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Sword Buyers Digest - April 2008
April 01, 2008
Greetings from Japan!
As quite a few of you may know, I am currently away with my wife and daughter in Japan visiting her friends and relatives, so this issue is going to be just a tiny bit lighter than usual. But I hope you’ll still find it interesting, after all – there is a fair bit of news and goings on to report (plus the video of the month is one of my favourites so far – funny!)!
1. SBG SITE NEWS AND UPDATES
It was a pretty big month for SBG, mostly because as I will be in ‘maintenance mode’ while I am in Japan until the 16th, there won’t be too many additions during this time (though plenty of stuff to do when I get back, I can assure you).
The most significant addition was the addition of the framework for a long overdue page on Sword Training
It’s far from finished, but currently – with very detailed sub pages on Medieval and Japanese swordsmanship, and three free (I hope) quality ebooks – it has a strong foundation to expand upon over the coming months.
It sure took a lot of time and effort to build all these pages and I was often working all day and late into the night. But I hope you’ll get some benefit from it.
Of course, there were also quite a few reviews added at the same time, here’s a sampling of what was done:
I was hoping to get in a couple more, but time started to get away from me and I needed to get ready for the Japan trip.
Anyway, more will be added when I get back – but to check out all the reviews and stay up to date on what happens, as it happens – be sure to visit the SBG News section or better yet – subscribe to the RSS feed for up to the minute additions.
This month saw a relatively new manufacturer of medieval swords featured on SMG – Strongblade.com As you can read in the interview with Strongblade here – they started out as sword enthusiasts selling some well known brand swords, but in the end decided to create their own products.
But what makes them most interesting is that they recently started adding a properly tempered line of decent medieval blades for around the US$150 mark! While everyone else’s products go up in price (which is largely unavoidable, the base price of steel, the value of the US$ and many other factors have all been putting enormous pressures on the industry as a whole) – theirs are a valid and affordable alternative.
Another thing of note – many of you may remember the rather disappointing results I had with Reliks sharpening service on the Sticklestad Viking sword...
Well, after seeing the review – they were pretty embarrassed about it and had no idea that it was so problematic. So after going back to the drawing board, they refined the technique – and I have to say that now, the kind of sharpening they offer now is exemplary – and quite possibly the best in the industry.
Check out the revised review with the new test cutting results towards to the bottom of the old Sticklestad review page here (you'll also find a special offer on their sharpening service in the discounts section of this newsletter - the coupon code SBG-SHARP which will get you the new and dramatically improved sharpening service FREE until the 14th of April!)
There are a few other small sneak previews and bits and pieces of news at SMG at the moment, so to see them for yourself and keep your finger on the pulse of the industry, be sure to check the SMG Newsfeed often - or better yet, use the RSS feed to get announcements in your RSS reader.
“Romancing the Sword – what is the attraction?”
It seems to be the consensus in popular culture that swords are much, much cooler than guns.
Not every sword collector agrees with this belief, of course. Many members of the Sword Buyers Guide forum are also gun collectors – in fact, there is a whole sub-forum dedicated to them (we let them think that it’s a gift, but really we just don’t want to be contaminated by their weirdness).*
Still, the world in general (and the sword collecting community in specific) is full of folks who have romantic notions of the sword as the ideal weapon. The media has picked up on it as well – from movies like Braveheart, Hero, and Kingdom of Heaven, even to stinkers like Ultraviolet, all feature an amazing hero with a rocking sword. The aforementioned hero performs amazing feats with their bladed weapon, dispatching dozens or even hundreds of opponents while looking extremely cool doing it. Movies featuring gunfights tend to all look quite similar after a while, except in cases like Equilibrium’s visually stunning yet laughably impractical “Gun Kata” (and even in that movie, there were several swordfighting scenes). Yes, the sword is seen across the board as a weapon of grace, beauty, and power.
At some point in time, though, we all have to admit that a sword is a tool. They were not designed to be beautiful at first – though they did develop beauty over time – but practical. The basic function of a sword is use by one human being to cut limbs, sever blood vessels and generally exercise the more messy and practical angle of Darwin’s law over another human being. Everything beyond this – pretty designs, fancy swordplay, witty banter, etc. – came afterwards and added beauty and romance to what was basically the ancestor of the stone axe. So why all the romance? What’s the big attraction for us to swords and that physical, close-range style of warfare?
I think it’s got to do with three reasons. The first is that in melee combat, the fight is more personal. In order to kill someone with a sword you have to be close enough to look them in the eye. There are no innocent bystanders, and no collateral damage. Generally, if you die in a sword fight it’s because someone stabbed you, and if someone stabbed you they were probably someone that you would have stabbed if you got the chance. It’s fair game, all around.
Secondly, I think that in a sword fight we have a perception that the skill of the individual counts for more. I’m not saying that there is no skill involved when using a gun or in ranged combat – if my experiences playing Call of Duty 4 online are at all accurate then there is a lot of skill involved, skill that I have no hope of achieving (I prefer to log on and misuse internet slang to irritate the youngsters than the actual game – “This game is really ROFL! Can I join your pwned clan? N00b!”). But in a swordfight, an unskilled opponent cannot, by virtue of a lucky shot, take out a much more skilled opponent from a hundred meters away. I’m sure that luck is a big part of a swordfight as well, but the perception for many – rightly or wrongly – that skill counts for more when it comes to swords.
Lastly, it seems to me that popular literature that prominently featured swords encouraged such a romantic view. King Arthur, Aragorn, and many, many more examples exist of characters that have their own personal swords, weapons that they have a deep connection with. Fewer are the characters in fiction or history who name their guns – and some of the more famous ones who do are only well known in their countries of origin (i.e. Davey Crockett’s “Old Betsy”), while Arthur’s Excalibur is recognized in many different cultures. For better or worse, cultures worldwide – western and eastern – have the image of the sword firmly stamped on some deep recess of our brain, on a part that seems to inspire all manner of warm feelings towards cold steel.
I can’t think about the sword without having a feeling of nobility about it all. Even if I’m being over-romantic (which my wife would never believe) or buying into inaccurate views on how they were used in history, I still get a little shiver up my spine when I hold a sword in my hands. And while holding a gun gives me an entirely different feeling, I still prefer the way a fine sword feels. But I suppose for me, I like swords not just for what they are, but for what they represent. I don’t think anybody said it better than this guy -
“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.” – Tolkien
*If the irony of a sword collector calling a gun collector weird is lost on you, then I really don’t know what to say.
It took a bit longer to find the Video of the month this time around than usual. But as soon as I saw this one, I knew it was the one I had been searching for...
This is pure gold – a very humorous take on the old Home Shopping Network sword video, but with a lightsaber...! ;-)
Hope you enjoyed this short but sweet edition of the Digest.
Lots more to come when I get back from Japan, but in the meantime – have fun and chat to you all again soon!
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