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Inclusa
2011-Jan-09, 03:45 AM
To the Chinese, the katana (Japanese Sword), scimitar, machete, etc, are knives; only the straight, double edged knife is called sword.
Than again, the Westerners call almost any edged weapons swords.
To so, knives are mostly tools; swords are weapons; than again, this is still too vague.

Jens
2011-Jan-09, 04:19 AM
I don't think there's a strict distinction. I would say that you're pretty much right with the last definition: in English, a sword is something generally meant for fighting, whereas a knife is for cutting things like food. I'm not sure about Chinese, but in Japanese the categories are not really the same as in English, so it's hard to make a comparison. There are words "katana" and "tsurugi" that refer to swords principally, and there is the word "hamono," literally "bladed thing," which refers to knives but also swords (like "cutlery" in English). I think you're right, that a katana is a curved blade, whereas a tsurugi is a straight blade, but as far as I know, curved knives for cooking are not called katana.

Trebuchet
2011-Jan-09, 05:32 AM
Than again, the Westerners call almost any edged weapons swords.

I don't think that's correct. It has to have a certain length to it, probably 1/2 meter or more. A 4" switchblade is an edged weapon but definitely not a sword.

Gillianren
2011-Jan-09, 05:33 AM
From a technical perspective, I would say that all swords are knives, but not all knives are swords. I know that, in renaissance faire circles, length is a key determining factor. After all, there are plenty of short blades which are obviously intended for combat but which are still called knives.

Tog
2011-Jan-09, 05:51 AM
Katana is a very specific type of edges weapon. A sword of nearly identical size was called the tachi. The only real differences were that the tachi had a curve tot he handle the matched that of the blade, and the tachi was worn hanging from the belt with the cutting edge down rather than shoves in the belt with the cutting edge up.

The wakizashi and no-dachi both had shapes like the katana but were of noticeably different sizes.

For the distinction between sword and knife, I've always considered the rule of thumb to be the length of the forearm. If the weapon is held in reverse grip, with the blade extending from the side of the hand with the pinky finger, and the tip goes past the point of the elbow, it's a sword. For most Westerners, that's around 10-12 inches. I've got a main gauche right here that it just a inch or so short of being a sword by that standard.

Another distinction is that you parry with a sword, but avoid with a knife, in most cases. If a combat technique involves blade to blade contact, it's a sword. There are exceptions.

vonmazur
2011-Jan-09, 06:25 AM
murongningji: As you can see, we have experts here on just about everything....:) I have an extensive collection and moderate several weapons boards...In the west, especially in the US and GB, the practice is to refer to the weapon by its native designation, as you can see, they have covered all the Japanese Blades, and the cognoscenti are fluent in the meanings and designs....It gets a bit more complicated with European edged weapons, I won't go into a long rant, (I hope!) For example, the Prussian Empire had specific names for the weapons based on who used them!! The best example is the "Pallosch" only heavy Cavalry carried them, Kuerrasieren, and the Garde du Corps, and then the name applied only if the units wore armor! As a rule, a curved weapon, in the US and Germany is a Saber (Saebel), a straight bladed weapon is a sword (Schwert) but even this get amended, a straight bladed long sword carried by an infantry Officer is a "Degen", as is a Dagger!! This can get confusing when comparing what Western Country is involved...With the French, if it is curved, or straight, and has a fairly wide blade, more than 25mm or so, it is a "Saber", if it is long and thin, it is an "Epee"...I cannot keep up with all the designations, so I refer to the publications and go from there....In some ways, the Japanese usage is more logical and precise than the European usage...

The Prussians, for example, have the "Infantrie Degen Modell 1889", the "Kavallrie Degen Modell 1889", and they are actually quite different weapons...With bayonets it is even weirder!! The Infantry has a "Bayonet", the Engineers, and Artillery (If on foot) have a "Faschinenmesser", the Jaeger Battalions (Light Infantry) have a "Hirschfaenger" all of these fill the same function, they just have different names....???

Dale

Jens
2011-Jan-09, 09:10 AM
Katana is a very specific type of edges weapon. A sword of nearly identical size was called the tachi.

