Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

History and Historical European Martial Arts in the Codex Martialis

Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Arkon » Tue Nov 08, 2016 2:14 am

I have a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger and I'm thinking about buying a Cold Steel Gladius Machette or a Smatchet when I'll have more money.

Any ideas on what I could cut/stab to practice my cutting/stabbing skills?

Also, are there any old techniques that could be relevant with these toys?
...
Arkon
 
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Thaeris » Thu Nov 10, 2016 2:42 am

I hope you have a copy of Get Tough! by W. E. Fairbairn to go with the FS Knife or a Smatchet, should you get one.

One of the first targets I set up when I got a beat-up weapon was a swinging target. Basically, it's a punching bag for a sword or knife. My beat-up weapon was a Windlass qama (a short sword), so a small log was what I used. For a dagger, perhaps you may consider some sort of heavy foam material? Keep in mind an FS knife is not a good slashing weapon, as all the mass is concentrated in your hand - the blade does little-to-no work for you. The blade must be sharp as possible for when you must slash, but more importantly, it must be sharp in order to cut OUT of things, rather than cut into:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDGHKyB3T_U

^Pretty much BAMF.

Another good source of information, and perhaps even a good source for asking questions, is here:

http://www.fairbairnsykesfightingknives.com/

As per the swinging target, you can also "grapple" with it to an extent, which is also do-able with a pell, but that's a little more awkward. The swinging target also moves, so striking precisely gets a little more involved, etc. There is definitely something to actually striking a target which you do not get from merely dry-handling a weapon.

Otherwise, putting together some sort of "plush target" may be a good idea for a dagger, as you're not going to be cutting through things as you would with a sword. One warning to using the FS knife (or anything similar, for that matter): do NOT let your thumb rest on the crossguard when you thrust - you will jam your thumb pretty hard if you do. Make sure you keep a bit of distance between the thumb and the cross unless you're using a hold with a thumb on the flat of the blade (the V-42 of course had purpose-made thumb grooves for that purpose).

I'm sure you know, but any time you put a weapon up against a resistive target you risk damaging it. I recall quite a recent thread on MyArmoury about someone breaking his sword because he put it up against a pell. I do applaud people for not being afraid of putting arms to the test, but being upset when something ultimately fails is also really dumb. Train how you intend to, or would intend to fight, but don't do idiotic things to weapons you really care about. :D
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Galloglaich » Mon Nov 14, 2016 6:46 pm

hey guys! Great to hear from you.

I haven't done too much cutting with knives but we've been test-cutting in my club with swords down to machete size (including cheap machetes) all the way up to montante size, as well as spears, axes and a few other weapons. I have an Albion sharp and a handful of cheaper ones, as well as two antique swords. in the club as a whole we have maybe 10 real swords (sharps) and 10 or 15 cheaper things like machetes and so on that we still like to cut with.

So I'm not sure if what I'm going to describe is ideal for your purposes or not, just keep in mind the caveat that this is to do with test-cutting with swords not really knives.

Reasons to test cut

Think about what you want to get out of it. The swinging target sounds interesting as a way to practice cutting at (or stabbing) a dynamic target. Usually in the HEMA scene though we emphasize learning to cut first, then go up into dynamic targets (like tatami mats on a rolling base for example) once you learn the basics. I'm still at the point of learning the basics really, maybe to an intermediate level, but I've mostly cut at static targets. For me to learn accuracy I'd rather use a blunt since it's safer. Cutting itself is actually kind of hard to do well or right. It takes some practice at the very least. It's also fun to learn, a good challenge. Using both cheap and more expensive cutting media can teach you how to cut. This to me is enough of a challenge that you could use up 10 or 15 cutting sessions just getting up to speed ,though you may learn faster than I did.

