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Sangaku, like other forms of drama popular in Japan prior to the 11th century, traced its origins to southern China and India.
The Dervish Orders of the Sufis reflect the meeting of Islam and Hindu thought in the 8th century ("dervish" is Persian for "beggar.") Some Dervish orders wander, others beg alms, and others live in Sufi monasteries.
In addition, there are a few dozen surviving injured or retired veteran sword swallowers who have swallowed a sword at one time in their lives, and a small number of beginners who have managed to swallow a sword at least one time in their lives, but may not be actively performing as full-time professionals.
In comparison with other rare or dangerous occupations and passions, over 750 astronauts have flown in outer space since 1961 Yet there are less than a few dozen professional sword swallowers left actively performing the 4000 year old ancient art around the world today.
For detailed information and photos of the top 100 sword swallowers over the past 100 years, visit the Sword Swallowers Hall of Fame.
Yes, there are some magicians or illusionists who buy fake curl-up swords or do balloon tricks to imitate real sword swallowers.
But the true professional sword swallower does not rely on gimmicks.
Some books also erroneously claim that sword swallowers use gimmicks such as plastic, asbestos or metal sheaths that are swallowed first to protect the esophagus, or gutta-percha tips to protect their insides from the tip of the blade when they swallow their swords.
These too are false myths that simply are not true for real sword swallowers.
Legend has it that sword swallowing began in either the region that is now Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka, India, and there is still a tribe known as the Konda Dhora tribe in the state of Andhra Pradesh where the ancient art of sword swallowing was rumored to be passed down from father to son for centuries.