6 Things Films Get Wrong About Swords (An Inside Look)
In fantasy novels and action movies, we like to see weapons at work but we don’t particularly care how they were created, sort of like sausage. We want to see our protagonist double-wielding pistols while shooting holes in the faces of their enemies, but we certainly don’t need a whole montage on who handcrafted those guns. Yet for some reason, swords are different.
There’s a special place in our hearts for knowing exactly where and how each blade was forged before the hero pokes someone with it. Some swords have even more elaborate origin stories than the characters who wield them. All the stranger then, that no one writing our favorite books and movies ever bothered to google how these weapons are really made.
Chris Farrell, a bladesmith for 13 years and owner of Fearghal Blades in Austin was kind enough to sit down with the peeps at Cracked in what was likely the closest we will ever get to actual journalism and explain why everything films and novels have taught us about making swords is complete bullshit.
Source: Copyright © 2016 Cracked
I don’t think that sounds silly at all! In fact, that’s actually a great idea!
Thanks for the input!
This is what medieval sword fighting probably looked like- two fighters being defensive and testing each other with sharp blades. This video comes from the wonderful swordsfolk at DIMICATOR , based in Germany.
This martial arts school reconstructs the practice of historical European swordsmanship. They focus on unarmoured fighting with sword and buckler, as described in late medieval German manuscripts.
Before I dive into media, I’m going to list some real women with the reminder that they do exist and are worth looking at.
You don’t get any more real than reality.
Here’s some references to women in history, from a post made by Indiana Jen to Wikipedia, and we have the article, “Women Have Always Fought” by Kameron Hurley. Also this article talking about women in combat.
There are women combatants throughout history, and currently today, you can find them everywhere fairly easily. You just have to dig and not that hard. There are women who have been great at fighting, terrible at fight, middling, and just on the rolling spectrum. Every variety you want. You can find them.
Ronda Rousey is currently very popular in sports circles right now for good reason, however checking out the entirety of the women’s division of the UFC is a good idea because it’s fast access to looking at women who choose to participate in blood sport professionally. Gina Carano, Holly Holm, and others.
You can actually often find old videos of martial arts and other competitions from the Olympics, which have female divisions for most sports. These include fencing, archery, judo, taekwondo, etc. There’s information out there about them than you’ll get straight out of entertainment media, but it’s always worth looking to reality for comparisons with fiction.
Alien: specifically the first one for a look at characters who were written from the perspective of being entirely gender neutral in that they were all originally intended to be male. If you’ve never looked at it purely to watch how Ellen Ripley is very different from many of the female characters in the general media, it’s always good to start there.
Aliens: Ellen Ripley returns and this time she’s written from a more traditional perspective as a mother bear. However, holding her in contrast to the hyper-masculine Vasquez is very interesting. Both are fascinating characters in their own right and the movie is a fun time if you can handle a little horror.
Terminator 2 (and Terminator): In Terminator, Sarah Connor is the quintessential horror movie heroine in need of rescue and the transition from that to her Terminator 2 persona happens in the last five minutes of the movie. However, it’s worth watching and looking at. Sarah Connor is an excellent example of a female combatant in 2 and fully ripped.
Farscape: All female characters on Farscape, not just as combatants but in general. Aeryn Sun is the standout for female combatants and the Peacekeepers are interesting in that they are entirely gender neutral. She’s a good character to look at if you want one that’s been raised for war since birth and still trying to figure out the other particulars. Aeryn establishing her own identity outside her role as a Peacekeeper is a huge part of her arc.
Battlestar Galactica (The Remake): There are a bunch of really, really, really fantastic female characters to dig through on this show and the creators went specifically out of their way to play with concepts of gender with Starbuck. You want to see a very masculine, aggressive female character utilizing a lot of flaws that are traditionally masculine then watch Starbuck and compare her to the above. It has it’s flaws, but it’s on point most of the time.
Stargate SG-1: Samantha Carter, full stop.
