When teaching his students, Sensei Advincula can be heard saying, “Make it work.” This means that sometimes an individual needs to adjust a basic, effective principle or concept in order to make it work for them. This could be as simple as blocking and countering with groin strike rather than a strike to the throat if you are much shorter than your attacker. Why would I reach up when my target of opportunity (the groin) is closer?
Adjusting, adapting, and overcoming doesn’t only apply to martial arts, it applies to life. And writing…
Each year Scott and I send for Sensei Advincula to come stay with us for a weekend of martial arts training. During one of our sessions this year, Sensei taught us knife-fighting techniques with the Flesheater, the combat knife he designed.
Something during our training session (Perhaps the mention of reaming?) sparked a question about a technique I used in my book, CAPTIVE. When I asked Sensei about it, I learned I goofed up my sword fight choreography. That night, over a cup of tea at the kitchen table, I read the scene to him and learned something important about Claymores.
A Claymore is a long sword with a heavy, straight blade that was used in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, during the 15th – 17th centuries. The word Claymore was derived from a Celtic word meaning great sword. Its average length was 55 inches. Because of its weight (5 – 8 pounds), it had a long hilt for a two-handed grip. I’d learned all this from my research. However, I had imagined the hands were positioned one on top of the other like you’d hold a baseball bat. Sensei explained this wasn’t the case. The hands are positioned further apart to give leverage to hold and maneuver the weapon.
Hand position makes a difference when writing about how the weapon is used.
Sensei explained Claymores were wielded mainly against multiple opponents with sweeping and slashing movements. The weight could penetrate through armor. It was not typically used for thrusting or piercing or fighting one-on-one.
Fortunately, my futuristic gladiators used sweeping and slashing techniques to try and kill each other. Unfortunately, they were fighting one-on-one and also used thrusts.
Okay. No big deal. I’ll just adapt and change their weapons to broadswords instead. The art on my book cover already displays a sword with a smaller hilt. (Side note: I think the art department cut the length of the Claymore’s handle in order to downplay the Historical feel to the cover. See version 1 and 2 below.)
After Sensei left, I researched some more and got myself confused with all the conflicting information I read. It appears to me that broadswords don’t have quatrefoils (the four circles on a Claymore’s cross guard) like you see on CAPTIVE’s cover. And that broadswords have basket hilts. Yikes! I don’t want to ask my editor if the art department can redo my cover because I goofed up. Who wants to be known as that author? I also don’t want to keep a mistake in the book. Now what?
MAKE IT WORK!
I decided to make up my own name for the sword so it can look like what’s already on the cover and do damn well what I want. After all, I’m writing fiction. If I want my gladiator’s weapon to be a long, one-handed sword with a Claymore inspired design, than so be it. 🙂
Now I just need to come up with a name. I thought about Gladmor or Gladimor. It’s a shortened form of the Latin words gladius mortis, which (according to Google translate) means Sword of Death. I like that it kind of still sounds like Claymore. But my husband thought it sounded too happy.
Then I thought about one of the moves in our kata and suggested Dragon Tongue.
What do you think? Do you like Gladmor, Gladimor, or Dragon tongue? Or do you have a better name for this sword? I’d really love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.