Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Today I'm interviewing someone extra special. Not an author or editor, like some of the friends who have visited my blog. Not even someone in the publishing business. Yet he is playing a big role in the Fantasy Fiction Four Tour that I'm participating in as part of the launch of

The Restorer, The Sword of Lyric Series #1

. John Cooper is a Christian international distributor of fine swords, armor and period clothing for Roman, Renaissance and Medieval periods for collectors, theatrical groups, reenactors as well as major studios and production companies.

He is generously providing SERIOUS swords (high-carbon steel which will break a cinderblock) and shields for us to bring on our tour, to our book signings and presentations. Since our fantasy novels feature plenty of sword work, this is an exciting chance to touch something tangible, as if it's sprung from the pages of our stories.

Q: Welcome, John! Thanks for visiting my blog! You have a passion to bring people to Christ.
How did God lead you into this career of selling swords and armor?

A: Actually, I never thought in a million years I would be doing this. My background is in sales and marketing for wholesale distribution of computers and supplies. I was given a sword by my father-in-law as a thank you gift. Of course, my wife did not want it in the house... so we agreed to have it framed and put a scripture verse plate under the sword (Hebrews 4:12). It looks great and has been an interesting conversation piece in our house over the years. With new friends and people we are not sure of their faith, we conclude our sword explanation by turning the conversation to Jesus and a gentle witnessing conversation.

A few years later, we were given a medieval knight figurine which had all the pieces of the armor of God. I told my wife how much I had always wanted something like it and how awesome I thought it was. Next thing I know I was telling her, “I bet there are a lot of other Christian men who would like these too”.

We started the business on $500 and two products we manufactured, a sword frame with any scripture and a medieval knight figure with a paraphrase of Eph 6:13-19. Of course, I needed to find a few swords to offer people. Since the knight figure was all about the armor of God and we were selling “real” swords, we decided to call the company Real Armor of God.com

The sword market is heavily saturated and very competitive. I laugh when I look back at our humble beginnings. We had about 15 different swords we offered at first and averaged about 450 hits a month on the website. God has blessed us and we now have about 700 items we sell in 155 categories with about 5 million hits a month (400,000 pages read a month for those interested in the details).

We also have a great deal of education and historical information on the site for people to learn from. Christians really like our Knighting Ceremony information and use it for Raising A Modern Day Night graduations. (Of course they also get a nice sword and or a custom painted shield for their son too.)

Our staff personally evaluates every product to ensure only the better quality items are added… and customers love it.

Q: When my son was younger, his career goal was to be a knight in shining armor. As he got older, he discovered that not many corporations were hiring knights. Since there are few working knights these days, who purchases your weapons and supplies?

A: This is a great question… and we are regularly trying to find the answer. God has blessed us and we get all kinds of customers. Of course we get the theatrical groups and reenactors as you might expect, but we were surprised as how many women are buying swords and shields as gifts for their fathers, husbands, sons, and boyfriends. We have lots of requests for specific swords, swords in frames with scripture verses, and custom painted shields for people who want their own heraldry (family crest, coat-of-arms) on the shield. We have also helped stunt organizations, film studios (Fox, Universal, etc) and international production companies. It never ceases to amaze me how God can bring customers to your door from anywhere.

Q: Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia all featured fantastic sword play, and were hugely popular films. Why do you think people continue to be fascinated by sword fighting, even in the modern age?

This is true, and you have hit the point exactly, but I don’t have a good answer as to why. Is it our fascination with historic periods, valiant men fighting for freedom and honor against tyranny, or is it a desire or dream of living in the past? It could even be all of the above or none of them.

In my opinion, there are several driving reasons for sword enthusiasm. On one hand, it could be related to a huge variety of things, including any of the following: the sword shape and design, its function related to the time period, and/or the sword fighting techniques required to master a specific sword. As an example, the Japanese Samurai katana, a Roman maintz and a Medieval long sword all had their own unique strengths and weaknesses in battle. Each required an extremely different technique to master. These could be a factor in ones appreciation for a particular sword.

On the other hand, swords are a part of history that you can touch today. Like a castle, pyramid, ancient treasure tomb, or palace, swords are something from our past. Each unique design throughout history incorporated improvements that would give the soldier an advantage over an opponent’s body protection (woven materials, leather, steel, etc). Very few people get the chance to hold a real sword from the Roman or medieval times. They are in private collections or museums. Today, new swords that are designed after historical swords are called ‘replica swords’, and these are what people buy today from our website.

Another factor for sword fascination could be as simple as “the thrill of the moment”. If you have never had the thrill of riding on a roller coaster, go-cart, or snow skiing, no one can really help you understand the excitement of the moment. The same is true for swords. Until you have held a quality, high-carbon steel sword, no one can fully explain the excitement of the moment.

To hold a Roman sword is to step back in time for a moment and feel the weight and balance of a weapon used thousands of years ago. You get to experience exactly what a Roman soldier felt when he held his first sword. The same is true for a Medieval knight’s long sword, or a Japanese Samurai’s katana. You don’t have to imagine what it felt like for one of the 3 Musketeers to sword fight with a rapier, you can hold a replica rapier, swing it in the air and know the feelings first hand.

