The sword is a unique weapon with a historical legacy that stretches back to our earliest written records. It’s not just a medieval weapon; it’s borderline prehistoric (developed in the Bronze Age). It was the weapon of choice for conquering armies across Europe and throughout the Middle East. It was used even in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars when ballistic ammunition was more normal.
One had to be more than just physically fit for swordsmanship, and it required a particular kind of toughness and training that no longer exists today. But in VR, you can have fun working out and mastering the blade in a variety of cool experiences simulating styles from both East and West.
First, we’ll look at the muscle groups you want to strengthen to handle a real sword. Then, we’ll look at some basic movement and combat techniques, as well as the nine principles of a Japanese sword saint before we dive into a list of games you can use to practice.
Muscles Required for Handling a Sword
Want a strong core, agile legs, toned arms, a firm, unbreakable wrist, and a powerful back supporting your strong shoulders? Sword fighting, or perhaps just sword training, might be a fun way for you to get there.
Historical swords weighed anywhere from 2.5 pounds to 5 pounds for most categories of armaments. Greatswords and broadswords could weigh as much as 40 pounds and were more like blunt objects than a traditional blade. The size and weight distribution are what make a sword feel ungainly, and why it feels so heavy when you first pick one up.
Depending on the type of sword, your grip will change. How tightly you hold the sword and with which fingers differ depending on whether your blade comes from the East or West. What remains constant is a strong wrist with a grip that stays relaxed. The blade points toward your target, never over the shoulder, or off balance as portrayed in movies.
To build these muscles in VR, you will need a weighted vest and wrist weights. Ankle weights are optional, but a good idea if you want to build agility and work up a sweat. You will want to do extended sessions that tire you out, but don’t over exert yourself.
Finally, secure the controllers to your wrists with the attached straps. You’ve got monsters to slay, and there’s no room for half measures. Make every swing count!
Moving and Combat
The key to winning a sword fight was remaining agile and on balance. Most fights were decided in less than 30 seconds, but those that lasted tended to be won by fighters who could maintain composure and balance in the heat of battle.
However you develop your stance, your body should be relaxed at all times while remaining ready to strike. You can consider yourself like a coiled snake, which can quickly tense up and strike as needed while remaining essentially at rest.
A strong defense often wins fights, so impulse is not your best friend.
Miyamoto Musashi is known in Japan as a Kensei, which translates to sword saint. He bested 63 swordmasters in single combat, and his teachings on swordsmanship have lived on as life and business principles adopted for success and harmony.
Studying the sword, or any ax combat, is like a lifestyle. True soldiers embrace all aspects of life, and remove waste to focus on the important things.
Have you ever felt like your life is clouded and you have difficulty seeing clearly? Perhaps studying some form of martial arts, even Kenpo, is for you. Regardless of whether you want to study martial arts, you can apply these nine principles to all facets of your life and physical well being.
- Do not think dishonestly
- The Way is in training
- Become acquainted with every art
- Know the Ways of all professions
- Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters
- Develop intuitive judgment and understanding of everything
- Perceive those things which cannot be seen
- Pay attention even to trifles
- Do nothing which is of no use
With our philosophies established, let’s hop into some VR games to train our bodies.
The first on our list is my favorite cyber-ninja game, Sairento. Players can arm themselves with a combination of melee and ranged weapons, enhanced with upgrades you pick up from completing missions and meeting specific extra goals. You can also find these pickups in chests scattered throughout the multi-tiered levels, so be sure to triple jump your way around and look for them.
Sairento’s blade combat is fast and furious. I recommend either the Kitana or glaive, if you do not have the DLC, and the claws and Kusarigama if you do have the DLC. Swing in wide crescent arcs and aim for the midsection to do the most damage. Enemies will try to guard and parry. If they do, you can teleport behind them with your sword at your side to try and slice them as you pass, or leap above and come down on top of them to score the victory.
