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How People Actually Fought With Swords

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From Gladiator to Braveheart, most historical fiction about fighting with swords is kinda wrong, influenced more by performance art than how people actually fought each other with blades. Back to the Source, a documentary about Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), is looking to show people how it was actually done.

This piece originally appeared 10/26/15.

We told you about this project when it was a Kickstarter, but the documentary is now complete and ready for viewing on YouTube. Or below.

Put together by Cédric Hauteville, it’s a fascinating exploration of the HEMA scene, which is right inside my wheelhouse, being as it is a combination of both sports and active historic research. Seriously, these guys are thirsty for knowledge, and are continuously going through old texts looking for any new insight into the way Europeans used to try and kill each other. But what’s so cool about this is that any stuff they find isn’t just being put into a new book, like so much other history: it’s being put into practice.


Watch the doc and you’ll quickly notice the difference between cinematic swordfighting and the real thing: actual blade combat was messy and nasty, caring less about looking pretty and more about getting in some guy’s face and sticking a sword into them using whatever means possible.


Also: Check out the workshop of a modern sword-maker via a friends at Gizmodo.