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Post Reply European Longsword vs Katana sword
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Posted 10/17/16

Ranwolf wrote:


keeton52 wrote:

Doesn't "katana" already translate to "sword" or "blade?"


Funny enough both a European Knight and a Japanese Samurai would have referred to their weapons as merely swords, there was literally no historical attempt to differentiate between sword types back in those days.

Though yes calling it a Katana sword is rather redundant.


DC Comics *ding*!

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Posted 10/17/16

cdarklock wrote:And what makes the difference isn't any kind of magic in the Japanese sword or culture. It's the simple fact that coming from a long line of expert swordsmen was possible in Japan before swordsmanship was even a thing in Europe.


The earliest weapon that could be described as a sword to appear in China emerged in the 3rd Century BC (300-201). They had existed in Europe since the 12th Century BC (1200-1101) and as early as the 30th Century BC (3000) in the Middle East; although these ones where a little ambiguous and the first non ambiguous "sword" emerged around the 17th Century BC (1700) in Greece.

So no... China and Japan collectively do not have a longer history of swordsmanship than Europe and neither hold a torch to the Middle East.

If you are referring specifically to two handed swords then you are still wrong as those showed up around the same time as the 17th century BC Greek swords with some examples having 100cm long blades.
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Posted 10/17/16 , edited 10/18/16

runec wrote:

Well, you're half right I suppose. In that the longsword is indeed a heavier sword. It had a simpler forging process and was more mass produced.



octorockandroll wrote:
I guess it would depend on the context, right? I mean if I'm not mistaken the european longsword was developped for warfare, whereas the katana was designed for dueling. It's a pretty situational thing.


The katana was foremost designed to murder swiftly with as few strokes as possible. Failing that its a perfectly capable weapon of war.



qwueri wrote:
Depends entirely on the warrior and armor. Contrary to anime, a katana would likely shatter against a knight in full plate. Even against chain-mail the katana's slashing motion is going to struggle, while the longsword would be significantly less disadvantaged.


Half the point of the forging process of a katana is so it doesn't shatter. If you struck something it couldn't cut its far more likely it would just bounce off and wobble. Katanas are also powerful thrusting weapons so I wouldn't place bets on chainmail. Heck, I wouldn't place bets on chainmail regardless. Yes, well made chain is going to turn aside a slash from a katana or longsword. But its not going to absorb the energy of the blow.

You're still effectively being beaten with a steel rod.



Oh, hey, look, runec is spouting off ignorant drivel again!

Wow. Where to start.

First, the longsword, while typically longer than a katana, is in fact almost exactly the same weight. Both have some variance, and both tend to be 2.5 to 3.5 pounds. The longsword almost universally has 5-7 inches longer blade, with longsword blades typically running 35-40 inches versus the 25-29 inches of the katana. Of course, earlier tachi swords would have blades in the 28-33 inch range, but they would also be even heavier, pushing 3-4.5 pounds, and were quite tip-heavy (which is good for cutting, bad for agility and pretty much everything else).

Feel free to check the museum pieces to verify just how short the katana is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_National_Treasures_of_Japan_(crafts:_swords)

Weight and length of longswords from extant originals:
http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/27966
http://metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/23189
http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/117093?search_no=15&index=211

From https://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=27190 an average of 20 extant original longswords indicates the average longsword is:
Average length: 120,6cm / 47.5 inches
Average weight: 1600,5gr / 3.53 pounds
Average blade length: 94,71cm / 37.3 inches

Neither the longsword NOR the katana were really "weapons of war", nor were either designed exclusively for dueling. They were both SIDEARMS. That is to say, they were multipurpose weapons designed to be carried on one's person, on their belt. They were backup weapons in war, and were primary weapons of self defense in civil life. If you want to talk military weapons, you're talking halberds, pollaxes, naginatas, and on both sides, spears/yari. The swords were just there for when the primary weapon was broken or dropped. If you want to talk weapons optimized for duels, you're talking rapiers and smallswords and backswords and spadroons. The japanese never really made a specialized dueling weapon.

