Practical Tools Not Mystical Artifacts

with John Clements

As fighting tools of self-protection we should always treat our weapons with respect and care in order to keep them serviceable and reliable. Whether it’s a sharp or a blunt blade it makes sense to honor them as both  historical weapons and iconic symbols of a warrior elite. But in the modern era when using them for non-lethal use in exercise, display, artistic expression, and other non-pragmatic applications, this can often be exaggerated (particularly by aficionados of a certain feudal sword culture). Historically, protecting a sword’s edge or blade was not a great concern. When your life is at stake and you are in a battle or sudden fray, which is a violent, dirty, and bloody affair, keeping your weapon undamaged is the least of your concerns. Only between encounters would there be reasonable effort to keep it free of knicks, burrs, dents, and gouges as well as rust. But, take swords out of a combat environment, allow hundreds of years to pass, so that they are antiques (or reproductions now made by only a very few) and suddenly people are treating their swords differently. Some modern sword owners act as if the only proper view to take is that all sword play is sacred and blades must be treated as something to be preserved beyond practical reason, as if they are classic cars that must be kept safely enclosed rather than driven to work everyday in traffic. But historically, even as they were prestigious weapons, swords were practical tools subject to the wear and tear of use. There’s plenty of time to keep a weapon pristine and unblemished when you aren’t relying on it for your safety in actual violence. A modern approach then is to look at it the way you look at a modern firearm: you keep it clean and functional but you understand it’s designed to suffer a certain amount of acceptable trauma and still be reliable —even if it isn't so clean and pretty anymore. Treat your weapon the way real swordsmen once did: as a practical tool that is about effort and sweat and skillful exercise, not a rare indestructible heirloom to be enshrined in a museum display as if it has never been used and never will be. Keep it in working condition, prominently displayed, and ready at a moment’s notice.