Sword swallowing has got to be one of the most jaw-dropping, everything-you-ever-believed-was-true-defying, dangerous things ever. This is no petty illusion – this shit is real. When you see a performer swallowing a sword, there is a real (unsharpened) sword going down their throat. Today is for the appreciation of these magical, magical beings with the ability to shove long metal objects down their throat without killing themselves.
The ancient art originated in India over 4000 years ago works because the performer learns to control muscles that usually people don’t have much control over. Swallowing is a voluntary reflex, but your muscles become so accustom to the action that it takes a long time and a lot of effort to relearn to control the action (this is why it’s difficult to swallow tablets dry). Basically, what they have to do is relax the muscles at the entrance to the oesophagus and then keep the upper part of the tract from squeezing against the sword. Not easy. They are essentially battling their gag reflex, and the process for learning how to do this is…unpleasant. Those training to sword swallow generally do this by triggering it over and over and over again, vomiting up stomach acid – which, if you’ve ever been sick, you know is incredibly horrible. This can be at the sacrifice of the health of their teeth or oesophageal tract because of the acid, but they must be careful not to damage the oesophageal tract too much, otherwise the training will be for nought.
Once the performer has trained they swallow the sword by:
1. Tipping back their head and extending their neck so that from the mouth to stomach is a straight line.
2. Move their tongue out of the way and relax their throat
3. Align the sword with that straight line and pass the sword, which must be at least 38cm long and 2cm wide for the Sword Swallowers Association International to recognise it, down their throat.
Just wow. Wow.
~ Darcie Rae
Simple sword swallowing explanation: http://io9.com/5831592/how-to-swallow-a-sword
More complex explanation: http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/arts/circus-arts/sword-swallowing2.htm
There is little wrong with wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_swallowing