Swords for SHTF? A Skeptical Perspective from a Sword Arts Practitioner

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  • #2104

    JulioTheSavage
    Moderator

    Original Article: Swords for SHTF? A Skeptical Perspective from a Sword Arts Practitioner | AllOutdoor.com
    Author: Bill J

    As a black belt in Kendo and someone with a long-standing interest in Japanese swords, I was interested to read fellow AllOutdoor.com contributor Major Pandemic’s review of the Paul Chen budget tactical katanas. As always, MP’s review was excellent and thorough, but I have to take issue with a few parts of it, specifically regarding the suitability of the sword as a SHTF weapon.

    For those of you who are too busy to read the whole thing, here’s the short version of what I’m going to say: if the S meets the F and the ammo runs out, then Cold Steel boar spear is by far a better melee weapon than even the most fantastic sword. Seriously, I’d take just about any spear over even a Howard Clark L6 bainite katana on any day of the week, and I say this as someone who has a black belt in a sword art and who knows that the Howard Clark L6 is the epitome of indestructible zombie slaying awesomeness. No, the katana is a one-on-one dueling weapon optimally designed for use in unarmored combat, and it rose to prominence during a specific, very peaceful period in Japan’s history. It is not an infantry weapon, and it is definitely not suitable for a SHTF situation.

    Katana: Context and History
    In the wars that led up to the long peace of Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), the signature weapon of the samurai was not the sword but the bow. The bow was direct analog to the modern designated marksman rifle, and the sword was used as a fallback side-arm, like a pistol. In between the two was the spear, which was the main close-quarters melee weapon of the period. You might say that if the bow is a DMR and the sword is a pistol, then the spear was either a short-barreld AR or something the H&K MP5.

    Most samurai of this period would have used their sword mainly either in test cutting exercises on enemy corpses, or in a ritual suicide situation — either their own suicide or someone else’s. (In hari kari, the suicide victim would often make a symbolic, shallow cut across their own abdomen with the short sword, and their friend standing behind them would do the actual killing by lopping off their head with the katana. If you wanted to go out like a real man, you’d jam that sucker up into your own guts and work it around a bit with both eyes open, staring straight ahead, but few actually did that.)

    If you weren’t using a bow, and you were an infantryman, then your primary weapon was a spear. Indeed, the spear was the primary weapon of most of the world’s infantry from back before The Illiad, which features the spear prominently, up through the rise of the firearm. The Romans did use the shield and short sword combo to great effect on the battlefield, but this involved a ton of group disciple and specialized training in formation; you won’t be replicating this in a SHTF situation, or ever.

    In Japan, the the katana as a sidearm evolved from a much longer sword that was used from horseback, hence the curved blade, which, because it makes for a better slashing weapon, is common to calvary swords from antiquity through the modern era. But the katana didn’t really come into its own as the samurai weapon until the Edo period, which was over 250 years of mostly peace and tranquility. With war now off the table as an option for proving one’s military prowess, the samurai class took up dueling with a vengeance. And the preferred weapon for a duel between two samurai was the katana.

    In a dueling context, the katana was used against an unarmored opponent — or, in some cases, multiple unarmored opponents if you’re really feeling your oats and have decided to come down from your mountain training retreat and challenge an entire dojo. Again, if you were facing an armored opponent in an actual battle situation, then you really wanted a spear, which not only gave you a reach advantage, but would also be far more effective than the katana at piercing the opponent’s armor.

    When it comes to melee weapons, the importance of reach cannot be overstated. Of course, in Kendo it’s considered a good thing to fight periodically with a shorter than normal sword in order to improve your fighting spirit and cultivate fearlessness, but in melee situations where your primary concern is with actually avoiding death (vs. staring it coldly in the eye without fear like a true samurai), then longer is better.

    All of this is why, despite my training, I’d pack a spear to the apocalypse and not a sword. Like the crossbow, the sword makes for great survival TV, but its only real role in a SHTF scenario is as the trophy that the spear wielder pulled off the corpse of his inadequately armed opponent.

    #18383

    DCortez
    Member

    Good read, good advice. We have a few Cold Steel swords around here, adding a few spears is now on the list.

    #18386

    JulioTheSavage
    Moderator

    @dcortez 17826 wrote:

    Good read, good advice. We have a few Cold Steel swords around here, adding a few spears is now on the list.

    I still think a good short sword can come in handy. Especially because of compactness and weight. But he’s right everybody from Spartans to Samurai used spears.

    #18393

    20 off 60
    Member

    Black Belt in Kendo, nice. I personally haven’t studied any Japanese martial arts that involve weapons other than Kyudo and to a degree (if anyone knows what this is) bajutsu. I agree though that TV shows do glorify the killing power of the katana to an almost ridiculous standard. Hockey pads could stop a katana. I don’t mean to diss on katanas by any means, as they were a very proficient weapon, in their time. Also, what is your qualms with crossbows? and also ever done any Sojutsu?

