In 2019 the UK government made sweeping changes which affect many martial artists, with a new piece of legislation entitled the Offensive Weapons Act 2019.
This piece of legislation extends the impact of the law change in 2008, which added swords with a curved blade over 51cm (measured from the base of the hilt to the tip) to the offensive weapons act, and in doing so prohibited the import, transfer or creation of those items. The 2019 legislation adds to those conditions that the very possession of such a sword is now prohibited under law.
The government is currently operating a surrender and compensation scheme that commenced on the 7th of December and that will run for 3 months.
So should you surrender your sword to the police and receive a nominal sum of compensation?
Well, if you are not an active practitioner, or if the sword you have was not made according to traditional methods, very possibly yes. Without this type of condition you may be in contravention of the law!
The good news is that the original exemptions appended to the 2008 legislation are still valid and offer an escape route for genuine practitioners, those with antiques or art swords, and other legitimate sword owners.
If you are a member of a club, which holds public liability insurance for a “permitted activity”, such as a sport, then you automatically fall under an exemption from prosecution for the purchase and ownership of a sword. Keep in mind that swords must be kept safely at home and are not permitted in public without a valid reason. You may carry a sword outside your home only for travelling to and from an engagement, such as your class at the Dojo, as long as it is fully covered. It is important to keep the Iaito well wrapped up in transit and only take it into a public place if going to or returning from training or an event. Something as simple as a stop at the supermarket on the way home would be a breach of the law technically.
Whenever we supply a sword, either an Iaito or a Shinken, we verify customer identity and proof that the buyer is a current member of a club or association with public liability insurance for their practice. This essential process ensures that we have a timestamped record which gives an exemption from prosecution to you and to us for the purchase. You can check all about the required documents HERE.
For the future, maintaining memberships will be essential and will require regular annual administration to ensure that there is no inadvertent lapse which leaves you in contravention of the law for the possession of your training tools. It also brings sharply into focus the question of retirement from the Dojo and how you should behave with respect to the law with regards to your beloved swords should you need to cease to practice.