Museum Replicas is happy to announce our working with internationally recognized sword expert and director of the ARMA, John Clements! If you're unfamiliar you can read more about John here. But I want to get to the good stuff! John is sharing some of his wisdom with us through the MRL blog! First entry below!
Something About the Sword...
I'm fascinated by the sword. The sword represents so many things in our civilization, despite it
being a weapon obsolete for self-defense and war. The legacy and lore of the sword —as an
iconic artifact, as a symbolic emblem, as an object of mystery and legend, and as the chosen
weapon of the just hero or the knightly warrior as well as the honorable duelist —is something
that continues to resonate with us. Popular culture and literary fiction, from the oldest myths and
legends through chivalric romances and swashbuckling Victorian tales, all the way up to modern
pop-culture cinema and especially video games and boardgames, have always featured the
sword. The culture surrounding it is what I like to call its "echo of steel" and it continues
Whether you pursue its study as self-defense method, exploration of heritage, recreational
pastime, sporting game, antiquarian curiosity, artistic handicraft, fantasy play, or academic
pursuit, there is something special about the sword and about swordsmanship. There is no other
hand-weapon that compares to it. No other similar close-combat weapon requires its own
specialist maker (a swordsmith) and produces a specialist warrior (the swordsman). It is a
weapon which needs, perhaps demands, an expert to make it and an expert to wield it. No other
archaic fighting implement, save for the bow, requires an Art all its own and certainly no other
has existed in such diversity and variety for so long around the world. Arguably, no other such
historical hand weapon had its own dedicated "science of defence," for military as well as
civilian use. The sword was not something that was also for hunting or farming but specifically
for personal protection.
But a basic truth about swords is that we are discussing objects that were functional tools for
violence yet, which today, virtually no one has any real-world experience in using for their
original intended function. They were, after all, artifacts inescapably designed and created for
doing violence and hurt on someone or preventing them from doing it on you. Still, it's not hard
to understand that for some time there has not been much actual sword-fighting going on in the
world. Because of this, it’s very easy now to make up nonsense about them or come to believe
things about their properties that simply aren’t true. So, in either terms of producing them or
practicing with them, there has accumulated a wealth of erroneous assumptions and
It’s a simple matter, really: Once people stop using real swords in real combat then real swordsmiths
have very little reason to make real weapons for real swordsmen anymore. Over
generations the ancient critical cycle of "feedback" between expert users and expert makers is
broken. There's little combat necessity compelling weapons to then be made properly nor be
handled effectively. Thus, over time, understanding of both fades and each art is forgotten.
When you stop to consider it very few people today have any practical experience in hitting
things with sharp metal blades, let alone warding off the blows from other sharp metal things.
Few sword makers are ever called upon to produce weapons that can hold up to the trauma of
being used in this way and even fewer swordsman ever have to demonstrate doing so. But this
doesn’t stop nearly everyone from opining on swords and swordsmanship. It’s kind of funny but
it’s also sad. Still, it’s wonderful that the quality and diversity of historical reproduction swords
now available to collectors and students has dramatically improved in the past ten years. The
sword market is one of very few areas where things have become more affordable even as they're
becoming better made. Even then, modern sword makers themselves are still learning and
experimenting just as are modern swordsmen.
Regardless of the why you're interested in them, as fellow "students of the sword", to one degree
or another, we all get to view them as both historians and fencers. The more historical sword
types you come to handle and examine, to try out in play or practice, the more you come to
admire about them. Enjoy the experience of discovering the performance and handling quality of
different blade forms and hilt-configurations —i.e., their attributes and features, their capabilities
and their limitations, their durability and resilience, and how they endured wear withstood
shocks. The legacy and lore of the sword itself is built upon this very appreciation. Take the time
to explore it. The bottom line is that swords are very cool.