Saturday, February 11, 2017

Why Has LARP Seen a Tremendous Surge of Popularity?

During the 1970s, Live Action Role Playing (LARP) was born into the world. In an age of dungeons, dragons, game masters, and massive amounts of notebook paper there was also another movement brewing. This movement stripped down some of the rules, rid themselves of the table and planted their own two feet into the story itself. It wasn't until the late 1990s that LARP achieved popular status, with the publishing of the first universally defined LARP system, Mind's Eye Theater. In the following years LARP gained popularity steadily, but it wasn't until recently that LARP's popularity has exploded across the world. 
Today, you're only a quick web search away from finding a park near your home, gearing up, and doing epic foam battle with allies from all walks of life. But why the sudden interest in foam sword combat, dragons and interactive storytelling? Are these activities not just for nerds living in their mother's basement? Let's look at some of the influencing factors that have led to this massive surge in make-believe. 
Pop Culture - Let's face it, Hollywood loves knights and dragons as much as we do! With the film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien's masterpiece The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings selling hundreds of millions of dollars in the box office, it’s safe to assume there are fans of mythical fantasy around the world! Rather than just being amazing stories, however, these films also opened the minds of their viewers to a desire of belonging in the film's universe. This can be translated into an increase in the number of LARP participants. Not to mention the movie Role Models, which while it didn't do a good job of accurately portraying LARP events, it sure did make foam combat look fun. 
Curiosity - Going along with the first point, people are curious as to what LARP consists of. They hear about these events through word of mouth or the internet and they think "I could see myself getting into that". There is a generally mindset shift, as more and more people accept the idea of mythology, that is, as the concept becomes mainstream so will its various activities (Dungeons and Dragons, LARP).

It Is Simply FUN - Nothing scream cathartic like clubbing on someone with a foam baton. On a more serious note the living story, the preservation of dying trades like armor crafting and food preparation create another-worldly feeling and an escape from the stresses of daily life.

The film industry is largely responsible for bring LARP into the spotlight in recent years, and that's a great thing. These dedicated people and brilliant and passionate about their hobby, and they would have to survive this long. When you bring passionate people together with an event that's terrifically fun, can you honestly expect it not to spread like wildfire?

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Claymore - More To It Than Its Appearance

For almost three centuries England and Scotland were at war. These wars are known as the 'Anglo-Scottish Wars' fought over the independence of Scotland from England. The history of these famous battles has been well-documented and is one of the most exciting periods in British and Scottish history. The movie 'Braveheart', which starred Mel Gibson, tells the story of a Scottish hero, William Wallace and the Battle of Stirling; during his famous Braveheart Freedom speech, Gibson is carrying a Claymore Sword.

The Claymore was used primarily by Scottish warriors between the 14th and 17th centuries. The term itself is Anglic and Gaelic, meaning great sword. It was easily the most popular weapon with Scottish warriors for several centuries. The Claymore is a very long sword, up to 60 inches. It is a two-handed, double-edged sword. There were two types of hand guards used on the Claymore - the simple cross guard, two arms that faced toward the tip of the sword, and the basket-hilted, a basket fashioned at the hilt of the sword. Both applications were designed to protect the user's hands. Because of their size and heft, these weapons were quite heavy, weighing up to 5.5 lb. The basket-hilted sword is often referred to as a broadsword and used into the 18th century.

The Claymore was considered a formidable weapon for its time, striking fear into the hearts of the enemy. It was strictly an infantry weapon and too heavy for Calvary; it could deliver a devastating blow, making it almost impossible for an enemy to block or parry. Because of the length, it was difficult for an enemy to get close enough to inflict harm and if they did get close enough for hand-to-hand combat, the Claymore also featured a longer than normal ricasso, the unsharpened end of the sword used as the handle, which served as an excellent club. These weapons usually reserved for clansmen who had the size and tenacity to use them.

Because of their long and storied history, these swords have become a much sought-after collector's item. These beautiful weapons are in demand for display and occasionally are used in battle reenactments. Original models are almost impossible to find, most are in private collections or on display in a museum, such as the National Museum of Scotland. Sword enthusiasts who want to show a beautiful piece of history can easily find replicas of the Claymore; there are hundreds of types available. Prices will vary depending on the source and quality; you can spend as little as a $100.00 or well over $500.00 for one of these legendary swords. You can find them here at Sword N Armory!

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Telling Tales To The Styles of The Greek Helmet

Back in ancient Greece, people who wore helmets wore the Corinthian helmet. It originated in ancient Greece, and its name comes from the city of Corinth, which was an ancient city-state. This helmet was made of bronze, and in later styles it covered the entire head and neck. There were slits for the eyes and mouth, and the nape (neck area) was protected, too.

Sometimes, to be comfortable, the ancient Greeks would tilt the helmet upward to be more practical. In these situations, the helmet was worn like a cap. After some time had passed, the Corinthian helmet suddenly wasn't as popular anymore, and the Italo-Corinthian types made some headway in popularity, with a new Italian influence making a new wave. 