Preparation for cutting and safety

This may not be as important for stabbing things, but to cut well, you really need to sharpen your blade. We usually sharpen them a lot. There is a noticeable difference between sharp and dull swords. The sharper it is though, the more dangerous it is. I try to explain to people that it's like a "short range gun". Wear boots or heavy shoes, wear long pants with relatively thick cloth (like blue jeans). I have seen people get hurt at test-cutting events, including people who should know better. Pay attention to the blade, and pay attention to the people around you. Watch the point etc.

Cheap cutting materials
Ok now the fun part.

Image
Plastic Bottles. The cheapest and most forgiving cutting material for me is the humble plastic milk bottle. 1 gallon size in the US is best. You can put these on a post about chest-high, fill it full of water and cut. If you cut really badly, it will bounce away with no effect. If you cut 'ok' you will hack off a hunk of it and knock it over. If you cut reasonably well (and it's pretty easy with this medium) it will shear off the top and leave the bottom still full of water. This is very satisfying and fun. Also pretty easy. They are also a good training tool since you can look at your cut in the plastic and see if you scooped it, or stuttered, or went off your cutting angle or whatever, it shows up in the shape of the cut part.

Image
Smaller water bottles require a little bit more finesse, but so long as the plastic isn't too hard or thick they are pretty easy. Thicker plastic obviously more of a challenge. (You can also bend swords, especially fragile or poorly made ones, even cutting things like plastic bottles so be careful.)

Image
Soda bottles are a bit harder still. Fill it full of water and cut, it requires a 'decent' cut or else they just bounce away with a dent. Start with the milk jug and then move to these. Still cheap and still pretty easy to cut. But harder, and if you are pretty good you can 'carrot' these - i.e. cut them 5 or 6 times until just the bottom is left with water still in it. Very satisfying.

Image
Pool noodles. These are also cheap, can be a bit tricky, bounce away with a bad cut but. Fairly satisfying to cut.

Image
Cardboard tubes These are harder to cut, which can be satisfying. Obviously depends on the thickness of the tube, 3" or 4" wide is about right. It gets harder from there. Blunts your blade quicker and some types which have bits of metal wire in them can score your blade up - so it depends if you have a fancy blade or a cheap machete.

Image
Bamboo
if you live near some, this is also a pretty challenging and fun media to cut.

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Game or animal cadavers This is a little icky, and might freak some people out, but I think it's harmless. We have done it many times. You can get meat and bones from your butcher, or from someone who hunts, and prior to having a barbque, hang it up on a rope and see how well you can cut it. Ranges from surprisingly easy to quite hard. Keep in mind bones that have been dried out can be a lot harder than in a living animal. Obviously never cut a living animal! Just being obvious for legal reasons here.


Image
Pro-media

Basically, tatami mats are the thing. You can get real ones in the mail for about $20, but you can also buy cheap as dirt straw mats from all over the place (in the US they sell them as beach mats) and to me they are about the same. You can also either put a wooden dowel or rod in the middle or not at your discretion. Thickness also varies a lot and matters a great deal vis a vis difficulty. A 3" tatami is about the same as a 2 liter soda bottle for difficulty. A 7" is much harder. You can buy a tatami mat stand for about $20 too or you can just make your own. A Christmas tree stand works pretty well too and lots of free ones are around after Christmas. Prep for the mats is fairly easy, just soak them in water for 24 hours before you cut.

Cutting tatami is a little bit hard at first. It's similar to shooting when you first learn to shoot - you have to train yourself to breathe, not to jerk your hand at the last minute, not to flinch and so on. But once you learn you can cut through all of them pretty easily with a good sword. My little constable will go through 3 7' tatami mats in one good cut. This is what you hone your skills on for the cutting tournaments etc. Start with easy cuts (oberhau) and then practice multiple cuts, true edge / false edge / true edge again. Cut it 3 or 4 times before the first piece hits the ground.

Cutting is tons of fun, especially with a few friends. I haven't done it in too long.

G
Galloglaich
 
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Galloglaich » Mon Nov 14, 2016 7:08 pm

Arkon wrote:I have a Fairbairn-Sykes dagger and I'm thinking about buying a Cold Steel Gladius Machette or a Smatchet when I'll have more money.

