I'm ESL, hope I can deliver the questions clearly.

Consider a regular and sharp longsword.

  1. Would it be possible to stab someone by handling it close to the tip or maybe in the middle of the blade? (I never had one in my hands, I have no idea if you have enough stability to stab).

  2. How much damage would it do to the hand?

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    $\begingroup$ There is no danger in grasping the middle of the sword, the sharp blade only cuts things sliding on it. $\endgroup$
    – skout
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 2:19
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    $\begingroup$ ESL maybe, but "stability to stab" is a pun you should be proud of. $\endgroup$
    – Matt Lacey
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ @skout I find that unlikely. While it definitely cuts sliding things better, it's entirely possible to cut your finger while chopping vegetables; knives don't magically stop working until they're moved in a certain direction. Also, what are the odds that you're going to grasp something and have it not slide even a little? Of course, the cutting doesn't matter at all if the middle of your sword is duller than the tip, as the answers below suggest. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 7:16
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    $\begingroup$ Just to clarify - do you mean to describe stabbing someone with the sword held only by the blade, or with the hilt and also the blade? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ Reminder to close-voters: The problem cannot be fixed if the OP is not made aware of it. That being said, I see this as being an issue of tactics, which we have a specific tactics tag for and would advise editing into the question. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 18:27

7 Answers 7


The answer is Yes, of course, a warrior can grasp his own sword by the blade, and the old fighting manuals show this technique clearly (half-sword technique). There are also instances where it is recommended to grasp the opponent's sword.

Here is good treatise on the topic of half-sword technique, when it's used & why.

From Medieval Combat (a translation & description of Talhoffer's Fechbuch), we read: "The half=sword techniques were originally devised for fighting armoured opponents. The sword is gripped on the blade with the left hand and used like a short spear or bayonet to slice or stab into the armpits, groin, face, throat and joints."

Even though the technique was devised for armoured fighting, it could certainly be used for fighting without armour. Apropos to the question of injury to the swordsman's hand, note that medieval guantlets did not fully encase the hand and fingers:


The swordsman still had to wear a (thin) leathern glove underneath. This does not invalidate the answer, because the leather itself is relatively thin and offers little protection from stabs and slices. Thin leather = less bunching & greater range of motion; thick leather = bunching & less range of motion. You still need to take care in order not to slice your hand through the glove!

Zweihander Techniques Demonstration

enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

  • 29
    $\begingroup$ Why on earth is he stabbing a naked women in that picture? $\endgroup$
    – DonQuiKong
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 15:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DonQuiKong: because she has a sword and started the fight? IDK, looks super-weird to me, too. Maybe someone in the 1500s was looking for an excuse to draw boobs. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 15:38
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    $\begingroup$ Without your hand protected, there is no way your hand is coming away from this unscathed. So... I feel these techniques may work once until your hand heals. So to the OPs question of 'how much damage it will do to the hand'... it will cut it up pretty good (force of stabbing someone WILL cause at least slight sliding of the blade, also squeezing the blade hard enough is sufficient to have it cut into the skin). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 16:26
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    $\begingroup$ Having practiced with sharp one-and-a-half hand swords for a good while I can say that the half-blade technique depicted in the first and second images can be safely executed without any hand protection. $\endgroup$
    – NofP
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 18:17
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    $\begingroup$ @TylerDahle : Nope. You won't cut you hand. And Nikola Stojanovic, no, there was nothing more than maybe leather on your palms. And there is no such thing as "chainmail". Here is a video demonstrating the technique without gloves and with a sharp sword: youtube.com/watch?v=vwuQPfvSSlo $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 9:20

Yes, it's possible to stab someone by holding the middle of the blade.

As a weapon, the long sword was often used with half-swording techniques; so often, the other hand would be holding the blade.

Half Swording was a thing back in the day, where people would grab the middle of their blade with their hands while using the sword. The sharpest part of a sword is often closer to the tip, so this was relatively safe as long as you were wearing some sort of hand protection (eg: Plate gauntlet/ Thick leather gloves/ etc.). Even without the hand protection, it is theoretically possible to grip the blade such that your palm and fingers would not be sliced open.

This actually allowed the sword to be "shortened" for more powerful thrusts, or have more leverage when in close quarters.

Also often done was the flipping around of the sword to use the handle side as a mace/war hammer type implement.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ We should keep in mind, though, that half-swording relies on one hand holding the hilt. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 23:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Alexander You'd be surprised, that wasn't always the case. There are stories of some fighters using both hands on the blade when swinging with the hilt out $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Mar 7, 2018 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ @AdamD.Ruppe medieval swords weren't all that sharp. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 7:59
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik people think medieval swords are giant kitchen knives. They're not even close. Even a modern machete is not remotely as sharp as a typical kitchen knife. At high sharpness, you lose a lot of durability. A machete that's sharpened is much more useful than a blunt one, but it is nowhere near the sharpness of a typical kitchen knife. $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Erik that's a myth. I'm sure there were variations in build, maintenance, and some made for other uses where durability matters more than sharpness (as the case of the machete, or a sword primarily made for thusting), but generally speaking, the medieval sword was a weapon of violence and writings from the time talk of cutting and slicing with them. If you are going to cutting and slicing with the intent to kill, sharpness is implied. And if it can cut your enemy, it can cut your own flesh too if not used properly. BUT, half-swording, when done correctly, can be done with a sharp blade! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 13:33

With a sharp-edged longsword (no ricasso , no gauntlets and no cheating by holding sword's hilt with the other hand), not so much damage.

