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There are many people in real life who practice fencing for fun. Most of them (at least most of those around me) also play computer games about fighting. Sword Art Online clearly fits into the fighting genre of computer games. I didn't make a survey, but in any game about fencing it is certainly possible to find someone who likes do the same things in real life.

As I recall, in the world of SAO combos are quick, but very predictable, especially the strong ones, and their speed is not above human limits.

As I assume, if one real-life swordsman would get his hands (or his mind) on SAO, he would wreck everyone. One can move his weapon without combos, losing some speed, but getting a huge advantage of being able to use feints. Plus he would be able to stop his attacks to block enemy's blow, etc.

Yes, he would probably be weaker at the beginning due to not knowing the animations yet and most of combos being very short. Plus, he would probably need to get used to the pace of SAO, which may differ from real-life. But at higher levels he could both identify a combo by it's first "frames", plus quickly react. It would also be nearly impossible to hit him unless he doesn't expect an attack.

One could claim that he would lose muscle memory -- he wouldn't, since this process is more mental rather then some change applied to muscles.

Why did this not happen in the novel, why was it dominated by a bunch of Mary Sue-esque characters? Or did I miss something?

  • you are asking 2 different questions here. i would suggest removing one from this question and asking it as a separate one – Memor-X Jan 20 '17 at 1:29
  • @Memor-X Did it – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jan 20 '17 at 1:30
  • If i recall from Hollow Fragment Suguha's Kendo skills (which Kirito stopped doing) didn't give her much of an advantage in SAO. you also got to consider equipment and level, while i'm on Floor 92 and havn't found how how it's happened (i suspect hacking) Alberich is able to survive on the Upper Floors despite Kirito and Asuna noticing that during a duel with Kirito (to test him before responding to his request to join the Assult Team) his actual combat skills are that of a noob despite his very high level equipment which can't have been brought easily – Memor-X Jan 20 '17 at 1:45
  • on the "mary-sue" esque characters...........Go ask Kawahara-san – NZKshatriya Jan 20 '17 at 2:38
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First and foremost, the amount of people actively playing the game was really low. From 10000 people at the start, 2000 died in first month and 3000-5000 stayed in starting city from fear of being killed. That leaves only some 3000 who actively played the game and of those only 300 were "on the front lines", with rest lagging behind.

Second, most people who bought the game were hardcore MMO players. Overlap between experienced kendo/fencing players and MMO players is quite small. So the probability of experienced swordsman being dragged into it is small, but not impossible, Kirito being prime example.

But even if such player was found, It wouldn't help him. From the anime adaptation, it might seem that SAO is almost-perfectly realistic simulation. That couldn't be far from truth. In novels, it is stressed multiple times that SAO's physics simulation is actually quite crappy. For example, player cannot just "put on" a coat or "grab" a weapon and liquids are pretty much an eye-candy with minimal physics interactions. I would argue same system would apply to sword fights. SAO sword fights would not be as flashy with people almost flying around. It would be mostly two guys standing still against each other and spamming sword skills and letting those do all the movements. And just hitting someone with sword is not that great if sword skill is not involved. So player's real-world sword experience would be practically useless in this scenario.

  • The point is that if in-game mechanical skills overlap with (even if not so high) real-life fencing knowledge, the result would be great. Kirito lost his fight against the GM because he tried to use a combo -- what if someone just forfeited combos at all in favour of freeform fencing? – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jan 20 '17 at 13:17
  • @Baskakov_Dmitriy Kirito lost hist fight against the GM due to system exploits. Not going further due to spoilers lol. – NZKshatriya Jan 20 '17 at 14:39
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    @NZKshatriya no, Baskakov is right. Kirito lost because he used a sword skill, Starburst Stream, which while being a 16 hit combo, its moves are pretty simplistic and was thus blocked easily by Heathcliff. In the novel Kirito admitted that he made a mistake by using that move but unable to stop it (the moves). – 絢瀬絵里 Jan 21 '17 at 2:58
  • @AyaseEri Still, Kirito would likely not have won the first encounter with Heathcliff/Kayaba – NZKshatriya Jan 21 '17 at 11:49
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    Ah, I see now. I think Baskakov is talking about the final duel between them since he is mentioning the use of combo, while you're talking about their first duel. Yes, in the first duel Kirito lost due to Heathcliff cheating. – 絢瀬絵里 Jan 21 '17 at 11:51
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One would have to figure out how many fencers there are in Japan at that time, how many of them were VRMMO players. After that, figure out how many of those bought into a VRMMO that was all swords no sorcery. This would likely leave a small sliver of fencers as players.

To address the issue as to why a fencer did not rise to the top and dominate the game: I ass+u+me that you are referring to Kendo (Japanese sword fighting), as opposed to European foil/rapier fencing. Either way, modern fencing is a generally one v one, code of honor style of fighting which would not work well in general melee against multiple opponents, especially when mixed weapons and fighting styles are involved..

And let's not forget the whole if you die in game you die in real life variable. An excellent real life competitor, used to the rules of real life dueling may not react to what amounts to mortal combat, with the same zeal they have in controlled competition.

