Alina Popescu, Writer

Research Spotlight: Of Swords and Swordplay

Research Spotlight: Of Swords and Swordplay
November 09
03:44 2016

Until very recently, when it came to fights that involved swords, my inspiration (and sadly, research), came from other books, movies, mangas, animations, and video games. Well, I did go to Karate classes for a few years way back when, and played Airsoft where a guy from the Romanian version of SWAT trained us, but there were no swords. The problem with getting my information from those sources? None of those channels have the most realistic swordplay out there. Quite the opposite, some of the things people can do in these movies are absolutely ridiculous. Like drawing from the back. Which is at least impractical, if not impossible, Or like dancing around, twirling and spinning and flaunting your sword like you’re directing an orchestra. Sure, it looks absolutely amazing, but when you get down to it, it isn’t just ridiculous, it’s also dangerous.

How I came to that conclusion, you ask? Well, like anything recently – hair, nails, how to get my phone to do stuff, where to find things – I learned everything from YouTube.  Of course, I learned it by mistake and because I was checking out cool videos I found or that my boyfriend recommended. I tell you, it’s great to have someone who works in the creative world with me, especially if they’re also passionate about science fiction and fantasy.

The channels I watch are only two of people who have – for some reason or another – picked swordplay as their interest. The real thing, historically accurate sword fighting, from back when how well you wielded your weapon determined how long you stayed alive on the battle field. It makes it applicable in real world situations. I follow these two channels for different reasons. One is focused on the funny side, and the other one is the work of someone considered somewhat of an expert. Still, both publish informative and fun content.

First channel recommendation – KnightSquire

KnightSquire is heavy on the comedic side. He analyzes movie and video game sword fights and pointing out the obvious mistakes. He’s really funny and informative, and watching him as he learns more about HEMA (Historical European martial arts) and sword fighting in quite exciting.  Here’s one of his latest videos:

Second channel recommendation – Skallagrim

Unlike KnightSquire, Skalagrim is more of an expert on the subject of HEMA and swordsmanship. He also does a lot of reviews of swords and knives, which is pretty awesome. If you need information on anything from a tomahawk to a Dacian falx, he’s a great resource. He actually did an unboxing on a hand made falx imitating the Dacian weapons of ancient times. I found it particularly useful as one of my werewolf universe characters, Vicks, is Romanian. The Romanian werewolves trace back to Dacian times and she has dreams of battles from those times.

Is Realism in Swordplay Important?

I’d say when it comes to video games, how things look is far more important than the realism. I think Witcher 3 is so fun because of the crazy fighting style. Of course, if you tried that in real life, you’d be dead. The same goes for movies and some fantasy works. Not so much for when you try to be historically accurate in your novel.

Either way, I think a balance between what looks cool and historical accuracy/realism is what we should strive for. Knowing more about the martial arts you’re writing about is helpful. I know seeing a falx handled by someone good with a sword helped me a lot. Now that I’ve found all these resources, it would be fun to go back over Alexa’s sword fights in The Breaking of Bonds and see how badly I messed it up!

Is it Easier to Write Realistic Swordplay?

When it comes to writing a fight scene of any kind in a book, how cool it looks is less important. You have the characters’ moves, sounds, reactions, and feelings to make your fight engaging and real. The sound of clashing blades can be as frightening, regardless of whether the fighters are doing a normal or a spin attack.

What kind of resources do you use for your research? I’d love to know more and maybe pool them together.

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Alina Popescu

Alina Popescu

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