Idle Musings: The Saber is a Criminally Underappreciated Sword

The rapier is renowned for its agility, the greatsword for its brutality. In pop culture the katana is on the verge of deification; in HEMA the longsword reigns as king. But one of the most widely used swords in human history stays snubbed.

Sometimes long, sometimes mid-length, curved a little or almost a sickle, the saber has been a staple of swordsmiths and swordsmen for well over a thousand years. In various forms and under different names it has served Saladin’s Saracens, the hussars of Poland, the Cossacks of Russia, the Mongols and the Mamelukes, the Persians and the Prussians.

In trained hands the saber is phenomenal. Agile enough for snap-cuts and sudden thrusts from a disengagement or a parry, weighty enough to cleave limbs or even skulls. Its range of motion is without peer, its speed among one-handers rivaled only by the arming sword. It is truly an elegant weapon.

Have you noticed that we barely ever see them? Even in HEMA, the saber’s often an afterthought. Outside of Britain, the longsword is so dominant (at least in tournaments and sparring) as to make most other weapons half-forgotten. Those interested in fighting one handed tend to go straight for the rapier, and those who want a cutting sword are more likely to study sword and buckler.

We might want to work on changing that.

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