European style testcutting

This Forum is a place for students of swordsmanship to ask advice from moderators Paul Champagne & Scott M. Rodell on how to practice test cutting in a manner consistent with how swords were historically used in combat. Readers use this Forum at their own risk.

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Mimic
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European style testcutting

Post by Mimic » Tue Aug 22, 2006 7:05 am

I was at a medieval festival in Haapsalu, Estonia last weekend, and, among other things, we managed to do some testcutting, on a half a pig (which was summarily eaten afterwards) and we came to a few rather surprising results.



First, we dressed the pig up in a gambeson, basically 6 layers of woolen cloth, really common form of armour in Europe. First, a bow was tested on it, 35 pound pull. Of 6 arrows shot from 15 feet, only 2 penetrated the gambeson, scoring a wound and of those two only one might have actually killed a person. Next came the sword. Of some dozen or so edge blows tried by several people exactly two penetrated enough to wound and neither cut was deeper than an inch or so. We then removed the gambeson, leaving only a linen 'shirt'. That's where the real surprise came in. The linen was almost as effective in preventing cuts as the thick gambeson had been. Only thrusts or pi-like* cuts with the tip of the sword had any real penetration. Sure, the injuries would have been very significant even without the blade cutting in (strikes left dents over an inch deep in the flesh), highly likely to remove the man recieving such a strike from a fight. And pig's skin is also a bit tougher than human's, and with a lot more under-skin fat and the pig was free-hanging and as such moved much more freely than a standing human but still, the results were surprising. Most strikes didn't even cut the linen, not to mention skin, only affecting like a very thin-edged club.



Later, having removed the linen covering, strikes cut through flesh with no problems, so the sword wasn't that bad. Still, in my opinion leaves a lot to wonder about, part of which is what is known about how swords were sharpened in europe and parts about what kind of wounds were actually caused on battlefield by swords and why spears were thought of as so effective and so on. Not to mention how good one's technique would have to be to really be effective.



*was orginally misspelled pie, a pi (splitting) cut is a short energy percussion cut.
Dancing on the edge of a blade.

Tomita
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Post by Tomita » Tue Aug 22, 2006 7:49 am

How was the pig, my friend? Tasty 'n fresh from the bone eh... :wink:



Happy training!



Tomita
'Taijiquan is mainly a solo affair, but companionship along the way is to be treasured'

-J. Dunbarr, quoted by John Loupos-

Scott M. Rodell
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Re: European style testcutting

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Tue Aug 22, 2006 9:27 am

Thanks for sharing these results, this is quite useful information & supports what I've learned from others involved in test cutting.



I have a few follow up questions:


Mimic wrote:...First, we dressed the pig up in a gambeson, basically 6 layers of woolen cloth...


Chinese also, not surprisingly, used patted coats under their armor. How thick was the 6 layers of woolen cloth you used?


Mimic wrote:... Next came the sword...


I take it this was a heavy straight sword?


Mimic wrote:... removed the gambeson, leaving only a linen 'shirt'. That's where the real surprise came in...


This is where a very sharp edge, vs. a battlefield edge, would be effective & shows the difference between military/dao swordsmanship vs. civilian/jian swordsmanship.


Mimic wrote:... pie-like cuts with the tip of the sword had any real penetration...


pie-like cuts?


Mimic wrote:... the sword wasn't that bad... how good one's technique would have to be to really be effective.


How experienced were those cutting at actual cutting?

Mimic
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Re: European style testcutting

Post by Mimic » Tue Aug 22, 2006 10:03 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:Chinese also, not surprisingly, used patted coats under their armor. How thick was the 6 layers of woolen cloth you used?


6 layers together perhaps half an inch.


Scott M. Rodell wrote:
I take it this was a heavy straight sword?


Yes, with rounded tip as was usual in viking age.


Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Mimic wrote:... pie-like cuts with the tip of the sword had any real penetration...


pie-like cuts?


pie should be pi...


Scott M. Rodell wrote:
How experienced were those cutting at actual cutting?


Most were moderately experienced (several years) in european medieval sword with at least some cutting experience. But it was first flesh-target with armour-like covering for everyone.



Best regards,

Mimic
Dancing on the edge of a blade.

Scott M. Rodell
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Re: European style testcutting

Post by Scott M. Rodell » Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:57 am

Mimic wrote:
Yes, with rounded tip as was usual in viking age.


What was the reason for the rounded tip?

Mimic
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Re: European style testcutting

Post by Mimic » Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:19 am

Scott M. Rodell wrote:
Mimic wrote:
Yes, with rounded tip as was usual in viking age.


What was the reason for the rounded tip?


I have no idea. Supposedly the tip was rounded, because it was slashing-only sword, not meant for thrusting, but such explanation seems lacking for me, especially because the rounded tip lends itself to thrusting rather well. Perhaps pi-like cuts with tip were the reason, as they seem to be very effective... I couldn't tell.
Dancing on the edge of a blade.

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