LW: In regards to sword work, what technique do you prefer
FBM: Do you mean what do I prefer to choreograph for, or do I prefer
one style over the other?
LW: Which style do you prefer?
FBM: I have the most experience and training in European renaissance
weapons - rapier and dagger, rapier and buckler, rapier and cloak, double
rapier and things like that. Mainly because that's the greatest amount of
research material available from original sources and also that's
something you use an awful lot in the theater and in Shakespeare and
whatnot and I've done a lot of Shakespeare both as a choreographer and as
an actor. So I've had to research that, more than other weapons because
those are more of some of the principal weapons I've used. And because
they are very elegant too, very beautiful to use and take in a very large
period of history from the early Fifteen hundreds virtually to Seventeen
hundred. So It's a very large period of history and spans lots of
countries, the French, the English, the Spanish, the Italian, the Germans,
were all using the same weapons or variations on various combat systems. I
prefer choreographing for the renaissance weapons when I can.
LW: How do you integrate different sword types and styles for the
different Highlander Characters, especially with weapons that were never
really meant to or have never really been used for sparing against one
FBM: It's not really so much that the weapons were never meant to fight
against one another, it's just the fact that there are some weapons
throughout history with cultures that have never met that have never
fought each other.
I mean when would a Roman Gladius Hispanica from the reign of
Julius Caesar be pitted against a Japanese Katana? It would be physically
impossible. Not only are they separated by distance; they are also
separated by time. By the time the Japanese Katana was fully developed the
Roman Gladius had not been used for almost a thousand years. It was a
question of trying to find swords that reflect the origin or the culture
of the guest immortal.
We continued trying to challenge ourselves by using weapons that we
hadn't used before. Definitely we could have had the guest immortal use
some variation of a single handed or double handed broadsword. That would
also been extremely boring. Because there are only so many vulnerable
points on the human body there is only so many ways of attacking it with a
single edged, double edged, point oriented weapons. You try and pick a
weapon first of all that the actor is capable of handling, also there are
some weapons that are definitely right handed or left handed. If you are
using a swept hilt rapier from the late 1500's , that is a right-handed
If I take that weapon and give it to a left-hander, his hand won't even
fit into it because the bar that is meant to protect the hand was not
designed for a left -handed grip. If you were a left-hander in the late
1580's or 90's and you had not been taught to fight right handed - which
was the practice; you would have to have a sword, and obviously everyone
has their sword constructed for them by the local weapons smith -there was
no mass production of weapons until the English Civil war - but you would
have to have a special sword made if you decided to use it left handed
because the grip wouldn't accommodate you.
Very often when I was looking at characters for the show or the movie I
would look for any hint in the script of where they came from, their
country of origin. Immortals who are hundreds of years old rarely use a
weapon that reflects the country of their origin, but it would be nice to
do it occasionally. How old are they? Would they not use it simply because
they would have not been old to enough to learn this style or that style?
Does their weapon reflect personality more than their culture?
For instance the character of Sergeant Korde in Brothers in Arms, I
gave an 1860's Calvary saber. Not because there was anything in the script
that suggested that he was in the American Calvary or even initially that
he was American. We have no idea how old he is, where he came from, he
could have been a Numidian king as far as we were concerned, but he was
associated with the military. He was a soldier, so I gave him a soldier's
weapon. Something the audience would recognize as a military weapon.
LW: How do you choose a weapon for most of the guests?
FBM: You pick a weapon for a wide variety of reasons. Some of them have
to do with the actors abilities. For instance, it is a lot easier for an
untrained person to control a two handed weapon than a one handed weapon.
Also, some people, because of the way they move in their lower body and
how a two handed weapon forces you to move your lower body, sometimes a
two handed weapon is not best for them because although they can handle it
from the waist up, it's fighting them from the waist down. So I
have to give them a single handed weapon for that reason.
The footwork and the control of your distance is at least half of your
safety. The weapon's choices were never arbitrary. Sometimes they were
arbitrary on my part simply because it didn't reflect anything that either
was in or not in the script , but were based on what the actor needed and
sometimes there were things in the script that were definitely suggestive
of what the character would need and that couldn't be ignored.
I mean why would the person who played the colonel of Anderson Ville
Prison during the American Civil War be fighting with let's say an
oriental weapon? So there were some things that limited the choices but
also if the actor had some previous training, the 10% or sometimes less
than 10% of that.
I would try to get a weapon that was similar to what they had been
trained with. So, there were a lot of decisions, but the problem is when
you put two weapons together that never met before in history, it's not so
much that their styles are different, like I said, it's a human body, it's
either a weapon that cuts or pierces, there is a limit to how many ways
this can be accomplished. Single Handed, Double Handed, whatever.
The big thing in pitting one weapon against another is one weapon's
reach, is it longer than the other? Substantially longer? - which forces
one of the actors to fight in close. Of course, that creates safety
problems. Also, do the two weapons have tremendous weight
When one hit's the other in defensive parries, how much muscular
strength is going to be necessary to put behind the defensive parry.
Offensively, no blow is ever allowed to land. If the parry is not there,
the blow has to stop. But, still the weapons have got to meet while still
moving otherwise it looks ridiculous. Well it's mime, it's not a fight
anymore, it's mime. That's one of the reasons why we normally picked two
handed swords for guests when I knew they would be fighting against the
Katana, being a two handed weapon itself. It's a lot harder to parry a
blow from a two handed weapon with a single handed weapon for obvious
The blade differential is in play, not only because it's not only the
force with which you have to throw with, because most of that force is
acted, it's the momentum that the weapon picks up, just because of the
weight of it. Now we're not using heavy weapons, the blades are aluminum,
and in some cases the entire sword is made of aluminum. But inertia and
momentum really do figure into it, especially when you start moving at any
substantial speed. Again, a lot of things come into the choosing of a
sword and the of course the choosing of a fighting style.
(F. Braun Interview Con't)