24: Nina. Nina. Nina, Nina, Nina, and more Nina. Chloe. Also, Nina. Why Nina? Because Nina is awesome, because Nina is driven, because the answer to that question is spoileriffic. Because Nina is good at her job. Nina is a professional. Chloe is good too, for different and more conventional reasons.
Burn Notice: Fiona with the caveat that she’s not a professional and it’s important to remember that in context with the rest of the team. She’s IRA, a guerrilla fighter and she thinks predominately from that perspective. Still, the sequence where she tasers herself to get the guy is fun. She’s in the range of the very aggressive to the point of overly aggressive or hyper aggressive. She also gets off on violence, a lot.
X-Files: Scully. This may not be what everyone thinks of, but Scully is a federal agent and so she is a combatant. Unlike some other shows, X-Files did attempt to portray the federal agent part accurately. There are a few hiccups here and there, but overall it’s a good showing. Also, one of the earlier examples on television in the 90s of a woman getting to be the Spock and got her own trope out of it.
Elementary: Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. It takes her a while to get there, but it’s Lucy Liu. I mean, c’mon. Also, the Watson and Holmes friendship in that is great. You don’t get many platonic male and female friendships on television. Ever.
Babylon 5: Susan Ivanova for the military perspective, so willing to use violent solutions and is fatalistic. Delenn who walks the continuum from peaceful solutions but is willing to escalate into killing you and everyone who has ever met you, so the rare female character who prefers diplomacy but for whom violence is never off the table. Lyta Alexander and Talia Winters, the walking weapons like all telepaths and one of which is later commodified into a super weapon. The treatment of an incredibly powerful female character as an object by the other characters is intentional in the writing and it’s an interesting discussion on how people can be transformed into objects then discarded.
Salt: I can’t say this is a great movie, but Angelina Jolie plays a Russian undercover agent who is outed to the Federal government and must run for her life. The stunts are over the top, like in any action movie a real human being can’t do most of them. And her motive is very cliche for female characters. However, for attitude? Yeah. Jolie nails the ‘tude.
The Long Kiss Goodnight: These two are the Black Widow movies that you’ll never see, but Gina Davis plays a suburban housewife that discovers she’s a spy with memory loss.
Kill Bill: There are a lot of fantastic performances in this this and Volume 2, the fights aren’t realistic but they’re not supposed to be. Kill Bill is a great one when you’re looking for attitude.
R.E.D.: For Helen Mirren, she’s amazing. This is a much more classic example of the super spy in the genre.
Mad Max: Fury Road: Charlize Theron is great in this movie, but the other female characters are also excellent.
The Shield: All the actresses in the Shield deliver phenomenal performances, but all my love goes to CCH Pounder for being incredible. On the one hand, Detective Claudette Wyms is the stereotypical female Black cop on television. On the other, she’s incredibly well rounded, well acted, and very human.
Justice League: Unlimited: This one may seem weird compared to the others on the list, but it’s an excellent example of the more you have then the more diverse it becomes. Because it has so many superheroes, Justice League offers a wide variety of surprisingly well-written female characters complete with strengths and weaknesses. You want a low-key kick ass and take names approach that manages to transcend the silly/sexualized costumes by making its diverse cast of characters well rounded and human? Then watch Justice League. (It’s not just because CCH Pounder’s Amanda Waller is amazing.)
Queen and Country by Greg Rucka. Comics. Spies. Female spies that aren’t femme fatales, at all.
Live. Die. Repeat. (Otherwise known as Edge of Tomorrow): Mostly for Emily Blunt.
The Lord of the Rings: Eowyn. Because you can basically describe the Rohirrim as Fratboys and she’s one of them.
Strange Days: Angela Basset will take your teeth out through your nose. Like with Terminator 2, her character is one of the few examples you’ll see of women allowed to be buff. (TW: rape plot, though not her.)
Wing Chun starring Michelle Yeoh. You’re mostly watching this for the action, but there’s a lot of awesome martial arts to go around.
Get Smart (Original): This may seem a little out of left field, but Agent 99 from the 60s was actually a groundbreaking character on American television. This was long before the stereotype where women were automatically more skilled than men in spy fiction but not allowed to be the focus and she’s one of the first single, working women we have, and who is substantially more competent than her colleague, and who makes a great deal more sense given the gender roles of her timeframe. Anyway, if you’re looking for something a little lighter then give Barbara Feldon a shot.
