Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 09 May 2012 05:34

Chris Holzman wrote:Still wouldn't want to get hit by it, but its most likely not 'sufficient to remove the enemy from combat'. Slicing the skin of a bare torso or forehead, it should do just fine.

As you said these cuts were rather useful in a duelling situation. A steady trickle of blood from a wound on your forehead isn't very good for your vision, usually this alone was enough to stop the duel completely. In a more serious situation this and 1-2 snapping cuts to your wrist or forearm could make conditions right for the final "coup de grace": a thrust, a molinello or chambered cut.
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Re:

Postby Chris Holzman » 10 May 2012 01:27

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Chris Holzman wrote:Still wouldn't want to get hit by it, but its most likely not 'sufficient to remove the enemy from combat'. Slicing the skin of a bare torso or forehead, it should do just fine.

As you said these cuts were rather useful in a duelling situation. A steady trickle of blood from a wound on your forehead isn't very good for your vision, usually this alone was enough to stop the duel completely. In a more serious situation this and 1-2 snapping cuts to your wrist or forearm could make conditions right for the final "coup de grace": a thrust, a molinello or chambered cut.


Indeed - and I think this is something that varies from the earlier time, to later. In 1885, according to Angelini's code, a cut like you describe to the forehead might be enough to stop the duel, but the code may require it be fought again once the person has healed. For the same reason, the heavy glove may have been used in duels classified as 'most serious' to avoid cuts to the forearm stopping things before a severe wound was inflicted. Later on, I think it is pretty clear that at least in practice, if not in terms of the code, the requirement of a severe wound was probably relaxed.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 10 May 2012 08:37

Chris Holzman wrote:... a cut like you describe to the forehead might be enough to stop the duel, but the code may require it be fought again once the person has healed.

Strange.
Why such a serious cut wasn't enough for them? Hypothetically I can imagine a situation when an offended party had received such a forehead cut from his offender during the very first exchange, the fight had to be stopped due to the heavy bleeding, and after the healing he wanted to continue the duel.
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Re:

Postby Chris Holzman » 11 May 2012 04:55

Ulrich von L...n wrote:
Chris Holzman wrote:... a cut like you describe to the forehead might be enough to stop the duel, but the code may require it be fought again once the person has healed.

Strange.
Why such a serious cut wasn't enough for them? Hypothetically I can imagine a situation when an offended party had received such a forehead cut from his offender during the very first exchange, the fight had to be stopped due to the heavy bleeding, and after the healing he wanted to continue the duel.


From Angelini, 1883 (I may have erroneously said 1885 at other times):
Chapter V - Satisfaction, Section 6: For the atrocious offenses namely those with violence, whatever apologies are not acknowledged, and the offended has the right to demand a reparation with arms by the most serious terms, and to repeat the duel one time, if the first encounter is suspended following a wound that while of substantially little importance, nevertheless impedes the continuation of combat. For the worst offenses (See Chapter IV, Art. 1, paragraph C) it is obligatory to duel to the end. In this duel the combat must continue or be repeated after recovery from a wound, until the offender would succumb to it, or one of the two combatants is evermore reduced to the impossibility of managing a weapon. This is the single cause that excuses the offended from not having killed his opponent. This limitation at first glance seems excessive, but because the three offenses under discussion are considered mortal in the public opinion, they must be deadly, at least in the resolution, the reparation that is demanded. There is no middle road; either fight until the possible end, or have the civil courage to not even go onto the dueling ground. In other words, deny the duel, but don’t make a ridiculous thing of it. Moreover, this apparently severe limitation is in reality humanitarian, because it is the single truly effective way to obtain a lesser frequency of duels.
A duel by such serious terms cannot be fought with the sword or pistol, and this is because the encounter is for the sabre, a less effective arm , would offer to one who rebuts slaughter an opening by which to obtain the goal, and would offer to the offender the means to save his life with the sacrifice of an arm or other less vital part of the body.

