Q&A: Sword Tricks

My friend has a question but no tumblr to ask it, so I’m submitting for her: In movies you sometimes see disarmed combarants kicking their sword up and into their hand. Is that possible or a movie myth?

rpenthusiast

Yes.

I want to say this was a Bob Anderson thing. It can be done. Given how many stunt actors picked this up I suspect it’s pretty simple in execution, though I don’t know, exactly, how to do it myself.

The basic idea is that you foot under the blade’s balance point, and then just kick it into the air and catch it. This sounds a lot more complicated than it is. If you spend any serious time with a weapon, you will get a feel for where it’s balance is. On most swords (or at least the ones I’ve spent time handling), that’s slightly ahead of the cross guard. Then it’s not much more complicated than kicking anything else into your grip. It’s flashy, it looks cool, and it’s kinda pointless; you could just bend over.

So, it’s possible, and not a myth, just not something that has any real combat value. This is pure showmanship. It’s about presenting a visually engaging fight and showing off how skilled the character, or stunt performer, is.

The important thing to remember is that what you’re seeing is the result of two (or more) performers putting on a show. They’re working together. In that environment, you can do things you’d never do in a real fight. Things that are too risky, but look cool.

Any flourish beyond simply knocking the blade in the air and catching it is just pure performance. It’s impressive to see, and that was the point.

There’s a related disarm, where you lock up with your opponent and spin it a couple times, this torques the weapon against their wrist and pops it out of their grip. That’s real, and works if you take a longsword against someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. The Bob Anderson flourish was to catch their disarmed sword mid-air, and bring it to ready off-hand. That’s not easy, and extremely impressive if you’ve spent any time around a sword.

Never underestimate the creativity of a couple of armed friends who very good at what they do, and have been set loose to screw around.

-Starke

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