Question for the Readers: The Arms Race

Since I won’t be fencing this week, thereby depriving me of anything to talk about, I thought I would just stay silent.  But then I realized that was just not gonna happen.  So I have a couple of questions for the readership, and would especially love to hear from non-Atlantians:

1) What is the median* tournament blade length of intermediate to advanced fighters in your kingdom?  The max and min (discarding dagger fighting and similar stuff)?

2) What is the median primary sword on the melee field in your kingdom?

3) What length is your primary tourney weapon?  Primary melee sword

4) Is the increasing availability of longer weapons good or bad for SCA rapier?

*For the non-statistical nerd types, Median is the middle number, so where as you might have an average(mean) of 37.14″ or 40.5″ or something, your median would be 37 or 38 or 40 or 42 (or whatever other length weapons are available out there)

11 comments to Question for the Readers: The Arms Race

  • 1. About 42″ Many of the top fencers use 45’s. As far as I know, all but one of the our kingdom rapier tournaments have been won by someone using a 45. (The exception was with a 42) 37’s are pretty common here as well. Every once in a while someone will have something shorter.
    2. About 42″
    3. I use a 39″ and a 42″ – I prefer a 42″ for tournaments and melees.
    4. Depends. The West kind of has a tradition of “bringing your best” to the field as opposed to matching weapons or blade lengths. The competitive side of me appreciates facing off against someone knowing that they are bringing their best and giving me their all – it feels good when I am able to beat them. On the other hand, it’s frustrating to be the newish (but promising) fencer with a 37″ rapier facing off against a six and a half foot tall guy using a 45.

    David – West Kingdom

  • Dante di Pietro

    1) I think we see mostly 40″s.
    2) Most people just have one sword, but some do have a 45″ melee sword. Meh.
    3) The correct length for me, in the system I use, is 43″.
    4) 37″-45″ is all the same to me. Whatever. If it’s a realistic simulator, there’s no advantage. Longer blades move slower, faster blades reach closer. My older sword was 38″, and I won a couple dozen tournaments with it, give or take.

  • Gawin

    1 & 2 were answered for me by Dante.

    3.) As you already know, I prefer my 45″ for both tournament and melee, though I usually fight case with my 37″ in melees.

    4.) Fencing, like pretty much all martial arts come down to timing, distance, and speed. A lot of the “advantage” of my 45″ blade would be negated if my opponent didn’t stand in measure half the bout.

    I don’t really agree with framing this as an “arms race” as it implies that the sword, rather than the fencer, are responsible for success or failure in a bout.

  • Michael Wymarc

    1) I think it’s 37 (30-45)
    2) As far as I know it’s also 37
    3) 37-38. Also 37-38 (only one sword atm)
    4) Did they use them? Are we still a society concerned with history? If the answer to both is yes, how could it be a bad thing?

  • Staffan Arffuidsson

    Greetings from the West! Actually there are quite a few out here that match blade lengths; which tells me that they own several different sizes. So, the information below is an estimate.

    1) I’m guessing around 40” or so.
    2) I’d stay with 40” for this one.
    3) Since they both are the same sword (tourney and melee), I have a 42” (my secondary is a 40”).
    4) I’m indifferent about the “arms race”. I think fighters need to fight with what they are comfortable with, and train with said blade so they are also safe with it.


    In Service,
    Staffan Arffuidsson

  • Gawin

    @Michael: A lot of period fencing manuals depict fairly long swords. While there may be some artistic license involved in the woodcuts, the images in Giganti, for instance depict blades that reach from the left ankle to the right wrist during a lunge. On me thats about 54″

  • Gawin

    I know I’ve also read a description of blade length (in some fencing manual or another) that the blade should reach a man’s chest (on me thats 48″).

    The link Dante provided seems to support the use of longer blades, and furthermore it might be important to note that the average male is a bit taller now. (5’10” vs 5’6″ or so). I wonder whether Silver’s dislike of extremely long “thrusting only” swords is reflected in this collection. It may be the case that these blade lengths are only representative of English rapiers. Furthermore, reliance on more cuts may be the reason for some of the much shorter, denser blades. Dante, do you happen to have similar information about Italian rapiers?

    • Michael Wymarc

      The article seems to focus only on blades classified as rapiers, and does not include other blades such as daggers, backswords (and other shorter swords), or longswords. The article definitely shows that longer blades are period, assuming they were not used just for display.

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