Despite being an art practiced by relatively few people, sword swallowing has an association of its own—the Sword Swallowers Association International, which has been active for the past 15 years.
When it comes to sword swallowing, the blades are anything but dull.
But the trade, which involves literally shoving swords down one’s gullet, is the very definition of niche. The number of actively performing swallowers is only in the dozens.
Nonetheless, this fairly exclusive group still has an association that represents it. Sword Swallowers Association International, which launched in 2002, is the only organization of its kind in the world. SSAI helps represent the concept of sword swallowing to the world, particularly through the SwordSwallow.com site, which features historical information about the activity (which dates back to at least 2000 B.C.), a list of world record-holders, and an FAQ for those wondering if they’re being tricked. (There are also photos, but we’ll let you find those yourself.)
The association also puts on an annual event, World Sword Swallower’s Day, with the help of Ripley Entertainment, a firm with some genuine interest in the subject, believe it or not.
In comments to MyPanhandle.com this past February reflecting on this year’s World Sword Swallower’s Day, SSAI’s president, Dan Meyer, noted that the obscurity of the event actually worked somewhat in its favor.
“The cool thing about today is most people don’t know about it, and, the people who do come, if you see their faces, they’re just blown away,” Meyer noted. “They’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Of course, it’s not exactly a safe way to live. Kiri Hochendoner, a sword swallower for the Coney Island Circus Sideshow—and one of just a handful of female sword swallowers—says the idea comes with plenty of risks.
“Like any loving relationship, you have to listen and ask your body, and sometimes it’s not the right time to go all the way,” she told The New York Times.
Nonetheless, Hochendoner, who performs under the name Betty Bloomerz, frequently does so, as many as eight times per day.
It’s certainly not a usual way of life, but it has an association to represent it.