Saturday, March 24, 2012


I'm in the UK getting ready to teach some privates and then to Switzerland next week for 3 days of seminar.
I always bring training weapons with me when I travel to teach. Sonny was a master craftsman at making aluminum swords and a myriad other kinds of weapons and training gear, and felt strongly that a practice sword should be as 'lifelike' as possible to prevent students from getting blase. The appearance and feel, he felt, were hugely important, so he designed practice blades to have similar characteristics to the real thing.
This included a blade that was thin, like steel, cut to closely replicate actual sword shapes from the Visayan region, with good handles, and occasionally guards and other features to play with. His preferred material was aluminium and he would cut and shape his own blades with a dremmel and a grinder, adding hand carved wood or plastic handles with leather and other materials for texture and grip.
I have a few of Sonny's creations that we still use in class - seems weird that something designed for use should gather dust on a wall, but I am leery of traveling with them.
Luckily I have a friend who has a full wood shop with a band saw who has been happy to make me copies of Sonny's designs that I also use in my own classes, and which go with me when I travel.
In addition to the metal swords, Sonny made foam practice weapons for full speed, contact flows and sparring. Again he wanted the blades to bear some resemblance to the real thing, so they are designed to be as thin as possible, shaped like the real thing, and often covered with gray/silver tape or 'pleather' to look the part also.
Sadly I am not a craftsman like Sonny, but when needs must, as they did today, I can approximate.
I needed to fabricate some soft trainers - and though there are plenty ready made versions out there to buy, Sonny preference for a particular 'feel' to the weapon meant I needed to find some kind of stiff foam, some kind of strongback, and tape to put together. The end product would be rigid enough to slice with ... but only when the angle was correct .... and something you could cut or poke with that had a little give, to prevent injury.
So it was off to the local hardware store, and I have to say that it's amazing what you can put together from memory foam insoles and duct tape :-)
......Sadly my cunning plan with the rigid laminate floor underlayment (only sold in packs of 16 which was way too much material and too expensive anyway) and the double BBQ skewers did not come to pass, but if you feel like experimenting, I think it will work great.

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