A Practical Shortsword Method

A Practical Shortsword Method

This is a discussion on A Practical Shortsword Method within the Defensive Knives & Other Weapons forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; A Practical Short Sword Method By Phil Elmore As gun laws become more strict, those of us in North America and particularly self-defense-minded citizens abroad ...

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Thread: A Practical Shortsword Method

  1. #1
    Ex Member Array Phil Elmore's Avatar
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    A Practical Shortsword Method

    A Practical Short Sword Method
    By Phil Elmore

    As gun laws become more strict, those of us in North America and particularly self-defense-minded citizens abroad turn to “alternative” weapons in the search to improve our odds of defending against a violent attack. Many choose blades of varying size to fill this need, and for good reason. The knife is a powerful and portable implement for multiplying force. Some carry very small knives, while others carry much larger blades. At some point, however, those blades cease to be knives and become swords.

    One of the eternal debates among the “tactical community,” not to mention among knife collectors and arms aficionados, is that of the dividing line between “long knife” and “short sword.” Most of us can recognize a knife when we see one, and most of us can recognize a sword when we see one – provided these tools reside safely on one or the other end of the scale. There is that gray zone in the middle, however, within which knives become so large – or swords so short – that one man’s dagger is another man’s gladius.

    I believe a good working definition focuses on the way in which the tool may be wielded relative to the body of the wielder. A blade that is roughly the length of your forearm or longer, but which may be manipulated within the arc of your arm, can be considered a “short sword,” whereas any blade so long that it cannot be manipulated within the arc of the arm is a sword proper (a long blade). This is a fairly subjective distinction, but one that I think makes logical sense – as the only point in classifying a blade as one or the other is to define how it is (or should be) used.

    Very large knives and short swords are extremely effective tools for self-defense. A blade up to “short sword” size can be concealed effectively under an outer garment of three-quarters length, while some short swords can even be tucked into the waistband at one’s side. Such a blade can also be kept at home in a handy location, where it makes an effective self-defense weapon at close quarters. Unlike a full-sized sword, the short sword can be used indoors, in hallways and where ceilings are relatively low, without significantly impeding the wielder. It is still long enough to give the defender an advantage against an attacker wielding a short knife, a small club, or some other close-quarters tool (a gun is another matter).

    The length of a short sword is also more than sufficient to penetrate deeply or even completely through the human torso, reaching vital organs with an ease smaller knives cannot share. Large knives with full-sized handles are also arguably easier to manipulate, in gross motor terms, than are smaller blades. They can be used to strike and block more easily because their larger size requires less precision than does targeting with a small blade.

    A practical short sword method need not be complicated to work. It starts with a basic ready stance – guard hand up, feet staggered and roughly shoulder-width apart with the knees slightly bent, with the short sword held low near the body and pointing toward the threat.


    Ready Position

    From the ready position, the wielder can step in with a thrust (or thrust at close range without stepping, such as when intercepting a rush). The true power of the short sword is in the thrust, in the blade’s ability to penetrate the opponent and do so quickly and efficiently.

    To put the blade in front of the body for a more aggressive posture requires only that the defender take that step before striking. This has the advantage of placing the defender behind his weapon, but it also exposes the weapon limb to possible counters or preemptive attacks. The length of the short sword (versus the length of a knife) helps offset this possible vulnerability considerably.


    Ready Position with Blade Forward

    Short, hacking slashes with the short sword are reasonably intuitive and need not be complicated further. A basic Angle 1 (diagonal from strong side to weak side) or Angle 2 (diagonal from weak side to strong side) can be performed at any level of the body. The blade can also move vertically in overhand or underhand attacks.

    The short sword may also be used to deflect incoming strikes. Linear strikes can be deflected with a gunting (scissors) slash (or with the slash alone, without using the off hand to push the limb into the defender’s blade). This can be done from the inside or the outside (moving outside the attacker’s limb, or stopping the limb while you are inside of it).


    Deflecting a Linear Strike from the Inside


    Deflecting a Linear Strike from the Outside

    Defending against angular attacks requires the defender either to pass the attack (let it go by) and then slash against the knife-bearing limb, or intercept the attack from inside the attacking angle, using the blade to block and the off hand to support that block. The blade of the short sword can immediately follow up the attacker’s weapon limb to meet the attacker’s neck.


    Deflecting an Angular Attack

    When thrusting with the short sword, pump the weapon like the needle of a sewing machine. As Matthew Woodring Stover wrote, “attack, attack, attack” – overwhelm your attacker with repeated strikes. In the same manner, when defending against an attack using the short sword, always follow up immediately after passing or blocking that attack. Meet or avoid the weapon and immediately seize the initiative, bringing your blade to the opponent with vigor and ruthless determination.

    The short sword is a relic of another time, but it remains an effective, potentially lethal weapon. It can be used to defend your person and your home as easily as it can be misused. Respect the weapon for its power and its potential, and act accordingly.


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    VIP Member Array raevan's Avatar
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    Thanks Phil, always love your posts. That Gladius looks about as long as my French Artillery Sword, maybe a little longer because of the style of point.

