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The Cimmerian Art Of War


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#1 Orkin

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 03:49 AM

The Cimmerian Art of War

In the 1920?s, Robert E. Howard wrote a flurry of short stories and one novel about Conan, a barbarian from Cimmeria who lived, we are told, some 10,000 years ago in a world known only to fantasy, but bearing much in common with the legends of medieval and ancient Europe. A pulp author, Howard has received little respect, but he remains unrivaled in his ability to craft a vivid scene of ancient civilizations with a few deftly chosen words, pulling the reader by the hair through fast-paced adventures.

Since then, Conan has become a subject of pastiches, comic books, movies, a TV series, and cartoons. In all of these incarnations, Conan is correctly portrayed as a strong warrior, skilled in swordsmanship. However, the swordsmanship presented appears to vary from medium to medium, and according to the whim of those who adapted his tales. One can understand this situation ? why consult this author for authenticity?

Howard was raised in a small town in central Texas. As far as I know, he had no exposure to medieval treatises on swordsmanship (a tiny few did at that time), nor even modern fencing ? the best we can say is that he seems to have had a small collection of Civil War sabers. Indeed, in the 1920?s popular understanding of medieval swordplay was limited to movies with Douglas Fairbanks, a few survivors of 19th century battles in which sabers might have been used, and a handful of Victorian romances about knights and chivalry. Scholarly studies of manuscripts written by medieval sword-masters were yet to begin.

So all the more amazing, when we see Conan fighting (in the REH originals) using techniques that are both practical, and authentic in ways that we have not understood since the middle ages. It is my task to try to pick apart these sagas and try to present something of a comprehensive art of Cimmerian swordsmanship, imagined by a Texan who had barely lifted a sword.
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#2 budgie

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 08:55 AM

I could imagine Bob as a young man or even child out in the country going out and doing his own thing.. Theres things you do there that you can never do in the cities, especially when nature related..no easy travel methods..

You walk or take the horse (if you dont have access to your own transport) so journeys tale longer and prove for more mental stimulation.
Friends could have been fewer so more chance to inspire yourself through your own imagination. Maybe these points helped to give him the lone warriors attitudes to his surroundings nad the wonders of new lands.

I imagine he played sword fights with other kids using sticks or bits of picket fence, if any of you have done this it doesnt take long to figure out some moves that may have worked with a real sword. Fairbanks and et al may well have been his inspiration there with him reenacting schenes and then modifying them (intentionally or not)..

Then again I could be talking out my hat!!

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#3 Gorulga

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 02:07 PM

Howard practiced boxing so he may have assumed that the principles that work in boxing would carry over to medieval fencing too. If he owned or had access to authentic swords it is likely that he would have a more realistic appreciation of swords and their use. Perhaps he had some experience testcutting too.

It is to Howards credit that he understood that medieval swords were in fact effective cutting instruments wielded with skill. The fencing authorities of his time would not.

#4 Orkin

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Posted 18 July 2004 - 10:56 PM

I imagine he played sword fights with other kids using sticks or bits of picket fence, if any of you have done this it doesnt take long to figure out some moves that may have worked with a real sword. 

Well, it looks like he had a collection of real Civil War sabres.
A well-known picture shows REH with two of his buds with three swords. Now, during the depression, there were probably plenty of people willing to sell old Grandpa's sword from the War. And who else but Bob had the cash and the interest in the weapons?

It's not much work to imagine him blocking out fights with these antiques!
? ?When I can not stand alone, it will be time to die,? he mumbled, through mashed lips. ?But I?d like a flagon of wine.?
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#5 CromIveNeverPrayedToYouB4

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 04:32 AM

Boxing is considered the "sweet science" and in many ways I can see how this relates to swordmanship.It is a system of checks and balances that only few would understand. When youm ake the wrong move and get punched in your mouth, maybe you will understand. AN EXCELELLENT comparison to say the least!!!

#6 CromIveNeverPrayedToYouB4

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Posted 19 July 2004 - 04:36 AM

you make ***** I apologize(csk)

#7 Konorg

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:05 PM

The Cimmerian Art of War

In the 1920?s, Robert E. Howard wrote a flurry of short stories and one novel about Conan, a barbarian from Cimmeria who lived, we are told, some 10,000 years ago in a world known only to fantasy, but bearing much in common with the legends of medieval and ancient Europe. A pulp author, Howard has received little respect, but he remains unrivaled in his ability to craft a vivid scene of ancient civilizations with a few deftly chosen words, pulling the reader by the hair through fast-paced adventures.

