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Author Topic: Seax Fighting  (Read 4429 times)


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Seax Fighting
« on: April 23, 2019, 03:31:18 PM »
Am I the only ġesīþa ever to wonder why the abiding and seemingly defining characteristic of the Old English scramasax was its ‘broken-back’ design?

Was this merely traditional or did it serve some purpose?

Well, last night I was reading the chapter ‘Killing School’ of Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Morton ( 2016 John Murray, ISBN 978-1-444-79898-2) in hope of picking up some tips and inspiration for portraying a ‘black op’ in my kiddies’ book, a wave of slave-rustling in the Danelaw by Free Mercians out to liberate fellow Mercians captured during the Viking Wars.  ‘Killing School’ went into detail about the role of Eric ‘Bill’ Sykes, sometime chief of the Shanghai police in the inter-War years, and his partner in fighting crime, William ‘Shanghai’ Butler in giving lessons in “thuggery” and “gutter fighting” to everybody from Reinhard Heydrich’s assassins ( the training and planning of such operations all went on at Brickendonbury Manor in Hertfordshire, seemingly), to SOE agents and the like, the “auxiliary units” of our stay-behind network in the event on a Nazi invasion of mainland Britain, down to the Home Guard. 

Both men were all-round and highly professional killers and, in particular, it says here that: “Knife fighting was one of the great specialities of [ their secret training school in the Scottish Highlands]: Fairbairn and Sykes had designed their own double-edged commando knife – an eight-inch blade with a cross-piece and a ribbed centre on both sides.”
“Each of us had to plunge a knife into a recently killed animal to get the feel of human flesh that was still quivering,” said one new recruit.  There was a reason for this practice. “It was to make us realise that when you put a knife into any living creature, the contraction of the sinews is such that it’s very difficult to get it out.”

Local slaughterhouses were often used for this purpose. 

So I wonder what sense it makes to conclude that the ‘broken-back’ of the scramasax was indeed functional, to ease withdrawal?  Especially in the light of the fact that far more Old Englishmen and even -women than nowadays would have hands-on experience of slaughtering animals large enough to notice the contraction in question.

Or what say other ġesīþas?  For my book I’ve had to borrow as best I can from the use of the bowie knife for how the Old English trained/ practised and fought with the seax, since bowie-knife fighting is the only living tradition of knife fighting in the world, today.  The US army still teaches it and I think it was their Pioneer Corps where bowie knives are issued as standard, and it was an American enthusiast with whom a Scotsman put me in touch when I asked through his website about dirks, to be told that nothing survives of how Highlanders trained/ practised and used their dirks.  Dirks had already become ceremonial weapons by the time much detail about them survives in the historical record, he said.

The moral right of the author to identify Areala the Warrior Nun as his top Marvel comic superhero has been asserted.
« Last Edit: April 23, 2019, 03:38:01 PM by Bowerthane »


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Re: Seax Fighting
« Reply #1 on: April 23, 2019, 09:25:22 PM »
Gory but logical Bowerthane! Having had a (amateurish, girly) go with a sword and a seax, I did find the seax easier to direct and control, so presumably it’s well-balanced (or just more suited to my jabbing style lol!).