Are we missing an important bits of swordsmanship art by using non metal safer sword simulators? Could it be that the quest for making modern sword simulators is counterproductive for the art?
In retrospective of my past year of exploring questions like these, I came up with the following perspective:
There is no substitute for the replica steel sword blunt and there is no substitute for the full power hews and thrusts with such swords.
If we look at the real sword, its physical properties are the exact reason why were techniques, described in manuscripts, developed.
Now the push for the non metal safer sword and the movement for “we need to modify steel swords because we do not like how the correct replicas feel”, are creating physical properties which do not share much with the swords of the old days. End product is that a number of techniques from manuscripts stop working. Instead of good intention to create a simulation, we have created a simulacrum!
I fully understand that the safety is an issue in our daily practice. However, we must not forget what we are here for. H in HEMA is there for a reason. Safety should not be approached one dimensionally. The training should incorporate tools usage to meet the level of experience and not like it is now, when students at the intermediate level are increasing the use of plastic sword bashing. Result we can observe is that such student starts to stagnate in his development. A worrying situation.
I would like to take this opportunity to encourage the reader that they reevaluate their training curriculum.
An intermediate level student should be able to start with his solo work on the target devices where full force can be used with the steel sword. After satisfactorily level of sword control is reached, the partner practice with full power use of steel swords can proceed.
The drills should be created in such fashion that the progress in complexity enables enough room for gradual skill development and minimizes the possibility of safety issue.
The most important thing that I and my colleagues have learned from such training approach is, that manuscript techniques can be easier to understand and executed as well! Last but not least, it also helps preventing the development of bad habits which creep on one when full speed is not used or when sword simulators are used.
If we want ourself be called a practitioners of a martial art, then we need to be prepared to spend years of practicing and development. We must also understand that by not using the full potential of the old weapons, we create the exact same situation as we would be training for a running athlete by never actually running.