Xena: Warrior Princess – Xena is one of the weird ones, because on the one hand she’s hypersexualized. On the other hand, Lucy Lawless fucking owns it. Honestly, I wouldn’t watch Xena if you’re looking for a female character that’s trying to be serious. I would watch Xena for reference if you’re looking to write a female character that’s just out to have a good time. Plus, when it came to LGBT representation, the showrunners were actively messing with Standards and Practices on what they could get away with. Remember, all that Xena/Gabrielle fanservice is trolling the network bigots.
Claymore – I don’t generally recommend a lot of anime or manga when specifically looking at female characters, mostly because like with any other piece of foreign media you’re taking a lot of the gender norms that come from that culture with it. If you aren’t familiar enough with the culture to really parse that out, then while it may be fun to watch it becomes more difficult to incorporate or you incorporate stuff you didn’t mean to. This is just as true if you’re not American and consuming American media, or not British and consuming British media, or any other kind of media.
That said, I’d read this manga. This is basically an almost entirely
female cast of characters that are taking on roles traditionally
masculine in the Shounen genre. It’s a whole bunch of complicated female
characters killing monsters without the hypersexualization or the jokes
that usually come with it. Basically, its kind of like Berserk with
women. If you’re going to do anything with the “I was experimented on
and turned into a killing machine” then this is a must read.
Legend of the Seeker, Season 2 – Keeping in mind that the novels are fetishistic and the show isn’t that great, the Mord Sith Cara specifically in personality is one of the better examples I’ve seen on television of a female character who has been abused and then transformed into an abuser. Tabrett Bethell nails the mentality, the personality, and the expressions of a warrior with that specific outlook. Especially someone who was raised to combat in an unforgiving environment as a child. You’ll see a lot of characters out there like Kahlan, you won’t see as many that manage to nail the mentality behind a Cara. Also, Cara refuses to bend knee to Richard’s moral authority. She develops as a character, but she is always the one who decides the direction that development takes. She owns who she is and is proud of it, even when that makes other people uncomfortable.
Protector of the Small by Tamora Pierce – If you’re not already reading Tamora Pierce, you probably should be. She writes some of the best female characters, especially for teens. So, just read the catalog. However, if you want to write a character who is a leader of men? Then, Kel is still the best and worth looking at. Pierce also does an excellent job digging into the sexual politics in a medieval setting, the lack of easy answers or solutions, and a lot of all around humanizing over finger pointing. Which is about 100,000x better than the vast majority of “teach them to fight” narratives.
Dark Disciple series by Margaret Weis – This is a sequel series to the War of Souls, but the evolution of Mina as a character is worth paying attention to. On top of that Weis’ books tend to have pretty good fight scenes.
At the end of the day, the real trick to writing female characters
though is to create well-rounded individuals who are a reflection or
informed by the world they live in. One of the biggest problems with female characters in fiction is often that they’re written to represent the way an author thinks women should be, rather than who they are. And no, sadly being a woman doesn’t automatically make you immune. Good female characters are characters, they’re well-rounded individuals who belong in the world they live in and whose lives are a reflection of their setting.
We are all the sum total of our experiences. If your characters experiences are not informing who they are, then you might have a problem.
“In terms of speed and the breadth of material now accessible to anyone in the world, this is really revolutionary,” says audio curator Greg Budney, describing a major milestone just achieved by the Macaulay Library archive at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All archived analog recordings in the collection, going back to 1929, have now been digitized and can be heard at www.MacaulayLibrary.org
“This is one of the greatest research and conservation resources at the Cornell Lab,” said Budney. “And through its digitization we’ve swung the doors open on it in a way that wasn’t possible 10 or 20 years ago.”
It took archivists a dozen years to complete the monumental task. The collection contains nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings equaling more than 10 terabytes of data with a total run time of 7,513 hours. About 9,000 species are represented. There’s an emphasis on birds, but the collection also includes sounds of whales, elephants, frogs, primates and more.
