Written by Leann Guatno
Photo by Colleen Lalo
Do you watch Forged in Fire on History Channel? I think it’s fascinating to see how blacksmiths create weapons from scratch. The judges on the show also test these weapons to see if it—in Doug Marcaida’s words (who is one of the judges)—will kill.
In Forged in Fire‘s first season, on the third episode, a Filipino blacksmith named Ryu Lim won against three other contestants. He is a full-time blacksmith and does all his forging by hand. His method of forging his blades by hand earned him a spot to return to the show in the “Fan Favorites” episode. Here’s a short video of his appearance in episode three of season one:
He now appears as one of the featured stars on this year’s History Con. Last year, History Con was a great success and made history with Manila. It also enabled When In Manila to interview some of its stars. Of course, this year was no exception, as we were able to have the opportunity to talk to Ryu Lim and axe him some questions.
He started smithing at a very young age of nine years old, and at ten years old, he forged his very first sword. We asked him what his first anvil was like.
Ryu: My first anvil was actually a sledgehammer that was laying down on the ground. So I would step on the handle and I would use a claw hammer. My uncles were carpenters, and I would borrow their tools. I would use a sledgehammer as an anvil, take a claw hammer as my forging hammer, and I would beat on their nails. I was a little kid. It was actually kinda cute, now that I look back.
According to him, he didn’t know what exactly he was doing, but it didn’t matter. He enjoyed it. We asked him how were his days starting out as a blacksmith. He doesn’t really remember his first day as one, but he does remember something he did as much as he could: learning. He was never taught formal blacksmithing lessons; he learned only through observation, study, and experience.
Ryu: I was fascinated by the process. I watched videos and studied them. Trial and error is a useful tool because you learn from your mistakes. The difference between a novice blacksmith and a master craftsman is that there are more broken blades under the master craftsman’s belt.
Ryu says that he is always a student, not a master.
We asked him who were the people who encouraged and inspired him most in the craft.
Ryu: The people who’ve inspired me, I do not even know the names of. These are the people I’ve watched in the videos.
When asked about how he feels as an inspiration for some to try out the art of blade smithing, he laughed and gave us a face that looked confused. He seemed like he didn’t believe it.
Ryu: Am I? I get that a lot. If I really am, then I feel like I’ve won. The reason why I participated [on Forged in Fire] was that I wanted to prove a point.
He wanted to prove that forging can be done without expensive tools. As we were curious about his design process, we asked him if he starts forging with the design already complete in his mind, or if he designs it as he goes.
Ryu: The designing process is actually the longest part. I don’t use sketches. I keep it all in my head when I make them.
We asked him what were his plans going forward, and immediately, his reply was:
Ryu: Drink lots of coffee and smoke tobacco.
Everyone laughed. Continuing from the previous question, we asked him if he plans on doing more bladesmithing seminars here in the Philippines.
Ryu: Yes, I would, if I were given the opportunity. I want to help change people’s lives.
He held bladesmithing seminars the last time he was in the country, hoping that this would help provide jobs. His passions not only run in the forge but also towards the people of the Philippines.
It was a blast meeting with the panday. Thank you for your being an inspiration, Ryu Lim!