After a while, during the Classical period, the style became a Thracian helmet, and this was all the rage. They also created a simple type of helmet, one which did not get in the way of the eyes, and this was a pilos type of helmet. The Corinthian helmet, as aforementioned, seems to be a popular helmet among the ancient Greeks, and it was associated with glory, and also with the past. The Romans loved it, too. Pretty soon, under the influence of the armies of the ancient worlds, this helmet evolved into a jockey-cap style helmet. 

This Corinthian helmet was mentioned in ancient literature. Herodotus, the old writer, mentions it in his Histories. There is a story of two tribes who lived along a river, and their fair maidens occasionally fought each other with sticks and stones. You may choose to read this as a metaphor for "fought with words." They wore only the finest Greek clothing, and they wore Corinthian helmets. This lets us know that even the tamest (fair maidens) were fighters in ancient Greece and also that they took-no-prisoners and were able to leave their helmets on as a gesture of defense.

This was a ritual fight between the maidens, and it happened occasionally to shake things up. It was a fight to honor the goddess Athena, who was the virgin goddess. If the young women were to die in battle, it was thought that they were being punished for lying about their virginity. So, this story is resonant with these times, and can tell us a lot about the recent revival in gladiator culture and such.

In today's time, some Marvel comics heroes wear Corinthian helmets, too. And in Star Wars, Boba Fett wears the same helmet with a T-shaped visor. Many other characters in popular culture are part of the trend toward Greek helmets, and this history clearly shows its richness and potential for continuing to be a figuring force in literature and culture today.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

SNA Monthly Spotight: Functional 69.5" Carbon Steel Japanese Samurai Naginata

The Naginata is the Japanese version of the Pole Arm. The design of the weapon was originally based on the Chinese Pu Dao. The Naginata first came into use during the 8th century. Originally used to dismount horsemen, the Naginata also proved to be efficient in clearing foot soldiers and soon became a favorite among the Samurai.
Attributes of the Weapon:
-The blade of the naginata is carbon steel and features a double bohi. The blade has been sharpened.
-The saya is wooden with a scratch resistant, black matte finish. It is accented with a carved mon.
-The guard of the naginata is a blackened sukashi design with blossoms.
-The shaft of the naginata is scratch resistant black matte with three blackened fittings along its length. It is made in a fashion similar to a tsuka on a katana and is secured to the blade by two mekugi.

Note: Assembly is required. Included mekugi will need to be fit to the shaft holes by light carving.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Presenting The Bamboo Mat Katana by Paul Chen / Hanwei

The Bamboo Mat Katana by Paul Chen / Hanwe has, in just a short amount of time, become one of our top favored samurai swords. The name says it all, as this is a superb bamboo cutting sword for martial arts professionals.

The blade itself is also of high quality. In fact, you won't need to sharpen this sword as the edge is so durable. That’s because it features a chu-kissaki blade of Hanwei's own high-alloy HWS-2S steel, combining impressive performance with a striking O-choji hamon. This steel is constructed in Hanwei's new factory, with high-tech equipment, producing an exceptionally unalloyed, advanced-metallurgy blade with a magnificent edge-holding capability and resilience.

The fittings on the katana feature a bamboo-themed black iron tsuba, textured in a bamboo mat design with a jointed bamboo rim and highlighted with gold-tipped bamboo leaves. The fuchi/kashira follow the same theme and the golden menuki feature a pair of sparrows. The saya is finished in high-gloss lacquer with horn fittings.

Overall, just the traditional look and feel of this sword in your hands really is its selling point.

Features and Specs:
  • HWS-2S Blade
  • Quality fittings
  • Bamboo theme
  • Overall: 40 1/4"
  • Blade Length: 28 7/8"
  •  Handle Length: 11"
  • Weight: 2lb 12oz
  • Blade Steel: HWS-2S

*Specs will vary slightly from piece to piece.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Armor and Chainmail Maintenance 101

Congratulations! If you're reading this article you almost certainly have just entered the exciting world of ancient armor; perhaps your first chainmail purchase from is sitting before you right now, begging to be opened.
In the Good Old Days

Of course, most of us who like to imagine ourselves fighting in armor on the battlefields of the good old days do not think we will have to maintain our own equipment. We like to think that we will have squires or pages or some kind of dedicated helper to manage such details while we concern ourselves with battle and courtly manners. However, self-maintenance or not, the process of olden times was neither complex nor technical.

Sand mixed with some grease or oil was used to clean armor and chainmail. Lucky armor maintainers had sand tumblers available to clean their chain mail and would hand-clean sheet armor with this sand/oil mixture.

Maintaining your own Armor and Chainmail
Moisture is the enemy of armor and chain-mail. To prevent rust, remove any moisture as soon as you possibly can using entirely dry paper towels or rags or the strong, bright, warming sun. Being conscious of preventing moisture from remaining on your armor will save you hours of maintenance.

When you open your armor, you may be overwhelmed by the smell of grease. To rust-proof your purchase, the owner probably saturated it in oil.

