As requested by some of the Flock, today we are going to discuss
Playing with Swords...

I want to make one thing very clear on this topic. For the Reverend, playing with swords will never be the light-hearted thing that playing with boomerangs is. I have a deep respect for the traditions and etiquette of the Western Martial Arts, and I will expect others to do the same. When you fence, you are learning how to handle a weapon that was meant to take another man's life. Regardless of your reasons for fencing (recreation, fitness, coordination, camaraderie, etc.), its original intent deserves to be treated with some seriousness.

Now that the philosophical disclaimer is out of the way, let's look at weapon styles. These practice swords are probably the best soft sword design out there at the moment (see the link called "Padded Contact Weapon Design). These can be used in the absence of armor or masks, if we play with common sense and restraint. Since we have neither (ahem) I am going to suggest that we at least wear eye protection.

These are a significant step up from the padded weapons that were available a few years ago. They supposedly have a much better "feel" than previous foamies, and are much closer to the weight of an actual sword. Supposedly, a guy can make one in about 2 hours, for about $12.

If you are not a do-it-yourself type guy, there is always this option. Yes, those are foam. They are pricey, but pretty. I have no knowledge regarding their usability. My guess is that they are very light... which can be good if you have no control.

There are several other companies out there making boffers as well. Here are a few...
Tyger Knight Smithy
Edhellen Armoury (They offer group discounts...)
Sei Do Kai

At the next level of contact in Western swordplay, there is a fork in the road. You can go the fencing route, and shift over to a late period style of combat in which the thrust is king - it is very challenging and a great form of exercise, but it bears little resemblance to any kind of real swordplay. I was authorized to fence with all weapon forms in the SCA, but truthfully, I find it rather boring. I have always preferred having the ability to slash.

The other fork in the road leads to stick and waster fencing. Wasters are wooden swords, usually made of Hickory, or a similar hardwood. They can be quite realistic, both in weight and, unfortunately, injuring power. (This is not to be confused with the type of swords that we used in SCA heavy weapons combat, which are made of rattan. They actually are more like the batons used in Behourd tourneys of the 14th and 15th centuries. They too can maim and kill, and full armor is required.)

There are several companies making wasters as well. Here are a few...
Purpleheart Armoury, Raven Studios, and the cleverly named Wooden Weapons.

These require heavy masks and padded gloves at the very least, and quite a bit of "touch." In other words, until I see that the folks who want to play with swords can do so with a modicum of control and accuracy, I'm not willing to expose my limbs to their flailing. After a decade of SCA heavy weapons combat at a fairly high level, I am quite aware of the ouchies that wooden swords can dish out. I still limp when snow is on the way...

So - it is now up to the Flock to do some homework. I suggest that you all look at the foamies at the top of this post as a starting point. I'd love to use those as a stepping off point, to work the group up to something like this.

Honor Super Omnia.


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