The Rudis sword that my friend John and I designed has a few symbolic elements:
– Pommel & Hilt: Both are made of maple burl wood. As you may know, burl is a wood that has taken some trauma along the way, but that leads to the beauty of the knotted-rope-like grain. Both ends are unfinished since the work of honor and purpose is never done.
– Handle: Made of American Holly, it looks like ivory. American Holly is not an easy wood to find, so are men who have restored their honor and purpose. It is made to look like a backbone, because that’s what it takes.
– Blade: It is made of Bethlehem olive wood symbolic of Him whose power we need to draw upon. Olive oil is only rendered after great pressure is applied to the olives, then it bleeds the oil. Olive oil was used anciently as fuel; in anointing Kings to show they were called of God to lead; in anointings to heal the sick; and to help flavor to permeate food. The olive branch has long been a symbol of peace.
John, a good friend of mine, is a Marine who served three tours to Iraq. He came home and (his words) “I got caught up in all the ‘learned helplessness’ of the more disabled vet I was, the more cash I got each month from the government0. After a year or so I found that I had lost the fire in the belly I had as a soldier, and more importantly I lost my purpose. I was shackled by many of these well-intentioned programs; what I needed was to be free again, earning my honor again… I found no person or program could give me my honor back, I had to earn that myself.”
John has since started a non-profit called, Merito (latin for “merit”), that focuses on helping returning soldiers who are in a similar situation as his, to restore honor and purpose. More soldiers are taking their own lives now than at any other time. Merito is aimed and helping to fix that.
He chose the symbol of his organization, the Rudis Sword. A Rudis is a wooden sword, with an ivory handle—a gift to a gladiator as proof of his achieved freedom. It signifies his ascent from being a slave to becoming a freeman. The memorable past battles of a Gladiator are carved into the blade of the sword. A stipulation disclosed in the show is that a gladiator must always have the Rudis on his person or risk receding into slavery.
All these attributes epitomize the soldier who has gone through John’s Merito program. And this Rudis sword will be their graduation token.