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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A "Safe" Sword


The concept of a "safe" sword is one which is presented again and again to us when considering which weapons we should buy and which weapons should be allowed in tournaments and so forth. This is a concept which badly needs to be addressed and some of the basic notions which are attached to this also addressed. These are weapons which are being discussed, regardless if they have dull edges and blunt points, and they are being used as simulated weapons as well.

When a weapon is lying on the ground away from anyone touching it is safe. This is when a weapon is safe, as soon as a person is involved there is an element where safety is reduced. The safety is reduced both for the person who is picking up the weapon and also for anyone who is around the person wielding the weapon. This is regardless of whether it is a sword, an axe, a mace, an assault rifle, a handgun or even a missile launcher, the same applies.

The weapon may be dropped on the wielder's toe, or even on a by-stander's toe. The relative safety of a weapon has more to do with the person holding the weapon than the weapon itself. A person who is trained in the safe use of a weapon is generally safer than one who is not. A person who has had more experience with a weapon is generally safer than one who is not. It is the person who determines how safe a weapon is or is not.

The image which I have posted with this post, is one that I really like a lot, and it is very pertinent with regard to this discussion. A sword is a weapon therefore it is not designed to be safe. Its purpose is to strike another person with the intent to do damage (simulated or not) against them. The aspects of selection which are made for particular weapons due to temper, type of hilt arrangement, edge thickness, and point characteristics cannot change the fact that it is still a weapon, and therefore is still not safe. These points are merely risk mitigating factors.

The same can be said for any rules or regulations imposed by organisations and tournaments with regard to particular weapons which are or are not allowed to be used within the organisation or at the particular tournament. These are, again, risk mitigating factors. These are combined with an expected protective equipment standard and an expected standard of play to attempt to create an environment where catastrophic injury is less likely to occur.

What desperately needs to be noted is that with regard to weapons, and especially the weapons chosen by most practitioners of Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), it is not the weapons which should be the focus of examination, but the individuals who are wielding the weapons. Sure, there may be some weapons which, due to their characteristics, they may be "safer" than other weapons, but it should be noted that this is risk mitigation. The notion of a "safe" sword is false and it is something that as a community we need to get away from and realise the situation for what it is.

Much of what has been said above comes down to respect for the sword as a weapon, regardless if it has a sharp edge or if it has dull edges and a rubber blunt on the end of it. Both need to be respected as both can cause injury if they are not used with care. Treat your weapons and your fellow practitioners with respect and they will do the same for you. Take care and be aware.