IV, 1, C says:
It is an atrocious offense or one with violence, which joins to the outrage a blow, wound or insult (such as to spit or to throw an object at a person). Moreover, the simple act of deliberately touching a person constitutes violence. Although the violent offenses all have to be regarded as atrocious offenses, nevertheless their importance raises the grade according to the various ways with which it is manifested. The worse are those which sometimes materially produce the lesser consequence but that contain a sense of greater contempt, such as spitting in someone’s face, giving them a shove, or kicking them in the behind. A kick given from the front, in the act of a scuffle, would be less serious.
The simple threat of a blow, even alluded to, is an outrage, but does not have any equivalence with violence. Even the act of throwing an object that does not touch any part of the body is considered as an offense with outrage. One who, in continuing an altercation, simply puts his hand on the shoulder or whatever part of the others body, taking the arm or the clothing of the person in question in order to keep them from leaving, or gesturing with the hands toward the face of the same, would be attributable as violence, when after an intimation, does not desist from the lack of decorum. Also if someone is barged into, or his foot stepped on, and after a request, an apology is not made, then an offense with violence has occurred.
Touching a lady indecorously or insolently constitutes an offense of indirect violence to the man accompanying her, and if he responds actively he does not commit an act of aggression, but rather one of defense.
There are some people, who through poor education, even speaking academically, that have the habit of touching the person or clothing of the person thy are speaking to. Nevertheless this does not constitute an offense and it is enough to rebuke it in a courteous manner that does not provoke a retort, in such a way that an inadvertent question of honor would not arise. For example, using the phrase: I pray you not touch me.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 12 May 2012 15:15

Chris,
Thank you for investing time and energy into this translation. It provides an interesting glimpse into their thinking, nevertheless it seems to me that Signore Angelini took the whole duelling thing a bit too seriously.
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Re:

Postby Chris Holzman » 12 May 2012 15:35

Ulrich von L...n wrote:Chris,
Thank you for investing time and energy into this translation. It provides an interesting glimpse into their thinking, nevertheless it seems to me that Signore Angelini took the whole duelling thing a bit too seriously.


Gen. Angelini and many others, going by the list of signatories to the code:

SIGNATURES OF GENTLEMEN

WHO WITH THEIR TITLES AND THEIR NAMES HAVE ENDORSED THIS PRESENT CODE

Acton, Commander Ferdinando, Vice-Admiral.

Andreozzi, Alfonso, Attorney.

Anzani, Baron Ottavio.

Arbib, Cav. Edoardo, Vice-President of the Italian Association of Periodical Publishers.

Assanti, Commander Damiano, General, Senator.

Barattierei, Cav. Oreste, Lt. Colonel, Deputy .

Barbiano Belgioiso D’ Este, Prince.

Biancardi, Cav. Giuseppe, Lt. Colonel.

Bertole Viale, Cav. Ettore, Grand Cross of the Order of SS. Maurizio and Lazzaro and of the Crown of Italy, Lt. General, Grand Hunter and Aide-de-camp general of H.M. the King, Senator.

Bocca, Commander Teresio, Lt. General.

Borromeo, Count Emanuele, Deputy.

Boselli, Commander Francesco, Maj. General.

Brunetta D’Usseaux, Count Enrico, Cololne.

Cagni, Cav. Manfredo, Colonel.

Canevaro, Cav. Napoleone, Ship Captain, Deputy.

Cariolato, Commander Domenico.

Cerroti, Cav. Filippo, Grand Officer of the Order of SS. Maurizio and Lazzaro, Lt. General.

Chiala, Cav. Luigi, Deputy.

Cialdini, Enrico, Duke of Gaeta, Cavaliere of the Supreme Order of the SS. Annunziata, General of the Army, Aide-de-camp general of H.M. the King, Senator.

Coardi di Bagnasco e Carpeneto, Commander Marchese Luigi, Maj. General.

Colli di Felizzano, Cav. Giuseppe, Maj. General.

Conti, Cav. Emilio, President of the Milanese Fencing Society.

Corte, Commander Clemente, General, Senator.

Corvetto, Commander Giovanni, Maj. General, now Aide-de-camp of the deceased King Vittorio Emanuale, Deputy.

Cosenz, Cav. Luigi, Secretary of the Accademia Nazionale di Scherma in Napoli.

Crespi, Cav. Paolo, Lt. Colonel.

Crotti-Derossi di Costigliole, Count Alfonso, Colonel.

Degli Alessandri, Count Carlo.

Del Tufo, Marchese Mario, President of the Accademia Nazionale di Scherma in Napoli.

De Vecchi, Nob. Ezio, Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Lt. General.

Devecchi Pellati, Commander Francesco, Maj. General.

Dogliotti, Cav. Orazio, Colonel.

Doux, Commander Clemente, Colonel.

Dragonetti, Marchese Giuseppe, Ship Captain, First Aide-de-camp of S.A.R. the Duke D’Aosta

Fambri, Commander Paulo, Engineer.

Fincati, Cav. Luigi, Rear Admiral

Fe d’Ostiani, Count Alberto, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Minister Plenipotentiary.

Fe d’Ostiani, Count Girolamo, Lt. Colonel.

Ferrero, Cav. Annibale, Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Colonel.

Fenzi, Cav. Sebastiano.

