Saber - weapon of war

In my article "My unlikely relationship with the jian - sword of civilian defence" I opined that the jian was a weapon of civilian defence.  Aside from the Roman and Greek swords and the longsword, true battle swords tended to be curved, single-edged weapons that were used for cutting - ie. sabers.

Here is an extract of my article:

Unlike the Chinese dao (single-handed saber) and dadao (two-handed saber) (both used by the Chinese military) or the Japanese equivalent, the katana (also a military weapon), the jian is straightand double-edged. This means it is not optimized for cutting, but for thrusting. Optimization for cutting requires a curve. And a curve often (though not always) leads to single-edged weapons...
It should come as no surprise that on the battlefield, melee range weapons are best employed in terms of the former, ie. cutting/slashing with an edge. Being able to thrust with the point is, at best, an adjunct use...
[O]nce you are dealing with swords of sufficient length and mass for battlefield use, thrusts/stabs will necessarily apply much less force and have far less injury potential than cuts. This is exacerbated if your opponent has any kind of protective gear (never mind armour)...
In this context, one can see how the dao/dadao/katana with its curved, single edge became the preferred military sword in China. The straight sword wasn’t effective enough. If you wanted to stab or thrust, you would use a longer range straight weapon - ie. the spear. Or you might use arrows (another “straight” weapon). In battle, these longer range weapons (ie. spears and arrows) are straight; melee weapons are curved for cutting...
Accordingly, for soldiers (who are expected to focus on attack and who are individually largely expendable) the use of a sword that yields maximum force and damage in the melee is going to be preferred. 

Recently I came across the article "The use of the sword in the Great War: Faded glory or deadly efficiency?".  I think it supports my thesis above.  Here is an extract:

The saber is solely a weapon of offense and is used in conjunction with the other offensive weapon, the horse, In all the training, the idea of speed must be conserved. No direct parries are taught, because at the completion of a parry the enemy is already beyond reach of an attack. The surest parry is a disabled opponent. In the charge and in the melee, the trooper must remember that on the speed of his horse in attack, and on his own offensive spirit, rest nine-tenths of his chances of success.

What do you think?

Copyright © 2014 Dejan Djurdjevic


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