This is a fantastic synopsis, very similar to the explanation given to my fellow ren-faire reenactors by the master swordsman. The writer would also benefit from learning about armor: http://www.myarmoury.com/feature_mail.html If anyone knows of a primer on combat or armed and armored martial arts, it would probably be helpful to link it here.
Parker's statement about it being the "last line of defence" (sic) is significant, and in my experience highly accurate. A sword is a good weapon for keeping yourself alive. It can cut through spear shafts and parry blows far better than a polearm. Once ranks closed, a long knife or short sword was probably the preferred weapon. It should be noted that modern militaries continue to issue a bayonet, though fixing them to the rifle is no longer their primary purpose. I imagine this utility is the reason that soldiers often chose the sword as the weapon to keep nearest them.
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Poul Anderson readily admits that his article is not infallible, so I would like to point out that this part of "On Thud and Blunder" is not entirely accurate... (I say not entirely, since he later does say that there was more leisure time thanks to Church holidays).
"In town, the typical worker was not one of the kind we know, putting in forty comparatively easy hours a week, owning a house and car and the other customary amenities. No, he was a dirt-poor hod carrier or ditch digger or something like that, laboring almost till he dropped of exhaustion and glad to get the job."
I've read numerous articles suggesting that pre-industrial people actually worked less and had a lot more leisure time.
Here's a good article from a sociology professor about historical working weeks:
I suspect the best place to get advice about blade fighting is to talk to a soldier. Then read their training manuals. Elite soldiers in particular are trained to use any kind of weapon they have or can get. I figure if a man knows how to use a bayonet, a bowie knife, a staff, a machete, a tomahawk, etc. then adapting to a slightly longer blade probably would not be a great stretch. Fighting spirit is what counts, I think. A barehanded killer is still a killer. An incompetent with a katana is still incompetent. Put a barehanded veteran up against an incompetent with a katana, and my money is on the vet unless the dweeb gets real lucky.
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