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When thinking about what kinds of weapons to add to my medieval-themed game, I began to think about blocking. More specifically, I thought about how people usually block things in everyday life, like punches or spraying water.

I realized that such things are often blocked with the palm of the hand; this confused me, because as far as I know, shields are all constructed to be affixed to the posterior part of the arm. To me, this seems like a great way to stop deadly weapons, but doesn't offer too much room to redirect them, which from what I've heard from HEMA enthusiasts is more of what fighting is about.

So I said to myself, what about a shield on the anterior arm? This was thrown out immediately when I considered arrows, so I moved on to bucklers. They're used for dueling, so they'll pretty much only come against swords, but in a fight I think I'd much rather grab a sword than punch it. So I came up with a concave palm buckler, something like a shallow bowl strapped soup-side-down to the palm of your hand(perhaps with notches on the sides to help catch blades), and used to slap away the enemy's sword. Not only that, but I thought with some experience you could actually use the force of the blow to jump out of the attacker's way and strike from a new, unexpected angle.

But something I've learned from the Youtuber Lindybeige is that if one is considering a weapon design, one first looks to see if it was ever used; if not, it's probably not a good design. So I thought about it, and the only cases of something similar to the Palm Buckler were :
1- The character Mugen in the anime Samurai Champloo uses steel plates on the bottoms of his sandals to block swords.
2- The titular assassins in the Assassin's Creed franchise use blades fixed to their anterior arms, and (after the first game) can block with them.

Since these are both fictional, I don't have much hope that this design is useful. However, I cannot see why it wouldn't be. So, would a Palm Buckler or some anterior arm weapon be useful/practical? Why or why not?

Assume mainly a medieval to Renaissance dueling scenario, or alternately cases where this design would become useful if it isn't otherwise.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first thing that comes to mind is the danger of hyperextending the wrist, if the wrist is cocked. If the wrist is extended, contact can only be made when the opponent's weapon is fairly close to your body, and this is obviously a dangerous approach. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jun 4 '15 at 16:08
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    $\begingroup$ Are you thinking of something like this? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jun 4 '15 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre Yes, I did think of those. However, I'd want something a bit stiffer in the case of swordfighting. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Jun 4 '15 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ Even though they would be covered, as a martial artist I have an immediate negative instinctual reaction to the idea of blocking with the arteries of the wrist facing the weapon edge. $\endgroup$ – GrandmasterB Jun 4 '15 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ bucklers were worn over the fist, not the back of the hand, so you could swat the blade of an enemy away without losing fingers. $\endgroup$ – John Jan 19 '17 at 21:41
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I'm just gonna give you a straight answer.

A palm buckler is not useful or practical. Anterior arm weapons may possibly be useful/practical, but only if designed correctly.

Lets start with the palm bucklers.

The best thing about our hands is that we're able to grasp items. In combat, this allows the grabbing of weapon shafts, handholds in the environment, the hilt of your main weapon, etc, which allows for a variety of reactions in different situations.

A shield works because it's situated on the outside of the arm, as such, any blow on the shield will be redirected away from the users body. With a flat palm blocker, you run the risk of it sliding towards the inside of your body, which makes it completely useless.

"Ah, but what if I made it concave" you say? I'd point to the bucklers. (For the record, I think the bucklers were horrid weapons in general and only "ok" in duels). A buckler would actually be a better choice than the concave palm blocker you designed. The design you propose has several (major) flaws.

  • You're eating the full force of an attack by trying to "catch" it instead of deflecting it. Your arm is going to tire a lot more quickly, not to mention the entire thing requiring a lot more precision. What if you "miss" your catch and it hits the spot near your fingers? All of a sudden, you either a) don't have fingers anymore, or b) run the risk of having your wrist broken. The buckler doesn't have this problem since it can deflect the blow instead of eating it 100%.
  • if the blade is of higher quality material than your blocker, you run the risk of meeting it head on and breaking your blocker. The buckler doesn't have this problem because it doesn't eat the full force of the blow.
  • if the opponent were really smart, they'd use the shape to their advantage. The inability to apply pressure to actually grab the blade means that you can't manipulate the blade the way they can. They can simply poke the blade into your blocker and shove your arm around in a general direction, easily stopping your attacks by crossing your arm over or something like that. You won't be able to "let go" of the blade either.
  • The palm blocker is a lot smaller than a buckler. The chance that you'll miss and get part of your arm sliced off is significantly higher.
  • By locking the palm into the shape you designed, you lose all the functionality that I mentioned in the beginning of this answer. A buckler maintains these abilities to a certain extent, simply because it's designed with a handle. By having a handle, you can rotate your grip 90 degrees, and free up your fingers again by resting an edge the buckler against your forearm. Also, the handle allows it to function as a posterior-attached shield (via the very same rotation of grip), thus deflecting blows easily and not having the problem of directing the blade towards your own body.