It really boils down to the individual and their personal reason for liking a specific sword design, era or time period. Stories keep these periods alive today. Since Lord of the Rings was written, there has been a very loyal following, as with the Chronicles of Narnia. Stories of William Wallace (Braveheart), Maximus (Gladiator) and Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean) and only a drop in the bucket of things that keep people interested in the days of olde.

Q: Do you have stories about some of the unique events you've provided swords for?

God has blessed us with being able to supply Roman armor and clothing to many major Church Christmas and Easter shows all over the country. There was a huge show a few years ago in Washington, D.C. that comes to mind as really special. The producer called me a week later and told me the following.

We had supplied Roman swords, armor and clothing for about 8 soldiers who marched into the middle of the show from the back. He told me… “the actors completely changed their countenance and started acting like real Roman soldiers (better than they ever did with the plastic armor we had before). As they marched in the entire audience went completely silent – ‘an awesome hush fell over the audience as they marched in and all you could hear was the thumping of the soldier’s marching and the clanking of armor … it was fabulous!’. All the spotlights were aimed at the Roman soldiers and the lights reflected light all over the auditorium. If the light caught someone’s eye it blinded them for a second. Everyone watching knew these were real Roman soldiers coming to arrest Jesus in our show.”

He went on to tell me that a local radio DJ happened to be in the audience on opening night and spent 30 minutes on the Monday morning show telling everyone in Washington that it was the best show he had ever seen and the costumes were unbelievable. (And yes, this church has been a good repeat customer ever since.)

Q: Have you seen some specific times where God has used your work to introduce or encourage people in their faith? (besides supporting our band of Christian authors who use sword-fighting imagery to depict the invisible spiritual struggle we face).

We have many stories of how parents have used swords with their sons in Christian manhood or knighting ceremonies (Raising A Modern Day Knight graduations). On our Raising A Modern Day Knight page, we have a detailed outline that a pastor used with his own son. The father coordinated an entire weekend with his son, their grandfather, an uncle and a mentor. Each man spent a ½ day with the son talking about a specific topic and relating it to scripture and the Christian walk. For example, the uncle took him swimming in a major river. They went one mile upstream and one mile downstream. When they were done, the uncle started talking about marriage and family life. How sometimes it’s easy (downstream) and other times it will be hard (upstream)… and then went through scripture and shared Christian advise. Later on the grandfather took the young man to a graveyard and talked about the importance of family heritage, Christian tradition and the Christian way of life. It’s really an incredible story and your readers can use the information on our site to have their own Christian knighting ceremonies for their sons.

Rather than going on through a short list of names and what happened, I would like to also share a little about the way we approach Christian ministry.

There are literally thousands of websites selling swords - and we are the only Christian site. Most other sites sell demon swords and focus on a darker side of life (dungeons and dragons, witchcraft, Satanic symbols, etc.). We are a family friendly site focusing on education and historically designed products. Our education and materials are positioned on the website in such a way as to get people curious about, “What is the Armor of God”?

The top of our main pages have a horizontal menu that lists ‘Roman Era’, ‘Medieval Times’, The Renaissance’… and ‘Armor of God’. Well most people know these time periods, but if they are not Christian, they likely have never heard of the Armor of God. Naturally, they click on it to see what it is. We use our Armor of God page to explain spiritual warfare plus we have many links to many other Christian topics. Our hope is to plant Christian seeds in the minds of people that might not ever have seen or heard anything about Christianity at any other time in their life.

We also have a more direct path into ministry with our Witnessing Coins. The Witnessing Coin is a fun, creative and effective tool to share Jesus with non-Christians and struggling Christians alike. Based on the Bible verses from Ephesians 6:13-17 and John 3:16, one side of the coin shows two cliffs and the cross of Jesus and is designed for pure Christian witnessing and evangelism. The other side of the coin shows the Full Armor of God pieces which is the spiritual armor described in Ephesians 6:13-17. This spiritual armor is what God provides each believer for daily victory over temptation, trials, test, suffering, and sickness. This side of the coin is used to encourage people in the Lord during temptations and trials, or to encourage another Christian who is troubled. The Witnessing Coin has been used internationally by many evangelical organizations and within the USA, it is used for things like VBS, Sunday school lessons, Christian gifts, etc…

You can visit http://www.realarmorofgod.com/witnessing-coin.html to see samples and learn more about how the Witnessing Coins can be used in your area.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share with my readers?

A: I would like to offer the opportunity to your readers to visit our website and let us know what you think. We welcome any suggestions to improve. After you have reviewed the site, go to the Contact Us page and type your feedback in the open text area. (Thank you in advance!)

John, thank you so much for the huge support you've put behind the Fantasy Fiction Tour this July, and thanks for visiting my site today! Blessings!



Valerie Comer said...

Very cool! I'll focus attention on this page one day during the tour!

Sharon Hinck said...

Great idea, Val! Thanks!

WayneThomasBatson said...

Swords....too cool. ;-)

Sharon Hinck said...

I know.
How blessed are we?
We get to write books
AND play with swords.

Pais Charos said...

LOL - you guys are funny.

I can't wait to see the swords! I've been browsing the Real Armor of God website ever since Bryan Davis told us about it. All the stuff looks really neat. I'm hoping to buy something at some point :P

Becca Johnson said...

I'm hoping to add to my collection too! The site is so cool! :D

Becca Johnson

Becca Johnson said...

P.S. Does anyone know of a way for someone to learn how to swordfight?

Becca Johnson