It's funny, but although that is true in English, it's not quite in Japanese. In Japanese, "katana" is used for any single-edged sword, as can be seen in the Wikipedia (http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%88%80)article in Japanese, which shows a picture of a Prussian sword. In Japanese, a Japanese katana is called a Nihon-to (the "to" is the same kanji as "katana," but different pronunciation). And also, the Japanese Wikipedia page on tachi states that it is a "type of Nihon-to." The Chinese characters for tachi are "fat-katana".

Jens
2011-Jan-09, 09:18 AM
I should amend that a little; maybe Tog is more correct that I made it seem. The usage Nihon-to is actually fairly recent, since the late Edo Period, and comes from foreign traders. So before that, the usage was uchi-katana for what we usually know as Japanese katana, and tachi. And since the Muromachi Period, apparently, "katana" has generally been used to refer to uchi-katana. So katana has sort of two meanings, one single-sided swords in general, and the other Japanese katana specifically.

danscope
2011-Jan-09, 01:34 PM
"Oh...I can't get up, I won't get up, I can't get up for my life; for you have two long beaten swords , and I've but a pocket knife ."
Said by a lad who knew the difference .

Kaptain K
2011-Jan-09, 06:40 PM
If you get stabbed in the chest and it comes out of your back, it's a sword. If it doesn't, it's a knife.

mfumbesi
2011-Jan-11, 06:51 AM
^ LOL

Jens
2011-Jan-11, 06:52 AM
If you get stabbed in the chest and it comes out of your back, it's a sword. If it doesn't, it's a knife.

The thing I was going to say, though, is that for somebody, especially some American people, a sword needs to be quite a bit longer than in might be in other places. :)

vonmazur
2011-Jan-11, 07:04 AM
Carried a Katana in Vietnam, and a few other weapons as well...

Dale

ggremlin
2011-Jan-11, 07:50 AM
A possible working definition:
If it is still carried into battle and has a cutting edge it is a knife, everything else is a sword or obsolete.
Alternate working definition:
If it used to open everything including a body, it is a knife. ;)

Grashtel
2011-Jan-11, 11:21 AM
If you get stabbed in the chest and it comes out of your back, it's a sword. If it doesn't, it's a knife.
If you stab someone in the chest with a sword and it comes out the back you're doing it wrong, having some extra steel go through them won't make them any deader and will make the sword harder to pull out to use on the next guy (or possibly the current guy if you failed to hit somewhere immediately debilitating/lethal).

parallaxicality
2011-Jan-11, 12:45 PM
Interesting debate. One thing I think that separates knives from other short-bladed weapons is that knives are usually blunt on one side, to enable cutting things without causing harm to the cutter, whereas killing blades, like daggers and stilettos, are bladed on both sides for ease of entry. Of course, katanas and many other swords are also single-edged, but I think the distinction there is not that a katana is used for fighting but that it can be used for defence; i.e., it is large enough to block an opponent's strike.

Tog
2011-Jan-11, 01:36 PM
Most modern designs for "fighting knives" have a single edge. The back of the blade may be sharpened in what's called a false edge but that's rarely more than 1/3 to 1/2 the blade length. All military combat knives I have follow this design. Tantos are sharp only on one edge as well.

The distinction here is more based on the how the blade is used rather than on what. Slashing and cutting knives don't need the other edge sharpened. Thrusting knives do. The modern school of thought is that you don't thrust a knife to attack, you make a number of superficial cuts and wait. For daggers and similar weapons, they were intended to be used in conjunction with another weapon, or from stealth.

JohnD
2011-Jan-11, 11:07 PM
A knife can be a concealed weapon, a sword cannot.

John

Gillianren
2011-Jan-12, 12:08 AM
Interesting debate. One thing I think that separates knives from other short-bladed weapons is that knives are usually blunt on one side, to enable cutting things without causing harm to the cutter, whereas killing blades, like daggers and stilettos, are bladed on both sides for ease of entry.

However, a dagger or a stiletto is assuredly not a sword. We at faire do just generically call them "blades" as often as not.

