1. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Knife vs. Sword

    Discussion in 'Research' started by TyrannusRex, Jan 27, 2017.

    Please note that the scenario described below is a work in progress and subject to change.
    There is a point in one of my stories where a main character (wielding a knife- albeit a very long one made for combat) clashes with the main villain (wielding a hand-and-a-half sword). The sword-wielding combatant is older, being both a more skilled warrior, but also tiring more easily than the younger knife-wielder.
    After a fierce clash (in which the youngster is able to dash about more quickly and whittle away at his opponent), the veteran begins to tire of wielding the heavier weapon; he basically says "You really want to play it that way, then?", casting off his sword and reentering combat with a knife.
    How plausible is this? Admittedly, the villain is hellbent on killing his opponent and is getting fed up with this youngster's bull***t, but was he really that wise in abandoning the slower, yet farther-reaching, weapon? The kid was able to slip in close and attack him a few times with the knife anyway, so would it really matter which weapon the villain used to start with?

    *I wrote the scene this way for dramatic effect; the clash gets much quicker and more dangerous for the protagonist once the villain moves in with a knife. I'm just asking for outside opinion on the plausibility of this fight in general.
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I'd take a step back to before he wants to use the knife.

    Have you ever squared off with swords (like rattan or whatever)? If the younger opponent is basically running away and tiring out the older opponent, I could perhaps see that. If he's attacking--actually getting in close enough to score some hits and then withdraw without getting his head (or some other body part) caved in, I'd need a lot more set up to establish why the character can do this. Try it squaring off with someone, and if they're skilled (like you said the older guy is) there's no way you're getting in and out without getting hit, I don't care how fast you think you are. And in general it's not going to take many hits from a hand-and-a-half weapon to seriously ruin this guys' day.

    That's my take.

    As for abandoning for the knife--seems to me a skilled warrior is going to go with what he's good at. If he's good with the sword, it gives him reach and I think if I were in his shoes I'd stick with it. If he's not good with the sword so that it is causing him more trouble than not, I could see changing.
     
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  3. Kerilum

    Kerilum Active Member

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    Fuck swords go knives!
     
  4. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Reach and skill are advantages in a fight. It would be more than likely the elder
    more experienced combatant will use his wisdom and knowledge. Where the younger
    will not have those to go on, relying on speed and strength. A standard arming sword
    is about a kilo which is not all that heavy, so a hand and half would maybe be just a
    little heavier. As long as your antag is not too old, and in good physical condition would
    wipe the floor with a young guy with a knife in a sword fight.

    The only reason he might discard a sword is if there is combat in a narrow space like
    a hallway, where it will catch on the walls and possibly the ceiling. If he does not then
    he may employ a half-swording technique (holding the blade, and no he won't cut
    his fingers off) and use it accordingly.

    Basically your MC can do a few things.
    1. Wear him down in a long drawn out fight, and then kill him.
    2. Get lucky and manage to get in a few fatal stabs, possibly taking a few cuts and hits.
    3. Take the sword away or disarm him.
    4. Last ditch based on skill and luck, throw the knife and kill him or severely wound him.
    5. Challenge him to a bare knuckle fight, putting them on equal terms.
    6. Consider the things surrounding them that can be used to counter balance using a knife v. sword.
    7. Manage to get behind, and take him out that way.

    Those are but a few, it just depends on your MCs skill and abilities.
    Though it will be a challenge considering the other has the exp.
    that your MC does not.
    BewareOldWarriors.png
     
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  5. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    Swords aren't actually tiring if used correctly. Using the hilt in a pivot motion with one hand near the pommel and the other at the top. You can easily make snap cuts that way.

    If the old guy doesn't run around and chase, and relies on keeping the sword close to him for defence and uses snap cuts and he's more skilled, he should at least stalemate the younger opponent.
     
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  6. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    Unscrew your sword's pommel and end him rightly.
     