    #18388

    boisdarc
    Member

    I recently watched a special on these viking swords and how they stack up against katana. Using rolled up bamboo mats(specifically made for testing blades), these specially made viking swords cut about as well as katana. They were very rare and probably made with non-native metal possibly from asia. So anyway this somewhat dispels the “magic” of japanese steel. The special was on netflix-not sure if it still is or not.
    However I am only reviving this thread because I would like to know if anyone knows of a well-made inexpensive sword(?) or long knife(greater than 16inches). I don’t mean the cheap ass bud k crap swords or truck stop samurai swords, or the e-bay made in china “ranger” or “spy” sword, but a real usable sword that you could smack together against another real sword and not break or bend in a U. Not that I will be getting into a “sword fight” (straight or gay) any time soon. I have a pretty cheap “hecho en chena” machete that cuts brush and small trees or big plants ~ok, but I think it could easily be broken striking anything of substance. So a good sharp blade, reasonably priced, and blade length of greater than 16 inches. Any suggestions?

    #18392

    alwayscross
    Member

    Personally I dont think swords would be very good, buts its just opinion and personal experience/taste. I find them to large and sluggish, with little use apart from self defence. When I can defend myself just as well with a machete or knife, plus the machete and knife have more uses and can be concealed easier. In the end its down to the user and what they are use to, for someone with more trainning a sword might be better.

    #18389

    boisdarc
    Member

    I’m kind of thinking something like this.Condor Knives Parang Machete 24″ Overall Brown Hardwood with Sheath | eBay
    or maybe this http://www.ebay.com/itm/KNIFE-TYPE-DHA-BURMA-THAILAND-PHILIPPINES-91G18-/261667493192?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3cec991548
    I don’t really know where a machete ends and a sword begins, but I think a machete lacks a certain degree of balance. At least the two that i have do. “with little use apart from self defense”, I was thinking SPECIFICALLY self defense -I have guns(probably not as much as some, more than others), I have ammo(ditto), I have bows and arrows(compound, recurve, self, long, more bows than a normal person needs-I make both bows and arrows), I have functional knives, multi-tools, I have combat knives(that realistically serve no better purpose-gerber mk2 gerber tac2 gerber guardian), some throwing knives(I bought when I was a dumb kid), and I have axes and saws. I don’t have a sword. I consider it more of a want than a need. Is it potentially unrealistic and probably juvenile to have one? Yeah probably. What would I probably do with it? Probably show it to my buddies-who would say “what the hell are you gonna do with that-sword fight-homo?”, and hang in my basement. Sorry for that UNpolitical correctness there but reality strikes quickly in my life. Honestly, I probably have dumber stuff in my possession than a sword. Come to think of it I do have a boken and my sons have two shinai, from when I trained aikido(an almost worthless martial art). I have about half a dozen sets of sticks from escrima(a realistic martial art). Sorry for rumbling on here, but I’m bored right now.

    #18384

    Alonso1
    Moderator

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve never put much thought into spears. These will make nice stocking stuffers for the kids and eventually go into out SHTF packs.

    SOG Spirit Knife FS01 N CP | eBay

    #18385

    Andrew
    Moderator

    @alonso1 20955 wrote:

    Thanks for sharing. I’ve never put much thought into spears. These will make nice stocking stuffers for the kids and eventually go into out SHTF packs.

    SOG Spirit Knife FS01 N CP | eBay

    Saw this earlier. Looked pretty cool. It is the one you can attach to a stick and turn into a spear, right?

    #18387

    JulioTheSavage
    Moderator

    @boisdarc 20820 wrote:

    I recently watched a special on these viking swords and how they stack up against katana. Using rolled up bamboo mats(specifically made for testing blades), these specially made viking swords cut about as well as katana. They were very rare and probably made with non-native metal possibly from asia. So anyway this somewhat dispels the “magic” of japanese steel. The special was on netflix-not sure if it still is or not.
    However I am only reviving this thread because I would like to know if anyone knows of a well-made inexpensive sword(?) or long knife(greater than 16inches). I don’t mean the cheap ass bud k crap swords or truck stop samurai swords, or the e-bay made in china “ranger” or “spy” sword, but a real usable sword that you could smack together against another real sword and not break or bend in a U. Not that I will be getting into a “sword fight” (straight or gay) any time soon. I have a pretty cheap “hecho en chena” machete that cuts brush and small trees or big plants ~ok, but I think it could easily be broken striking anything of substance. So a good sharp blade, reasonably priced, and blade length of greater than 16 inches. Any suggestions?

    They have battle ready blades of different price levels from many different ethnic origins. —Kult Of Athena – swords, axes, maces, flails, and other medieval weapons

    #18390

    boisdarc
    Member

    Thanks, they have some price range stuff, and some WAY beyond price range stuff.

    #18391

    boisdarc
    Member

    Was just rereading the original authors post, he is kind of a chop sockey guy right, and was claiming how little or should I say few sword on sword encounters there were or may of been. Has anyone else here read book of five rings? I honestly bet that at least 3 or more regular posters here have read it. Its kind of like Sun Tzu’s art of war, a person with warrior mindset’s required reading.

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