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F. Braun McAsh is the Swords Master for both Highlander - The Series and the new Highlander Endgame Film.

LW: In regards to sword work, what technique do you prefer to use.

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 another?

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 weapon. 

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 differences? 

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 reasons. 

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)

F. Braun McAsh and fellow swords master Bob Chapin Show us how it's done at the Legacy Conventrion

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