While today we are craftspeople creating replicas of weapons and armor from the past, this was not always the case. At one point in the distant past :-) we were kids and all of us had a fascination with knights, swords, armor, spears, bows and arrows. Nothing thrilled us more than finding a great stick in the woods that instantly became an imaginary excalibur to be swung at imagined dragons.
One of the best things about producing historical replicas is seeing this same spark of joy in the eyes of our customers, children and adults alike. While kids love swords, parents are often concerned about what type of weaponry their children should be entrusted with. Despite our unofficial motto of "safety third", we are strong advocates for the responsible use of the weapons we produce. When asked for advice we try to try to help both parents and kids think through the responsibility of owning and handling historically accurate arms.
Rather than asking what the appropriate age is for sword ownership, it is better to ask if the child has the maturity and responsibility needed to own a sharp tool? Usually, folks start with a pocket knife or small replica belt knife. This is a big step that carries some commitments by the new owner. One needs to use the item responsibly, maintain and keep it in good condition and be safe. I will often remind parents that ownership of such an item may require a period were the individual demonstrates these skills in their daily life prior to receiving the responsibility of ownership. If one is unable to maintain their other possessions, room, or chores, it hardly indicates they are ready for a blade or a javelin. Starting out with these smaller knives is also an important rite of passage for many kids as they are entrusted with a tool capable of causing harm.
When the choice is made to get a piece it should also come with a discussion of safety. It is as important for parents as it is for kids to clearly define safe handling procedures. It should be stressed to kids that they are responsible for their piece and the safety of themselves and others. It should never be used in play or games, in mock combat or "monkeying about." It is also probably useful to let them know that they are likely to accidentally cut themself at some point, despite trying to be safe. Minor nicks and cuts can be a useful lesson that sharp knives and swords must be respected. Whether through checking the edge on the knife with a thumb, or whittling a stick improperly, ownership of a sharp tool often results in some knowledge via blood being shed, but with proper oversight these small injuries are excellent teachers. Tell your kids this, and that it is their choice to not end up with a cut. We also recommend that you teach them appropriate first aid for when they inevitably, eventually, cut themselves. This helps kids not only to respect the tool or weapon, but also to take responsibility for the results of its use. We suggest that a child successfully demonstrate their ability to safely use a knife before being given a more dangerous piece.
Knife Safety Rules
Always cut away from you!
Always keep your fingers clear of the edge especially when opening and closing a knife.
Never use your finger to check for sharpness!!!!
What to do if/when you cut yourself!
1. Clean the wound. clean the cut with some water and/or diluted soap, wipe away any dirt.
2. Apply antibiotic. If you have to hand apply antibiotic to minor cuts. If the cut is deep or wide, you should seek medical help.
3. Apply pressure to cut. With a clean cloth or bandage gently apply steady pressure to stop blood flow from cut.
4. Elevate the cut. Try to keep the injured area above your heart as much as possible until the bleeding stops.
(Print the above first aid tips and present along with knife, just sayin.)
When should my young warrior get their first sword?
Getting their own sword is a significant investment in terms of money and responsibility for young owners. It can also be a meaningful reward for a child who has demonstrated maturity through responsible knife use. Many families decide that the sword will be for display only for several years, and can be taken done for maintenance and showing under controlled circumstances. Another important step in preparing your child for responsible sword ownership might be participation in formal lessons in a martial art or sport. This can be competitive fencing, Tai-Chi, Karate, or any activity where personal responsibility is part of the curriculum. If you are lucky enough to live where a historical sword art is taught for young folks this is excellent training. The main element is to learn personal discipline and respect for teammates and competitors.
Are you as a parent ok with this?
Often we find it's not the young folk who are not ready for owning and being responsible for such pieces but rather the parents are not comfortable with the idea. It varies greatly by family but if you are not exposed to such things in your earlier years people have a tendency to anticipate the worst. This we have found is rarely the case. In our adventures in life we have been to many events and been part of groups doing reenactment, material arts, craft and sports and seen many young people learn and practice good stewardship of their own tools and blades from early on.
We recommend any discussion of your young people getting a piece as a great way to discuss personal development goals and foster interest in history and the physical arts of all kinds. It is far better for their development than just watching TV or playing computer games.
What to get?
Here are some of our products that are most popular as pieces for younger pages and squires.
Or, of course, something they can really grow into like a German Bastard Sword.
In the end, we think that owning and maintaining knives, spears, swords, or axes is a great way for kids to learn responsibility, as long as they are ready for it. When you decide it's time to outfit your own little army of tiny warriors, let us know and we will hook you up.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.