Slaying Dragons and the Practicality of Swords

Tomorrow is a special day, an auspicious day if you will.  It is of course St. George’s Day and I’m sure you have your celebrations planned accordingly.  Anyway, it’s a great time to go out and practice your highland broadsword and work on perfecting your technique of St. George’s Guard.  Today though, I find myself considering a conversation I had a couple of days ago.  I mentioned what it is I do and although he was keen on martial arts and weapons specifically, he was less than excited about swords.  He said he wanted to train with something more “practical.”  So this raises a simple question.  Can swordplay be considered a practical martial art?

I say yes, but not for the most obvious reasons.  Were you to hypothetically carry a sword, even carried under a trench coat Highlander style, it would be at best useless.  First, you have to be able to recognize a dangerous situation with enough time to draw your blade.  Swords work great when both people have one in hand.  Second, you have to be fully committed to using lethal force.  In my experience a sword is not a deterrent.  People just aren’t afraid of them anymore.  who know, maybe they never really were.  Since swords aren’t a deterrent (and I never advise using a weapon as such) you will be forced to use it.  If you’re not prepared to actually kill someone with a sword, you may as well hand it over to your assailant.  He’ll end up with it anyway, why waste time?

I have heard some (perhaps less than honest) sword instructors saying that despite it not being likely that you’ll have a sword the training will still help you in a fight.  After all, you’ll build fitness and confidence and that’s important, right?  This message is dangerous and irresponsible.  Knowing how to wield a rapier in a safe and controlled environment will do nothing to help you in a fight for your life.

So why is sword training useful?  If done right it provides exactly the same training and technique that any unarmed or weapon art teaches you.  Simply put, the lesson you should pay attention to most is the one that says, “don’t get in a fight.”  Statistically all the black belts in the world wont help you avoid injury in a confrontation.  Most martial artist I know prefer to avoid conflict.

There’s a great blog post Here that I think is more than worth a read and is the inspiration behind today’s post.  Stay safe.

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