“Our audio collection is the largest and the oldest in the world,” explained Macaulay Library director Mike Webster. “Now, it’s also the most accessible. We’re working to improve search functions and create tools people can use to collect recordings and upload them directly to the archive. Our goal is to make the Macaulay Library as useful as possible for the broadest audience possible.”
The recordings are used by researchers studying many questions, as well as by birders trying to fine-tune their sound ID skills. The recordings are also used in museum exhibits, movies and commercial products such as smartphone apps.
“Now that we’ve digitized the previously archived analog recordings, the archival team is focusing on new material from amateur and professional recordists from around the world to really, truly build the collection,” Budney said. “Plus, it’s just plain fun to listen to these sounds. Have you heard the sound of a walrus underwater? It’s an amazing sound.“
Sample some fascinating Macaulay Library sounds:
Earliest recording: Cornell Lab founder Arthur Allen was a pioneer in sound recording. On a spring day in 1929 he recorded this Song Sparrow sounding much as they do today
Youngest bird: This clip from 1966 records the sounds of an Ostrich chick while it is still inside the egg – and the researchers as they watch
Liveliest wake-up call: A dawn chorus in tropical Queensland, Australia is bursting at the seams with warbles, squeals, whistles, booms and hoots
Best candidate to appear on a John Coltrane record: The indri, a lemur with a voice that is part moan, part jazz clarinet
Most spines tingled: The incomparable voice of a Common Loon on an Adirondacks lake in 1992
Most erratic construction project: the staccato hammering sounds of a walrus under water
Most likely to be mistaken for aliens arriving: Birds-of-paradise make some amazing sounds – here’s the UFO-sound of a Curl-crested Manucode in New Guinea
Some links I have found in various Tumblr Posts that I have saved on my computer. I do not take credit for collecting all these links. Unfortunately, I did not have the mind to save/note where these various links come from. Thank you to whoever compiled these links together.
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wat rings u got bitch?
Thus the myth of the knight lumbering around like Frankenstein is busted
This myth bugs me to no end, so let me clear it up here and now:
A made-to-measure suit of full plate armour is (and ergo was) less cumbersome to wear than, say, an ill-fitting all-weather coat. It was expensive as heck, but the movement it afforded was surprisingly non-restrictive. Also remember that the men who wore these suits were usually quite physically fit (medieval knights – who were among the few who could afford the armour – were trained to fight from around 6 years-old), and were accustomed to training while wearing them.
Plate armour was moderately heavy, granted, but the weight was optimally distributed over the body, meaning the mostly costly aspect of wearing it was increased fatigue. It’s not heavy in the same way a hiking backpack is heavy. Any accounts of a knight being unable to rise after being knocked down were most likely because he was injured, dehydrated, or just plain exhausted – all of which being common in battle anyway. Regardless, it’s unlikely that it’s because his armour prevented him from moving… and the fallacy of knights requiring cranes to get onto their horses is just stupid.
The idea that full plate was sooo impractical is ludicrous; if it were, people wouldn’t have bothered with it.
“But plate armor is increadibly heavyyyy! Only giant musclemen can even move in iiiit! It’s completely useless against agile unarmored foooooes! Women can’t even put it oooon, its sole weight will nail them in one placeeee!”
If it’s not “the distraction factor“ that people use to try to justify ridiculous female armor, it’s "agility”.
We’ve featured another video that dispelled many myths about field plate armor, but the performers weren’t as agile as the noble knight above.
Partially this myth survives I think because like Dungeons and Dragons always insist on selling up the idea that heavier armors come with heavier agility penalties. And to a certain extent, there are certain activities I wouldn’t expect to be able to do while wearing plate armor.
- Rock climbing without tools or ropes
- High diving and synchronized swimming
- Aerial gymnastics
- Dancing en pointe
Okay I don’t do any of those things but you get the point.
Practical armor is made to allow at least a fair amount of agility for it’s wearer for a simple reason: The best defense is not to be in the way of the attack, that way you don’t suffer any of the impact.
