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Until the advent of the firearm the sword was one of the primary weapons of a soldier. The name comes from the Old English sweord (or to Old High German swert) which means, roughly, "a wounding tool". Simply put a sword is a metal weapon with one or two a cutting edges and a place to grip it at one end. A sword primarily consists of the blade and the hilt.

The blade of a sword usually tapers to a point, and is usually sharpened along one or both edges. European swords tend to be double-edged and straight-bladed, allowing for a "cut and thrust" approach. Japanese swords are famously single-edged and curved for better control and effect when slashing. The length of the blade can vary greatly, but generally, the longer the blade, the more emphasis is placed on "cutting" and less on "thrusting", a function of the weight and length of the weapon. Some European sword-blades are a uniform width for most of their length, others taper over their entire length. The preferred shape of the blade in Europe changed depending on period and location. The general length of a blade in a given European culture was largely a function of the availibity of iron and the skill of their swordsmiths. An entire nomenclature developed in medieval Japanese culture to describe sword-length and blade curvature, and great emphasis was placed on a warrior's ability to fight with swords of varying lengths, often with one in each hand.

The hilt of a sword is the place to hold the weapon. Most late-medieval European swords had a broad crossguard at the base of the blade to protect the hand, a long grip wrapped in leather or chain, and a large pommel at the base to provide both a counterbalance to the blade's weight and an additional mode of attack by using it as a bludgeon. This is an interesting contrast to early-medieval European swords which tended to be shorter and lacked broad crossguards. Japanese swords tend to have a simple metal disk or ellipse as a crossguard and no pronounced pommel, making the weapon's lines much smoother, with little variance to the basic sword-design throughout period.

The above statments, however, are generalizations. Swords came in many different types, for differing styles of combat. People tend to be most familiar with the medieval longsword which has long been the symbol associated with knights. As metallurgy, fighting styles and even fashion progressed, swords changed considerably and became highly specialized.

Sword-collecting has always been popular as many people find swords beautiful. Replica or recreation swords are extremely popular in the SCA, but it is important to be familiar with the live steel safety rules before wearing one at an event. In addition, SCA armoured combat rules forbid the presence of live steel on the field, and therefore SCA fighters make swords out of rattan.

See also:

Types of Swords

Fencing Swords