Return to the Badlands

Last night, thanks to my trusty DVR/cable box, I got caught up on AMC's Into the Badlands. Into the Badlands is a martial arts drama done in the classic Hong Kong Cinema style, complete with chi magic and flying martial artists gifted with an inhuman ability to endure grievous wounds. Overall it is a bit cheesy, but quite fun to watch if you suspend your disbelief, but there is one thing that is bothering me to no end...

The last episode featured, as usual, quite a bit of bloody combat. I was happily enjoying the show right up until I saw the first sheathing of a blood-covered blade.

For a show whose choreographers pay so much attention to making the action look fast and real (unlike Neflix's Iron Fist) I was shocked to see a lack of good weapon-hygiene. I was trained in the Japanese style of swordsmanship, but even putting the cultural cleanliness obsession aside, it is my understanding that one never sheaths a bloody sword.

I'm no chemistry or metallurgy expert, but I've heard the number-one reason is that blood, being a liquid containing both oxygen and water, will rust the steel faster than you can say "Holy-rusty weapon, Batman." (1)This, of course, will weaken the blade and dull its edge, thus ensuring that your opponents have an advantage over you in your next life-or-death conflict.
[Granted, stainless-steel doesn't necessarily have this problem, but stainless steel sacrifices the flexibility of carbon-steel for hardness, and as a consequence is brittle (2). Weapon-grade steels need to be flexible, so they can vibrate with impact instead of snapping, but they are subject to rust, which is why keeping them oiled is so important.]

The second reason I've heard is that as blood dries it gets sticky and can glue the sword into the scabbard, again handing your opponent a victory as you struggle to get the blade out of its sheath.

Third and finally, sheathing a bloody blade is just plain disrespectful to the weapon that is keeping you alive (again, the culture I learned in, but I'm guessing this practice extends far afield). In the world of Into the Badlands, there are no guns (which is the one thing that grates on me as it is post-apocalyptic), and the Badlands are subject to the rule of the strong. As such, you'd expect to see every high-level martial artist taking meticulous care of their weapons. Seeing the opposite seems even more unrealistic to me than the floating kicks and flying martial artists.

Still, as a fan of the old Hong Kong cinematic style, it is fun to see something done in that tradition and updated for modern times. I'm looking forward to the next, but I'll still cringe every time I see a blood-drenched weapon going into a scabbard.

(1) Sword Buyer's Guide
(2) Sword Steels 101 -


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