There is something very special about a sword. I\'ve picked up a couple from different places and currently have one sitting behind my desk. It is very handy for difficult meetings.
Anyway in July a new film is coming out that celebrates swords, sword-makers and sword-masters and it is fantastic. Reclaiming the Blade covers a history of western swordplay from the medieval and renaissance periods up to modern times, its portrayal in film and the individuals and groups who are working to revive these lost arts.
Once you have got past the opening hyperbole, the sword \'preserving freedom and honour\', delivered with authority by John Rhys-Davies, there is a quick montage of swordfights and swordsmen in the movies from Errol Flynn through Highlander, The Duellists, Gladiator, Kill Bill, Braveheart, The Princess Bride, Pirates of the Caribbean to Lord of the Rings with actors like Viggo Mortenson and Karl Urban extolling the virtues of Bob Anderson, the renowned swordfighting choreographer who seems to have been involved in every swordfighting movie since the fifties (he did Darth Vader\'s fighting in Star Wars).
As the film moves to talk about swordfighting on stage its central premise becomes more obvious. There is some great footage of John and Jonathan Waller from the Royal Armouries stage fighting with sword and buckler. The techniques demonstrated are incredibly complicated and difficult to master and ably demonstrate the \'lost\' western martial arts. Contributors like Dr Sydney Anglo, John Clements from the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA) and others either talk about or vividly show how advanced swordfighting was in the medieval and renaissance periods; how fencing, the modern sport has forgotten so many of the techniques; how every part of the sword was used from pommel to hilt as well as the blade; and how grabbing or slapping aside the blade, kicking and pushing were all acceptable techniques.
The swords created to sustain this martial art are also covered, in particular the Bamburgh sword which was found at the castle in 1960 and then lost for many years. This fragment of the original Anglo-Saxon sword was shown to be incredibly technologically complex with six individual strands of iron and steel joined together in its forging. Further proof of the level of sophistication that went into swordplay.
There are now lots of groups springing up all over Europe and the United States committed to bringing back these lost arts through research and recreation. Places in the UK include Schola Gladiatora, The Boars Tooth Fighting School and the School of Traditional Medieval Fencing. The footage of these medieval and renaissance martial arts being demonstrated is fantastic, it looked enormously addictive as well as a bit painful on occasion.
This was a great film for anyone who ever dreamt of wielding a sword. As Kevin Hagopian (Senior Lecturer, PennStateUniversity) said:
\'In a confusing and ambigious world, nothing makes more sense than a good old-fashioned sword fight\'.
It also comes with a load of extras including some more fighting techniques demonstrated and a piece on the New York Jedi. Well worth picking up. Swordfighting gets everywhere!