  7. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Perhaps a bit of background is useful.
    The order to which the younger character belongs, knives are their signature weapons, so everyone is equipped with one.
    The older character abandoned the order long ago, but was involved with them for a long time, so he knows the intricacies of knife combat.
    He took up the sword as his primary weapon, to show that he was different, that he'd cut ties to the order. So presumably, he is more adept with the weapon he was first trained to use.
    I was also debating having the MC nearly die, but his two friends arrive in time to save him, distracting/disabling the villain just long enough...
     
  8. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    If old man keeps the sword, the young one will have a very hard time using the knife without getting tagged. If he trades down the sword for a knife, realistically it could go either way. Even taking what you said into account. Someone who's just decent with the sword will beat someone very good with a knife practically every time. You'd have to be a freaking virtuoso with a knife to win this.
     
  9. PilotMobius

    PilotMobius Active Member

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    I've never done HEMA, but I have done baton vs knife sparring with friends. I assume a sword would be the same as using a baton but sharper. Reach gives a really good advantage in combat.

    A more realistic scenario would be having the MC be fully armored. The villain would hit the MC with the sword a couple of time with no damage, so he comes in with a knife or metal spike to get between the plates in the armor.
    image.jpg They had to bring in dudes with war-picks because swords couldnt get through armor like this.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    Could he decide to use the knife as a point of honor? Maybe that doesn't fit his character. Keeping the sword makes this hard on the knife-wielded and thus the older guy would need a good reason to give up that advantage.
     
  11. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    This would be my preference as to how this battle ends. My ideal final battle is one that showcases how the villain and the hero are similar on so many levels. By the end of the novel, both have proven that they'll go to great lengths to get what they desire. They may have both performed rather 'ruthless' actions---a trait definitive of the antagonist and, eventually, the protagonist. Because the antagonist has likely been doing it longer, of course he is going to have the advantage. Of course the sword is going to beat the knife. Of course reach is going to have an advantage. Of course the more skilled, slightly older soldier is going to win.

    But the protagonist has something the villain doesn't--friendship. Companionship and comradery. Maybe there was a point in the past where the hero LET GO of his desires to help one of his friends. Maybe he put his story-goal SECOND to aiding an ally, doing something good, or making a difference. It's in the moment of the final battle when that choice shines through. Where the hero's previous actions are rewarded. His friends only have to distract the bad guy just long enough. As long as the audience WANTS to see it---and they will if your protagonist has sacrificed to get it---then that's the best way to face the ending.

    The protagonist and antagonist, by the end of a story, might not be so different. But the protagonist, if he's a good guy, will likely have put his desires aside once or twice to help others. Let that come full circle, let cause lead to effect, in those final moments before the antagonist discovered what his ruthlessness has led him to.
     
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  12. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Senior Member

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    I've never fought anyone to the death in a sword/battle knife fight, so I'm no expert or even close. However, I'm pretty sure that this sword is going to beat out anyone armed with even a long knife. There isn't that much difference in the speed and energy involved. I fully expect a swordsman wielding a hand-and-a-half sword to put down anyone using a combat knife very quickly.

    Here's a mere demonstration sans actual fighting. A good swordsman should probably be faster than this. But this gives a good idea what you're looking at.
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    If they aren't wearing armour, throwing the knife could be an option allowing it to be used as a projectile weapon from outside the range of the sword - its a risky move though because you only get one chance and if you miss you're dead
     
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    The other option is for the protag to use a weapon of convenience in his other hand like a sword (such as metal pole of some sort, or a peice of wood etc) then he can use the knife as the italians use to refer to 'a main guache' that is that as the swordsman is knocked off balance by his sword blow being parried the knife man strikes to the kidneys with his knife in his left hand.
     
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  15. Fearg Dearg

    Fearg Dearg New Member

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    With a sword, you want the opponent at a distance where the pointy end is, you won't be nearly as effective trying to hit something right in your face.So when the opportunity presents itself your knife wielder gets right in and sticks to the swordsman not allowing any distance, he tries to wrestle some stabs in. Then your swordsman decides to discard his sword as its too cumbersome for this closeness and we have our nice knife fight :)
    I have no experience in swords and such but this way make sense to me.
     
