The Crossed Swords Dunk for ALS

Dragon Con regulars Nicole Harsch and Mike Sakuta, better known as The Crossed Swords, brought their blend of swordplay, humor, and education back to Hyatt Regency V on Saturday at 11:30AM. This year, however, they introduced a new element, their version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. They opened the program by explaining that they would accept the challenge by fighting a duel at the close of the program, with the loser having to stand in a wading pool while the winner dumped the ice water on him or her.

After recording the introduction for the Ice Bucket Challenge, Harsch and Sakuta demonstrated what not to do in sword fighting. The basic rule they stated is that if all the sword movement is between the two combatants, it’s fluff or, put differently, “Any move you can do sitting in a chair is not good sword fighting.”

They followed this advice by showing the audience basic moves in sword fighting, noting that these moves were not safe for use in a crowd, where a swinging blade could cut someone. Jousters also tend to make high cuts to avoid wounding their mounts.

Many of the moves they showed the audience used a fencing stance, with opponents presenting their sides to each other. This stance, however, doesn’t work when combatants use two weapons each or have a weapon plus a shield. Use of more than one weapon or implement requires a wider, more frontal stance.

Two moves commonly used in movies and television programs, they said, do not work in a real fight. In one, a combatant knocks his foe’s weapon from his grasp by striking it hard. In the other, one fighter does a circular movement with the engaged blades and twists the opponent’s blade free. In reality, striking an opponent’s blade only succeeds if the opponent lets go of the weapon. When a swordsman (or swordswoman) twists the engaged blades, that move actually results in the blades circling each other again and again—unless the opponent releases his or her grip.

Problems they cited in movies and television shows using broadswords and shields included combatants using a fencing stance, which renders the shields useless, holding the shields behind their heads, which offers little actual protection, or holding the shields over their faces, which blocks their vision. Other problems include prolonged anticipation of an opponent’s strike and a tendency to trade blows on each other’s shields.

They also discussed duels using the Klingon bat’leth, which combatants tend to use as swords although they function best with moves designed for quarterstaffs. The figure eight movement at the start of bat’leth duels is, Harsch said, actually a move from baton twirling. She noticed it often on Highlander and recently saw it on The Musketeers.

After demonstrating some lightsaber techniques, the pair proceeded to the second part of the ALS challenge, the duel that would end with the loser doused in ice water. The duel did not quite go as the audience had been told it would, however. As the pair battled, Sakuta grabbed Harsch and kissed her, at which point their friends doused them both with ice water, to thunderous applause and laughter. They challenged another friend of theirs and the entire audience. It was a great ending to a fun show, and the video is on the pair’s Facebook page.

Author of the article

Nancy Northcott is a lifelong fan of comics, science fiction, fantasy, and history. She's the author of The Herald of Day, the first book in the Boar King's Honor historical fantasy trilogy, and the Light Mage Wars paranormal romantic suspense novels. Collaborating with Jeanne Adams, she writes the Outcast Station space opera series.

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