  • OK, let's say, one single sword fighter gets into SAO. Why did he not become the champion of that world? – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jan 20 '17 at 8:27
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    "may not react with the same excitement to the idea of going out into combat where they may actually lose their life." don't forget that none of the SAO players went into SAO with that expectation. – Memor-X Jan 23 '17 at 5:20
  • @Memor-X Some people are built differently from a psychological perspective. There was the "army" that typically stayed on floor one, and there was the front line group. They all likely joined the game for an escape. But once in, who they were truly emerged after being tossed into crisis. And then of course there were the murderers......... – NZKshatriya Jan 23 '17 at 5:29
  • @NZKshatriya true but that was adapting to the situation (and really the army were pricks). it's just that before it looked like a player would have a choice to play the Death Game or not and so far it's only in the game where some characters from outside entered yet only one of them did it willingly (but it was to be with someone rather than wanting to experience the Death Game) – Memor-X Jan 23 '17 at 5:32
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    Meh, I think the idea that fencing not being the best all around fighting style is the biggest reason. Heck, there IS no single best fighting style. Think about it. A solo player can only go so far without needing support. I think even a certain someone figured that one out. – NZKshatriya Jan 23 '17 at 5:40
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I think fencing rules and experience shouldn't directly apply in SAO because of two main reasons:

First, the game was originally intended for players to fight monsters not others players with swords. In that case the dynamic needed to win is made to defeat those monsters, who just are not similar to humans fighting with swords.

Second, the battles and their outcome are directly influenced by the skills earned by players and the judgment on when to use them, and also the player's level, because this grants access to superior skills and weapons, and grants more hits points. In other words, to win a fight it's important to make sure your level is adequate and you must manage the fight and resources (hits points and skills) wisely, while having studied your opponent.

In conclusion, I think having real world fencing skills wouldn't be of significant importance in SAO fights, technically. But, a real life fencer who likes fencing or even loves it will certainly love SAO experience because of the new environment and fantasy-like adventure he's embarking upon while using a sword like weapon, it's just like someone who loves to drive cars and plays a racing game, I know because I love to drive and I've always loved playing racing games and driving simulators. So the real life fencer will be somewhat more into the game than others, maybe this factor will push him to dive in the game more than others and in the end he'll be slightly more advanced than ordinary players.

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I think the first thing we should consider is that an athlete in a certain field cannot be successful in all other fields, even if you are a professional athlete it only means your body is more in shape and your reflexes are sharper that the average player in the game, but you don't have your body in the game and your reflexes are limited by the stats of your character, so basically you just know some rules and moves that you don't have the appropriate tools (your own body) to put the to use, and what good are those rules when no one else cares about them?
And the second important thing is that SAO uses its own set of skills, you have to strike a certain pose to trigger the skill and then use it, so even the skills you have and the moves you know are useless because they are just not as powerful as the in-game skills. I think the game is nicely balanced so that every one have to start from beginning and experience the same excitement and no one would have the advantage from the very beginning of the game.

  • I totally agree with this answer. I don't think all your muscles are transferred as data when entering SAO. So the best example is when you were really good in a sport and then stop doing it for some years. So if you were good at fencing, when you go in the game you will be limited by your stats. You'll want to do things, your 'mind' will know how to do them but your body won't follow because you don't have the same body. – Ise Jan 30 '17 at 14:11
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Keep in mind a fencing sword versus a big ass great sword a fencing sword will probably lose. In sao skil l isn't really needed anyways, for one they don't normally fight other players , and what's being slightly quicker than everyone else going to do to a boss that could instakill you?

  • This goes back to the whole which style of fencing. Modern 1v1 Kendo, or European foil/Rapier fencing. If Kendo, I'll take a nice Masamune, but will keep a short sword at the ready as well. – NZKshatriya Jan 24 '17 at 3:02
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Aside from what was already mentioned, experience levels and items are also an issue. Remember the first time that Kirito confronts a group of PKs? He regenerated faster than they could damage him.

That's a huge gap in power that can not be bridged through any real life swordsmanship skill.

When the game started, the former beta testers went for the easiest, most lucrative quests, snapping up quickly the best items and the most experience producing quests available. It gave them a huge head start while at the same time denying those same quests to other players.

A really good swordsman who wasn't part of the beta test would have been left behind at the start trying to figure out how to do the most basic things like loading up his strikes, using the menus, finding quests, etc.

While actual sword skills could be an advantage, it would be nowhere near as significant as having the experience levels and the right items, and catching up with the players who cleaned out all the easy early quests and who kept fighting in the front lines would be almost impossible.

And catching up with Kirito would have been simply out of question, given how much of a head start he managed and the fact that he kept leading the way.

Another issue is that in-game swordsplay is obviously different enough from real world swordsplay that it requires a significant amount of adaptation. Take for instance Kirito's infatuation with large, heavy swords.

Completely impractical in the real world. In the real world, you would be very hard pressed to find a longsword weighting more than 4 lb, and forget about cutting through one sword with another.

In game however, strength and other physical attributes are not as limited as they are in the real world, as can be seen by all the in game leaping around and the way concrete walls and floors tend to break upon impact with player bodies.

There are so many differences that real life swordplay experience is largely irrelevant, and might in fact get one killed because the expectation of what is and isn't possible are massively different.

Finally, Kirito himself had some real life kendo experience. He might very well have been one of the best real life fencers in the system.

Similarly, there is nothing to indicate that the top players weren't also good at real life swordplay, so even the premise of your question can not be verified:

How do you know that SAO was not in fact dominated by good real life fencers?

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