Any ideas on what I could cut/stab to practice my cutting/stabbing skills?

Also, are there any old techniques that could be relevant with these toys?


Fairbaird-Sykes dagger are really good weapons, a lot like a medieval dagger though they tend to be small. They are stabby and not 'cutty' . Most of your Fiore or the various Liechtenauer tradition dagger techniques work with them for learning to fight and fence, though obviously you would train for that with a blunt or some kind of simulator. Medieval systems are also seemingly designed more for longer weapons too but I'm not sure how much difference that makes.

For machete dussack techniques work pretty well. So does the FMA (Kali \ Eskrima etc.) There are also specific machete fighting techniques as well.

Personally I don't think Cold Steel stuff is very good, if you are in Poland I'd try to find a local blacksmith to make you something or buy something from within the re-enactor community. Or if you want to buy something Windlass to me makes better stuff. Everything I ever bought from Cold Steel handled like a crowbar and wasn't very durable in spite of it.
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Thaeris » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:12 pm

Another thing to add about the FS knife, if you didn't catch it already, is that the weapon is intended to be held like a smallsword/sabre with the thumb pressing on the grip (hence why I posted the warning about leaving some space between the thumb and the guard). Perhaps the thing to consider with most modern knives is that there's generally a good shortage of decent cut-and-thrust weapons out there today, mainly because common combat knives are pretty small from a historical perspective. Therefore, anything you can simulate armed grappling with is a good idea for weapons like the FS.

If you're looking for a good machete at a really nice price point, I suggest you get a Fiskars:

http://www2.fiskars.com/Products/Garden ... Machete-27

I've no idea where you live, but I'd be really surprised if you can't get one of these affordably. As it reads, it's good steel and it really does come quite sharp. I'd buy one of these before considering an Ontario machete any day of the week, though perhaps Condor or the like makes a better one south of the US border. But, I know the Fiskars product, and it really is excellent. One thing you might hit up Ontario Knife Company for is a scabbard, however, as that won't be included if you elect to buy what I'm suggesting.
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Thaeris » Mon Nov 14, 2016 11:29 pm

OH... I just remembered,

As Galloglaich was mentioning sword cutting media, one thing I've had a ton of fun with, so long as you have someone to help you, are plastic milk jugs... thrown plastic milk jugs. Think of shooting trap with a shotgun, except you hit a moving target coming towards you - with a sword, etc. - instead. That is somewhat relevant to coordination with a dagger, and it would certainly work with a machete. I really loathe seeing videos of people laboring to strike a stationary target, especially non-resistive ones like a plastic bottle. Having something thrown at you will give you no such opportunity to do so.

...Just make sure there's enough space between you and your partner, and that you will not lose control of the weapon. The last part is true for any martial practice in general, but losing grip of a nearly 4-foot longsword could really ruin someone's day. That said, you might want to hold off on this particular suggestion until you're sufficiently comfortable with the arms of your choice.
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Galloglaich » Tue Nov 15, 2016 12:25 am

Great posts, good advice. This thread can be useful in the future as a reference for cutting.

One media I left out (forgot about) but which is I think particularly good for practicing with a smaller knife is a pumpkin, or any gourds, melons or similar fruit. Lots around during halloween typically and regardless they tend to be cheap.

The best machetes i ever saw were in Costa Rica but I wasn't able to figure out where to get them outside of that country. Amazing weapons with good steel, some very long. You would see the coffee farmers riding around with them on their hip like something out of 15th Century Galicia...
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Re: Nice and affordable things to stab/cut?

Postby Galloglaich » Sun May 21, 2017 9:29 pm

We did a cutting day in my fencing club for the first time in a while. There is one half-decent cutting video on here of a guy cutting a milk jug 3 times with a katzbalger

http://sda.masterplanfoundation.com/cut ... ay-050717/
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