Just be aware that every enemy you dispatch will leave several in their wake. Stay agile and make sure you’re continually looking for your next engagement.
Gorn is sort of a zany take on sword slashing and gladiatorial combat. It takes place in an arena full of traps and hazards and involves an endless assault of very stupid combatants to slice and dice. It thrives when you can best utilize its zany physics to create fun and goofy situations. Its uber violence can be toned down with some adjustments to the “Gore” effects in the game’s options menu.
Good form won’t save you in Gorn, so you’ll be using this game to build muscle and range of motion. You want nice broad swipes, armed with weights on your wrists or forearms to give yourself some added heft to your strikes. Keep your balance and swing for the stars to knock opponents outside the ring, or into dangerous traps.
Remember to balance your usage of ranged and melee weapons. The newly added crossbow caestus adds some unique strategies for moving in on boss characters.
Sword Master is like The Thrill of the Fight for sword combat. If you can picture a similar scenario to Gorn, but with more Earthly physics, you’ve got the basic idea. You will take on multiple bad guys, parrying and blocking incoming strikes while looking for ways to cut them down when openings present themselves.
Sword Master will teach you how difficult medieval combat is from a technical standpoint. Not only are you swinging this large metal object with one hand, which can be blocked in such a way as to throw you off balance, you’re also looking for openings. Your opponents hide behind massive shields and wear all-covering armor with very few weak points. Their attacks use feints and hide their true motivations.
To win, you will need to develop a keen sense of anticipation and spacing. You will need your full body, and you must remain limber to dodge incoming strikes and take advantage of openings.
Beat Saber is likely to be one of the first true “classic” games for this new platform. A unique kind of workout, Beat Saber teaches us how to better utilize hand-eye coordination and awareness to strike with precision. It also trains our body physically, requiring endurance and a sense of rhythm to achieve success.
Beat Saber fundamentals come down to identifying your targets, learning where and when to sidestep and dodge, and being able to move each hand independently. Getting into the groove is a necessity, but you will need to learn how to swing your swords to make high scores. Keep yourself agile by dancing in place to the beat.
Beat Saber is all about practice and perfection, two of the most critical fundamentals in learning to fight with a sword. Practice hones the body and trains the muscle memory. Perfection is the ability to synchronize the mind and body when you need it most.
The classic is back, this time in VR. The Elder Scrolls series is an epic fantasy created by Bethesda, with Skyrim being its most recent entry. The world of Skyrim is quite large, with lots of mountains, tombs, and forests to traverse and many hidden treasures to find. You can spend hours just picking flowers, and indeed many players do just that. But it’s also an excellent sword fighting game that takes advantage of VR controls well.
Skyrim combat on a controller feels a bit like swinging paperweights to me, but in VR, it’s much more visceral. Spacing suddenly matters in melee, and you need to do a decent job keeping your shield at the ready. Equipment also degrades over time, so you can’t just spam the same attacks, you need to think about your approach.
Stay on your toes and use your open playspace to dodge and sidestep incoming attacks. Be prepared to chug healing items in the early game phases, and make sure you master blacksmithing to make powerful arms and armor. I prefer the sword and shield approach, with archery as my backup, but a two-handed sword or ax is a weapon fit for a mighty warrior!
While it doesn’t have as many extras and unlockables as its mobile counterpart, Fruit Ninja translates beautifully into VR. The setting for the game is perfect, the atmosphere feels right, and multiple challenges offer individuals and groups plenty of fun chopping. Plus, you’re cutting up fruit. Even the most squeamish among us can handle it!
To win big in Fruit Ninja, you’re going to need to master speed and accuracy. Crescent swipes covering large arcs are going to get you big combos, but you need to avoid bombs in the process. You have access to two swords, so learn to use them independently of one another for the best effect. Consider your stances as you strike, aiming up then down, swiping left then right, diagonals, etc. Always maintain your balance. There’s a rhythm to Fruit Ninja that makes for excellent sword practice.
What are your favorite sword fighting games in VR?