Rapier vs. Katana

This is a South Korean school playing with a Japanese vs. HEMA martial art match, first at 4/5ths speed and later at full speed.

I'll give you an interpretive hint: this match is going to be rapier all day. The rapier is better steel, it is longer, and it is deadly at the point. The katana has to work mostly on slashing motions that require the shorter blade to use a longer part of the overall blade length to generate killing force. The rapier guy taps his wrist a few times to indicate contact, but he's got a basket hilt that will have limited the force the katana can deliver to his wrists: he's indicating cuts. His blows are deadly penetrating stabs.

Watch how he holds the center through the whole match, his opponent always driven to the periphery. It's objectively a better weapon, a better style.

The rapier is not a joke, even though in our movie culture it's generally treated as a toy, and the katana (following Japanese cinema) as if it were a magic weapon.

It is possible to beat a longer stabbing weapon with a shorter slashing one, but it requires going outside the rules of formal fencing.


ymarsakar said...

Nani kore. What are they doing.

Here's a list of how not to die

1. Don't allow rapier guy to touch your stick and understand its length. Reverse over hand stance, point the tip at the enemy, just like a German longsword user. Withdraw all extremities from enemy range. The blade is part of the body.

2. Throw stuff at enemy. Draw secondary weapons.

3. Throw the sword at the enemy using the infamous helicopter.

4. Use a gauntlet glove that is cut resistant but still grips, which means modern materials not metal. I suppose ancient material would be hardened leather layered over chainmail.

These Koreans have been in peace time way too long.

ymarsakar said...

What's this guy in the Rob video doing, nani kore.

If you can dodge enemy attacks that well, you can certainly select the tendons in the wrist to cut/pierce, preventing the arm from gripping your stupid weak steel stick.

The Cabal has their advantages and humanity has different advantages and weaknesses. This game is very similar in that sense. One has to make sure the enemy is dead, before prancing into a victory parade.

raven said...

An old China Marine I knew was convinced the M-1 rifle, Thomson gun and 1919 Browning trumped the katana and bayonet. He had practical experience with banzai charges on Guadalcanal.

Grim said...

A fair number of those swords came into American hands via the Moros, who took them off the Imperial Japanese and then lost them to Pershing’s army near Zamboanga. Of course, the Imperials had them because they had first killed off the samurai.

E Hines said...

It seemed to me that neither of the Korean swordsmen were fighting anything other than defensively aggressive; although the man with the Katana was a little more aggressive. Neither pressed their attack, especially the man with the foil as the katana slash took that sword briefly out of the fight. Neither had a good read on the other's tells, but if they'd not encountered each other much before, that's to be expected. And neither had a dagger in the off hand.

I've had some fencing, but I always preferred the sabre--I like an edge as well as a point; it shouldn't be an either-or proposition. The Rob Roy movie was entertaining, but as I recall, Roy was dragged more or less trotting behind his captor's horse to that castle, and he had little opportunity to rest and recuperate before the duel. And both men seemed to forget that their swords had points; it was all hack and slash.

Still that stuff--the rules of formal fencing--is suitable only for the dojo or a careful arena; it has no place in the real world. There, the only rule is to win. Full stop.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There is an undeserved mythology about the katana, that it is so superior in design that it has been unchanged for hundreds of years. One might substitute in the word "unimproved" instead and get a clearer picture.

raven said...

A skilled metalsmith , well versed in Japanese metallurgy, told me the Europeans had surpassed the Japanese in alloying and tempering about the year 1000.

One thing to said for the katana, it never lost it's way- the sword my father brought back from the Pacific was very sharp, obviously intended to do a days work and not be an ornamental device to enhance a dress uniform.
Related to the topic, I read some account of the Vietnam war once, where the writer had found a cave filled with weapons acquired by the Vietnamese from the Japanese- there is a lot of history is wrapped up in weapons, which tend to stay around for a long time due to durability and desirability.

Ymar Sakar said...

Modern steel no longer have the imperfections of jap iron ore.

Remember, asians were the ones who used paper as armor.

Modern katanas are exported from western or chinese forges, but the tempering and quench for these exotic alloys is still most of the blacksmith skill. No machine can do that.

T10 tool steel alloys were around 1 to 3k usd. Jap exports are regulated. 10 to 30k usd.

L6 baininite is provably the closest wr have got to damascus or indian wootz. Su0erior in some ways.

But what people do not know... is the sonic vibration skills. Catcher and pitcher. Swordsman and blacksmith.

Therr is a particular skill involved in creating cutting waves. Now lost. It is how diamonds are cut. A facet. A sheet.

That requires closing the range to way too close. With a 3 to 4ft steel blade, the target has to be brought to the 1st or 2nd ft range. Because they can just dodge outside the range at 3 ft.

This is forced check. To bring the opponent so close they must act in limited ways. Every weapon has a min optimum and max range.

Ymar Sakar said...

Proper tactics keeps enemy at between optimum and max range. The longer range foe has theinitiative. They can kite.

Alt wise the brawler or shorter range foe, needs to get really close. Too close. While engaging they will take dmg from enemy fire. This is same for firearms as melee.

Once the price is paid, then you can fire back.

Tom said...

The katana fighter used quite a bit of point in this video (first about 1:37-8, for example). The weapons are designed for that, of course.

The katana was originally designed to cut through armor and the fighting style was designed for war in the field. The broad stances come from needing to keep your footing on uneven ground; they are slow and unnecessary on a dojo floor, but they are the tradition people are preserving. Likewise, although we don't see it here much, the long swinging arcs of the sword are designed to build the power to chop through armor.

Take these guys out on an open field suitable for a medieval battle, add armor, and see how it changes. It might come out the same, but it might not.

The use of the katana as a dueling weapon I believe really got started after about 1600, after Japan was unified by the Tokugawa and large-scale battles nearly ceased. Samurai (bushi) still carried katanas in daily life, but armor wasn't necessary. Then you had duels with the weapons when two men got crosswise. Still, it was a battlefield weapon co-opted for dueling.

I don't know the style the fellow with the katana is using, but a more appropriate katana style might be Niten Ichi Ryu. It was developed mostly after unification and was used for dueling. It's footwork is lighter, stances narrower, and it's cuts are tight and some of them have the delicacy of the rapier. Also, it's famous as a two-sword style, with katana in one hand and wakizashi in the other.

Tom Bridgeland said...

Visited a museum of swords in Japan. They had a private collection on display, hundreds of long and short Japanese swords. I was surprised to see great variety in blades, heavy, slim, straight, very curved. Some looked very much like a mid-1800s era cavalry saber. There was no clear distinction in length. Some were clearly short-swords, others long, but there were lots in the middle.

The classic Japanese katana we know from movies was not the norm, at all. I suspect we have that image due to WW-2 era Japanese officer swords, mass-produced.