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  16. ToBeInspired

    ToBeInspired Senior Member

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    In combat settings a knife is more useful by enacting a surprise attack. It has lesser reach, than a hand and a half sword, thus requiring closer proximity to the target. This mean a knife wielder is at a distinct advantage in prolonged combat.

    You need to mitigate this advantage to make your scene plausible. One of the most attributing factors of war is DISTANCE. This can come in the form of mount mobility, line of supplies, or weapon reach. A good example of this are calvary archers.

    I would use terrain to the younger combatants advantage. For instance, they could fight at an area that is rocky (think Scotland), allowing the younger fighter to create ambushes and distance. The older gentleman would tire faster and possibly twist an ankle. Perhaps the younger retreats into a dark cave and the injured elderly fighter throws down his sword sue to his mobility being lessened and the uncertainty of having room to properly utilize a sword.

    I would steer clear of throwing his dagger. Throwing knives are specifically balanced for accuracy. Having him throw a combat knife is a good way to have him fight unarmed.
     
  17. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    This is true - when I suggested that the knife was thrown I was taking it as given that it would then be written as suitable for that purpose
     
  18. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel Contributor

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    Maybe the sword figter gets his sword stuck in a tree or a peasant or something.
     
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  19. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    I realize I'm late to this discussion and you've probably already written the scene, but I thought I would contribute in case someone asks a similar question in the future and stumbles across this thread.

    I have several years of experience sparring with all different kinds of weapons, so I like to think I know what I'm talking about. I have actually practiced this exact match-up quite a number of times. In the case described with a more skilled opponent wielding a longsword against a knife-armed opponent, the man with the sword will win close to 95% of the time, barring some divine intervention or luck. I assume they are unarmored and on open ground. Skill and weapon reach are generally the two most important considerations.

    The problem is that the reach and weight of a longsword allow a combatant to strike without fear of counterattack. A dagger will have difficulty blocking or parrying attacks from a sword of this mass, and it will be almost completely impossible to stop blows aimed at the legs because the dagger is so short. A trained swordsman in good health can fight for ten minutes straight without tiring, but a longsword against knife fight will end in 30 seconds max. Even completely exhausted, a man with a longsword should still have a massive advantage against a fresh opponent with a knife.

    Lastly, knife fighting is for those who have a death wish. In roughly 50% of the cases, the "winner" of the fight will still receive mortal wounds and die shortly after. The likelihood of killing an opponent who has a knife with your knife without suffering stab wounds is very slim.
     
  20. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor

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    Real life fights, whether with weapons or not tend to be over very quickly if either one knows what they are doing.

    There is usually a short period of feeling each other out. Maybe one or two offensive attacks that are countered, but then one of them will commit to an attack or counterattack and get brief upper hand. For a skilled fighter, it wouldn't take more than a second or two to capitalize on it. Once in a dominating position, it's usually over before the other person gets up. With a weapon I imagine the fight lasting about thirty seconds at the longest and end up with one of them critically wounded or dead.

    Are you aware that different type s of knives require different grips and techniques? Most knife attacks are slashes, and you're taught that once your in, zig zag between the armpits to incopacitate or throats to kill.

    Source: 20+ year martial arts
     
  21. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Very good, very good, although maybe I should be a bit more specific (and no, I haven't written this scene yet).
    (Not that this would change much) but the "knife" I had in mind would probably be more akin to a seax, and about the length of a short sword, say, roughly 20-25 inches. Would the (slightly) improved reach have any effect on the potential outcome of the duel?
     
  22. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    I don't see how you would win against a skilled opponent in this situation. If unskilled you might step inside a wild swing and stab them... but a skilled opponent with the benefit of reach? I'm not sure how that can work.
     