Forcella, Cav. Sante, Colonel.

Gerbaix de Sonnaz, Count Maurizio, Lt. General, Senator, formerly First Aide-de-camp general of the deceased King Vittorio Emanuele.

Genè, Commander Carlo, Maj. General.

Ginori Lisci, Marchese Carlo, Deputy.

Gnecco, Count Gaspare, Colonel, Aide-de-camp of S.M. the King.

Goracci, Cav. Rogiero, Captain.

Longo Giacomo, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Lt. General, Senator.

Lanzavecchia di Buri, Commander Luigi, Maj. General.

Longhi, Cav. Fabrio, Colonel

Malaspina, Marchese Azzolino.

Marselli, Carlo, Captain.

Martin di Montu Beccaria, Commander Ippolito, Maj. General.

Massei, Cav. Giacomo, Profesore di Scherma.

Mayo, Commander Emerico, Maj. General.

Michelozzi, Counter Eugenio, Maj. General.

Moliterno, Prince of Tricase.

Negri di S. Front, Count Alessandro, Lt. General, Senator.

Negri, Count Pier Eleonoro, Lt. General, formerly Aide-de-camp general of the deceased King Vittorio Emanuele.

Pallavicini di Priola, Marchese Emilio, Lt. General, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Aide-de-camp general of S.M. the King, Senator.

Papafava, Count Alberto.

Pasi, Count Raffaele, Grand Officer of the Order of SS. Maurizio and Lazzaro, Lt. General, First Aide-de-camp general of S.M. the King of Italy.

Pautassi, Cav. Eugenio, Colonel.

Pes di Villamarina del Campo, Count Bernardo, Lt. General, formerly Aide-de-camp of the deceased Kink Vittorio Emanuele.

Pianciani, Count Luigi, Deputy.

Pianell, Count Giuseppe, Grand Cross of the Order of SS. Maurizio and Lazarro, Lt. General, Senator.

Piatti del Pozzo, Count Vittorio, Major, formerly Officer of ordinance of the deceased King Vittorio Emanuele.

Pierantoni, Attorney Cav. Augusto, Professor of international rights, Attorney of diplomatic legal affairs, Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Senator.

Pierantoni, Cav. Adelchi, Colonel, Aide-de-camp of S.M. the King.

Pinelli, Commander Macedonio, Maj. General.

Poniatowsky, Prince Carlo.

Radaelli, Cav. Carlo, Maj. General.

Ricasoli, Marchese Gaetano.

Ricasoli, Baron Commander Vincenzo, General, Senator.

Sacchi, Cav. Gaetano, Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy, Lt. General, Senator.

Seismit-Doda, Commander Luigi, General.

Selvatico, Count Ercole.

Sironi, Commancer Enrico, Maj. General.

Steffaneo de Carnea, Baron Antonio, Colonel.

Testafuochi, Cav. Edoardo, Colonel.

Tolomei, Marchese Matteo, Colonel.

Torre, Cav. Frederico, Grand Officer of the Order of SS. Maurizio and Lazzaro, Lt. General, Deputy.
--
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 14 May 2012 14:43

You have provided a very impressive list of Italian dignitaries. Originally I thought I would write an ironic answer by asking a simple question: "How many of those fine gentlemen fought a mortal duel, till the death of one participant?" After thinking a while about it, I admit that it would have been a bit rude.

I know - too certain extent - only Hungarian duelling culture. All three books (1886, 1902, 1944), which I have consulted during the weekend, are quite unanimous that the purpose of a duel is to provide a honorable way of restoring one's "damaged" reputation. Sebetich (1886) wrote that this restoration basically starts at the beginnig of a duel. So on and so fort. But the death isn't required...

To me the Italian approach is way too radical, and also not very self-consistent, because if we fight really seriously, then we should fight regardless some minor injuries. Here in Hungary we have a rather famous duel, when in 1836 Count Miklos Wesselenyi fought with an Austrian officer, under very serious conditions: no seconds, no bandages, with thrusts, till exhaustion. After having received a serious neck wound the count continued the fight and finally managed to cut through the hand-guard of his opponent's sabre, and according to the accounts cut off four of his fingers.
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Re:

Postby Chris Holzman » 15 May 2012 05:19

Ulrich von L...n wrote:To me the Italian approach is way too radical, and also not very self-consistent,


I agree that it is pretty radical...however, I think it helps when put in the context that by the 1880s it seems most of the authorities writing on the duel in Italy felt that the duel should really be almost a last resort, and that if you were willing to fight over something, you should have to really risk and possibly suffer, otherwise the reparation wasn't worth anything.

