Sword Fest features lectures and live swordplay, from East and West

Joe Long, Relic Room curator of education, in naval uniform demonstrating use of a cutlass.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – East is East and West is West, but the twain will meet on Saturday, Feb. 9, accompanied by the clanging of swords.

That’s when Sword Fest returns to the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum.

The action starts at 10 a.m. with a demonstration of European historical swordplay in the atrium. Allen Johnson of the Palmetto Knights, a fight choreographer and longtime student of European swordplay, will discuss and demonstrate the use of historic weapons.

That’s just the beginning. Here’s the tentative schedule for the rest of the day:

• 11 a.m. – Leading S.C. sword expert and historian Jack Meyer will speak on the “Evolution of the American Military Sword: 1780-1916.” Dr. Meyer will illustrate his talk with examples from his own extensive collection.
• 12:15 p.m. – More action in the atrium: Ben Battiste will act as swordmaster in a recreation of South Carolina broadsword training circa 1848, with uniformed re-enactors as his students. The session will be conducted exactly as it would have been for a group of antebellum soldiers.
• 1 p.m. – “Iaido, the Art of Sword-Drawing:” Also in the atrium, Dan Bernardo of KDA Karate Academy in Columbia will show the Japanese approach to sword usage through the stylized, and lethal, forms of Iaido. Iaido’s aim was to draw and cut in a single motion.
• 1:15 p.m. – Sifu Saleem of Lam Tung Kung Fu Academy in Lexington will demonstrate a Chinese swordplay form from the Tang Fung version of Hung Ga. In the atrium.
• 1:30 p.m. – Kids’ Demo: “How To Fight Off Pirates!” The basics of Naval Cutlass explained for youngsters in the atrium.
• 2 p.m. – South Carolina competitive fencers will demonstrate the fast-moving modern sport of fencing in the atrium.
• 3 p.m. – “South Carolina Sword Stories.” Joe Long, Relic Room curator of education, will relate fascinating tales of swords and swordsmen from South Carolina’s history.

Throughout the day, there will be activities to keep kids safely engaged. There will be a Sword Skills Station at which kids can learn the basic movement of the South Carolina broadsword system, using safe simulators.

And everyone can participate in a self-guided tour of bladed-weapon highlights in the museum’s gallery, from 1600 A.D. to the present day.

It’s all happening on Feb. 9 at the museum, located at 301 Gervais St., in the same building as the South Carolina State Museum. The activities in the atrium are free to the public. The rest is available at the cost of regular admission to the museum, which ranges from $6 for adults down to free for children 9 and under.

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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