Not just decorative bikini armor
July 3, 2014 2:08 PM   Subscribe

A props and armor designer for film, Samantha Swords takes her work seriously. Very seriously. In February of 2013 she won the Harcourt Park World Invitational Longsword Competition . There appears to be a growing interest in competitive european sword fighting in the US.
posted by korej (16 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Indeed! Combatcon, one of our Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) tournaments just wrapped up and videos from it have been filling my facebook feed.
It's not just in the US either, there are tournaments being held worldwide, such as Swordfish in Sweden.
I am a huge swordfighting nerd, feel free to ask me questions about this topic. At least until I go off to practice La Verdadera Destreza in a couple hours.
posted by agentofselection at 2:31 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

And on the subject of women in HEMA, here is Kristine Konsmo winning the swordfish sword and buckler open tournament in 2011--the first woman to win an open HEMA tourney, to my knowledge.
posted by agentofselection at 2:40 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Looks like it's different from the Society of the Creative Anachronism (SCA)'s type of weapons and fights, which I think are not the real deal.
posted by zardoz at 2:41 PM on July 3, 2014

SCA armored combat fighting uses heavy armor and non-metal weapons (typically padded rattan*) for safety. As a result the fighting styles are kind of idiosyncratic, don't really have much to do with what we know about actual medieval combat techniques**, and ultimately end up turning all weapons into clubs.

However, many in the SCA also participate in rapier combat, which (can) look a lot like the video from the Swordfish tournament linked above. I say "can look" because it's not always fought sword & buckler. There are various styles. But since rapier combat is particular to the very late medieval / early Renaissance period, a lot of people in the SCA have no use for it.

There is not, as far as I know, much of a movement within the SCA to experiment with steel weapons for non-rapier fighting. The SCA is pretty paranoid about safety.

* chosen because it tends not to form dangerous splinters when it breaks

** for example, all kinds of attacks recommended in medieval fighting manuals are forbidden by the rules on safety grounds
posted by jedicus at 3:18 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

It is very different from the SCA, though more and more SCA people are getting interested in non-rapier historical sources.

I have to say, it's a blast. The people are great and it's a unique mixture of language, history and martial arts.

Also, there is an organization for women interested in HEMA: Esfinges
posted by garbhoch at 3:21 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is awesome! I immediately want to go back in time to learn how to do everything and already be part of it. Which is my favourite way to feel.
posted by fight or flight at 3:29 PM on July 3, 2014

My old roommate specialized in Japanese swordwork rather than European, but she was a bad-ass at it.

Hell, I became a bad-ass when I was taking a stage combat class and we started the swordwork - they showed us video of ourselves sometimes and with the hand-to-hand stuff my form was all meek and hesitant and awful, but then when we started with the swords I turned into Inigo-freakin'-Montoya, doing all these forward-roll-sword-grabs and lunges and thrusts and parries and fancy tricks...

I think it's just hard-wired into everyone to get bad-ass if you give 'em a sword. Not all of us know what we're doing, but dammit we have a sword, and that makes us psyched up to kick some ass.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 PM on July 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was in the SCA I was told that the #1 "injury" in SCA heavy combat is heat stroke.

Given that people NOT wearing several pounds of metal standing around in the sun and exerting themselves heavily have to watch out for that, I'm not surprised.

I had just a wee bit of training in it. It is, yeah, kind of club-like. But it's more fun to watch than kendo, and the action can be followed by normal humans unlike the way fencing gets sometimes.
posted by Foosnark at 4:35 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder if she changed her name to "Swords" or if this is another example of nominative determinism, à la "Dr Nurse", or people called "Dennis" becoming dentists?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:27 PM on July 3, 2014

I think a lot of the European Martial Arts stuff is Renaissance to Early Modern, not really Medieval, although of course things like techniques for sword and shield fighting would have had an extensive oral tradition going back hundreds or even thousands of years, before anyone made an instructional text.
posted by thelonius at 8:23 PM on July 3, 2014

historic fencing manuals, sixteen of which are from the 15th century. So, early Renaissance/late Medieval?
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:52 AM on July 4, 2014

Actually, there are 40 known Treatises from the 15th Century.

As far as the breadth of Historical European Martial Arts goes, people research starting from ancient greek wrestling in the Oxyrhynchus Papyrus circa 200AD to Victorian Bartitsu. It's a wide, wide spread.
posted by garbhoch at 5:13 AM on July 4, 2014

jedicus: There is not, as far as I know, much of a movement within the SCA to experiment with steel weapons for non-rapier fighting. The SCA is pretty paranoid about safety.

Most of us think of the outstanding safety record of the SCA as a feature, not a bug bordering on mental illness.

(Seriously: I can't think of a contact high school sport that is safer, yet we have very large men hitting small men and women full strength during charges. As safe as a high-adrenaline, often-bruising sport can be.)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:15 PM on July 6, 2014

Samantha, of course, is a god-empress to SCA women fighters right now - some of whom also participate in the live-steel sports.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:16 PM on July 6, 2014

Most of us think of the outstanding safety record of the SCA as a feature, not a bug bordering on mental illness.

The safety record of armored combat and a near-paranoid unwillingness to introduce new activities are not mutually exclusive. Introducing new activities does nothing to undo the safety record of armored combat.

Seriously: I can't think of a contact high school sport that is safer

The safety of armored combat is not well studied. We have limited, mostly anecdotal evidence that the immediate health effects are mild, but there has been (to my knowledge) no study whatsoever of the long-term health effects. Is it safer than high school football, rugby, or wrestling? Maybe, but we can't actually say.

(And since it apparently wasn't obvious, I was using "paranoid" in the colloquial sense of "unreasonably or obsessively anxious, suspicious, or mistrustful", not in the sense of a mental condition or mental illness.)
posted by jedicus at 8:39 PM on July 7, 2014

If anyone is still watching this thread, here is Jessica Finley doing an armored exhibition bout.
posted by agentofselection at 3:58 PM on July 22, 2014

« Older Shit just got real.   |   Fresh Air or Times Square? Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments