Why swords?

There’s a lot of talk about at the moment about whether what we do is a martial art, martial sport, historical reconstruction or something else. To my mind, all of these missing the point and fail to address the most basic question – why use swords at all? There are three answers that I can see.

Modern schools of historical swordsmanship grew out of the thirty year old movement to reconstruct lost aspects of the western martial heritage and this remains the foundation of the practice. There’s still a huge amount of debate about what various masters meant by what they wrote. The problem always comes when trying to explain to Joe Public why I and they should care for how some dead guy used a sword.

The second option is the opposite. The drills, progressions, kata ( or whatever you call them ) can be used as a form of meditation. The movements are precise and pre-determined. There’s a sharpness of mental focus required to step through the Assaults of the Bolognese tradition or changing from one Lichtenauer guard to another that approaches Tai Chi and other movement meditations.

The third option is the only one I can see a future for and that is competition. This is the paradigm which makes most sense the general public. Why do I play with sword? Because I compete. Because I want to be the best in the world. Because I want to bout with as many fencers from as many martial traditions as I can. For all these reasons, I train close to every waking moment, whether directly with the weapons or in some ancilliary manner.

To me, I don’t care whether what I do is a martial art, martial sport, reconstruction or whatever. It’s not what I do. It’s why I do it.