The forging process of the katana is designed to help prevent it from shattering, sort of... but it's exceptionally bad at accomplishing that task. The katana uses a soft non-carbuerized iron core to prevent the sword from shattering entirely when struck, because the high-carbon steel used in the edge is exceptionally brittle. The folding process introduces layers with slag between each layer, essentially making a laminated blade. When struck from the side in particular, these layers delaminate along the fault lines between each layer. Monosteel tempered blades like those used from the mid-14th century in Europe do not have these inherent slag fault lines in them. Katana are not tempered, and therefore unlike western swords, they do not have any "springiness" to them. The steel edge breaks when flexed, and the iron spine stays bent when flexed instead of springing back to shape. As a result, one really cannot flat parry with a katana. Or more accurately, you can, but run an exceptional risk of breaking it in the process. What's more, Europe was familiar with the use of forge-welded iron and steel of differing carbon content in the style of katanas. It was called pile construction or pattern welding, and was used by Celts over a thousand years before the Japanese developed their technique. http://www.vikingsword.com/serpent.html Most viking swords were pattern-welded. It was also considered completely inferior to tempered monosteel, and in fact the very best viking swords were among the first european monosteel swords- having been made with imported indian-made crucible steel (the indians having developed crucible steel before the europeans developed the blast furnace). Once the europeans developed the blast furnace in the 13th-14th century and were therefore capable of making good, consistent monosteels, pattern welding was considered completely obsolete. Yes, the iron ore deposits in Japan were fairly mediocre, but much more important is that the Japanese foundry techniques, used to extract the iron from that ore, was woefully inferior to a blast furnace. Poor foundry techniques makes mediocre steel.

Neither a katana nor a longsword will cut mail sufficiently to wound the wearer of the mail. Neither will cut plate at all. This is simple physics: the human body is just not capable of generating enough force to compromise that large of an area of steel. Against mail, the (typical, highly tapering) 14th and 15th century longsword with it's reinforced, narrow tip, is better at breaching links- and in fact is pointy enough to penetrate an inch or so into the wearer of the mail without ever having to compromise a single ring of the mail. The only thing that makes a katana a halfway decent thrusting weapon is that the whacking great thick blade is very stiff due simply to the ridiculously large amount of metal in the blade- which is also why a katana is so tip-heavy and so overall heavy compared to it's length.

The longsword, purely on a biomechanical basis, is a superior design, because it can actually do more. Many techniques cannot physically be performed without a back edge (double edged design). The longsword has an actual guard, which makes it far more effective for defending oneself from the opponents' strike, and again opens the option of using actual mordschlag (murder strike) with the crossguard, as well as enabling the use of the crossguard to push away the opponents blade, or to hook, pull, or disarm the opponent. You simply cannot do any of those things with the round guard of a katana. The longsword has a weighted steel pommel, while the katana does not: in addition to improving tip control and agility of the blade, it also opens up additional options for attacking, such as the pommel strike, which in my experience fencing, is a VERY heavily used attack, as fights frequently close to distances where a strike with the edge cannot be effectively delivered, and at those distances, a punch with the crossguard or pommel strike is the most effective strike. The katana can of course strike with the butt of the grip, but it has no weight there, and will be significantly less effective at it.

Some of you (Runec!) really need to actually look up some primary information from museums before spouting off ignorant and incorrect crap where you advertise your own lack of knowledge through being incorrect about very basic, fundamental statistics about weight, length, balance, or method of construction. I think some of you don't even know what a longsword is, and are falsely conflating the term with the much later two-handed renaissance swords (zweihander/ bidenhander/spadone/ greatsword)

So, to recap:
Runec claims that the longsword is heavier than a katana, AND IS WRONG
Runec claims the longsword was more simply constructed than a katana, AND IS WRONG (well, perhaps not wrong that the method is more simple, but wrong to imply that it is less technologically sophisticated, when in fact the superior smelting/ foundry production of european steel, combined with the actual use of tempering makes the longsword more technologically advanced)
Runec claims the katana is a weapon of war, AND IS WRONG,
Runec claims the katana is constructed to not shatter, AND IS WRONG (seriously, do you even understand forge welding and slag inclusions?)

