In the beginning, there was the yardstick.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t start out wanting to be one of the three musketeers. I didn’t know what a rapier was, or care. In the beginning, I wanted to be an olympic fencer. Swordplay was the cool thing people did with foils. Had I any exposure to a modern fencing club before I was twenty, things might have been very different for me.
Growing up, the yardstick was my weapon of choice. It had a beautiful balance, it was light and fast. I would grab one at any opportunity and fence my way to victory. I dreamed of growing up and someday owning my own. Out of school and it’s extensive armoury, I would resort to sticks for mock battles with my friends. Sticks, of course, had one advantage over a yardstick…they would more easily convert to a machine gun or blaster. Never overlook the advantage of random knobby bits.
In my teens, I discovered metal…both kinds. And an amazing librarian taught me that adults read fantasy too, which got me hooked on some good solid reads. My mind started to turn to swords and armour more than foils and knickers. One small town metalwork class turned out to be a goldmine…the shop instructor was a former swordsmith, who used to make blades for the British army. Our shop had a huge gas-fired forge, and we learned many secrets. I learned to love the artistry of a hammered blade over everything else. I also learned not to pick up black steel without tongs…
When I was living in a larger town, I met a group of like-minded martial artists and geeks. We got really into gaming, but wanted more. We heard about the SCA and renaissance fairs, and people who were fighting with swords and armour. Sounded awesome to us. Armour seemed a little too tricky to make after our first few attempts, but swords turned out to be really easy. Take a flat bar, grind in a tip, weld on a plate for a guard. Or be the cool kid who’s dad worked at the mill, and ground out an aluminium blank of a longsword for you. Or the guy who found a stiff, small diameter tube of steel from the same source, and made a rapier out of it.
Weekends became all day and night fight sessions. Every kid in the area wanted to be a part of it. We scrounged steel from everywhere, sharpened and shaped everything we could, and had at it.
Somehow, we all lived. There were some pretty good injuries, but nothing permanent or even hospital worthy. Luck favours fools, it seems. Imagine my surprise when I eventually moved to Vancouver, and discovered the SCA. I thought it very clever of them to use rattan instead of steel…sigh.