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Self Defense/Comparing Japanese, Chinese and European Swordsmanships?


I am in no way a proficient swords student, more of an overly curious layman so thanks for your time.

I was told that on basic levels, curved blades group include the sabre, most Japanese blades and dao, straight blades group include European longsword, medieval arming swords, rapier and gim/jian.

People who are into swordsmanship informed me that selecting the best sword from all these would be pointless as they suffer from quality control problems and steel work quality varies a lot within a specific sword.

So I am thinking more in terms of the body mechanics of the tools. The basic consensus seems to be that longswords and jian are better for precision cuts and thrusts, the thrusts are focused especially by rapiers and later Qing Dynasty gims/jians.
Cuts and slashes with power are the specialty of sabre, dao and katana users. Slashing swords are for battle, thrusting swords for self defense. But why is a longsword a battle sword despite it being straight not curved?

Do the 3 cultures have similar body mechanic in straight and curved blade arts? Or does the sabre, katana and dao vary drastically in their movements and same between longsword and gim?

Were there any historical events where straight edged users and curved edged users engaged with each other? What can a curved blade user do against a straight blade user and vice versa? Would blade range completely dominate in both duel and battle regardless of any curvature? If so would that technically make the longsword the safest weapon against an enemy sword user?

Sorry if this is jumbled and messy.

You're asking a lot of questions, but there's also a lot of questions you're not asking. And it's those questions that have a lot to do with the answers.

1. What was the weather (climate) where these blades were used?
2. Horseback or on foot?
3. If horseback, harrying or bulldozer? (hit and run or crash through)
4. Battlefield or personal weapon?
5. What was the armour/clothing that it was designed to go up against?
6. What other equipment (especially defensive) did the blade work with?
7. What were the military tactics and context these weapons were used?

See a big problem with many people talking about how superior/inferior different blades are is they are talking about a one-on-one context -- not the actual context that the blades were used in (like a battlefield).

You take a lone samurai duelist (like Mushai and put him up against three shielded Roman legionaries and his ass is done. Because even with those dinky little gladius (short sword) as the long-swordman is trying to get around the huge shield of one, the other two cut him to pieces. That's what the Celts found, that's what the Gauls found, that's what the Spanish found and that's what the Germans found.

At the same time the zweihander (two hander) could chop huge chunks out of pike walls and lop off polearm heads to allowed heavy cavalry (mounted knights) to crash into and break the lines.  But a zweihander against a katana? Way too slow in comparison. On the other hand, the question is could a katana slice through the combo of metal and cloth armour? Puff and slash cloth armour was like trying to cut through 30 pairs of Levis.

The personal thrusting weapon like a rapier however could punch through all that padding. But was too light of a weapon to keep a halberd from splitting your skull. So it didn't see much battlefield service.

What about armour? (With a u it means the type you wear instead of tanks and bradly personnel carriers). A 15th century katana (a slicing weapon) couldn't punch through European plate armour (especially backed up by chain malle)... and that was when katanas were heavier, battle field weapons not the lighter personal weapons of the Tokugawa period. If all you're having to do is slice through light clothing a slashing sword is great. That's why the lighter scimitars work in hot desert environment. The armour and clothing are lighter.

The Crusaders batter-rammed their way across the "Holy Land" in their heavier armour, but paid a terrible price in heat stroke. Whereas often the lighter armoured Turks in the later centuries did really really well until they got into places where heat wasn't as much of a killer.

Yes, there are all kinds of battles and wars between different technologies and fighting styles. Curved blades work better on horseback IF you're fighting a fast skirmishing fight. But the last time a saber was used in battle on horseback by 'then' modern armies was in WWI -- and the cavalry saber had gone back to straight. (Although the Polish Hussars in WWII carried curved sabers, they failed miserably against German tanks -- the other armor).

If you want to look into this stuff, start with the Osprey Men at Arms series. They're really good fast overview books of different time periods, weapons, equipment and tactics.

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Marc MacYoung


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I grew up in the streets of Los Angeles in 'situational poverty.' I have dealt with criminals and violent people all my life -- both personally and professionally. I have written 15 books and 6 videos on surviving street violence. I was originally published under the name Marc Animal MacYoung. (Animal was my street name). I've taught police and military both internationally and within the US. I've lectured at universities, academies and done countless TV, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. I'm a professional speaker on crime avoidance and personal safety. And I am an expert witness recognized by the US court system. My bio is at My abridged CV (Curriculum Vitae) is at

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