Burning in the Dust

Burning in the Dust

APRIL 5, 2016

Long ago, years before I started developing Dancing Dragon, I had an idea. I was at Burning Man, around 2002. I had seen lots of fire performers at Burning Man, many of them quite skilled. Some even used swords, and a few swung the swords in choreographed mock combat. But I didn't see any real sword fighters, and the martial artist inside seethed. I wanted to see people battling with fire swords, if not for realz, at least a good rough sparring session. There is an ugly rhythm of true combat that holds a beauty which I adore. I wanted to see that... but with fire!

So as I developed DD, I always thought about how the techniques would work with fire. When I would visualize new techniques, in my mind the swords were always flaming, if not made of fire itself. I even bought a matched set of four heavy duty fire swords. But none of my early students trained long enough to be safe or effective with them.

At Burning Man 2008, though, I met Ed, who still trains with me today. I told him about my fire sword idea at some point, but it took many years (much of that due to me, and my numerous injuries) before we were ready to even consider doing it. Finally, by 2015 I was ready to start his training. We gradually started using heavy wooden swords (bokuto), training harder and faster. By the end of the summer we were ready.

We planned on meeting up to battle several times, but playa connections are notoriously difficult to effect. Finally, after midnight on the night of the burn, we met at Thunderdome and fought for three rounds. We both took one firey hit to the head, but otherwise escaped mostly unscathed.

Here's the video, set to the track Titan by Matta. This was the first time I'd ever used these swords, so of course I massively over fueled them. Ed's hands got burned as soon as he picked up his swords; I managed to keep mine moving, and the flame from burning me too badly. So the first minute of the video is a long slow buildup. Feel free to skip ahead if you want to see the fight, but I think it matches the music well.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 11:23 PM