Sunday, December 09, 2007

Swords... and the 21st Century

The man on the right in this photograph is commiting an armed robbery with a samurai sword.

Last weekend, a Tae Kwon Do instructor in suburban Washington DC killed his wife with a samurai sword.

Black Belt Magazine recently reported three similar incident. In one, two young hikers got into an argument with an older man. The older man responded by macing one hiker.

The other hiker then attacked the older man with the samurai sword he was carrying. He later told police the sword was part of his regular hiking kit. (BTW, the older man survived a slash with the sword.)

Believe it or not, I tried tracking these stories for a while. I managed to collect at least one a month over the course of the year. My favorite on -- mainly because I can easily visualize the ridiculous scene -- was from the New Jersey shore. Two teenage boys decided to fight over some unmentioned slight. The first retrieved a full size katana and brandished it. The second boy produced what the report described as "two large martial arts knives." (Butterfly knives from Kung Fu? Barongs from Escrima?) The police blotter said the two fought and the fight broke up"without injury."
Three possibilities here -- 1.) They were both world-class martial artists. 2.) They were both the world's most inept fighters. 3.) And I suspect this was the actual case, the fight consisted of the two young men circling each other menacingly and occassionally calling out, "Come any closer, and I'll cut you."

I seem to recall a "48 Hours" episode detailing the murder of a college professor with a broadsword. This made the big news because the murderers were members of some weird vampire cult. And my memory keeps bringing up a man who attacked a church congregation with a broadsword -- I want to say this was New York, but it may have been London...

Despite being obsolete military technology, swords are far more common today than most people realize. The majority of jurisdiction do not regulate swords like they do firearms. Martial Arts schools across the country sell katana or jian. Renaissance Festivals in almost every state have at least one weapons vendor. The Internet makes it extremely easy to buy one -- just eBay the word "sword" and see what you get.

Of course swords tend to have a better PR image than firearms -- and even more iconic status. Mothers who would never think of giving a toy gun to their sons will happily hand them a plastic sword. I knew one guy who refused to be around guns, but had an extensive collection of prop weapons from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

You can get just about any historical bladed weapon made these days: kopesh, machaira, gladius, spatha, katana, dao, jian, kris, bolo, machete, rapier, claymore...

or Batleth. And I know, without any doubt in my mind, some geek with a black belt and physics degree is out there trying to figure out how to make a lightsaber.
I doubt that the FBI is keeping separate statistics on how often swords are used in violent crimes. Yet I suspect its more often than you'd think. This is certainly not a call to ban or control swords. Rather, I want to highlight the issue in regards to the charge from various brands of Modernist Martial Arts that Traditional Martial Arts waste time teaching old fashioned weapons teachniques and the defenses against them. Yeah, we should spend more time on countering pistols, knives, and sticks, but traditional weapons work may be more contemporary than we think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we're not immune to this even in Canada. Occationally you'll get the odd wack-job running around with some toy they bought themselves for Christmas and absolutely no idea how to use it properly (thankfully injuring themselves more then others). Just last week there was a woman in the news that had flipped out and ran off into the night with a sword and attacked 2. Keep practicing those disarms ...

Zarquon The Rich