‘Echoes of Steel’ exhibit displays European Martial Arts, swords and Renaissance history

In Features, Lifestyle
A photo of a knight's helmet.
(Joshua Arief Halim / Daily Titan)

Decorated with swords and books, the Atrium Gallery in the Pollak Library displays another temporary exhibit. “Echoes of Steel: A History of European Martial Arts”  displays several different reproductions of swords from the 15th century to the 19th century and clothing and armor from the 16th century.

“The message is that the martial arts of humanity is intrinsic to ourselves,” Curator, Cal State Fullerton alumnus and part-time CSUF electrical engineer  Myles Cupp said on the current exhibit. “By that I mean that it’s more than just fighting techniques. Martial arts is an expression of humanity’s struggle against nature, against other men and even against our own soul.”

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Decorated with swords and books stands another temporary exhibit in the Atrium Gallery of the Pollak Library.

“Echoes of Steel: A History of European Martial Arts” showcase several reproductions of swords from the 15th century to the 19th century, as well as 16th century clothing and armor.

“The message is that the martial arts of humanity is intrinsic to ourselves,” said Myles Cupp, curator and Cal State Fullerton alumnus. “It’s more than just fighting techniques … Martial arts is an expression of humanity’s struggle against nature, against other men and even against our own soul.”

The inspiration for the exhibit came to Cupp overseas.

“I took a visit to Italy for a fencing tournament and when I was there I was very impressed by how far reaching the influence of the ancient Romans actually was,” Cupp said. “I started to see, ‘Wow, the influence of an ancient culture 2,000 years ago still is impacting us today.’”

That is the reason the starting point in the exhibit is ancient history, Cupp said. This is not Cupp’s first time curating an exhibit at CSUF as he was in charge of an exhibit in  2015 titled “Historical European Martial Arts: A Lost Legacy.”

“I think it’s super interesting how they have so much history in such a small area,” said Alexssander Loya, a third-year sociology major.

The exhibit featured swords varying in size, shape and length, from longswords, rapiers and sideswords displayed alongside armor and reconstructed clothing.

Even though the contents of the exhibit seem disconnected from modern society, they are closely tied with verbal communication.

Expressions such as double-edged sword and wrestled with an idea come from martial arts, Cupp said.

“Humans talk about their martial arts in common parlance, even people who don’t actually participate in them because we immediately understand what it means when we use this language to communicate amongst one another,” Cupp said.

While the swords may not be used practically, they make for a good presentation, as one of them was featured on television.

Cupp said he used one of the swords on the History Channel show “Knife or Death,” a  series related to the History Channel show “Forged in Fire.”

He has always been interested in history, including European history, Renaissance history and medieval history.

When Cupp attended CSUF, he found a club that brought his attention in Historical European Martial Arts.

Historical European Martial Arts intrigued him so much that he became interested in historical sword fighting, clothing and weapons.

Cupp said that he wants the exhibit to “share that epiphany of mine about how you can study history through fencing with the rest of the community.”

While the objects encased in glass might be interesting and appealing to some, Cupp emphasized that it is something the audience should keep in mind.

“What I would like them to take away is the renewed appreciation for how martial arts from the most ancient of days to the modern day is interwoven with the story of humanity,” Cupp said.

Cupp also said the chances of another exhibit are not impossible.

“We might do it again, and we might have even better things next time,” he said.  

This exhibit will be in the Pollak Library until the end of March.

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