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If you want to see in an equal balance
the blonde Phoebus and red Mars,
procure to look upon the great Carranza,
in whom the one and the other are not separate.
In him you will see, friends, plume and lance
with such discretion, skill and art,
that fencing, in divided parts,
he has reduced to science and art.
~ Miguel de Cervantes
There is a common image of the modern day sword fighter as a white-bibbed fencer, but delve beyond that and you will discover a growing culture of practitioners of what is known collectively as Western Martial Arts. They train with rapiers, longswords, axes, knives, batons, and even walking sticks; but what binds them together is the desire to learn and improve, both as fighters and as human beings.
"At its surface old swordplay is the study of lethal violence. As you delve deeper it becomes a journey of holistic personal development. The original Spanish master [Carranza] said that Destreza was a method for improving the young men of Spain for the good of the kingdom. If you train a student, you transmute the potential for violent destruction into knowledge, personal growth, and creation. That is the great paradox of the sword; it is an extension of the person. Ultimately, learning to know the sword is learning to know yourself." - Puck Curtis
The title of this series is derived from the Italian word for sword fighter, giocatore, translating directly as 'player'. The practice of sword fighting is often referred to as swordplay, but the strata of practioners ranges from lifelong masters to quite literal weekend warriors.
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To Roland Cooper, Devon Boorman, Academie Duello for hosting me, all the fighters and instructors of the 2013 Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium for welcoming me and posing for these images, and those VISS volunteers who patiently answered my questions and helped with logistics.