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    Member Array Reffy's Avatar
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    I like the idea, but wouldn't this be extremely hard to conceal...and something as deadly and intimidating as a short sword is something that NEEDS to be concealed.
    However, I do like it as a home defense.

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    New Member Array Yougetoverit's Avatar
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    Thank you Phil for your well thought out insight and knowledge. I've visited your online magazine before and admire your work. Eventually I'll probably be in the market for a short sword, but it's hard because there are so many out there and it's hard for a sword/knife to meet most of my criteria. Also, I would want to run them past the forums to weed out the fantasy stuff so that I can focus on quality short swords.

  5. #5
    Ex Member Array Phil Elmore's Avatar
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    The short sword pictured is actually relatively easily concealed on either hip inside the waistband, where it extends along the length of the leg. Under an appropriate jacket it is invisible. I don't recommend it; weapons like this shine as home-defense and in-vehicle tools. But it can be done. I've seen an entire machete concealed in this way, under disturbing circumstances.

    Yougetoverit, any of the sword items from Cold Steel and generally anything from Hanwei will be functional. Avoid "swords" made of stainless steel (you want carbon steel) and never buy anything from Windlass in India (marketed by Atlanta Cutlery -- the sword shown is actually a Windlass, with typically disappointing quality for the price, but perfect for this article).

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    Great read!!!

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    New Member Array Yougetoverit's Avatar
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    I thought I posted this question this past Monday, but now I don't see it here now, so I'll ask again: What would the ideal overall legnth for a short sword for an average size man if I wanted it for the purposes of display and in-home (in an apartment) self defense?

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    Phil your post is right on as usual.

    Short swords and hand axes are probably the most effective weapons in a confined enviroment. With a little training a shortsword can be used effectively by most anyone.

    Please keep posting, I always enjoy reading your posts

  9. #9
    Ex Member Array Phil Elmore's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yougetoverit View Post
    I thought I posted this question this past Monday, but now I don't see it here now, so I'll ask again: What would the ideal overall legnth for a short sword for an average size man if I wanted it for the purposes of display and in-home (in an apartment) self defense?

    I could swear I answered it, too -- perhaps the site went down and was restored to a backup prior to when that exchange happened?

    To answer your question, choose the longest blade you can wield that is still short enough to be manipulated within the span of your arms.

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    Yes, we lost some posts unfortunately due to the sudden crisis.
    Chris - P95
    NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.

    "To own a gun and assume that you are armed
    is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."


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  11. #11
    Member Array Gary Brommeland's Avatar
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    I've got to comment here: From both a practical and legal standpoint, this is the worst idea that I have seen posted on a forum in longer than I can remember.
    I'm a big fan of free speech, so I am not going to moderate it (at least not at this point), but to all the new, inexperienced folks who might be tempted to try this - DON'T! If you don't cut off key body parts on the draw, and your opponent does not shoot you full of holes, the prosecutor who gets this one will absolutely crucify you. It is a lose/lose proposition.

  12. #12
    Ex Member Array Phil Elmore's Avatar
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    The purpose of this brief piece is not to advocate carry or use of a short sword over firearms, Gary. (I'm glad it's not your habit to moderate topics with which you simply disagree.)

    Those of us with a background in martial arts and self-defense topics other than firearms recognize the utility of large blades; if you cannot carry a gun, a blade of short-sword or even full-sized sword length is one viable option, far less preferable than a firearm but no less utiliatarian. While legally it is fact that any use of a weapon in self-defense will bring with it potentially negative consequences -- consequences that increase with the use of an "alternative" weapon -- the scenario posed is not, "Choose a sword over a gun." Rather it is, "Use a sword instead of nothing." Further, this article is an attempt to distill in simple terms just how, physically, such an implement is wielded.

    As for "cutting off key body parts on the draw," I don't believe that's a realistic comment. It's on par with the people who say, "Don't carry a gun because the other guy's just going to take it away from you and use it against you." Considering that we're among an audience of people who carry and use firearms, it's a bit insulting to say that they're immediately going to start slicing themselves up when they draw a blade, presumably because they're lobster-clawed amateurs with no clue what they're doing. Obviously, you should have at least a modicum of training and presence of mind when using any weapon, blades included.

    I'm a firm believer in knowing, understanding, and being able to wield as many forms, types, and styles of weaponry as possible, on the theory that you never know what you'll have or need until things go badly. This is why I carry a firearm, not a gladius. Unlike some, however, I also believe it is useful to know just how to use such a tool -- say, a double-bladed Condor combat machete -- in the event that my firearms are unavailable to me for whatever reason.

  13. #13
    Member Array Lawrence Keeney's Avatar
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    For people who live in weapons phobic areas and have a need for self defense items, this is a viable alternative.

    It's better than a sharp rock or a harsh word.
    "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie. Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong." Denny Crane:

  14. #14
    Member Array Gary Brommeland's Avatar
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    Phil,
    I studied Kendo under a Sensei who was from a generational Bushi family line tracing it's roots back for centuries. I also studied Iado. Based upon that training, I still feel as though you are advocating self amputation.
    There are many self defense alternatives to firearms that are more viable today than swords. Canes, Bo, Jo and plain ole Fox Labs pepper spray will all look much better to a jury than your having made some guy look like he was the subject of a Ginseu commercial.

