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A Dance for Gods, Wars and Beauty: The History of the Elegant and Deadly Ancient Art of Sword Dancing

Monday, October 17, 2016 18:14
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A Dance for Gods, Wars and Beauty: The History of the Elegant and Deadly Ancient Art of Sword Dancing

The study and practice of sword wielding has been developing for over 4,000 years and continues to fascinate. Its mastery demands a great deal of a person’s physical and spiritual capacity.  Like any sport, mastering the art of wielding the sword requires extensive physical training which also trains one’s perceptions and reactions, allowing for quick responses to any situation – a valuable skill for self-defense. Finally, one of the most important aspects of the art of the sword frequently quoted in ancient sources seems to be its moral value, as the practitioner would need to learn patience, perseverance, and humility, enhancing one’s physical and spiritual life, thus placing the practice firmly between the realms of spirituality and defense.

Sword dancing has found its place in many different cultures. In Asia, the sword dance is often used for plot descriptions and characterization in Chinese opera. In Pakistan and Nepal, military dances are still commonly performed for weddings and other occasions. In India, the Paika Akhada (“warrior school”) previously used to train Odisha warriors, is performed in the streets during festivals. Sword dances are also performed all over Europe, particularly in areas corresponding to the boundaries of what used to be the Holy Roman Empire.

Sword dance and fencing game of the Nuremberg mastersmith, Nuremberg, 1600.

Sword dance and fencing game of the Nuremberg mastersmith, Nuremberg, 1600. (Public Domain)

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