I am a pretty hardcore geek for fantasy. I love science fiction, too, but my true heart has always lain with fantasy. When I was a teenager and my father took me to a gun show, my eyes were all over the swords. I was a little financially savvy at the time, so I had saved up some money, and, with my father’s permission, I bought a dagger. I had owned a pocket knife for a while but this was my first truly honest weapon. (Or at least a semblance of one; the weapon wasn’t sharp.) I was a teenager and my father was a state champion marksmen in pistol, so I had grown up with a respect for weapons. Thus, he had judged me ready.
That same dagger is actually hanging within a long arm’s reach of me as I type this, along with several others. And yes, my children have noticed them.
Before I go a word further, let me preface that I have had extensive bladed combat training. In my particular case, I have studied classic French and Italian fencing as well as some broadsword and Iaido. And as another disclaimer: If you have your heart set on educating your children about blades and combat, be logical and remember, swords are weapons, so safety always comes first.
My kids want to be trained in the sword. And you know what? From the moment I found out I was going to be a dad, one of the things I have always looked forward to is teaching them. With my eldest son having turned five this past year, I am starting to think about how to approach instructing him. After all, he has been begging me to teach him the blade for about as long as he could talk.
From the very first time he asked, I have promised him that I would teach him. But that promise always comes with me enforcing respect and understanding. Thanks to this consistency, my children can by rote say that a sword is not a toy and that hey are not to touch one unless I am there handing it to them. My sons have held dull daggers, but I only let them do so for a little while before I put the steel away and break out boffers.
For those not in the know, boffer is a term for a foam-sword, usually consisting of a solid core of fiberglass, PVC, or graphite. Mine are homemade with PVC cores and blades made of cut up camp pads and cloth covers. (Instructions here.) These things are great. Yes, they can sting a bit, but honestly, as long as they are properly put together, a full grown adult would have a hard time hurting someone with these. (At least, as long as you don’t hit the head or groin, and even then it just stings more.)
I’ve given my sons boffer swords and taught them some very basic things. And I mean basic things, like: “hit with the edge,” “you have to swing if you want to hit them,” and “the best block is to dodge.” I do this on occasion, and they like it. Sure beats the snot (literally?) out of the hockey sticks and old branches I used to use to mock sword fight. Come on, how many of us did that?
My older son will probably be starting karate here in the next school year as an afterschool activity, and if I’m lucky, the dojo will have foam-sword training, too. (My karate dojo did, even for adults.) So in addition to learning some more global mindsets for fighting, he will get some more blade training. What I am still puzzling out is when I’m going to actually put steel in his hands. I’ve been kind of waffling around doing so when he reaches age ten, but I think that is more just a convenient number than anything. Fencing, what I intend to teach him first, is hardly a heavy blade, and while I’m sure reach-wise he’ll be annoyed, it will teach him to parry and lunge better. Broadsword and katana will definitely happen later, with me finding an actual sensei for katana, as my training in that is more rudimentary than expert.
But, should I wait a bit longer or sooner? I first fenced when I was thirteen, but that was because my older brother, who was in college, had happened to notice a fencing class the next town over and I begged my parents to let me go with him. Neither of my parents are swordsmen, though, so it wasn’t like I was going to get training without seeking it myself. I do have some mild worry of my adolescent children fighting duels with each other, but at the same time I think that’d be cool as long as they wear protective equipment.
So, what do you think? Are there any other fellow blade-geeks out there wrestling with these questions that want to chime in? When should our children be taught the sword (let alone introduced to the awesomeness that is the Highlander franchise)? Anyone out there already go down this tricky path? Let me know.
Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and not “The One,” but he’s working on it. He has also recently started a new illustrated, serialized steampunk novel, “The Tijervyn Chronicles,” that is free to read online, download as an ePub or Kindle file, or even listen to as a podcast. And, for the true stalkers, you can follow him on Twitter or Facebook.