Or to put it a simpler way: Lots of safety gear is uncomfortable and encumbering, but was the last time you heard someone propose that workers should just go without – that way if there’s an accident they’ll be able to get out of the way quicker?
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It depends on what kind of tournament you’re looking for because there’s a huge difference between say a boxing match and how those are scheduled to your traditional martial arts tournament.
First, you need to figure out what kind of tournament that you’re writing. My experience is with the traditional martial arts tournaments and those are what I’ve participated in (though the Ernie Reyes organization is large enough in the number of schools that it actually sponsors tournaments in house just for the students). If you’re looking for a setup that’s more in line with boxing, then you may have to go looking specifically at that martial art. If you want to do professional fighting like the UFC or a character who does underground fights with a similar structure, then it may be worth looking up the history of the organization and the necessary requirements to qualify as a fighter.
Even traditional martial arts tournaments are pay to play, so your character is going to have to plunk down some amount of cash when they sign up. That cash doesn’t usually go into a winnings pot, instead it reimburses the organization that’s putting on the tournament. Everyone, including spectators, need to pay some sort of entrance fee. Some traditional martial arts tournaments do pay out prize money to the winners, but mostly it’s a way to get name recognition within the community and attract more students to your school. Many of the big name martial arts tournaments are huge and sponsor categories in more than one martial art. Some will be specific to a single martial art and often a singular style within that martial art. It depends on who is sponsoring the tournament and who is sponsoring the tournament will also decide your character’s eligibility. If your character belongs to a school that is not a qualifying member of the WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) then they are not eligible for WTF sponsored tournaments and, for example, will be unable to participate in competitions that will lead them to the Olympics.
Categories are divvied up by belt rank, age group, and (sometimes) specific martial art. How and what scores points is dependent on the requirements of each martial art and judges score differently.
Breaking: board breaking and brick breaking, respectively
Open: forms choreographed to music usually involving tricking or gymnastics.
Weapon: traditional or (alternately) open
These work off a bracket system in the traditional tournament setup that you can find commonly in any Shounen manga or in most sports. The competitor puts their name down at the entry and they are given a number, when it’s their turn, they go, when it’s not, they wait. Competitors are scored by judges (usually more than one, often three). You’ll have to look at each in depth, but there should be plenty of information available once you narrow your search.
Life at a Martial Arts Tournament:
Okay, the first thing you should know: martial arts tournaments are actually boring. I mean, it’s loud and there’s a lot happening at any given moment with many different events happening simultaneously but your character is going to spend a lot of their time sitting in the stands waiting for their event to pop. You can get a general feel for this off of quite a few of the videos about tournaments roaming youtube and that may be helpful to you.
It’s nervewracking. You spend several hours waiting and then there is the moment of glory (you compete) and then it is over. Bam. Like that. Your character may get to move up the brackets, but it’s unlikely on their first time out. This pretty much happens to everyone on their first go, so don’t take it too hard.
It’s difficult to get in as a competitor and you’re bound to fail if you don’t have a good coach and come from a good school that has prepared you for the event. This is true of both martial arts tournaments and professional fights, you need some kind of backing to get in. The more prestigious the event, the more difficult that will be. A character who “loves to fight” is going to find the competitive circuit difficult, much in the same way a hobbyist writer gets eaten when they try to swim with professional authors. If they don’t have anyone to show them the ropes, then they will make a lot of mistakes and they will get knocked on their ass more than a few times.
The ends of both Karate Kid movies provide a decent look at most tournament setups.
Spend some time going through memoirs of authorities in their sports, especially those of coaches and trainers as opposed to just the athletes themselves. These tend to give more insight into the business side and the inner workings of the fights as opposed to just the experience and the strategy.
The Ultimate Fighter the ultimate fighter is a reality tv show based around 16 fighters duking it out for a chance at a UFC contract while they live together in one house and train under some UFC legends. It’s a nice little microcosm for how the UFC kind of works and what sort of training you need for a fight. A lot of professional fighters rely on others to schedule their fights for them.
I hope this is at least a little helpful.
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