I'm not sure that one single thing Runec claimed is in any way related to reality!
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Posted 10/17/16 , edited 10/17/16


Mordschlag, not mordhau. Hau is "hew", and is a cut. The mordschlag is a schlachten, or strike, executed with the sword held by the blade, using the pommel and crosspiece as a hammer. Used almost exclusively against armored opponents.

I'm not a big fan of Skallagrim. He's ok, but kind of... uh, more fanboy and less scholar. My youtube go-to on the topic would be Scholagladiatoria (Matt Easton), or perhaps Lindybeige.

Matt is a proper scholar, and corresponds regularly with experts in the field like Dr Tobias Capwell.

People need to at least watch Matt's series on the katana before they bother posting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnkVlK3BFLw&list=PLMUtS78ZxryO9NKU_ceM-LhcnSnAc2kHV
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Posted 10/17/16 , edited 10/17/16
To the fellow that claimed the longsword is a 15th century invention.... not really. The longsword was in use from the mid-14th century at the latest. In fact, there are surviving instruction manuals describing how to fight with a longsword, with the earliest known surviving manual (the Dobringer manuscript) dating to 1389- and that manual references the techniques taught by Johannes Lichtenauer, and implies master Lichtenauer was dead before the manuscript was written in 1389, which means not only did the swords exist, but a distinct fighting style had been developed for them by the mid 14th century.

Of course, there are also plenty of archeological finds. I would have to dig a bit to find when they first showed up in the archeological record; a quick look through my museum photos only served to annoy me, as it reminds me how poorly most museums label their displays; most items are missing length and weight, and many are missing data of construction and site of discovery as well. (would you believe that not a single placard from the Tokyo sword museum items actually lists the length or weight of the blades?)

Again, I think we may need to define what a "longsword" is, because it is not the same as the big two-handed renaissance swords. A longsword is a straight, double-edged pommeled sword with generally cruciform crossguard, full-tang hilt construction, two-handed grip, and blade length generally from 35-40 inches, designed to be worn on the hip. The renaissance two-handers are battlefield-only weapons which cannot be worn on the hip, and are not longswords.
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Posted 10/17/16

outontheop wrote:
Oh, hey, look, runec is spouting off ignorant drivel again!

Wow. Where to start.


You know you can join the discussion without being a pedantic dick about it.




Ranwolf wrote:
Technically speaking half the point of forging a Katana was to overcome the deficiencies of the raw material a swordsmith would have to work with. Japanese ore is terrible stuff , and unless it is in the hands of a master smith it is only fit for kitchen tools and cutlery . Personally speaking I also don't hold high hopes of a Samurai versus a Knight in full plate . Kenjutsu is not all suited to deal with proper armour. Japanese armour is little more then a joke, it's lacquered iron plates held together with silk string and backed with leather. Note I said iron not even properly tempered and hardened steel like a Knight's plate would have been.


Well, I'm not going to theorize on a knight vs a samurai. That's what we have awful shows like DEADLIEZT WARRIOR for.



Ranwolf wrote:
And while it's true banging a sword against plate armour isn't going to shatter it regardless if it's Katana or a Longsword there is a reason European knights largely abandoned cutting weapons and began to favour piercing and concussive weaponry as weapons of war. Dedicated cut and thrust swords like the Katana and the Longsword don't do jack all to a man covered in plate that is reinforced by leather backed mail which in turn has a padded gambeson underneath it. Hell even the simple brigandine and mail set up worn by most foot soldiers would likely give the Katana a run for it's money defence wise.


