Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reclaiming the Blade

Last night, my brothers and I watched the documentary, Reclaiming the Blade, on Netflix's internet Instant Play.
I'd first become interested in the movie after watched the trailer before the movie was released, but I hadn't thought much about it recently until it came to mind and I asked my mom to look for it on Netflix.

To say it in a sentence, Reclaiming the Blade is about how the art of the sword (the European styles of swordsmanship, that is) has, for the most part, been nearly lost to us, but is now returning.
Thanks in large part to movies that have kept interest in the sword alive, as well as the resurgence of texts from centuries ago about the sword and its use, the mysteries of the blade are once again being unlocked to us.

The film shows that now, people are starting to rediscover the old ways of the sword - and how it was really used.  What is being spoken of here isn't fencing or period reenactments like the SCA, but an actual attempt to duplicate the art of the sword as it was done in the past.
A few things said by some of the people featured in the movie went something like this:
"I think if we wrap pipes in foam padding, whack each other with them and call that 'swordfighting,' that's not being true to history."
And another one:
"Once, I had a fencing match with a guy and as he lunged at me with his foil, I slapped his blade aside with my left hand and "stabbed" him with mine.  He protested, 'You can't do that; it's not fair…it's illegal!"

I'd say this applies in all sorts of fighting, not just sword-fighting, essentially, that there is no such thing as a fair fight.  Well, you might say that a "match" fight, such as professional boxing, MMA, and various martial arts tournaments are fair fights, but that's not how it works in the real world (i.e. in a life-or-death fight).
Quite simply, there are rules (designed to prevent the competitors from being permantently injured) in a pro fight, but not in a street fight, so in my opinion, there isn't much real-world value in learning a martial art purely as a sport.  For instance, fencing, Tae Kwon Do, and a whole bunch of other things.  I concede that there can and often are benefits to be gained from such things, such as exercise, dexterity and improved hand-eye cooridination, and more.   

The movie also addresses the fact that some people think that foreign swords from Japan, India, or other countries were "so much better made" than those manufactured in Europe.  While this may have been true in many cases, it wasn't true for every sword.  Proof of this is seen in an artifact found in England - a sword thirteen centuries old.  It had an iron core for flexibility and steel on the outside for a strong cutting edge.
It should be noted that this sort of technology was very rare and it would cost a fortune to have a sword like that made, it still existed in Europe - as early as 700 AD or perhaps earlier.

I would also think that there is a certain beauty and grace in the skillful handling of the sword that is absent when shooting a gun (given, you're not likely to chop off limbs or basically, be as bloody, with a gun as with a sword, but I might address that at a later time).
I suggest you watch this movie if 1) you are interested in history, especially European history, the history of combat, etc.; 2) you are interested in various aspects of fighting/martial arts etc.

The documentary features such notable people as Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy); Karl Urban (also from LOTR); Bob Anderson, who has choreographed many famous swordfight scenes in movies such as those in The Princess Bride, some of the ones in the original Star Wars trilogy (he was actually in Darth Vader's suit at times), and others; an assortment of people who have some connection to the art of the sword; and John Rhys-Davies, the narrator (Gimli, from the LOTR trilogy).

If you are like me and appreciate realism in fight scenes and combat in general in movies, (you know, everything from a guy getting shot and flying across the room; silenced shots from a pistol making no more noise than a spit; flashy fake sword fights and much more, this movie will show you somewhat of how it's really done.   

 Luke 22:36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

-Max out   

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