Draw your blades! SwordFest is back at Relic Room, on a smaller scale

Sword FestCOLUMBIA, S.C. – We’ve been hunkered down for the past year, but the time has come to draw swords and come forth: SwordFest 2021 will happen on Saturday, April 24, at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

Actually, call it “Mini-Swordfest,” as it will be somewhat smaller than past events, and the lectures and demonstrations will only last 25 minutes each. Also, know that we are by no means throwing caution to the wind: We still have a city ordinance, and everyone will still need to wear masks.

This is the fourth year for this popular full day of sword-related programs, lectures and demonstrations for all ages.

And it’s free! But registration in advance – at SwordFestSC.com – is encouraged to help us with our planning.

Demonstrations will include kids’ interactive sessions during the day, a Japanese sword-drawing demonstration, and the Palmetto Knights Steel Combat Team doing a full-contact fighting demo. And more.

Aside from the lectures and demonstrations, there will be tables in the Atrium for representatives of local recreational swordplay groups to display various items of interest to devotees of bladed combat.

Here’s the schedule for the demonstrations and lectures:

• All morning – “Zouave Bayonet Drill.” There will be ongoing demonstrations, outside the museum, by Civil War reenactors undergoing bayonet drill.
• 11 a.m. – “Confederate Bowies.” They weren’t exactly, necessarily, the same thing Jim Bowie himself made famous, but that’s what Confederate soldiers called the really big knives – some like small swords – they carried into battle.
• 11 – “Kids’ Cutlass Training.” Upstairs (above the Atrium). This is always popular, and yes, parents, it’s safe – the “cutlasses” are made from those foam noodles people play with in swimming pools.
• 11:30 – “Fake Fighting, For Real.” Also upstairs. Allen Johnson, fight choreographer, will explain the tools, strategies and techniques used to make bladed combat look convincing on the stage and screen.
• NOON – “Iaido, the Art of Sword-Drawing.” Also Upstairs. Dan Bernardo of WellWithin Martial Arts in Columbia will show the Japanese approach to sword usage through the stylized, and lethal, forms of Iaido, which involves drawing and cutting in a single motion.
• 12:30 p.m. – “Kenjutsu for Kids.” This one program requires a $6 fee in addition to advance sign-up. Dan Bernardo will teach some basic Japanese sword techniques. Also in the upstairs area.
• 1:00 p.m. – “SC Arms Manufacture and KGK’s Mystery Blade.” – A lecture in the classroom, all about bladed weapons made or distributed by South Carolina in the 19th century. The “KGK” refers to Kraft, Goldsmith & Kraft, the Columbia makers of such blades as that carried by legendary swordsman Wade Hampton III.
• 1:30 – “M’Auley’s Manual Illustrated At Last.” M'Auley's Broadsword Training Manual was the South Carolina militia’s standard for at least a quarter-century. Historical researcher and swordsman Benjamin Battiste will explain the unique broadsword style, in the classroom.
• 2:00 – “Palmetto Knights Steel Combat Demonstration Team.” These medieval warriors were a big hit at last year’s SwordFest. Check them out upstairs.

Throughout it all, the following groups will have display tables up in the Atrium:

• WellWithin Martial Arts
• Dagorhir Club (foam weapons sport)
• Historical European Martial Arts, also known as HEMA.
• Aiken Saber Club (Lightsabers!)

About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to https://crr.sc.gov/.

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