Sword fighting is in our genes.
But of course a swashbuckler would say that. It probably comes as no surprise that Adrian Paul, who starred as Duncan MacLeod on six seasons of the ’90s fantasy TV show “Highlander: The Series,” is a big fan of all things swords, bokken (wooden swords) and martial arts.
“We spent thousands of years with weapons in our hands,” said Paul by phone from Los Angeles. “It’s only in the past 150 years that we’ve turned to guns.”
Paul’s love of the all-mighty sword and swordplay inspired him to create The Sword Experience in 2016, a traveling event that takes him around the world, where he guides attendees through sword combat, sword choreography and physical fitness. At the end of the day, participants can choose to have their staged fight recorded. Paul will bring Sword Experience Academy to Rock Ledge Ranch in Colorado Springs on May 22. Reservations are required. Go online to swordxp.com.
“Anybody can come,” Paul said. “You’re going to push yourselves. I tell people a quote I found before the pandemic, but it’s important for the pandemic — ‘For a species to survive, it has nothing to do with intelligence or strength, but the ability to adapt.’ And today we have to adapt. That’s what happens in a sword fight. You have somebody you’ve never met before, you have to adapt and figure it out.”
The day will be broken up into three portions taught by Paul and three other instructors. Each class is available for a separate fee, and participants can purchase a full-day package. An hourlong fitness section will kick off the event. Students are given a bokken and guided through swinging, running and developing cardio endurance, and other activities specific to joints and knees. This is followed by a two-hour technique class focusing on targeting, whether through footwork or hitting a ball with a sword. It goes through some of the numbering system of sword fighting and builds up to the performance. In the third portion, Paul will teach about angles, strength and how to move and work with a partner. Finally, attendees can choose to perform and record a fight.
“Sword fighting is a fantasy,” Paul said. “I can swashbuckle like I’m in 18th-century France or wherever. People see it in film and think it’s fun to do. There are a mixture of reasons people do it.”
Kilroy’s Workshop owner Ron Hardman helped coordinate the event. He offers classes and a makerspace for people who want to play with metal. He’ll be at the event talking about swords and how to make them. He’ll also forge a sword during the virtual event “SXP Virtcon: Light, Camera, Action” at 2 p.m. May 15. You can register online at swordxp.com/event/lights-camera-action.
“Adrian has a passion for people and health,” said Hardman, who met Paul last fall. “I love that it’s a community event. It’s outdoors. It’s something that’s fun and lighthearted, and we need a lot of that. It’s healthy — we need a lot of that.”
Before his “Highlander” stint, Paul, who first pursued careers in modeling and dance, was big into kickboxing. A year before he accepted the famous role, he started loosely playing with martial arts training. The TV show pushed him all the way into the world of Hung Ga, Shaolin Kung Fu, pencak silat and many other styles. It contributed to the numerous and vigorous sword fighting scenes he did on film, and also helped him go on to choreograph sword fights and action sequences for TV and film over the last three decades of his career.
Beyond the physical enjoyment he gets from the activity, sword fighting has also made him a different and better communicator. He teaches those lessons when he takes Sword Experience Academy to corporate trainings.
“If you put a sword in somebody’s hand they won’t react to another person the same as if they didn’t have it,” Paul said. “Say you have a customer in front of you. Imagine they have a sword. How would you go into negotiation with them? Imagine if you both had a sword in your hand. Think about that negotiation. You learn to communicate with people.”