Since then, Conan has become a subject of pastiches, comic books, movies, a TV series, and cartoons. In all of these incarnations, Conan is correctly portrayed as a strong warrior, skilled in swordsmanship. However, the swordsmanship presented appears to vary from medium to medium, and according to the whim of those who adapted his tales. One can understand this situation ? why consult this author for authenticity?

Howard was raised in a small town in central Texas. As far as I know, he had no exposure to medieval treatises on swordsmanship (a tiny few did at that time), nor even modern fencing ? the best we can say is that he seems to have had a small collection of Civil War sabers. Indeed, in the 1920?s popular understanding of medieval swordplay was limited to movies with Douglas Fairbanks, a few survivors of 19th century battles in which sabers might have been used, and a handful of Victorian romances about knights and chivalry. Scholarly studies of manuscripts written by medieval sword-masters were yet to begin.

So all the more amazing, when we see Conan fighting (in the REH originals) using techniques that are both practical, and authentic in ways that we have not understood since the middle ages. It is my task to try to pick apart these sagas and try to present something of a comprehensive art of Cimmerian swordsmanship, imagined by a Texan who had barely lifted a sword.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Hmmm,would be nice to create a armed and unarmed fighting art inspried by Rober E. Howard's Conan stories don't ya think? B)


The aveage civilized man is never fully alive;he is burdened with masses of atrophied tisse and useless matter.Life flickers feebily in him;his senses sre dull and torpid...In devloping his intellect he has sacrificed far more then he realizes."

#8 jackx

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 05:37 PM

Necromancy! ;o

That said, check the general forum, Kortoso has recorded 2 vids of him doing some of the fighting moves that Howard described, one should be in the "Cold Hyrkanian Steel" thread, the other in a separate thread...
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#9 Kortoso

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 06:34 PM

Hmmm,would be nice to create a armed and unarmed fighting art inspried by Rober E. Howard's Conan stories don't ya think? B)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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#10 theGrayMan

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Posted 14 February 2006 - 09:07 PM

I imagine he played sword fights with other kids using sticks or bits of picket fence, if any of you have done this it doesnt take long to figure out some moves that may have worked with a real sword.?

Well, it looks like he had a collection of real Civil War sabres.
A well-known picture shows REH with two of his buds with three swords. Now, during the depression, there were probably plenty of people willing to sell old Grandpa's sword from the War. And who else but Bob had the cash and the interest in the weapons?

It's not much work to imagine him blocking out fights with these antiques!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




Huge numbers of both issued and unused sabers were sold at penny prices, as civil war surplus, from the end of the American civil war until Bannerman's and their military and sporting goods competitors ran out of sabers and/or out of time on the commercial scene. Very Common stuff, widely seen. Fritz Lieber, who was a formally trained fencer, said that he himself owned some everyday working civil war sabers. People were supposed to have bought them sometimes just for the steel in them. Ditto wiith almost anything else from the civil war, as most of the gear used was obsolete even while the wat was still on, and exited he conflict in functional but mostly useless condition (but to some, probably, in highly entertaining condition).

"Scientific" Boxing is supposed to be developed from the art of the fence. The basic moves are supposed to be equivalent, although not well related to the art of scrambling to batter someone, just as the art of the fence is not well related to what historical researchers now seem to see as the the casual daily use of large edged weapons. I've known one father who actually taught the basic sword blocks as the preliminary preparation for teaching boxing, and got some wins and some money out of it. He turned out some tough girls.

Howard is possibly the most recent fantasy writer to have stuck a sword through somebody, instead of just waving a sword around while shouting "Hark!" or "On Guard!". Apparently this was an accidental event. Fortunately it was just a piercing of the hand, unfortunately it was a piercing of a friend's hand. Howard is said to have stopped playing with the things as a consequence of it. Howard, of course, was never Vice President, and limited himself to cutting his friends, while in Texas. Unless you view the matter at a wider and darker level, that is.

