Sword Fighting

Arya Stark Arya Stark from Game of Thrones with her sword “Needle”

Summary

Swordsmanship, the modern term for sword fighting, refers to skills of an individual in the art of the sword. Although normally associated with Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) also known as the Western Martial Arts (WMA), it is deeply interwoven into the histories of Eastern cultures. It can considered a form of martial arts as it requires hand techniques, particular footwork and a type of sword to encompass the movements.

History / Origins

ETYMOLOGY

The term ‘sword fighting’ was the simplest way of describing this branch of martial arts. The modern term, ‘swordsmanship’, has links to the Latin word ‘gladiator’. A gladiator was a professional fighter who provided entertainment in the Roman times.

‘Gladiator’ came from the word ‘gladius’, which means sword. Since the Roman Empire fell, the next ruling civilization adopted the word and transformed it into ‘swordsmanship’. The suffix, ‘-manship’ means having expertise in an area. Using the term ‘swordsmanship’ gave the art much more prominence than the simplistic ‘sword fighting’.

BEGINNINGS

The oldest sword on record was the one found in Arslantepe, Turkey, dating from 3330 B.C.E. Since the Bronze Age, the swords have developed significantly, from daggers to ones befitting the needs of the age in question. Since swords were created during the ages of conquest, it is safe to assume that sword fighting may have its origins during the Bronze Age.

Since the creation of the sword, fighting became an art of discovering the quickest way to strike and kill an opponent. Many warriors throughout various civilizations were trained in combat and each region, including Africa, Asia and Europe, formed its unique swordsmanship techniques.

In Europe, it is said that knights and other professional fighters wrote many books and collections that would assist future generations with techniques.

PRESENT DAY

Today, the older methods have died out and fencing has become the dominant branch of sword fighting in the West. There are academies throughout the world that are attempting to revive Western Martial Arts and instruct their students in sword fighting. These students begin training with wooden swords and then, if they have become skilled enough, graduate to using real swords.

In the east, the popular descendent of sword fighting is Kendo. It is a Japanese sport which uses bamboo swords "shinai" and protective gear.

For avid collectors, there are various antique stores and websites that allow purchase of different types of swords.

FOLKLORE

There are numerous myths and legends involving swords, but the most famous is the story of the Sword in the Stone and the story of the Excalibur.

Before King Arthur was aware of his ancestry, there were rumours of a sword embedded in stone. It was said that the sword would determine the next king of England. Arthur went forth and pulled the sword out effortlessly, despite many discouragements, proving that he was the true heir of Uther Pendragon.

The story of Excalibur is attributed with the Lady of the Lake, who gifted the sword shortly after King Arthur began his reign. It was meant to replace his damaged sword.

Many accounts state that Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone are two separate weapons, whereas in popular culture, they are considered the same. Aside from Arthurian myths, there are many legends following conquests of nations. Many of these similar legends are based on the strongest warrior of the time.

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Practices

PHILOSOPHY

There are various lessons regarding swordsmanship for audiences of action films to ponder. Some of these are inaccurate. The true essence is to encourage peace and harmony in place of violence and aggression. There was also a spiritual aspect to the sword – it was a tool to cut ignorance. The phrase used for this mindset is “two in one”.

TECHNIQUES

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TRAINING

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RANKS & GRADING

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WEIGHT CLASSES

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Rules / Rulesets

RULES / RULESETS

Sword fights from the Bronze, Iron, Medieval or Renaissance Age did not have strict rules. If warriors were about to wage war, then death of the opponent was mandatory, unless he was a prized nobleman. If sword fighting occurred on tournaments or spars, then the rules depended on the overseer. Generally, death was the goal and it happened frequently. Also, injuries were very likely to happen.

For today’s sword combat tournaments, there are more rules in place. An individual is not allowed to hit below the hips or on the hands, and any excessive force will be penalized. When striking, a person cannot extend the sword behind the body. Kendo has similar restrictions of where a strike is considered legal.

The point of these rules is to avoid injuries that would have incurred in the past.

Organisations & Historical Places

ORGANISATIONS

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HISTORICAL PLACES

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Popular Culture

POPULAR CULTURE

There is an excessive number of movies and television series that incorporate sword fighting or swordsmanship. Some of the most well-known ones are Gladiator, The Mask of Zorro, Kill Bill Volume 1, and The Lord of the Rings.

Some popular television shows that have a number of sword fights are Game of Thrones, Xena, Warrior Princess, and Attack on Titan.

Many period films and serials showcase the traditional methods. Since there is a lack of Western Martial Arts being practiced, these films rank in popularity, especially if categorized in the fantasy genre. This is the safest way for the audience to experience sword fighting.

Useful Links

USEFUL LINKS

Links coming soon

References

REFERENCES

  1. http://www.daehanmudogwan.com/true-meaning-of-swordsmanship/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kendo
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword#History
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swordsmanship
  5. http://www.thearma.org/essays/Swordfighting-Not.html#.U2kkhfldVah

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Contact

CONTACT

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