Essentially, the duel was seen as the only way to deal with the offense of calumny (slander or libel) or certain other things like alienation of affections, indecorous touching of one's wife/sister/mother, etc., which it was felt that the penal code failed to adequately deal with.

It was also recognized that the duel didn't undo the offense - and it was pointed out quite explicitly by Angelini that, on the whole, a scumbag liar who fought a bunch of duels might have courage, but he was still a lying scumbag.

I think in truth, no matter how much mental gymnastics people went through to avoid it, it boils down to a reparation equating to revenge of a sort.

Certainly, the writers of the 1880s and later in Italy wanted to see duels reduced in frequency, and I think pretty clearly felt that a code which required one to really ante up in the risk department would help that.

Still, I think it does lack a bit of internal consistency, as you've mentioned. Angelini says somewhere in the code "A gentleman may kill his equal, but never insult him."
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 16 May 2012 16:01

Some thoughts from Gustav Arlow (1902), who by the way had a "Ritter" title (Hereditary Knight, in the UK Baronett, so the proper translation of his full name might be Sir Gustav Arlow):

"In principle the exclusion of thrusts and application of (duelling) bandages cannot be endorsed, because this is against the principles of fencing, but the law of humanism and the proper understanding of chivalry (1) have deemed that in case of light insults they should be used in order to prevent serious wounds (2)".

Later on I will translate these references too.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 17 May 2012 07:51

The proper understanding of chivalry (1):
"In a duel the main guiding principle is expiation, reconciliation, not murderous desire or rough, unrestrained passion. So this noble principle should guide the duelling seconds. The satisfaction does not depend on who is wounded."
Vargay Chivalry
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Re: Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

Postby Chris Holzman » 18 Jul 2012 07:22

Just FYI, I disassembled the broken antique sabre this evening, in anticipation of some blades being ordered - a sample run of just over 50 pieces, most of which are probably already spoken for.

The weapon I'm referring to is the shorter of the two here: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid= ... =3&theater

The guard (2mm thick) weighs 284 grams
Backstrap: 58 grams
Ring: 4 grams
Grip: 22 grams
Total hilt weight: 365 grams

The blade, missing 4 inches or so of the tip, is 240 grams.

By comparison, the Hanwei Radaelli guard is wider and taller above the grip, and has the ring, but is only 1mm thick, and weighs 281 grams, backstrap 45 grams, grip 27 grams, and the ring 2 or 3 grams. The blade is 222 grams. (given the nature of my kitchen type digital scale, the weights seem to vary a few grams every time I take them - so there may be slight inconsistency with something I've posted elsewhere).

Chris
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 03 Sep 2012 15:51

Hi Chris,

Recently I have bought a replica sabre (Hungarian M1835, for cavalry officers) for solo drills. It is good to know that its guard has the same thickness as the guard of your antique sabre, 2 mm.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Sep 2012 05:28

Two days ago I posted a new entry into the 19thC treatises section of the database: a fencing pamphlet - Hungarian sabre fencing as women's exercise - written by Norbert Sztrakay in 1895.

Some additional thoughts:
This booklet is a nice example of contemporary marketing, how to offer free courses for wealthy, potential customers, how to invite local dignitaries, journalists in order to grab the public's attention. In the introduction several interesting questions are posed by the author:

1) Why women don't practise gymnastics (remember we are in 1895)?
2) Is foil fencing practical and suitable for women as sport or entertainment?
3) Is foil fencing a more advanced art than sabre fencing? Should foil fencing be considered as an obligatory prerequisite for learning sabre?
4) Could the proper way of practising sabre fencing substitute for gymnastics?
5) Could be Hungarian sabre fencing used as women's exercise?

For Hungarian HEMA researchers this pamphlet is full of interesting snippets of local fencing history. For the foreign audience it might be interesting because it advocates strongly to practise sabre fencing with both hands, in order to achieve a harmonious body. Even a casual observer will notice a quite strange way of holding the sabre. At that time it was rather popular in Hungary, but some contemporary fencing masters were against it.
Last edited by Ulrich von L...n on 04 Sep 2012 13:01, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 04 Sep 2012 13:00

I have received a PM from a forumite about this question in Sztrakay's pamphlet (1895):

3) Is foil fencing a more advanced art than sabre fencing? Should foil fencing be considered as an obligatory prerequisite for learning sabre?

Let's see what the author wanted to tell us about it. Two short answers: "No, foil fencing isn't more advanced than sabre fencing. No, it shouldn't be considered as the first step of learning sabre fencing".