Play was actually the correct and exact word. Most of his life, boy and man, Howard arranged scenes to be played out by his companions and friends, in later days often with real weapons. Howard's scenes were supposed to have arranged and tested a number of the moves described in print (and, one would imagine, a number of manly phrases later rendered in print), although if you check it out, you will find that Howard usually evokes emotion and force with powerful general wording, wherein swords glint and gore jets, and then lets it go at that and leaves the reader to devise the details, rapidly, out of his own experience or imagination: generally speaking, most readers will not disagree with themselves later, and so will often think of Howard's work as perfect, which in a sense it is, as, surprise, it agrees so closely with what the reader sees as correct. Duh. Evidently, this particular rabbit never fails to make it out of the hat, decade after decade, generation after generation.

And also, being well able to make acute observations and judgments concerning both character and characters, Howard was evidently also capable of making acute judgments about the possibilities of and limitations of straightforward items of the muscle-powered warfare era (a little less happy about firearms: the locks break a lot on Howard Industries made weapons...). You see less of the actual "weapons system" thinking behind specific design or military use of a given class of cutting weapon. Howard tends to show all combat as an intensified version of street brawling, and thus makes it accessible to a generalized, contemporary boy audience of both his stories and of the swashbuckler motion picures, prevously mentioned above in other posts, that he and most of his audience saw in the movie theaters of the day. All in all, it works. The scenework damn near flies, sometimes. Hard to copy, hard to match, hard to surpass, easy to like and enjoy.

#11 Konorg

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Posted 15 February 2006 - 09:32 PM

Hmmm,would be nice to create a armed and unarmed fighting art inspried by Rober E. Howard's Conan stories don't ya think? B)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

If you live in northern California, why don't you stop by and we'll train.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



Sadly i live in Louisiana: ;)


The aveage civilized man is never fully alive;he is burdened with masses of atrophied tisse and useless matter.Life flickers feebily in him;his senses sre dull and torpid...In devloping his intellect he has sacrificed far more then he realizes."

#12 Primeval

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 07:35 PM

Our very own Kortoso has some more videos up on youtube about Hyborian swordsmanship. I haven't seen anything on the forum here about it, so here is a link to his channel there and all the videos.

Kortoso's Barbarian Swordsmanship

Great stuff!

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#13 deuce

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 11:36 AM

The Cimmerian Art of War

In the 1920?s, Robert E. Howard wrote a flurry of short stories and one novel about Conan, a barbarian from Cimmeria who lived, we are told, some 10,000 years ago in a world known only to fantasy, but bearing much in common with the legends of medieval and ancient Europe. A pulp author, Howard has received little respect, but he remains unrivaled in his ability to craft a vivid scene of ancient civilizations with a few deftly chosen words, pulling the reader by the hair through fast-paced adventures.

Since then, Conan has become a subject of pastiches, comic books, movies, a TV series, and cartoons. In all of these incarnations, Conan is correctly portrayed as a strong warrior, skilled in swordsmanship. However, the swordsmanship presented appears to vary from medium to medium, and according to the whim of those who adapted his tales. One can understand this situation ? why consult this author for authenticity?

Howard was raised in a small town in central Texas. As far as I know, he had no exposure to medieval treatises on swordsmanship (a tiny few did at that time), nor even modern fencing ? the best we can say is that he seems to have had a small collection of Civil War sabers. Indeed, in the 1920?s popular understanding of medieval swordplay was limited to movies with Douglas Fairbanks, a few survivors of 19th century battles in which sabers might have been used, and a handful of Victorian romances about knights and chivalry. Scholarly studies of manuscripts written by medieval sword-masters were yet to begin.

So all the more amazing, when we see Conan fighting (in the REH originals) using techniques that are both practical, and authentic in ways that we have not understood since the middle ages. It is my task to try to pick apart these sagas and try to present something of a comprehensive art of Cimmerian swordsmanship, imagined by a Texan who had barely lifted a sword.


So, how is your task of delineating Cimmerian swordsmanship coming along?

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#14 deuce

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 11:39 AM

I imagine he played sword fights with other kids using sticks or bits of picket fence, if any of you have done this it doesnt take long to figure out some moves that may have worked with a real sword.?

Well, it looks like he had a collection of real Civil War sabres.
A well-known picture shows REH with two of his buds with three swords. Now, during the depression, there were probably plenty of people willing to sell old Grandpa's sword from the War. And who else but Bob had the cash and the interest in the weapons?

