Renown and notoriety are two words which some may have heard and some may have not. They are how different fencers are talked about, even if the people doing the talking do not even know the words or what they mean. This post is designed to bring these two words into the light of examination and show how the actions of a swordsman can determine the reactions that he will get from other swordsmen and even non-combatants.
The first thing to do is to define these words and to do that definitions have been taken from www.merriam-webster.com. Thus the definitions of the words are:
Renown: a state of being widely acclaimed and highly honoured
Notoriety: the condition of being famous or well-known especially for something bad: the state of being notorious
Clearly they both have something in common in that in both cases a person with renown and a person who has notoriety are well-known. This is the common element that links them. The difference is that one is respected and praised while the other is known for something less than positive. It is in this difference where the importance lies. Now that we have the definitions and the beginnings of an explanation, we can begin to relate them to the swordsman.
For the Swordsman
"How you win is ... important, if not more important, than any individual victory. You must win decisively, cleanly, and gallantly." (Evangelista, 2000:301)
These are two sides to fame. We all know of celebrities who are famous for doing good things and staying that way, but we all know of celebrities who are good at what they do, but are known also for bad things. The former have renown, the latter have notoriety.
In relation to the swordsman, the swordsman who has renown is respected on and off the field regardless of the result of his bouts or tournaments, or even whether he even participates in tournaments. When he fights he fights with grace and skill, acknowledging the skill of his opponent, a truly positive influence on the community. The swordsman who has notoriety is respected on the field for his skill and his ability to defeat opponents, but there is as far as it extends. His influence only lasts as long as his victories do. What is interesting about renown and notoriety is that, like fame, it is in other people’s hands.
"At the end of every bout, whether you win or lose, salute, shake hands, smile, and say, "Thank you." No one should be able to tell from your expression, tone, gesture, or manner, whether you have just won or lost." (Evangelista, 2000:302)
The most interesting thing about renown and notoriety is that you cannot seek either one, but you will gain one or the other. There are things, however that you can do to sway your chances one way or the other. What this will come down to is considerations on the field and how you act when you are fencing. It will also be how you act when you are not fencing as well.
For the most part the part off the field is merely being of good manner and treating everyone in a friendly manner and at all times. This is regards to spectators, officials and also other swordsmen. All of these people are important to allow you to compete with other swordsmen even if you do not see it. Each one of them will have an influence on how all the others will see you.
"When you get hit, instead of taking it personally, acknowledge the skilful maneuver and congratulate your opponent on an excellent bit of fencing." (Evangelista, 2000:221)
The part of the actual combats is a little more interesting for some, and can be quite difficult for others. It may even require a slight shift in thinking. In this case it is to focus more on the process of fencing rather than the result, making each action precise and clean. This will also help anyone who has to marshal your combat as well. This process is also acknowledging the validity of the hit of the opponent if he strikes you. Don’t focus on the hit, acknowledge it, congratulate him and move on. Talk with your opponent, converse with steel and words. It makes for a much more relaxed bout for both of you.
Out of Your Hands
Regardless of what we do, there are certain things which we must acknowledge are out of our hands. Public opinion about us as swordsmen is one of them. Of course, as has been indicated, we can shift the flow of this one way or another to see that our side is seen a little better.
Renown is a word which is not used much in the modern world and should be. Notoriety is a word which is used much more and should not be as a good thing. The fact that we have so-called celebrities happily stating that they are notorious for particular acts and go out of their way because of the publicity it creates for them is not a good thing. For the swordsman there should be no choice he should always attempt to gain renown where he can, thus increase the respect for himself and his school.
Think about what you are doing and how this reflects not only on yourself but also on your school, your teacher, and other swordsmen. Be a good ambassador for what we all love and do. Bring renown to what we do and not give others the image we are merely thugs with swords.
Evangelista, N. (2000) The Inner Game of Fencing: Excellence in Form, Technique, Strategy, and Spirit, Masters Press, Illinois, USA