A question we often hear is “why don't you use steel blades?” Or wooden boken, or bamboo shanai, or rattan swords, or fencing foils... the list goes on. There are several reasons Aegis uses our own unique practice weapons:
To avoid injury. Real techniques with real weapons create real death, and this is not our goal. While the techniques we teach would transfer well to armored fighting, we do not generally use armor as it is expensive and difficult to outfit each student. As such, we teach a great deal of control (during sparring students are expected to be able to hit hard enough for the opponent to detect but not hard enough to cause damage) and we use padded weapons which are designed to be forgiving of mistakes.
Because the materials needed for our weapons are inexpensive and easy to find and the process is not difficult, thus keeping costs down and allowing our students to create and maintain their own equipment.
Because creating our own weapons makes them highly customizable. All of our practice weapons are designed specifically for the user, taking into account strength, hand shape, height and length of limbs. Advanced students may also design new types of weapons they wish to work with, subject to the approval of the instructors who will assess their safety.
So what are the practice weapons like?
Swords consist of a PVC pipe core, weighted inside with lead shot or BBs to balance like a real blade. The quillions or crossguards are made with flexible cabling and can be made in a variety of styles. The “edge” is padded with two to three layers of foam and then covered with strapping tape and duct tape. The “flat” or spine of the blade is taped over but un-padded, creating a weapon that is very similar in feel, weight and balance to a steel broadsword. Students make their own first blades during Basic Swordsmanship. Once the student has developed sufficient mastery and control, with the instructors' permission they may use a harder-cored practice sword if they desire.
Shields are provided to the student and consist of a round sheet of plywood with a metal handle and leather or cloth strap. The wooden edge is covered over with a rubber bicycle tire tired in place with nylon cord. Many students choose to paint their shields.
As students progress to higher levels of fighting, they may begin working with larger weapons such as the spear, greatsword and glaive. These are made of wood or fiberglass cores covered with tape and padded at the striking points. Students must have demonstrated sufficient control to be allowed to work with them.