Solfe
2011-Jan-12, 01:25 AM
I always had a hard time defining knife vs. dagger and dagger vs. sword. Some roman swords look like really long and wide daggers. I always thought daggers were thicker than knives and often wider than both knives and swords.

Does shape/cross section have anything to do with what marks the difference between sword and knife or dagger for that matter? I know weapons with a triangular or square cross sections are not legal in my area; while a relatively flat blade, even if it was 3 to 6 feet long are just fine. I am not saying you should carry a sword around, I am simply observing that you could :)

Solfe
2011-Jan-12, 01:37 AM
Interesting how wrong I can be... I guess you can't carry a sword at all in NY (google you know). Nothing longer than 4 inches or four fingers which ever is smaller is allowed. They sell swords in a couple of stores at the mall, so I kind of figured it was legal.

jokergirl
2011-Jan-12, 09:39 AM
If you get stabbed in the chest and it comes out of your back, it's a sword. If it doesn't, it's a knife.

:D
What if you're wearing armour?

"Degen" is technically a fencing implement. A cutting long sword would be a Säbel I think.

vonmazur
2011-Jan-12, 11:28 PM
"Degen" is technically a fencing implement. A cutting long sword would be a Säbel I think." Jokergirl...

Jokergirl: I thought a fencing sword was called "Stichdegen"...This can get mighty complicated, especially when dealing with German military terms.

Dale

kleindoofy
2011-Jan-12, 11:50 PM
"Degen" is technically a fencing implement. A cutting long sword would be a Säbel I think." Jokergirl...

Jokergirl: I thought a fencing sword was called "Stichdegen"...This can get mighty complicated, especially when dealing with German military terms.

Dale
Err, fencing is done in three main catagories, the German words for which are: Florette, Degen, and Säbel. As far as I know, in English these are called foil, épée, and sabre, respectively.

The three are usually catagorized as Stichwaffe or Stoßwaffe (Florette/Degen), and Hiebwaffe and Stichwaffe (Säbel). Stich or Stoß would mean "stab," while in this sense Hieb means "slash."

Invoking military terminology isn't really necessary. More civilians fence than soldiers and swords were never an exclusively military thing.

vonmazur
2011-Jan-13, 03:02 AM
Here are some shots of, from top to bottom, Kavallrie Degen M 1889, Kuerassier Pallosch M 1818, and Infantrie Offizier Degen M 1889/08. All of these examples are what was called "Extra Purchase", that is they are not issue weapons from the State or Crown of the Germans/Prussians. The salesmen must have hung around the Kassernen like vultures, selling this stuff to the troops, I have several catalogues from the various makers and they offered all kinds of "Upgrades".....

The top blade is "named" by the first owner, a Herr Baus, a three year volunteer in the 2nd Squadron/3rd Rheinish Hussar Regt, No 9. "Dreijahrfreiwilligern" were allowed to buy their own weapon(s) and they often went for the engraving and blue background on them...

The middle is marked for the 7th Kuerassier Regt. "von Seydlitz" of which, Otto von Bismark was fond of wearing their colors, and uniform, he may have been the "Honorary Colonel in Chief" of that Regiment. I do not know for sure.

The bottom is an Infantry Officer's Degen modell 1889. It bears the cypher of Wilhem II, on the guard and on the grips as well. Only the Infantry Officers had this on their blades. I do not know why this is...This example has a folding guard, as the Prussians used an inside belt and often had their sword inside the overcoat...The basket guard is "Fein cizliert" or engraved, no doubt at some expense at the time as it is done by hand and not molded or cast. The gold is applied by a very dangerous process, using and amalgam of gold and mercury. It cannot be duplicated today..The craftsmen applied the amalgam to the brass or tambak metal, and then burned off the mercury leaving the gold. Very fine result, but not very safe....

(Yes, this is among the 25 edged weapons hanging on my walls!)

Dale

HenrikOlsen
2011-Jan-13, 10:14 PM
The gold is applied by a very dangerous process, using and amalgam of gold and mercury. It cannot be duplicated today..
Actually it can, but depending on the country is likely heavily regulated because of the potential environmental impact.