I am not an instructor. I am not part of a guild or organisation. I have no certification, classification or belt in any martial art. I have never even taken a martial art class. I want to start, in that I desire to do something, but traditional sports or fitness routines do not engage me enough.
I am starting from scratch.
In fact I am a Marketing Communication and Design specialist, living a very sedentary life behind a desk. My family and work are full time and there is very little time left to do anything else with. Yet I find that I want to take up some form of fitness regime; partly for health reasons and partly because it’s about time.
To that end I have set my mind to the task of learning the art of the sword, sword fighting and swordsmanship.
Not in the sense of Live Role Playing, which is designed for fun above all other considerations. I used to attend a lot of LARP activities but they just served to whet my appetite. I always wanted to know what the reality would be like for a modern practitioner had the art of sword play never passed into sport.
Not in the sense of the Historical Reenactor, who strives to look, walk and talk the part. Despite envying the full shiny kit, the essence of this path seems to be as a show piece. To display a slice of history, whether by virtue of ones costume or even in the choreographed dance of steel. Again I find I want to know the reality of someone living with the sword as a fighting tool and the discipline it would take to wield it properly.
Not in the sense of the Eastern Martial Art practice, either hand to hand or with a weapon. Though I have grown up immersed in a love of Kung Fu movies and Chinese, Japanese or Korean cinema, I have also felt that it is set within the context of a culture that is not my own. There are a lot of places to begin the study of the sword and the practice of Eastern Martial Arts as combative, self-defence or sport is very much embedded in the modern system. There are a lot of places to study but they do not speak to me directly enough to get past my inertia.
This takes me all the way around to the study of Western Martial Arts, the practice of a fighting system that is part of my own heritage and the Historical European systems of sword fighting and the combat systems that form a part of their tradition.
There are still quite a few places where one can study the sword as a living, truthful martial art based in the tradition of the West. Sword schools, where individuals moved away from sport fencing to encompass a review of the original texts. Schools that study the original documentation from medieval Europe and draw out its meaning when applied to a modern fighting system.
It seems, however, that none of them are anywhere near me and perhaps you find the same to be true. I have not the means nor the time to travel very far, so at one point I was of a mind to start a school in my town, but also found that interest was not high. Most people can find a school or study group that they are able to travel to.
I have at my disposal as much as anyone has and more than some. I have access to some original documents that are available on the Internet. I have access to the translations of those documents and the interpretations that have been built on many hours of hard work by better fighters than I. I have the Internet and the entire collected forum of scholars and practitioners who all appear to be very positive and supportive of anyone who wishes to travel this path.
What I do not have is the place to train or the people to train with.
None of the resources explicitly state that this is a vital ingredient prior to learning this art, though I am sure that it is ultimately essential. I am also convinced that there are others who may wish to train, to learn, but do not have the means to train or learn with others. It is my belief that anyone may take up this study and the defining difference is one of practice, persistence and feedback. By creating a virtual study group then the lone path may find a similar level of resources.
“At the end of the day, we live in a sedentary society; we need to exercise or we die young. The only thing that really matters is: what do you enjoy doing? What will motivate you to get up, get away from the computer and start moving? For me, this [Historical Swordsmanship] is just the thing that’s got the right combination of being interesting and being fun. It’s got some competition, some cooperation, some historical elements, and it’s something that I’ve stuck with. That’s the only real reason to do it. “
– Neal Stephenson