Sword dances are recorded throughout world history. There are various traditions of solo and mock-battle (Pyrrhic) sword dances from Asia and Europe.
General types of sword dance include:
solo dancers around swords – such as the traditional Scottish sword dances. This general form also encompasses non-sword dances such as the bacca pipes jig in Cotswold morris dance,
mock-battle dances, including many stick dances from non-sword traditions, and such common continental dances as Bouffons or Mattachins as described by Thoinot Arbeau in 1588.
hilt-and-point sword dances – where the dancers are linked together by their swords in a chain. These form the basis for rapper sword and long sword forms
Sword dances in China, known as jian wu, began as a military training exercise with swords and spears which evolved into an elaborate acrobatic dance.Jian wu was one of four classical dances that were used in the Chinese opera. Each of these dances was very meaningful within the opera performances and they often were used for plot descriptions and characterization. Sword dancing also found a use in Chinese culture through communicating with the supernatural; sword dancing was done in an effort to communicate feelings to the dead spirits that may be disrupting a household.