It hit me the other day just how long it's been since I went shooting - just over 2 years to be exact. This realization got me thinking about firearms and then thinking about getting my Concealed Carry permit, so I started reading all sorts of information on defensive handgun shooting I could find on the web. At this point, my regular readers (do I have regular readers? haha) will wonder why I'm talking about firearms on a sword-related blog. Well here's why: An interesting aspect of all the quality articles about defensive handgun shooting I read was their assertion that it is not about what pistol, sights, grips, gadgets, etc. you are carrying, but about the training you've received. In other words - Software, not hardware.
I realized, reading this over again, that this is what I tell customers in the cutlery shop where I work this all the time. They ask what the best survival knife or self-defense knife is and my response is always "The one you have on you when you need it". A $400 custom fixed blade survival knife does you no good when your car is broken down in the middle of nowhere and it is at home in your camping gear.
The same applies in Western Martial Arts. There has been lots of talk about gear lately on various WMA related forums - discussing sword length or what training sword is better, etc. My opinion is - it doesn't matter. I've talked about this before, but when I do solo training I use a Purpleheart armouries wooden waster. When I train at the Northwest Fencing Academy I will use a Tinker longsword, an A&A Fectherspiel or Spada da Zogho, a Purpleheart synthetic, or a Swordcrafts aluminum. In the long run, I believe I am better off because of this - by training with a variety of wasters I learn how to express my art despite the tool being used. That is the ultimate point of martial arts - to give you a series of principles that can then be adapted to whatever is at hand.
In the end, the sword, poleaxe, pistol, knife, etc. is a tool - you are the weapon.