Why would the Crusaders have preferred straight swords while the Arabs and Turkish armies of the same period preferred scimitars?

We know for a fact that the mechanics of the sword has a direct relation to its geometry.

In curved blades the angle of the approach or the point of contact on the blade is not important. As soon as the blade makes contact it will slice in a tight and narrow plane of its path in a successful manner. A straight blade has to have a wider and larger contact area. A straight sword has to move parallel to the plane of the cutting path. If the blade diverts from its path of cutting the blade gets stuck or it becomes harder to cut.

Holding a long straight sword on a horse back charging fast toward your opponent, the window of striking the sword with its maximum and effective power is very small. The sword has to land with maximum blade contact. Assuming you are a highly skill swordsman and you make that small window, by the time the sword lands on its target the horse would have moved forward by a few steps. Retrieving the sword now becomes an effort as the blade is not parallel with the cutting line anymore. This exercise becomes even harder if your opponent is not stationary and charging at you.

If you are holding a curved blade, depending on how it is wielded, the window of opportunity of striking with maximum power increases by a lot. This means an early swing or a late one wouldn’t have disfavored consequences. No matter which part of the blade strikes it will cut and will pass through the opponent quite swiftly.

Studying martial arts such as Boxing and Wing Chun, an effective strike is executed when you visualise that your punch goes through your opponent. In my experience the effective power of a punch is a few inches behind the actual strike. This is only a mental process. If you strike a target where you are looking at then you will slow down about a few inches before landing that punch. By the time the punch has landed the effective power of it would have already decreased.

What is said above can be related to the engineering of the curved blade. The curved foible (front half of the blade) is not on the same axes with the handle and the forte’ (back half of the blade). The point lags a few inches behind. Therefore as the blade comes down it gives you an automatic extra inch of striking distance. In this instance the blade feels swift with high slashing capabilities.

Due to the easier maneuverability of a curved blade it was preferable to the Eastern armies.


About the author
  • Arash

    Arash Karpour

    worked and trained with head coach Maestro Antonio Signorello (former Italian Olympic Team Coach). Responsibilities include organizing, managing and coaching the cadet team as well as private / one-on-one lessons. University of New South Wales foil coach. Responsibilities are organizing and planning the training scheme for the trainees, group lessons and private /one-on-one lessons. Selector and manager of the UNSWFC representative team for Australian University Games (AUG)