As he held a sword above his head during a lecture at Science World, Braun McAsh had an epiphany.
“Kingdoms and empires have risen and fallen on a sword,” he told the audience, seemingly in awe of the weapon he held tightly in his hands.
“It’s about understanding the history of what led us to now.”
A professional fight choreographer since 1976, McAsh has more than 120 professional credits in film, television, and in stage productions – including for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and the Canadian Opera Company. But he is best known as the swordmaster for the TV series Highlander and the Highlander movie Endgame.
McAsh’s fascination with rapiers, foils, sabres and scimitars, however, is not merely theatrical.
Originally trained in theatrical combat techniques at the School of Dramatic Art (University of Windsor) and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, (London, England) he has also trained as the personal student of some of the most experienced fight choreographers and weapons masters in the world.
While an actor at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, he trained for more than four years as the personal student of the legendary Paddy Crean, Stratford’s resident fight director. He also studied with William Hobbs, one of the finest film choreographers. His original master was the Hungarian Olympic fencing coach Maestro Istvan Danosi.
“The fact that I’ve been an actor on stage and television, gives me an advantage when approaching the choreography of fight scenes because I am looking at them in context of the script – not just a scene of visual violence,” says McAsh, who recently moved to Maple Ridge.
“A horrendous scene of gratuitous violence tacked on by a third party is totally ridiculous.”
McAsh has studied the art of the sword and researched historically authentic sword techniques in museums all over the world, including France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy, England, Scotland and Wales, the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to sword skills, McAsh has studied unarmed combat for over 40 years and holds two advanced black belts.
“If we don’t understand where we came from, it is very hard to understand where we are going to go,” he says.
For McAsh, the sword, more than any other weapon, changed history. He believes the leaders of today could learn a thing or two from the sword and what it symbolizes.
“In the past, kings actually fought in battle. Nowadays, presidents and prime ministers don’t fight any more,” says McAsh, a self-described pacifist, who knows first hand the horrors of war.
“Henry V led his troops into combat to the point where he actually had a portion of his coronet sheared off.”
The sword is also a symbol of honour and has been for many different countries. In Europe, it was the symbol of knighthood.
“It implied honour, it implied loyalty, it implied service to the nation,” he says.
• Braun McAsh is teaching a workshop on the German longsword, and based on the works of Sigmund Ringeck, Von Danzig, Doebringer and the Wallerstein manuscript. The course takes place Saturday, June 23 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hammond United Church, 11391 Dartford Street in Maple Ridge. Info: theringofsteel.com or call 604-459-9738.