Dad Stories – The Broadsword Incident


There are two types of martial arts schools. Traditional, and nontraditional. In reference to the former, there are two subcategories. Hypertraditionalist, and respectful traditionalist. A nontraditional school doesn’t worry about when or where a technique was developed, as long as it proves effective and does not violate the school’s moral codes. A respectful traditionalist is trying to preserve a particular style, but respects and appreciates the existence of different styles. A hypertraditionalist thinks that everything must be done by their tradition for tradition’s own stake and is often intolerant of nontraditional styles. Some even go so far as to despise other traditional styles.

We were, as mentioned before in The Flaming Sleeve, nontraditional. Dad and I got along well with other nontraditionalists and respectful traditionalists, but we made a hobby out of ticking off hypertraditionalists.

It was obvious. Most traditional schools use a white gi. Most nontraditional schools wear black. Dad often wore red or blue. I wore red. Most open tournaments require shoes for health reasons. This already annoys the barefoot hypertraditionalists, but they do comply with low-top shoes designed for martial arts tournaments or the split toe tabi boots. I wore high-top wrestling shoes.

Then there were our weapons of choice. Almost everyone demonstrating a weapons form or kata used a katana, staff, pair of sai, or nunchaku. Occasionally, one may see a pair of kama. As one can very well imagine, judges do tire of seeing the same old weapons. So we would favor european weaponry such as broadswords and battleaxes, ensuring that the techniques were still effective with these weapons. The advantage to this is that it tends to eliminate the middle ground on scoring. Hypertraditionalists will score a competitor low in outrage, while nontraditionalists and respectful traditionalists will score high in their relief from the mundane.

It is the responsibility of a judge to give each contestant their full, undivided attention. One judge was rudely and openly inattentive to any competitor not from their school or style. This is outright disrespectful. They were staring off at the ceiling or the clock, slumping off in their chair looking bored. Dad was using a two-handed european broadsword with a blade two or three inches across and around four foot long.

Dad approached the judges with the sword behind his back in the traditional manner, stopped to bow in greeting to the judges, and then proceeded to whip the sword out from behind his back to introduce himself and present the sword for inspection. The tip of the blade came within an inch of the inattentive judge, startling them falling backwards to the ground. After the judge recovered, who was sitting on the end of a row of five judges, the center judge enthusiastically accepted the sword. As he looked it over like a child with a new toy, he offered it to the other judges for inspection. They all looked over this unusual and welcome weapon with the same joy. Except the formerly inattentive judge. Dad now had everyone’s full attention for his form.

Four out of five judges gave him high marks. Guess which four.


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