  23. TyrannusRex

    TyrannusRex Active Member

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    Yeah, there's a lot of story-specific detail that I haven't gone into, just to keep things simple. It seems clear that in a straight-and-level fight, sword is going to trump knife.
    I did like what someone said earlier about showing how the hero has friends to help them, but the villain fights alone (can't remember who at the moment, but thank you).
    Just for the sake of argument:
    What if three knife-users confronted a swordsman? (Assuming you've got three young adults going up against an aging man.)
     
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  24. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    if one of them is prepared to die for the cause he could sacrifice himself to be impaled on the blade while containing it allowing his freinds to win

    failing that they need to surround him and wear him down - the the swordsmans place i would put my back to something solid to stop that happening... or if thats not possible go imidiately on the offensive to try to reduce the odds
     
  25. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    It would change the likelihood to be slightly more favorable for the knife user than previous, but not by much. It can be done, but it is not easy, and would require a stroke of significant luck. A 20-25 inch blade can be used to effectively parry blows from a longsword coming at the head, shoulders, torso, and thighs, but would still leave the sword arm and especially lower legs very vulnerable. Aside from difficulty in blocking attacks coming low, the reason the dagger is at a disadvantage is that one of the best ways to avoid getting killed is to force the enemy to parry instead of strike. In the case of longsword v dagger, the dagger is too short to threaten the opponent at the striking distance of a longsword. This means that the man with the longsword is doing all of the attacking until the man with the dagger gets lucky and closes the distance. If we look at the longsword as having a certain probability of causing harm on each blow, then the longer the duel goes on, the smaller the odds of survival are for the man with the dagger. Just one blow from a sword will take him out of the fight unless he has armor.

    I can see a man with a seax or gladius killing a man with a longsword, one on one. I just don't think it's likely... But not likely does happen. This would certainly be more believable than a man dropping a longsword in favor of a knife. The man with the dagger can step in and parry a high blow coming at his head to the side and try to grab the sword arm of the man with the longsword, then stab at the chest. He could also wait for a low blow to come in and instead of dodging, he could try to pin the sword to the ground with his own blade, then quickly grab the sword blade (yes, you can grab static sword blades without getting cut) to prevent follow up blows, and move in for the kill.

    Yes, the chances of victory rise massively with every man added to a sword fight, especially when armor is not involved. No swordsman can effectively split their attention between more than two or three foes, especially if they are of similar skill. In this case three young adults with 20-25 inch blades can take down the man with the longsword if they act quickly and in a coordinated fashion.

    In the case of a duel, a man with a dagger would be limited to parrying blows coming high and trying to dodge blows coming low. The problem is that a swordsman can advance forward much faster than dodge backwards, so the man with the dagger could not stay out of range and avoid blows for long. In a three on one fight, the man with the longsword cannot press his attack without exposing himself for too long, which vastly increases the chances of survival for the men he is fighting.

    The best way for them to go about it, if they have experience and know what they are doing, would be to surround him and to skirt the perimeter of his attack radius. At his maximum reach distance, the man with the sword would be limited to attacking the upper torso or head as the legs of any of his opponents would be too far away to strike at without advancing. As I said earlier, a gladius length blade can stop a longsword blow coming in high, especially if the dagger has a hand guard. If there are three opponents, one could then parry the blow and the other two could lunge forward and deliver killing blows or grapple him to the ground.

    All three have a decent chance of survival if they act in perfect unison and have luck on their side. Alternatively, one or two could end up dead if do not coordinate well or if luck is not with them.

    One more thing. If you want, you could give a character some kind of light armor. For example, in Medieval Europe, there was a cloth garment made of a dozen or so layers of linen. It was called a gambeson and 12 layers of linen (about half an inch thick IIRC) was usually enough to stop the blade of a longsword from cutting through. The top inch or so of a blade would still make it through if swung with extreme force, but hitting midway along the blade was unlikely to cut through. I've seen 24 layer gambesons stop bodkin-point arrows from a mid-power longbow.

    Thin gambeson and mail armor can both be concealed beneath clothing and would provide good protection against a longsword, especially against cutting blows. This may completely shift the scales in the man with the longsword is not aware his opponent(s) are wearing concealed armor.
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2017
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