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Old 8th February 2013, 08:22 AM   #1
Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Default The Omani Sayf. ( The Omani Straight Dancing Sword)

Salaams all ~ This new thread re-introduces The Omani Straight Sayf noted for its long hilt(identical to the Kattara), flexible blade, spatulate tip and sharpened on both sides to honour the forefathers and the sword they went to war with (The Omani Battle Sword) In this case the sword though vicious looking and used in anger would certainly cause damage is not, nor has it ever been a fighting weapon. It is a pageantry sword only. It is used in the famous Funoon traditions in dancing and warlike parading and in a mimic fights between 2 contestants where the single winning point is won by touching the thumb with your blade of the opponents shield bearing hand (left hand) The sword like the Omani Battle Sword is used with a Buckler Shield (Terrs). They are hoisted by squadrons of men buzzing the blades with fast wrist action and often tossed high in the air and caught by the hilt. It is also used at important meetings of VIPS and at weddings, National Day celebrations and Eid festivities.
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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Last edited by Ibrahiim al Balooshi : 8th February 2013 at 08:36 AM.
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Old 8th February 2013, 09:34 AM   #2
Gavin Nugent
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Lightbulb Conversation has jumped

I was too busy typing in the old thread to remember you started another;

Thank you Ibrahiim,

There is not enough 18th and 19th century evidence to consider the straight form as a dance sword only.

The sword was the high symbol of the warrior. I am still not convinced that by form alone, curved vs. straight that one is separated by use from the other, more so when they both share the same hilts and scabbard types and the straight ones are seen in much higher numbers than the sabres. And why do they all have a sharpened edge in straight form, not something required of a dance sword.
By design, I think it would have been personal choice of what type was wanted and I wouldn't be surprised if W. H. INGRAMS failed to note curved types in the dance fray too.
To consider this is only a dance sword, to me would be like saying Jian and Dao or double edged vs. singled edged Khanda hilted sword have separate purposes.

If I was to follow the thought that straight sword is dance only, I add, when considering the ratio of straight vs. curved types that there was very little adventuring being done by the Omani and they were too busy dancing, something history says is the opposite off.
Also, when the straight form pushed so far west in to Mandingo dress and dress of other regions, that the sword was used and displayed to these western cultures as weapons as I am sure they didn't just dance with them after being in touch with traders.

I again return to the original TVV thread that I would suggest your post in that thread in post #6 is a correct way of viewing this sword, fighting, with a shield. Do not mistake flexibility for weakness, but an advantage when used in this manner with the flexible sword for cutting and the shield for defense.
I think the W. H. INGRAMS notation in post #18 is not it's sole purpose of the sword but important a cultural observation of the time with a more common sword used in the dance observed, one that has continued today as a matter of ceremony and importance...in much the same way the revered Jian is both used for fighting and also a spiritual weapon in Taoist ceremony and dance. To dismiss the form alone in its national dress as a dance sword is not supported but each sword I would suggest be inspected under it's own merit.

Regards

Gavin
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Old 8th February 2013, 10:50 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freebooter
I was too busy typing in the old thread to remember you started another;

Thank you Ibrahiim,

There is not enough 18th and 19th century evidence to consider the straight form as a dance sword only.

The sword was the high symbol of the warrior. I am still not convinced that by form alone, curved vs. straight that one is separated by use from the other, more so when they both share the same hilts and scabbard types and the straight ones are seen in much higher numbers than the sabres. And why do they all have a sharpened edge in straight form, not something required of a dance sword.
By design, I think it would have been personal choice of what type was wanted and I wouldn't be surprised if W. H. INGRAMS failed to note curved types in the dance fray too.
To consider this is only a dance sword, to me would be like saying Jian and Dao or double edged vs. singled edged Khanda hilted sword have separate purposes.

If I was to follow the thought that straight sword is dance only, I add, when considering the ratio of straight vs. curved types that there was very little adventuring being done by the Omani and they were too busy dancing, something history says is the opposite off.
Also, when the straight form pushed so far west in to Mandingo dress and dress of other regions, that the sword was used and displayed to these western cultures as weapons as I am sure they didn't just dance with them after being in touch with traders.

