On the cutting edge

Psychology senior Zachary Joseph Burr (left) and ATEC senior Remone Durham practice swordplay. The Sword Arts club meets every week to discuss history, learn new techniques and showcase different weapons. Photo by Srichanrakiran Gottipati | Mercury Staff.

No Samurai ever met a knight on the field of battle, but at UTD’s Sword Arts club, katanas have met longswords. The student-run organization is a place for fans of weapons of all varieties to meet, train and pass along their experience.

“I do enjoy the camaraderie. I do enjoy the people I practice with. I also just enjoy fighting with swords,” said Fidencio Yzaguirre, a computer engineering senior and club president.

The organization’s weekly meetings exhibit a diverse set of over 50 weapons, from the Roman Gladius to the Japanese shuriken to fantasy weapons such as Batman’s “batarang.”

In order to allow battles to be fought in a style as close to true combat as possible, the weapons used in club matches are foam latex mockups.

“We normally use live action role-play weapons because they look like swords and you can hit people and be safe, so you can actually intend to take somebody out without really causing them too much physical damage,” said Spencer Mann, head coach of Sword Arts and longtime weapons aficionado.

Sword Arts has weapons available for members who do not have them, though members are encouraged to buy and even make their own. They may bring these to meetings and, once the coaches have given their approval, use them in combat.

Mann also gave a price estimate for two weapons frequently used in Sword Arts.

“A short sword goes to about $70 or $90. … Long swords are about $95 to $150,” Mann said.

Meetings follow two different formats, pure training days and weapon showcases. Every other week, a weapon is chosen for the topic, and the club goes over its history, country of origin, the time period it was used, how it was used and any advantages or disadvantages of the weapon.

Even during weapon showcase meetings, members still find time to train. While they train, it often falls to Mann to provide some swordplay tips and basic instruction.

Despite his teaching role as head coach, Mann sees the club as a collaborative experience.

“I don’t like to say that I’m teaching people things. … We call it a collective of sword enthusiasts,” Mann said.

For students coming to the club without experience such as chemistry junior Dennis Arce, there is plenty to learn.

“I didn’t really know much of what it was going to be,” he said. “I did have kind of a general idea it would be actual fighting, like you go to a boxing club you actually box.”

Even after just two hours as a member of Sword Arts, Arce was able to identify three lessons he had picked up.

“I learned you’ve got to close the distance in a fight. You can’t just block all the time and what you have to focus on is the person and not the sword,” he said.

Yzaguirre said though gaining experience in swordplay may be a major part of Sword Arts, it also introduces members to new weapons, their history, connects people interested in weapons and is simply a good time.

“I wanted to do weapon combats. It’s fun, I mean people bring different weapons, you can get a good thrill out of it,” he said.

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