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Live by the sword

Since the beginning of time man has performed death-defying rituals to appease the gods, entertain kings and queens, satisfy unyielding mother-in- laws, and more recently, to impress the panel of Your Countries Got Talent.

Stay sharp, keep your head.

Ancient practices such as fire walking, snake charming and sword swallowing have existed for as long as 4000 years practiced by Fakirs and Shamans in India. While fire walking is still practiced widely with varying degrees of success, and snake charming is known to be something of a toothless affair, sword swallowing is prized above all sideshow acts primarily because of the obvious potential dangers.

Swallowing a sword requires mind-over-matter meditation, deep concentration and pinpoint accuracy to avoid puncturing vital organs. But, the key to success is an ability to remain calm in the face of unnatural fear to overcome your body’s automatic reflexes. It’s also probably a good idea to avoid eating for at least 24 hours, unless you plan on serving kebab for dessert.

Still, what could possibly go wrong?

A study of the practice found several fatal incidents including a swallower lacerating his pharynx when trying to swallow a curbed saber (duh), while another guy lacerated his esophagus after being distracted by a misbehaving macaw! I suppose, in the exciting world of sharp object swallowing, one should expect such things.

If you find this story hard to stomach you’re probably asking yourself why would anyone in their right mind swallow a sword risking ‘sword throat’, mutilation or even death, particularly when there’s a giant, irritable bird nearby with a penchant for the flamboyant? Well, for many performers it’s not simply for entertainments sake, but rather a platform to discover the limits of what is possible.

Personal thoughts aside, one thing is for sure; if you’re going to inhale a four-foot broadsword to make a point you’d better be feeling sharp, you’d better be at the top of your game. You’d better be cool, calm and collected.

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