I again return to the original TVV thread that I would suggest your post in that thread in post #6 is a correct way of viewing this sword, fighting, with a shield. Do not mistake flexibility for weakness, but an advantage when used in this manner with the flexible sword for cutting and the shield for defense.
I think the W. H. INGRAMS notation in post #18 is not it's sole purpose of the sword but important a cultural observation of the time with a more common sword used in the dance observed, one that has continued today as a matter of ceremony and importance...in much the same way the revered Jian is both used for fighting and also a spiritual weapon in Taoist ceremony and dance. To dismiss the form alone in its national dress as a dance sword is not supported but each sword I would suggest be inspected under it's own merit.

Regards

Gavin



Salaams Gavin, I have been through much of the same on Kattara for comment but Im sure of my ground and that thread is full of proof however I will take your point up straightaway. First it is important to see the development of no swords in Oman since about 751 ad..and why? Techno freeze was not uncommon and this is seen in the use of a battle sword from virtually day 1 of the Ibathi Islamic period. It never altered.

The pageantry sword happenend a lot later. It was always kept razor sharp. I also compare it with the Omani Battle Sword in that it was spatulate tipped and sharp both edges and given the status with the Terrs Shield.. I believe this occured in parallel or because of the 1744 Al Busaiid dynasty. I suspect that the hilt was a take off from the long Mamluke hilt and that it was adopted on two Omani swords... The Dancing Sayf and the Kattara. The latter being a Slave Captains or Merchant sword and badge of office and at about the same time mid 1700s.

By about then gunpowder was getting big and essentially the demise of swords was ongoing. The main battle sword, however, was still the Old Omani Battle Sword. The Museums have the documentation. The funoon is the living record of the traditions. Dictated in that are the fact that the flexible dancing sword was for pageants after a certain time(circa 1750?) though before that it had been done with the original Battle Sword . I shall be in Muscat in a few weeks and have a number of visits to each of the museums. I should be able to confirm my findings.

I know it is not very scientific but I have questioned a lot of people including sword makers here and they burst into laughter when the idea of this sword is put as a fighting weapon. If it was it would be slap bang in the funoon as such... whereas it isnt...It has no history as a battlefield sword and to my knowledge has never been used in a fight.

Its in there as a honorific idea praising the actual Old Omani Battle Sword and their forefathers who used it. The thing only goes back a couple of hundred years...Its a dancing sword only. Why is it sharp ? The Omanis who dance with it say its because of the other sword which was sharp ... and anyway theywouldnt perform with a blunt one as it would be dishonourable to the forefathers who went into battle with the Old sword... sharp as a razor.

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Ibrahiim al Balooshi
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Old 14th February 2013, 01:46 PM   #4
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Salaams All, Since a I am often referring to Pageantry and The Omani Sayf only being used for dancing etc I should show some of these activities ~
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Old 16th February 2013, 11:07 AM   #5
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Default The Omani Sayf~ The Straight Omani Dancing Sword.

Salaams All ~ The Omani Sayf is not a weapon. It is an honorific dancing sword.

In the traditions there are two major parts played out with the Omani Sayf~

1. The Straight Dancing Sword is used in a sort of "parade past" generally in lines of massed participants (all male) waving the swords in a fashion that makes the blades shimmer. Occasional specialists throw the entire sword high in the air and catch it by the hilt.

2. The mimic fight; Two contestants "mimic fight" using Straight Swords and Shields (Sayf wa Terrs) The contest is won when one spatulate tip touches the thumb of the opponents shield hand. One touch only ends the contest.

Although these look like warlike manouvres they are only honoring their forefathers who went in to bat in real battles... with the Omani Battle Sword.
Indeed the Omani Dancing Sword is modelled on the old weapon but with the major differences being the long flexible blade on a long hilt. Retained in the design are many of the features of the old weapon including its sharp double edge and round tip as well as the use of the same shield ... The Terrs.