Alas, the arm weapons. By Anterior Arms I take it you mean the forearm, since you used Assassins Creed in your example. AC's not exactly a good reference point for weapon design. As WhatRoughBeast has pointed out, it's easy to hyperextend your wrist, and if you miss your target and your hand catches onto something else, the attack you threw could easily screw you over. However, it's not that there aren't anterior weapon designs that could work.

Google for "Arm Claw Weapons", and you'll see a slew of plausible (posterior) arm weapons. In theory, to make an anterior arm weapon, you can take one of those posterior weapons, rotate it upside down, and sharpen the blades on the side that's now facing the ground (so it's similar to a scimitar). Then, you can lower the risk of you breaking your own wrist by giving a handle to the user.

It's not exactly a good weapon, though, as very few styles promote striking or blocking with the anterior section (and with good reason - there are a ton of veins/arteries/muscles there that you don't want severed). However, a good match for it could be an adaptation of Fushan white crane, where there's a some slapping involved. By incorporating this weapon into it, you get a lot slashing movements, and less stabby/punchy movements.

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  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. Put any and all sheilding on the outside of the hands and arms. The only weapon that I think anyone should have on thier inside arm/wrist is a knife...in its sheath because I believe its a useful place to store a short weapon. $\endgroup$ – Necessity Jun 4 '15 at 21:18
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A palm buckler would have some of the advantages you listed there, but there are some disadvantages as well.

  1. Fingers are fragile: If your hand is opened when struck, it is very easy to break fingers. There is a reason that most martial arts advocate closed-fisted punches, instead of palm strikes.
  2. Flexibility: Tuck your left elbow in close to your body. Now, without extending your arm or twisting at the waist, try to catch something thrown at the side of your left shoulder with that same arm. You probably can't. In order to catch an attack coming at your shield-side, you would have to extend your arm out to that side, and catch the attack at full extension of your arm. This takes much more time than it does for someone to swing a sword at your left arm. Which is where the bulk of attacks are going to come from if you are facing a right-handed foe. Now, try the same thing, but smack the thrown object with the back of your fist. Much easier. This is also a speed issue...someone controlling a sword from the wrist could easily outpace your blocks, which uses a full-arm motion.
  3. Deflection: As you mentioned, you don't want to try to stop an attack cold, you want to redirect it. Due to leverage, then end of a slashing weapon is moving with more force than the hand holding it. You don't want to have to absorb all that extra force.
  4. Shield Mobility: A Fist Buckler was designed so that you could rotate it around your fist on the fly. You could have it on the back of your hand to deflect an attack, then twist it to the front of your fist and punch you opponent with it. This mobility lets a small shield guard more of you, because you can rotate it to face any attack coming in. With a palm shield, you couldn't spin the shield, only your hand.
  5. Shield size: A typical buckler is 6-18 inches in diameter. Your palm is not that big...you had better be extremely precise with your blocks
  6. Awkward to attach: For the most part, you want your shield to be something you can just grab. Hence the strap and handle, or just a handle designs that most shields used. Yes, some were strapped to your arm entirely, but those were less common among the sort of soldier who would use a small shield. A palm shield would have to be strapped into place every time you wanted to use it...and that time could cost your life.

A few things you looked at are less relevant as well. Blocking arrows is not something you'd usually try with a buckler. If someone is shooting arrows at you, you want a nice big slab of wood or metal to hide behind...because arrows are fast and you don't want to have to try and punch them out of the air.

And to look at your two examples:

Mugen's shoes: First: Mugen's fighting style is insane and completely unrealistic...if he wasn't a shonen protagonist, he'd be dead. Also: feet are sturdier than palms, especially with a wooden plate to absorb the blow, and he's dealing with Katanas, which are a speed weapon, rather than a power weapon.

Assassin's wrist blades: This would not work well in real life: A parrying dagger (which is what they are using their hidden blades for) tends to have a fairly broad guard, so that if the attacking weapon slides down the blade, it catches on the guard, rather than slicing your fingers off. The Assassin's wrist blades have vulnerable skin where the guard should be. It's only because they are fictional Assassin super-killing-machines that they aren't all hand-less.

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  • $\begingroup$ You have most of the points I have for the palm weapon ._. lol $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 4 '15 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ Great minds? :D $\endgroup$ – guildsbounty Jun 4 '15 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ I guess ._. But I was first! XD $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 4 '15 at 17:08
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Hmm, From a realistic standpoint, it's not a great idea in general, you would have to be very strong and very precise for it to be useful.

Here is a way it could work, so long as you add a little handwavium: A steel Gauntlet that covers both sides of the hand, with a shell that limits the range of movement to prevent finger and wrist breakages. The technique for use could be similar to the Wing Chun Techniques of Tan Sau and Pak Sau, which are open palm blocks. A lot of Wing Chun blocking is more about robbing your opponent of power and deflecting strikes away, not outright stopping the attack. Grabbing is not a great idea, but just might be useful as a way to help re-direct a blade. Arrow catching? Forget it. This device would be too heavy to use for long engagements, so your Hero had better be strong and possessed of enormous amounts of stamina.

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