Neither weapon is ideal for facing a well armoured opponent but nor would a well armoured opponent be impervious. But I mean in the match up we're talking about any warrior that only had a sword to work with probably wasn't of high enough status/wealth to be in full heavy armour anyway.

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Posted 10/17/16
The longsword is more of a razor sharp bat to me, so I would rather be using that. If I need to cut large sheet metal into pieces, then I would rather be using my two axes, they get the job done easily.
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Posted 10/17/16 , edited 10/17/16

runec wrote:

You know you can join the discussion without being a pedantic dick about it.



When it comes to YOU, why would I EVER do that? You are such an arrogant, self-assured prick who continually makes unfounded assertions as though you're the final word on every topic, even though you are demonstrably wrong, time and again.

It's so much FUN pointing out how wrong you consistently are!

I'm sorry (not really!) that you love being praised for your opinion so much more than you love learning the actual truth!
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Posted 10/17/16

outontheop wrote:


runec wrote:

You know you can join the discussion without being a pedantic dick about it.



When it comes to YOU, why would I EVER do that? You are such an arrogant, self-assured prick who continually makes unfounded assertions as though you're the final word on every topic, even though you are demonstrably wrong, time and again.

It's so much FUN pointing out how wrong you consistently are!

I'm sorry (not sorry) that you love being praised for your opinion so much more than you love learning the actual truth!




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Posted 10/17/16 , edited 10/17/16


And yet, the fact remains that once again, you spouted off about something you know nothing about, were not only wrong, but COMPLETELY opposite of the truth, and when confronted with actual evidence of reality, you play stupid word games instead of just admitting you were wrong!

You're clearly more interested in "winning" online debates than you are in actually learning. Sad, really.
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Posted 10/17/16

outontheop wrote:



And yet, the fact remains that once again, you spouted off about something you know nothing about, were not only wrong, but COMPLETELY opposite of the truth, and when confronted with actual evidence of reality, you play stupid word games instead of just admitting you were wrong!

You're clearly more interested in "winning" online debates than you are in actually learning. Sad, really.


Ease up.

I'm delighted that someone here actually knows swords. There is and was far too much cringy bs in this thread which I'm glad you've shot down. Thanks for the good work, excellent posts.

Settle on the hate though, you're drowning your point.

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Posted 10/18/16 , edited 10/18/16
To anyone interested in learning a bit about how european blades were made, I would highly recommend looking up "The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period " by Alan Williams
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Posted 10/18/16
Why not cutlass? Yarr. .
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Posted 10/18/16

outontheop wrote:



Mordschlag, not mordhau. Hau is "hew", and is a cut. The mordschlag is a schlachten, or strike, executed with the sword held by the blade, using the pommel and crosspiece as a hammer. Used almost exclusively against armored opponents.

I'm not a big fan of Skallagrim. He's ok, but kind of... uh, more fanboy and less scholar. My youtube go-to on the topic would be Scholagladiatoria (Matt Easton), or perhaps Lindybeige.

Matt is a proper scholar, and corresponds regularly with experts in the field like Dr Tobias Capwell.

People need to at least watch Matt's series on the katana before they bother posting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnkVlK3BFLw&list=PLMUtS78ZxryO9NKU_ceM-LhcnSnAc2kHV


I had gotten the word from Wikipedia, because I have difficulty with remembering German words. They list several words to call it, with "mordschlag" also being one of them. I went with the first listing.

I like Skalla well enough. I didn't start following Skalla for history, but for product reviews. Thanks for the link.
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Posted 10/18/16 , edited 10/18/16
I have a feeling the guy who gets hit by either sword first loses. Most sword injuries made against people who wore armor targeted the gaps between plates anyway - that was standard procedure in medieval times. I'm inclined to believe a katana can target those gaps as well as any other.

Sword fights aren't like you see in anime / movies. They were usually over after a single blow / parry. Even in fencing - it may not always be the case but it's usually over very fast.
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