Art of Swords

Sword
/sôrd/
Noun
1. A weapon consisting typically of a long, straight or slightly curved, pointed blade having one or two cutting edges and set into a hilt.
2. An instrument of death or destruction.

Weapons in Gaming - Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood - The Switchblade

In the Assassin’s Creed mythology, the Switchblade was a concealed weapon and it was used by the Templars, just like the hidden blade of the Assassins. The Switchblade was the weapon of Il Lupo, or the Prowler as he later appeared in the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood multiplayer.

It was first introduced to the player during the teasing campaign for Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood when the fans had to solve a puzzle in order to unlock the final weapon of the Templar agents. The switchblade was a Templar device worn on the forearm, which folded into a blade when extended, while the weapon was based upon, and looked similar to the Assassins’ Hidden Blade. 

But unlike its Assassin counterpart, the blade was never completely sheathed, and split into two separate parts, before folding inwards when it was not in use. Easily concealed and silent, it was used to inflict mortal wounds on the victim’s abdomen, chest, neck, and back, in order to penetrate vital organs or the jugular.

It was also sometimes referred to as the "Replica Hidden Blade" and from the speech Warren Vidic  argued during the brief teaser presentation, this was a weapon that was especially designed to aid the Templars while in combat and raise up to the challenge presented by the “Assassin weapons and fighting techniques”. 

But it seems that the switchblade takes its characteristic from other real weapons used during history; the Roman gladiator Scissors or the Indian Katara

The scissors (the “ancestors” of the ones we use today) were invented in Egypt about 1500BC and made of a single piece of metal (bronze).  About 100AD, the Romans improved on this design by having the blades cross each other kind of like today’s nippers. Still, the Romans did some modifications that were later adopted even in the Gladiator arena. 

The rather odd-looking weapon that resulted gave the gladiators who wielded it in combat the name “Scissors”. The metal casing at the bottom formed a long tube that covered the gladiator’s arm, allowing the weapon to easily block, parry, as well as counterattack. Made from hardened steel, the scissor measured up to one and a half feet long. 

But the weapon that seems to come closer to the Assassin’s Creed switchblade remains the Indian katara. Also called "suwaiya" is a type of push dagger which is characterized by its H-shaped horizontal hand grip. Unlike the switchblade presented in the Assassin’s Creed game, which was fixed on a gauntlet, the katata looked like a sword that was “sitting” above the user’s knuckles.

The basic katara has a short, wide, triangular blade. Its peculiarity lies in the handle which is made up of two parallel bars connected by two or more cross-pieces, one of which is at the end of the side bars and is fastened to the blade.

The remainder forms the handle which is at right angle to the blade. Some handles have long arms extending across the length of the user’s forearm. The handle is generally of all-steel construction and is forged in one piece together with the blade.

Its design is pretty simple, but the weapon itself is far from simple to use effectively. The Rajput (upper class or tribe from the Mughal period) carried these weapons as a form of self-defense and status. Sometimes inaccurately referred to as a bundi blade, these deadly daggers were the fiercest purely offensive style weapons ever used by the Rajput. 

Training of this weapon involved dual wielding techniques and was a style of martial arts all its own. Improper training of this weapon left a warrior vulnerable to attack, but once trained, the dual wielding Rajput was a force to be reckoned with. 

The katara originated in Tamil Nadu where its Dravidian name was kattari before being altered to katara in the north. The earliest forms occur in the medieval Deccan kingdom of Vijayanagara, and was a unique weapon to South Asia being the most famous and characteristic of Indian daggers.

The weapon was so famous that ceremonial katara were also used in worship. For example, the Rajput hunted tigers with these blades. Killing a tiger with such a purely offensive and short ranged weapon would be a boost in status for a Rajput, marking him without question one of the bravest and most skilled warriors in the land.

It is not certain if the creators behind the switchblade in the Assassin’s Creed game took this into consideration when designing it, but as a coincidence, the wielder of this sharp edge weapon, The Prowler, carried the original name of the Hunter. But there are several versions of katara that were designed as novelties for the British in the 1900’s. One of these designs included the scissor blade which is a version that comes much closer to the Assassin’s Creed Switchblade. 

This appeared as a single blade, until the handle was squeezed through a mechanism and the blades would separate and form a scissors like shape. Still, there are records that show that his was never actually used in combat although it might have still been deadly. There are also versions that had two smaller blades that would pop out of the side of the katara’s main blade or split and reveal a third blade hidden inside. 

Another real characteristic of the katara that resembles to the fictional Assassin’s hidden blade is the “hidden gun” that sometimes accompanies the weapon. In another modern katar design, single-shot pistols was built into either side of the weapon. In the 18th century, some traditional katara were refurbished with this innovation. 

The pistols are meant to deal the killing blow after the katara has been thrust into the enemy, but like most combination weapons, the effectiveness of the pistol-katar is doubtful. The katara ceased to be in common use by the 19th century, though they were still forged for decorative purposes.

Sources: AC Wikia | Wikipedia | Mr Talks Too Much 

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