the most evangelical- but then they have more to discuss when it comes to tournaments, equipment and interpretation.


Agreed!

Phil C wrote:It was rapier, rapier and more rapier when I started out, longsword only gaining a spurt in 2004 when Guy, himself a rapierist, smallsworder and sabreur when starting out ten years previously, brought out his "how-to" book that took us on a leap from staring at secondhand photocopies with words we couldn't understand but still largely limited by the lack of safety equipment. However I suspect that this is down to the scene I was in at the time since Scotland and northern England were strongly affiliated with the WMAW, FISAS and Martinez Academy crowd.


Quite possibly an issue of location; I suspect in the States it was more of an even mix between rapier and longsword, and in different countries on the continent perhaps the longsword was more popular.

Phil C wrote:As for foundations etc I can think of rapier teachers who have been full-time professionals for twenty years or more and can't think of any longsword teachers that can claim that, but again, admit, bias.


That is true - but in terms of students coming from these schools and setting up their own schools, and in turn giving birth to further generations of schools, I don't think the rapier community has been quite as active at multiplying as the longsword community. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just an issue of growth of the community engaged in that discipline.

Phil C wrote:Anyway- as for the original post: yep- knights and big swords are cool to more people.


Undeniable :)
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Arno P » 08 Nov 2015 20:11

It's funny, when I think of tv, films and books that made me think swordfighting was cool when I was a kid it was a mix of three musketeers type stuff and medieval knightly stuff. From the latter material all that's stuck in my memory is single-handed (arming) swords, not two-handers. Maybe simply due to what I watched and read..... e.g. Floris en Sindala: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIir3kY ... 9DF9780047 (A Dutch classic, I keep meaning to put together English subtitles to this so my Anglophone friends can enjoy this classic series)
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby the underground man » 08 Nov 2015 22:33

As others have said, when people think "knight" they think the longsword. Just look at how blurry perceptions of medieval arms and armor are in general. Also, and perhaps more importantly, the cool factor. Then again, I imagine the rapier has to be a close second in the HEMA world for similar reasons (but I could be wrong about this). Lots of documentation helps for reconstructing the art, but cool swashbuckling heroes helps sell something.

This is unfortunate for me since I can't really find any non-longsword HEMA in my area (at least nothing with a consistent address)! I've always been more interested in 1-handed weapons be they rapiers or arming swords and bucklers (which is why I sport fenced for a little bit).
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby swordflasher » 10 Nov 2015 00:50

Elric Kinslayer, the White Wolf. But that's just me.
There is a world elsewhere
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Cosmoline » 12 Nov 2015 19:32

As I understand it, HEMA in the US got started by folks who had been associated with the SCA and SCA-like groups who wanted to try to bring more realism into pre-rapier period sword fighting. In the 80's there were copies of Talhoffer's texts and not much else, but as folks started scouring university holdings and running photocopy machines late at night, they started realizing that there were a lot of untapped sources. Most of these are from the Holy Roman Empire and in German, and most of them deal with longsword as the foundational weapon. So it makes sense that early HEMA focused on longsword. With the web giving instant access to a huge storehouse of old manuals, we are seeing a lot of branching out. My own focus has shifted from early German longsword to I.33 sword and buckler. I still do weekly longsword sessions but I have to admit there's a real difference between them as a student. With longsword we're basically learning stuff that's been done thousands of times by other folks and passed on to our group through meetups in Vancouver and Racine. And realistically we're not on any cutting edge with it. Fun, but not exactly game breaking.

With I.33, in contrast, we're able to delve into a source that remains only partially explored and in places I'm pretty sure we may be the first people in 600 years or more to perform the moves as the Priest intended. There are actually a bunch of sources out there nobody has done much with, so there's some real advantage to branching out early. Not just outside longsword, but into longword texts that for some reason don't get as much love. If I were starting fresh I'd probably delve into Meyer. There's a new translation out and those waters are *VERY* deep. Every illustration has enough material to spend a year unpacking and drilling. The clothes are also real snazzy.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Phil C » 14 Nov 2015 13:01

Cosmoline wrote:As I understand it, HEMA in the US got started by folks who had been associated with the SCA and SCA-like groups who wanted to try to bring more realism into pre-rapier period sword fighting.

Not just them- just look at attendance for WMAW in 2004, which had already been going for five years by then, where there were also classical fencers (Martinez), modern martial artists (Kautz, Huff, Ruzicki etc) and stage combatants (DeLongis, Lennox, Kirby etc etc) as well as the usual re-enactors and historians all looking at a variety of texts to see where their particular branch of combat had developed from- basically exactly the same mix as Europe.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Cosmoline » 15 Nov 2015 06:02

I was thinking even more distant than that. Way back in the 80's when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth :D Though it's hard to say in hindsight what was proto-HEMA at that point. Our own local scene dates to reenactors in the 90's who got fed up with SCA silliness. The SCA for all its faults does seem to be the origin point for an awful lot of folks who went on to this stuff. Even if they don't want to admit it now. I think the situation is different in Europe where the strange SCA subculture never really took off as much. Most of the folks there seem to have links to sport fencing or authentic reenacting.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby knirirr » 15 Nov 2015 12:32

Cosmoline wrote: I think the situation is different in Europe where the strange SCA subculture never really took off as much. Most of the folks there seem to have links to sport fencing or authentic reenacting.


There was a bit of SCA stuff (mostly heavy weapons) going on in Scotland around the same time I was there, c. 1997-98, in addition to re-enactment. I did get involved in a bit of it (they met very close to where I lived) but there was also the DDS (HEMA), sport fencing and classical singlestick which took up more of my time.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Phil C » 15 Nov 2015 15:42

Indeed- the number of American students attending St Andrews means there's an unusual outcrop there of SCA which led to an established group in Edinburgh (still going and also now doing German longsword among their many and diverse historical activities).

The Society for the Study of Swordsmanship (SSS) in northern England have direct origins in SCA through Mark Donnelly and the Sussex Swordplay Academy in Brighton started as an SCA heavy fighter group too.
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby Cosmoline » 16 Nov 2015 19:35

Yeah, but SCA is literally a way of life for people over here. It goes back to the 70's and has many generations of families in it. One of our stranger subcultures, bless 'em :D
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Re: Why longsword?

Postby DenBruce » 05 Feb 2016 02:39

Thinner and not as cut-oriented as the banana, it delivers less effective cuts, although it isn't any less strong/tough assuming good steel and heat treat..
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