    I understand that the point of your post was that of exploring alternatives to firearms, in areas in which firearms are severely restricted, or altogether unavailable. However, should you be discovered carrying a concealed sword in most any jurisdiction, you're goin' to jail. By contrast, a guy who can use a cane, Bo or Jo will flat thump your butt into a state of unconsciousness before you can draw a concealed blade of that length, and are rarely seen as weapons.
    For those without a martial arts background, a Bo is a "long staff" - usually 6 or so feet in length, sometimes longer. A Jo is a "short staff", usually about 4-5 feet in length. Either can be used as a walking stick in a rural environment, and are very, very effective in trained hands. In a more urban setting, a cane is a very fast, deadly tool in the proper hands. Any of these impact weapons are going to be seen much more favorably by a jury, and with the right training, can be used to do anything from disarm an opponent - to knocking them out - to killing them, as need be. They allow a proper "escalation of force" that will permit you to use the appropriate level of force for whatever situation you find yourself in. That will make you look reasonable and responsible to a jury, rather than like you're ready for a jacket that zips up the back.

    FWIW, my advice is to move to a place where you CAN get a CCW, take a few courses from John Farnam and carry a pistol wherever it is legal to do so. It will most always prove superior to a blade, stick or pepper spray.

  15. #15
    Ex Member Array Phil Elmore's Avatar
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    FWIW, my advise is to move to a place where you CAN get a CCW, take a few courses from John Farnam and carry a pistol wherever it is legal to do so. It will most always prove superior to a blade, stick or pepper spray.
    I understand where you're coming from Gary, but to me that advice is a lot like the classic response to, "How do I survive a barfight," which is often said to be, "Stay out of bars." The response doesn't address the spirit of the question in the case of that example. In the case of THIS post, I'm simply offering a viable alternative for those who cannot, for whatever reason, avail themselves of more contemporary options. I do not presume to dictate to the reader what his options aren't, and that's my general philosophy when approachign a weapon of any type or provenance.

    My own blade training is primarily Chinese and Filipino, focusing on blades of all lengths (particularly those of shorter and machete lengths), rather than focused on traditional Japanese full-sized sword methods. Perhaps there is the source of the disconnect. There is no danger of "self amputation" if one has even a reasonable familiarity with shorter blades, though of course I'd no more tell an amateur to go out and buy a sword than I would tell him to go out and buy a gun (without first educating himself).

    There are many self defense alternatives to firearms that are more viable today than swords. Canes, Bo, Jo and plain ole Fox Labs pepper spray will all look much better to a jury than your having made some guy look like he was the subject of a Ginseu commercial.
    Again, this article does NOT advocate the short sword OVER another method. It offers it as ONE alternative among the implied many. I would much rather have a large blade than a can of pepper spray, however. One is a potentially lethal weapon and also a useful tool, and the other is a pressurized accessory of only limited efficacy on determined attackers.

    However, should you be discovered carrying a concealed sword in most any jurisdiction, you're goin' to jail.
    That is true and I have not disputed that. I presume the reader is smart enough to check his local laws and behave accordingly. I don't carry a concealed long blade myself, for that very reason.

    By contrast, a guy who can use a cane, Bo or Jo will flat thump your butt into a state of unconsciousness before you can draw a concealed blade of that length, and are rarely seen as weapons.
    This is simply not true, at least when offered as a generalization. A cane is certainly an extremely effective weapon (one of the many we cover at The Martialist, in fact), as is a short staff or a long staff (we covered the staff, too). To say that reach alone will permit you to defeat someone armed with a long blade is to over-generalize and assume too much, however.

    You could just as easily say, "A guy with a cane will thump you before you can draw a handgun from concealment." Any weapon that must be drawn from concealment before it can be used can be jammed or otherwise intercepted by someone, especially if that someone has a tool of longer reach and is within (his) range.

    The basic rule of dealing with any weapon when armed with a disparate weapon is that he with the shorter tool must move quickly to get inside the effective operating range of the opponent's weapon, while he with the longer weapon must do what he can to keep the other fellow outside. I am not willing to place bets on who will win the contest, knowing nothing about the relative skill of either combatant. Both have advantages and disadvantages.

    Any impact tool of any size has a less-than-lethal option compared to any blade of any size. This does not mean you can simply say, "Carry an impact tool instead of a blade" without defining context and application. I argue, then, that the same applies to hyperbolic statements like, "This is the worst idea I've seen in a forum in a long time." Taken out of context, the blade means nothing. Inserted into a context for which it was not intended, it becomes parody.

    Examined in context, the piece as I offered it is nothing more or less than the mechanics of using a blade of this length, according to very reasonable principles. Decrying it as dangerous to the user legally is certainly reasonable enough -- and this is implied whenever a weapon is used in self-defense. Decrying it as dangerous to the user physically simply isn't accurate and this should be evident to those with training in blades of this length.

    At any rate, I respect your opinion and your position, though I argue that you're forcing my original piece into a context for which it was not intended.

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