Director John Clements answers Youth email on swords and swordsmanship:
How can I find trustworthy information or reviews on historical
Reliable and sound advice about modern replica swords is problematic.
The thing with sword reviewers is they are like new car reviewers.
You have to first ask some important questions: who is doing the
driving? What exactly are they testing the vehicle to do? How qualified
are they to drive it? Plus you must also determine if the are in
any way connected to the manufacturer or dealership of the car.
A lot of "car collectors" and auto enthusiasts have no
intention of ever operating the machines they review as a city work
vehicle or ever using it to commute on the highway for several years.
Rather, they polish their cars in the garage and talk about their
qualities while admiring them at car shows. It's the same with swords.
No one today employs them for their historical function any longer
(and very, very few people realistically train with them).
Keep in mind that few sword reviewers have much of a clue about
what authentic specimens handle like, let alone how to wield them
in a sound manner to begin with. Besides, reviews based on little
more than waving a weapon around in the living room then cutting
at milk jugs and plastic soda bottles is hardly a way to test a
sword for proper accuracy and historical fighting quality. So, comparisons
to such examples are either nonexistent or so insubstantial as to
be almost useless.
The sense of balance in a weapon is also a subjective aspect, not
a technical issue that can be measured or quantified based on factors
or mass distribution. It's instead an aspect of physically understanding
what the weapon is capable of doing and how it was designed to perform
it. Additionally, certain sword designs might have been specifically
intended to be wielded while mounted or used while wearing a gauntlet
or even full armor. This would have significantly affected their
feel and center of gravity when used under other conditions. A review
of an accurate replica would need to take this into account or else
fail to appreciate the reasons behind the attributes of a particular
style or type.
Lastly, purpose is everything. One person's art artifact is another's
practical object. Real swords were functional tools. A reproduction
sword that you need for serious martial arts training or for test-cutting
against resistant materials will not often be the very same one
that another person wants just to hang on a wall, wear once a year
to a festival, or occasionally play slow-motion dance with in their
On top of all this, if one month you buy a model of sword you have
no idea if the same manufacture will make that same piece the exact
same way six months or a year later when someone else purchases
the next one. It may be better; it may be worse. The maker might
have improved production or cut corners. You have to also question
what customer base the vendor or the maker was originally marketing
the piece toward (reenactors combat sport? stunt fencing prop? martial
artists?). They are not all equal.
So, all you can really do is continually educate yourself and remain
skeptical. Reviewers seldom accurately reveal their perspective.
Be clear as to what your needs are and purchase buy what feels good
to you, and put it to use in reasonable practice.