Skin will be punctured, and an eye can be lost, but there can be no deep penetration, because the attacker's hand's grip will slip over the sharp edge. That hand can be cut to the bone, if attacker is trying hard.

  • Attacker can practice a grip over blade sides only, avoiding sharp edges. This way, apparently, more damage can be done, but this grip would require a lot of practice and still remain much weaker than a normal hilt grip.
  • Another way or dealing substantial damage is using sufficient space when thrusting the sword to let the sword gain momentum. This way it is not much the grip, but the sword's own weight that would deal the damage.

Two techniques above would be sufficient to kill an unarmored opponent, but still not likely to be effective even against a light (like leather) armor.

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    $\begingroup$ @SilvaFilho Efficiency would depend on the sword and if the MC has gauntlets or such. A gauntleted hand on a proper ricasso wide enough for a hold is much better than a bare hand on a blade. That said, wounded hand is rarely lethal and has a decent chance of healing. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 3:11
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    $\begingroup$ You're not wrong, but the danger of using a sword at the blade can be overestimated. There are videos of people performing full-powered murder strokes (both hands holding the edge striking with the hilt/pommel) with bare hands and a sharp longsword without any injury (e.g. youtube.com/watch?v=vwuQPfvSSlo) $\endgroup$
    – Pahlavan
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 6:11
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    $\begingroup$ @VilleNiemi You hit the key point there: you have to grip the blade by applying pressure to the flats with a bit of distance to the edge (if possible) and take care not to let your hands slide up/down - it's the sliding over the edge that cuts; just touching it, even with some pressure, won't hurt you. $\endgroup$
    – Pahlavan
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 9:07
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    $\begingroup$ @SilvaFilho The obvious question there: what happened to the MC's dagger? In a medieval context, even just in everyday life, you'd be about as likely to go out without a knife as to go out naked, and that's just for wandering around town. Everyone wore a knife, all the time, even if they'd mostly just use it as a hand tool. In any kind of military context though, that'd be a proper dagger for exactly this kind of situation, which is why all modern soldiers still carry a fighting knife. (And the next question of course is why the opponent is punching him instead of stabbing him.) $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ @SilvaFilho Fair enough, but you do have another problem - you need to explain why the guy he's fighting isn't stabbing him. And they really all carried knives, all the time, even children. Even if it was only a small knife intended more for eating, it's still a weapon. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 12:08

enter image description here

I've actually had this problem in real life before. Couldn't explain it well without drawing it.

I pushed the butt of my hands together along the face of the blade while locking fingers over the blunt end of the blade.

Of course this method won't work with 2-sided blades

I used this method as I had snapped the hilt of my sword off


The other answers discuss the technique quite well, so I wanted to toss this in.

According to http://www.darksword-armory.com/how-sharp-were-medieval-swords/, The relative sharpness of the longsword varied across time. If the blade was destined to attack an unarmored or leather clad warrior, it's edge would have been sharper (also more brittle). In this era, we would assume half-sword techniques without any sort of hand protection to be potentially catastrophic to the hand.

However, with the advent of chain mail and plate armor, razor sharp edges became less desirable. Less razor-like equals less damage to the bare hand.

Depending on your time period (and ultimate sword design), your character could lose a finger or two from the trauma. On the other hand, the sword may not even be sharpened up to a point, if it's intended target is plate-clad. Minimal/no damage could be possible.


Yes it is possible, it's called half-swording and it's quite common in a good amount of longsword manuals.
With a proper way of gripping the sword you can half-sword safely even without a pair of gloves and sustain no damage to your hands. Skallagrim has a video in which he does exactly that, half-swording with his bare hands then Mordhau-ing a rubber tire, although he admits that wearing gloves give a psychological advantage to half-swording.

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    $\begingroup$ +1 because I love Skallagrim, but I'd suggest you comment a bit on what happens in the video and give a description of the techniques used (also in case - heavens forbid - his channel gets deleted for some reason) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 9:00

You could do it with one hand on the blade and the other on the hilt (aka Half-swording), but doing with with both hands on the blade would not work. You would not have enough grip to hold the blade firmly and it would just slip off your hands. That's why cross-guards were made, so you can have a point of contact when you thrust. That part gives superior grip and prevents the hand from slipping on the blade.

Even if you had a good grip, the damage would be superficial, you would only "scratch" your opponent, no serious injury. In fact, you might hurt yourself more than you hurt your opponent if you lack hand protection.

  • $\begingroup$ That's only part of why cross guards originated. They also serve to catch an opponents blocked sword as it slides down the blade. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 8, 2018 at 15:24
  • $\begingroup$ @hawker65 what if you could keep applying pressure against the opponent's torso (clothes + skin only), would it be possible for the blade to slide in? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 11:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Austin Hemmelgarn True, but it's very situational. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 12:06
  • $\begingroup$ You could stab him, but the wound would be mostly superficial and mainly due to the speed of the blade. Once you actually hit the person with the blade, your hands would probably slide off. If you mean that you wouldn't lose grip, in that case you could stab the person "normally", but would would probably lose some power because of the awkward gripping of the blade. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Commented Mar 12, 2018 at 12:08

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