Naturally since this flexible dancing Sayf probably only appeared in about 1750 and the traditional dancing is ancient going back to the beginning of Ibathi Islam in 751AD it was the Battle Sword that was used previously in this part of The Funoon.

There is a fresh hypothesis in that prior to the advent of the flexible Sayf... that no Funoon dancing for swords existed and that the entire genre for sword work in the Funoon began with the flexible swords invention in about 1750?. It seems improbable since these traditions are handed down through the ages, however, that slim possibility is being examined via the Museums in Muscat and the Funoon authorities. In fact it would not make any difference to the general categorisation but it is being persued.

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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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Old 17th February 2013, 09:58 AM   #6
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Salaams All ~ As a background piece I have copied below one of my posts from "Kattara for comments" which will continue to be a rich source for study . In viewing the dancing Sayf I questioned many groups of people from all over Oman none of whom considered the straight Sayf as anything other than a pageantry sword. Getting down to the same questions with those that ought to know focussed my attention on known sword makers since they would surely be knowledgeable about this ... The speciality of swordmaking is usually handed down father to son moreover in the profession of swordmakers the likelihood of discovering the true facts must rate as high.

Here is the article ~

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Salaams Reference note for Forum library.
From http://www.thenational.ae/news/.../...ng-trade-in-rak
Anecdotal Evidence; The Omani Sayf; Dancing Swords Only.

Quote "RAS AL KHAIMAH // In the markets of the old town, swords are easily available and readily sold to mountain tribesmen.

"All Shehhi [tribesmen] should have swords," said Azziz al Shehhi, 22. "It's nice for dancing, not for fighting. These are for gifts, for celebrations."
Mr al Shehhi owns four swords, four traditional knives and two rifles that belonged to his father. But the party favourite was always the sword, an essential for any mountain celebration, he said.

Strong swordsmanship is the mark of a good wedding for mountain tribes like the Shehhu and Habus. Swords are not raised in combat, but thrown metres in the air and then caught.

The swords are forged in the workshops of the old RAK market, many of which have operated for more than three decades.
Shopkeepers must be licensed to sell swords, but are not required to keep records of how many they sell or to whom.
They make them according to demand. Some months they may sell only one or two, and other months they will sell dozens, especially in the summer wedding season.

Swords can be bought in glass cases as gifts and are a traditional reward at sporting events such as camel races. More often they are sold as an accessory for weddings, along with the canes and the yerz, a tribal axe.
Swords are sold blunt so men can catch them while dancing, but can be easily sharpened. Honing usually comes at the behest of elders, who want swords sharpened to a fine edge to honour their forefathers.
Zahee Ahmed, 28, of Pakistan, sells to tribesmen, sheikhs and tourists, as well as to shops in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. He said he had yet to hear of any case of swords being used as a weapon. "It's not dangerous," said Mr Ahmed. "We make them for celebration, not for killing. This is not for fighting, it is only for culture. The man is crazy if he will fight."
There is no age requirement on who can buy a sword, but some stores will only sell to Emiratis.

For many years, bargain hunters would often skip the markets of old RAK and buy from the family of Charchambi Daad Mohammed, a Baluchi axe and sword maker who crafted the weapons in his house.
Until last year, he roamed the streets of the Nakheel market with a bundle of swords and axes under his arm to be sold to whoever had the cash.
The swords business got a boost last December after Fujairah's first annual Al Saif Traditional Sword Competition, in which TV viewers and audience members voted by SMS for their favourite sword dancer.
RAK swordsmiths reported a sharp rise in demand for a month afterwards". Unquote.

None of the Museums have, as yet, disagreed with that concept. I am on a research session in March April and May in amongst the Muscat museums and will report on any findings.

It is very clear up to now that the Sayf in this thread; The Omani Dancing Sword; has never been used in war or fighting ever... but is solely used as a Pageantry sword.

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Ibrahiim al Balooshi.
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