Anyone who takes sword training seriously knows that you can’t
just start off with a real deal steel weapon and hope for the best. Training with a sword, if you’re going to do
it the proper way, relies on slowly building up to the ability to use a sword
properly, efficiently and responsibly, and that doesn’t just happen overnight.

Any responsible sword trainer will start off with a
sword made from a nonmetal, lighter material and gradually work their way up to
a real, legitimate steel sword. The most
common starting material, and the one that is most recommended by specialists,
is foam. Foam is light, non-damaging and
extremely easy to maneuver.

But there comes a point in every trainer’s practice
when they realize that it may be time to upgrade to a heavier material. Wood is the natural material to turn to after
foam, still being relatively easy to work with but more effective at actual

Foam vs. Wood

Foam and wood are both good choices for someone who is
still fairly early in the training stages, but they are quite different from
each other in just about every way. Foam
is, without a doubt, the most elementary training material, as it really can’t
do any damage except knock something over if one isn’t careful. It’s incredibly light, which is easy on the
upper body as it develops its strength in order to handle something heavier and
more durable. And, as it bends easily,
it’s very different from wood.

Wood is heavier than foam and can chip easily while
foam won’t get damaged by hard hits.
This is one reason why it’s considered more advanced. Other, more obvious reasons include the fact
that wood can cause damage if one isn’t careful, and it’s heavier and therefore
requires better upper body strength.

When to Make the Switch

So, when is a good time to transition from foam to
wood? If you are serious about your
training, you’re going to have to switch over at some point, but when is the
best time?

Allow us to give you the signs that you’re ready to
move onto wood. We aren’t taking into
account the suggestions of an instructor who you may be working with. If you are training with an instructor, then
you should wait to make the switch until they tell you that it’s time, as they
know your progress and capabilities better than we do.

When You’ve Developed Upper Body Strength

A big reason why foam is so useful early on is because
the sword trainer likely doesn’t have the right upper body strength to use a
heavier sword properly. This can hinder
training as it’s hard to execute the motions properly when your body can’t
support the weight and mobility requirements.
Further, using too heavy of a sword when your body can’t yet support the
weight can cause you to do damage to your muscles and joints, as you will
likely use poor form that can result in injury.

When You’re Hitting the Target

Once you’re successfully hitting your target, this is
a sign that you can consider graduating to a wood sword. It means that your skills are developing, and
that you are learning the right technique in order to use a sword more
carefully, properly and responsibly. If
you weren’t yet hitting your target, graduating to a wood sword could be

When You’re in a Safe Practice Area

If you are not in an environment in which you can
practice freely and safely, you may not be ready for a wood sword. You need to be able to swing your sword
freely without worrying about doing damage to objects, let alone people. If you do have a designated practice area
that’s free of obstacles, a sword made of wood is much more practical.

When Your Practice Feels More Comfortable Overall

Moving up to a wooden sword can be a wise idea when
you generally feel more comfortable with your training, feeling like you’ve developed
the right form, skill and techniques to use a sword properly. This is a sign that you have the strength and
capabilities to use a wooden sword without injuring yourself or others, and
without accidentally doing damage.

When You Can Afford it

Of course, wood swords cost more than those made from
foam, so another factor to consider is your budget.

Moving from a Foam to Wood Sword is a Sign that Your Training Sessions
are Progressing

However, rushing into the transition too soon can
cause more harm than good. Know when the
time is right to make the switch based on the factors above, and be responsible
regardless of the material you’re currently working with so you don’t hurt
yourself or cause harm in your surrounding area.

Source: Practice Sword Training: When to Move from Foam to Wood