This blog entry is inspired by a friend of mine who is doing sword training for kids over the Summer, an imminent visit by our Godkids and some generalized statements spewed in my vicinity.

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I was fortunate to be exposed to weapons at a young age-specifically guns.  I had both good and bad examples set before me and as an adult have chosen not to have a gun. Take note of that word “chosen” it will feature here.  We expose children to images of guns, swords, lasers and who-knows-what else every day. What we often don’t give them is context.  As  Fenix says
“Any kid with a tent pole and a sibling is already getting the idea of how to use a weapon.” 

Our group gives sword lessons for kids. We’ve been criticized for glorifying violence, indoctrinating children and a thousand other mutterings that in the large scheme of the universe don’t stay in my memory.  Giving sword lessons is instructive for both the trainee and the teacher. When we do  these we are NOT teaching anyone how to defend against ninjas, real or imagined, we are letting the kids understand that it’s a big hunk of steel, it can do damage and it’s not going to be a long or fun lesson if they can’t settle down and cooperate. Frankly, by the time kids come to us, those are skills they should have equipped but sadly, not always the case.

Swords, like many other object, are neither good nor evil. They are made for a certain purpose and in our modern society, unless one is going to the Olympics, really not needed in your average household. But we have, as a society, imbued them with some status and mystique and so it is no wonder so many people are fascinated by them. Some carry this through to adulthood with fencing, competing, sparring, collecting, performing, … and they can be seen and held by children.

Our home has *never* been child-proofed, and a number of decorative weapons hang on the walls. In the office hangs a war hammer that is above the reach of most children but we have far more problems with ADULTS pulling it down and being stopped from ‘just giving it a swing.’  The children who visit know enough not to touch other people’s things and definitely not to use them without permission. Sadly most households have not raised their children this way and on cnn.com I read every day about weapon-related deaths, many of which could have been prevented with a simple discourse about how weapons are not a toy.

In the Northeast United States, there are quite a few Summer Camps that teach kids how to use bows, swords and guns. The people who are teaching this often do so for money, but most of them it’s genuinely to share a love of knowledge and to teach respect and skills. I would take a 12-year-old who has been raised in a family of careful gun owners as a student over a child who has been isolated from the impact of what picking up something with an intent to harm can do. These are the really dangerous kids, with parents who won’t let them get involved with violence but leave them unattended with video games or a television. When I encounter these kids they think that there are no consequences but by the time they have spent 10 minutes holding a 3-pound sword, their view has changed a bit. (And I am a bit of an ass since I make them test their strength with a blade before I give a weapon. The non-liars generally get a lighter sword) And I don’t mind if they test me because it’s important that they learn I won’t harm them,  hold swords for a reason, and allow them some time in their own heads to learn important adult lessons. Lessons such as I won’t have the advantage in every confrontation, I should use tools effectively, and that there are consequences to my action and reactions. (I’m sure any teach can list more reasons) And mostly, that patience and cooperation will get me longer, better lessons.

And closing this out, if you choose to send your kid to sword camp or have that raggity-looking set of performers  at the faire work with them, you are right to be skeptical and alert, and hey, perhaps you can join in as well. No matter what we teach the kids, you are the best example they can have so please set a good one.

There are two acts that use swords that are geared directly toward kids that we’d recommend if you are at a faire:

The Nature of Mercy and Days of Knights, these guys* are inspirational and fun.

*guys is a gender-neutral term near Boston, MA

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