It's not much work to imagine him blocking out fights with these antiques!

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>




Huge numbers of both issued and unused sabers were sold at penny prices, as civil war surplus, from the end of the American civil war until Bannerman's and their military and sporting goods competitors ran out of sabers and/or out of time on the commercial scene. Very Common stuff, widely seen. Fritz Lieber, who was a formally trained fencer, said that he himself owned some everyday working civil war sabers. People were supposed to have bought them sometimes just for the steel in them. Ditto wiith almost anything else from the civil war, as most of the gear used was obsolete even while the wat was still on, and exited he conflict in functional but mostly useless condition (but to some, probably, in highly entertaining condition).

"Scientific" Boxing is supposed to be developed from the art of the fence. The basic moves are supposed to be equivalent, although not well related to the art of scrambling to batter someone, just as the art of the fence is not well related to what historical researchers now seem to see as the the casual daily use of large edged weapons. I've known one father who actually taught the basic sword blocks as the preliminary preparation for teaching boxing, and got some wins and some money out of it. He turned out some tough girls.

Howard is possibly the most recent fantasy writer to have stuck a sword through somebody, instead of just waving a sword around while shouting "Hark!" or "On Guard!". Apparently this was an accidental event. Fortunately it was just a piercing of the hand, unfortunately it was a piercing of a friend's hand. Howard is said to have stopped playing with the things as a consequence of it. Howard, of course, was never Vice President, and limited himself to cutting his friends, while in Texas. Unless you view the matter at a wider and darker level, that is.

Play was actually the correct and exact word. Most of his life, boy and man, Howard arranged scenes to be played out by his companions and friends, in later days often with real weapons. Howard's scenes were supposed to have arranged and tested a number of the moves described in print (and, one would imagine, a number of manly phrases later rendered in print), although if you check it out, you will find that Howard usually evokes emotion and force with powerful general wording, wherein swords glint and gore jets, and then lets it go at that and leaves the reader to devise the details, rapidly, out of his own experience or imagination: generally speaking, most readers will not disagree with themselves later, and so will often think of Howard's work as perfect, which in a sense it is, as, surprise, it agrees so closely with what the reader sees as correct. Duh. Evidently, this particular rabbit never fails to make it out of the hat, decade after decade, generation after generation.

And also, being well able to make acute observations and judgments concerning both character and characters, Howard was evidently also capable of making acute judgments about the possibilities of and limitations of straightforward items of the muscle-powered warfare era (a little less happy about firearms: the locks break a lot on Howard Industries made weapons...). You see less of the actual "weapons system" thinking behind specific design or military use of a given class of cutting weapon. Howard tends to show all combat as an intensified version of street brawling, and thus makes it accessible to a generalized, contemporary boy audience of both his stories and of the swashbuckler motion picures, prevously mentioned above in other posts, that he and most of his audience saw in the movie theaters of the day. All in all, it works. The scenework damn near flies, sometimes. Hard to copy, hard to match, hard to surpass, easy to like and enjoy.


Once again, a great post from TheGrayMan (Larry Richter). B)

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#15 Guest_Bront_*

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 03:48 AM

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" In the 1920?s, Robert E. Howard wrote a flurry of short stories and one novel about Conan, a barbarian from Cimmeria who lived, we are told, some 10,000 years ago in a world known only to fantasy, but bearing much in common with the legends of medieval and ancient Europe. A pulp author, Howard has received little respect, but he remains unrivaled in his ability to craft a vivid scene of ancient civilizations with a few deftly chosen words, pulling the reader by the hair through fast-paced adventures."

I myself became aware of Western Longsword Martial Arts as set down by late medieval masters like Johannes Liechtenauer only about a decade ago. It was a real eye opener, using wasters and practising the strikes, thrusts and winds.

http://www.myarmoury...e_arms_gls.html

To some degree REH would have certainly been influenced by the popular culture in his day, Douglas Fairbanks swashbucklers, where opponents unrealistically fight the swords and not the individuals with all that back and forth dueling. In reality these fights where quick and dirty with opponents trying to get in first and/or turning a defensive move into an attack at the same time.

Conan’s combat style also reminds me of some of the Norse Saga fighting accounts. Again quick and dirty, if less refined than the styles presented in the later medieval manuscripts.

