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It seems slashing is much more powerful than thrusting, and thus, much more useful. Is there any technique to enhance power of a thrusting attack to the level of a powerful blow?

If not, what is the point of pointed weapon? E.g using a long stick vs light armored target, a thrusting attack will hardly do any damage.

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Bullets are thrusting weapons and are far more powerful than a vast majority of slashing weapons... –  Sardathrion Jul 24 '14 at 8:13
Also don't underestimate the blunt force of a stab (or a 'slash'). Maybe that long stick won't do any permanent damage to your lightly armored target, but it could knock the wind out of them! –  BenCole Jul 24 '14 at 14:00
I invite you to test your theory that a spear is ineffective against a lightly armored foe. "long stick" is ineffective as a slashing weapon too. –  Mark C. Wallace Jul 25 '14 at 13:07
Think "pilum". Romans invented this pointed thrusting weapon so they could penetrate german shields. –  Fildor Jul 26 '14 at 12:48
@Fildor: Do you have a reference for that? As far as I know, pila were used in the early Roman Republic well before they had any contact with the Germaic tribes. Now, pila were indeed partly designed to penetrate shields but those were more the standard hoplite ones that were in wide use all over the Mediterranean at the time. –  Sardathrion Jul 30 '14 at 8:58

5 Answers 5

Thrusting AND Slashing are both useful

It might "seem" slashing is more powerful because it involves bigger movements, and depending on the weapon, you feel, in your arm, that you're getting more force... but... it's not.

Thrusting concentrates more force onto a smaller point, allowing better penetration. Stabbing weapons tend to cause more lethal wounds (getting deeper to organs or major arteries). Thrusting tends to give less telegraphing and usually has better range.

On the other hand, stabbing attacks tend to have less short-terms stopping power - people often don't realize they've been stabbed, and can continue fighting back. For longer weapons, if your weapon is stuck in the opponent and they're fighting back, you can be in a bad situation.

Slashing tends to do more shallow wounds, BUT it's better at muscle damage which reduces your opponent's ability to fight back, and the force can move/maneuver the opponent's limbs or body into a position that allows you to follow up better.

This is the reason, around the world, throughout history, you can find a combination of thrusting and slashing weapons everywhere. There's usually only some periods where it goes particularly one way or another based on armor needs or conditions in which folks are fighting. (Heavy armor leads to a lot of thrusting weapons, folks having to convert farm implements, grain cutters or machetes get a lot of slashing implements).

Improving Thrusting Power

In this case, "power" means harm in such a way to debilitate quicker.

There's the classic piston-stabbing action, used with short knives and makeshift shivs - you keep stabbing the same area to try to turn it into hamburger. This is a common method in prison fighting.

"Twist the blade" is a term people use a lot, but depending on the blade's strength, the handle you have, and where/what you've stabbed, it may not really be feasible. "Jerk it around" seems to make more sense in actual situations - stick it in, jerk it around, to forcibly move the opponent and widen the wound channel. Again, this is going to be shorter blades, though the spear example would be to stick them then walk around or shove to pin them.

There are several locations which do much greater damage by targeting. Eyes and neck are pretty obvious examples for all weapons. Other organs also make a lot of sense, though the ribcage protects a lot of them requiring either good angling or heavier weapons to get past the bone.

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This was the best answer. Thank you for writing it! –  Sardathrion Jul 30 '14 at 8:53
Thanks! Sorry it wasn't initially up to what you were looking for. –  Bankuei Jul 30 '14 at 14:23
^_~ I was just spending some of that reputation to get more traffic/more answers. Might as well use it as it has no other use! –  Sardathrion Jul 30 '14 at 14:44

With a thrust, I have all of the weight and power of the weapon behind the striking point. It's going to archive MUCH more power, and pressure.

Also it takes up less space than a slash. To slash, you have to create a large amount if movement, not to mention getting the angle perfectly correct (which takes years of practice)

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I want to emphasize I am not an expert, but it is worth looking at history. Most of the real slashing weapons (scimitars, sabers) were designed to be used from horseback. Slashing was less likely to get the weapon stuck, which was an even bigger problem when on horseback then when fighting on foot.

(The famous curve of the Katana which was largely used in a slashing was apparantly mostly about being able to draw quickly. It is also worth noting that Katanas were used more often in duels than in warfare where samurai more often used Yari, a thrusting spear.)

Also, a thrust puts more of the force behind a single point, greatly increasing the pressure (pressure is force divided by area, and is particularly important if trying to pierce armor).

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To help understand the difference between a thrust and a slash, consider some hopefully familiar movements:

  • a cricket bat... if you "slash" with the bat you can hit a cricket ball 100 metres or more in the air, while if you prod at the ball with the end of the bat it might only go a few metres. On the other hand, if you had an everyday door to get through and swung the bat at it, it might create a dent but not open the door, while a firm shove with the end of the bat would open it more or less as easily as pushing directly with your hands (depending on distancing and how much speed you build up before/during contact).

  • a front kick on a heavy punching bag - a stabbing/trusting action - can easily get the bag to swing past 45 degrees, while a turning/roundhouse kick might struggle to get 15 degrees. The same front kick might struggle to break a loosely supported baseball bat handle though, while the turning kick was just fine.

Ultimately, they're both strong in different ways:

  • The slashing actions have more speed at impact but far less mass directly behind the strike, so their power transfers well to light, unsupported objects, but a heavy or braced object will absorb it all quickly and have relatively little overall momentum imparted (with a larger proportion of the energy quickly dissipated in other ways such as sound / air pressure and localised deformation and stresses on the struck material).

  • The thrust impart far more overall energy but more slowly, which can result in a more efficient transfer of momentum.

(There are a very few actions which achieve a "best of both worlds" power, with more coupling of the "slashing" action to the core body rotation, perhaps most obviously the "ridge hand" aka "reverse knife hand" strike).

Depending on what you hit, there might be time for the greater power of a thrust to accumulate and cause more localised damage than the speed of the slash allows, or the target might yield steadily over the time of impact and reduce the peak impact and meaningful damage.

The size of the striking surface is also relevant to peak power, and whether there's localised damage or more large-body momentum transfer, but it's not quite so simple as saying thrusting always involves smaller surface area than slashing motions... pick-like weapons even the score in that regard.

Ultimately, whether one or the other is more effective depends a lot on the striker's strength and speed compared to the target's rigidity and the amount of inertia it's got to overcome to get out of the way.

Is there any technique to enhance power of a thrusting attack to the level of a powerful blow?

As usual, good body mechanics are the key. I wrote this answer before about what it takes to deliver a good reverse punch, and the same principles apply here: start with bent knees, develop a connected power chain through the knees, hips, shoulder, elbow, hands, weapon - all strongly snapping and focused in the direction of the target. Using a weapon well doesn't mean moving the mental focus out to the weapon and moving it first - ground everything in your body and have it initiate the movements. Practice the same movement you'll do with the weapon while not holding the weapon, considering the mechanics, power and speed - even striking targets/bags with your hands to help give you focus and feedback.

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Pro tip: a slash is considerably less useful than a proper cut. Also, a thrust doesn't require nearly as much power as a slash/cut because you're using a much smaller contact area, hence the pressure is much higher (it is science). Which is why the side of a needle doesn't hurt nearly as much as the point end, even if you push really hard.

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