Degreasing: Fussy Rather than Difficult
The best way to have an uncomplicated, successful degreasing is to schedule your degreasing for a day on which you have ample amounts of strong, warm sunlight to assist the process.

Fully submerge your chain-mail in a degreasing product and use your hands to agitate the metal in the solution; it’s actually a kind of fun activity; the links make an attractive sound as you move them.

Spot check the metal for grease. When you think you have removed all of the oil, take it outside and lay it on a concrete or other rust-resistant surface to dry. Reposition the mail at intervals to allow the sun to completely dry the metal.

For plate armor, rather than immersing, use a rag to liberally apply the degreaser, drying each section as your complete it. Concentrate on any areas that have rivets or overlapping metal to ensure complete drying.

A good sun substitute is a hair dryer or heat gun, though they are time-consuming.

Apply a Protective Coating
Once your armor is completely dry, use a dry rag or paper towels to apply a coating of wax or similar – there are many products from which to choose. Try not to expose the metal to water while you work; for example, do not use a rag that is already wet.

At the conclusion of this phase, you will be storing your armor until its next use. Many people designate an old towel or large rag to act as the foundation on which you apply the coating and the covering in which you store it. Cover and store your clean armor in a dry place.

However you choose to store your armor and chainmail, check it at intervals to ensure it is still dry and rust-free. This is certainly a case where prevention is the absolutely best way to fight the enemy: rust.

Finally...Polishing Your Armor
Unless your armor is for display only, don’t polish it to a mirror-like shine. To achieve that look, you would have to compromise its usefulness through buffing and polishes. Super-shiny armor is ahistorical and you can only achieve that finish through copious amounts of elbow grease that would be better applied to battling rust.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Medieval Helms and Helmets: A History and the Importance of a Knight's Headgear

Take just a moment to imagine the scene; you're a medieval knight caught in an intense and violent scrimmage to protect the stronghold of your king. Several enemy soldiers have made it over the walls brandishing spears, swords, and axes. You make your way toward one of them as the occasional arrow tings from your Armet, making you thankful for your helm. Suddenly, something hits you hard in the head sending you flying to the ground. It's an enemy axe. Momentarily you think you're dead. When the ringing in your ears goes away, however, the dented side of the Armet and a small trickle of blood at your cheek are your only injuries. Ultimately, you're unharmed and still able to defend your kingdom.

Essentially, this was the greatest and most critical need of helms, helmets, and headgear for knights in medieval warfare. Though a proper blow could puncture a helmet, many times arrows fired en masse at a distance simply were not powerful enough to puncture the metal many knight's headgear was constructed of in the late period of the medieval era, and a sword or axe would need a monumental amount of strength to do more than give the wearer a bad headache. The Armet type helm, as mentioned above, is the most renowned type of knight's headgear, the classic full facial covering helmet with lift visor. However, this helmet took years of refining to develop and didn't show up on medieval battlefields until the 14th century.

As warfare progressed in the middle ages so did the technology that allowed knights to survive to do battle longer. This progression led to the ongoing evolution of the helmet over the course of the early, high, and late medieval periods. In the early medieval period open faced 'nasal' helmets, so named for their ability to protect the nose in combat, were popular, but by the high era had been replaced by closed faced helms. Though closed helmets allotted for disadvantageous mobility issues, they were much safer and sturdier than open faced helmets that came before. By the late age closed helmets, like the Armet, had become popular as they offered visors which could be opened or closed to allow the knight to be cooled or get more air flow and protected the full head, as well as the lower face and nape of the neck. Below we'll look at a few different helmet options from the early to the late medieval period and there advantages and disadvantages.
Originally developed by Viking clans, the Spangenhelm saw wide use in Europe by knights and other warriors in the early period of the middle ages. Sporting an open face design, the Spangenhelm allowed for a free range of movement in the wearer, but ultimately little in protection if struck in the face or by applied strength. The most common of the 'nasal' helmets, these helms are often seen with a nose protecting appendage.

A cross between the Spangenhelm and the Armet, Bascinet helmets were crafted in various ways throughout all three eras of medieval history. Originally starting their evolution as simple leather head coverings, Bascinets had evolved by the middle and late periods and would be made from iron or steel. Bascinets with visors were dubbed Great Bascinets and, while sacrificing some stability, were a light alternative to Armets while still providing facial protection.

As mentioned above, Armets are the headgear most people think of when considering helmets worn by knights. With their origins in Italy in the late medieval period, Armets would become the signature protective headgear of many knights. Not only did Armets provide facial protection, they also covered the lower face and neck for sword and axe swipes and spear thrusts. Unfortunately, what Armets possessed in strength, they lacked in mobility and were heavy, uncomfortable, and unwieldy, even by helmet standards.

In medieval combat, when arrows were flying and every enemy was out for your head, it's easy to see why a knight's headgear was of such prominent importance. Though they may have been heavy and uncomfortable, it was obviously better than receiving an arrow through the skull or a pike through the throat. Now considered a knight's trademarked piece of armor, the medieval helms, helmets, and headgear most certainly had their place alongside the spear, sword, and shield in defending lives and assuring that king and country were upheld.