A good example of Conan engaging a foe in a sword fight would be ‘ The Frost Giants Daughter ‘. Heimdul took the initiative and made a swinging overcut to Conan‘s head, catching the Cimmerian by surprise. The staggered Conan did not waste time with trying to make a counter cut/strike move, but thrust quickly making short work of the Vanir. It is interesting to note that the European fight masters taught that if a strike fell short, it should be turned into a thrust ( no wasting time pulling back for another cut ).

Quote

" Howard practiced boxing so he may have assumed that the principles that work in boxing would carry over to medieval fencing too. If he owned or had access to authentic swords it is likely that he would have a more realistic appreciation of swords and their use. Perhaps he had some experience testcutting too."

Even more important than boxing when it came to sword play would be the winding and wrestling techniques. Test cutting. Believe me, if you own a sword ( unless it is some antique ) you will use it for cutting practise sooner or later. REH would have at least gave it a few test cuts, for fun ( apart from that unfortunate accident with the hand ).

Following Conan’s early career can help us get some insight on the Cimmerian fighting style. In the tale Rogues In The House, Conan used poinard and grappeling techniques to defeat the man ape creature Thak. In The Tower of The Elephant Conan takes advantage of the darkness and confusion to slay a Kothian rogue.

Cimmerians utilised knives/daggers, swords, wrestling/boxing techniques and combined this with stealth and surprise when the situation warranted. Also note Conan’s climbing abilities. I see the Cimmerians as the Ninja’s amongst the Barbarian peoples. With neighbours like the crafty and savage picts, warlike Nordhemer and expansionist Hyborians, the Cimmerians would out of necessity need to be this good to survive.

Edited by Bront, 24 January 2012 - 11:51 AM.


#16 Kortoso

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 06:31 PM

Bront, I had a site up - a while back - where I digested the Conan yarns and highlighted Conan's sword techniques. When I get a chance, I'll put it up again someplace. :) You're on the right track, however,
Notice that Conan in the tales only parries twice - and that's when he is caught by surprise. Normally he uses single-time attacks, or the stop-cut.

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 11:55 AM

Kortoso, when you get the chance, if possible, post a link on this thread. I bet many ( myself included ) will find an indepth look at Conan's sword techniques to be of interest.

Thinking back now, I think the first Conan the Barbarian film had Conan/Arnie making use of single time attacks during the battle scenes.

I suppose the style of fighting would have also been determined by the choice of weapons. Not much parry with heavier medieval style swords ( although, having held a few good swords, not as heavy as some people wrongly believe ). I see Cimmerian swords being similar to late medieval cut and thrust longswords, and Viking style cutting broadswords that utilised a sharpened cutting point that would still be effective in going through flesh and mail armour.

I recently went back to re-reading the REH Conan yarns ( Conan Chronicles ). Will see if I can make a short list myself on Conan's sword techniques, and compile something at a later date.

Edited by Bront, 25 January 2012 - 11:56 AM.


#18 Kortoso

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 05:53 PM

Here, try this:
http://webspace.webr.../cimmsword.html

#19 Kortoso

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Posted 25 January 2012 - 10:29 PM

... although, having held a few good swords, not as heavy as some people wrongly believe...


You might find this to be informative, if you haven't seen it previously:
http://www.thearma.org/essays/weights.htm

#20 Ironhand

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 08:09 AM


... although, having held a few good swords, not as heavy as some people wrongly believe...


You might find this to be informative, if you haven't seen it previously:
http://www.thearma.org/essays/weights.htm

Great article!
"Did you deem yourself strong, because you were able to twist the heads off civilized folk, poor weaklings with muscles like rotten string? Hell! Break the neck of a wild Cimmerian bull before you call yourself strong. I did that, before I was a full-grown man...!" - Conan, in "Shadows in Zamboula", by Robert E. Howard
"... you speak of Venarium familiarly. Perhaps you were there?"
"I was," grunted [Conan]. "I was one of the horde that swarmed over the hills. I hadn't yet seen fifteen snows, but already my name was repeated about the council fires." - "Beyond the Black River", by Robert E. Howard

Read my Conan screenplays at The Scrolls of Ironhand (in particular my transcription of THE FROST GIANT'S DAUGHTER in Act II of "The Snow Devil") at
http://www.scrollsof...d.us/index.html or at
http://www.delicious...ic=ConanProject