In Chapter 2 (pp 13-16 ) Sztrakay explains that there is a generally accepted belief that foil is the base for learning sabre, and for someone who wants to be an expert sabreur learning foil is an absolute must. That is why everywhere - even in military institutions - they start fencing with a foil. The followers of this approach are so enchanted by foil that they use the different terms for these branches of swordsmanship: "art of foil fencing", and "craft of sabre fencing". Or they equate a foil wielder with a sculptor, and a sabreur with a stone-cutter. This view is supported by many fencing masters.

The author quite rightly points out that the above view is a bit contradictory. He asks: "How a noble art could serve as a base for a simple craft?" Somebody must learn sculpture before becoming a stone-cutter?! Then he moves one to establish differences between foil and sabre fencing. After that he proposes his own explanation: why foil managed to become the base for sabre. Originally in Hungary only French and Italian masters taught fencing, so it is straightforward that they started with the most familiar and fashionable weapon: a foil, and taught sabre only as an auxiliary thing.

So gradually this fashion became a custom, and later due to the cunning of fencing masters became a system with a simple purpose: make more money. Sztrakay says that there aren't theoretical or practical advantages for learning foil before sabre, foil isn't more advanced as an art, simply a different branch of fencing. He considers sabre fencing a truly Hungarian sport, in the same way as foil fencing is a French or Italian sport, or boxing is an English pastime.
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Re: Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

Postby Thearos » 04 Sep 2012 18:57

Hutton (Cold Steel) assumes that one knows, and should know, foil well before learning sabre— notably for issues of stance and lunging.

I don't know any foil, but still find sabre pretty fun. So long live the Hungarians !
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Re: Early history of the modern fencing: sabre, ...

Postby John H » 04 Sep 2012 20:17

There is some benefit to learning to thrust before you learn to cut. Your actions remain smaller which is of benefit to a lighter dueling sabre that relies on a draw cut. The cutting weapon also tends to pollute your thrusting weapon technique more than thrusting technique pollutes your cutting from my experience. I had to spend a year re-training a disengage from my cutting version to a thrusting version. Going back to the cutter is much easier now. The foil/smallsword work is also a basic for using a point forward guard. If you can’t reliably disengage someone expulsing your blade you shouldn’t put that point in their face.

That said if you look at some of the classical fencing systems of sabre they are nothing more than a repackaged foil system that throws a few cuts in if the point gets too far off line. They have completely lost cutting as its own art. I found many of the practitioners of such systems didn’t understand how foilble and forte work during a cut vs how they work in a thrust.

I’ve found when dealing with a heavier cutting weapon the fine movement techniques of a foil start being less and less relevant.
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 05 Sep 2012 09:52

Thearos wrote:Hutton (Cold Steel) assumes that one knows, and should know, foil well before learning sabre— notably for issues of stance and lunging.

This is just show us that Italian or British fencing masters weren't less cunning than Hungarian ones. :wink: As for stance, lunging & other footwork I believe that you can learn all these things from a good sabre fencing specialist (master or instructor).

So long live the Hungarians !

Vivat Britannia! Vivat!
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 05 Sep 2012 16:19

John H wrote:There is some benefit to learning to thrust before you learn to cut.

AFAIK in Olympic sabre fencing they learn thrusts before cuts.

Could you quantify "a heavier cutting weapon" in grams?
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Re:

Postby John H » 05 Sep 2012 18:32

The first fencing group I studied with had you spend about a month or two on foil, then you were allowed to pick which weapon you wanted to pursue. The sabre system was nothing like the foil though, it emphasized the ‘normal’ five guards and taught mostly cuts. The classical system I recently worked with spent all it’s time on foil, then when you moved the sabre all the drills guards etc were exactly the same, the weapons was still thrust centered and you only bothered to cut rarely.

Ulrich von L...n wrote:Could you quantify "a heavier cutting weapon" in grams?


I can’t really quantify what I mean by a ‘heavy cutter’ in weight of the blade as a whole because that isn’t the defining aspect. It’s more the PoB of the blade. I can have a blade the exact same weight and due to the PoB being so far forward you get a chopper vs a slicer. We have two sabres at the club that are exactly the same weight (a blutcher and a 1796) but one is a hatchet point the other is a normal or ‘spear point.’ The hatchet point is a far better cutter, while I would call the spear point a great slicer. To show you the extreme of a ‘heavy cutting’ sword:
Image

or
http://www.swordsantiqueweapons.com/images/s442.jpg
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Postby Ulrich von L...n » 06 Sep 2012 05:47

Thanks for the clarification.
IMO Turkish kilij isn't an ideal fencing weapon. I would prefer something lighter, with PoB closer to its guard.
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