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Fencing and History Nut Extraordinaire. While I am tending toward 16th century at the moment, I am and have been interested in history for a long time. Hence the fencing focuses more on the Renaissance period than the modern. This explains two out of three of my blogs. The third is a more personal one focusing on fibromyalgia. What I write in these blogs, I hope will be of use to people.
 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ego: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Greetings,

Your personality will have an effect on how you fence and how you approach it. This is an important point that must be considered with regards to all aspects in your fencing. This blog is an examination of the effects of personality on fencing, and more to the point an examination of the effects of ego on fencing. The information below will address various aspects of personality and ego and its impact on training and competition. It is something that we should all consider as to how our own personality and ego will affect the way that we train and the way that we fence. The blog will address both the positive and negative effects of personality and ego upon the fencing process including training and competition.

Your personality will have an impact on your training it will affect the way that you approach your fencing and how you perform on the field and this is an important point that we must all realise. There are good aspects that will promote the best in us and there will be negative effects that will detract from what we do and how we are percieved in our fencing. Both of these aspects need to be taken into account and the positive enhanced and the negative reduced as much as possible.

"You must keep egotism out of your fencing. Egotism has no place in your training, ... or your fencing persona. It is an ugly, misleading companion." (Evangelista, 2000:219)
Your personality will affect your approach to fencing. This is more focussed on our personal philosopy that grounds the reasons for fencing. The reasons for fencing are many and it is these reasons that will drive us to succeed or not. If our aim is simply to beat every opponent that we encounter on the field, this will have a different effect than if our goal is to further our search for the truths in swordplay. A person whose simple goal is to beat every opponent on the field may reject certain approaches in their fencing in order to enhance their ability to win. In most cases once this person has found what will work best for them on the field they will stop learning and just attempt to enhance these skills. A person who is seeking the truth in swordplay, however, will seek more than the simple win, and will search out better technique and train this. This will lead this individual to learn more and more and thus enhance their knowledge of the art that they have chosen to pursue. Thus it can be seen that the overall approach is affected by our personality and approach.

Personality will affect your conduct on the field, where it is purely driven by ego, any hit against us will feel like an assault on our ego. On the other hand if this is approached as a learning experience any hit against us will be seen as a chance to learn something from the experience. Thus in this approach every encounter with an opponent is a learning experience and benefits the fencer regardless of the result. The person who seeks to enhance their experience in fencing will take every chance to learn and this will benefit them in the long run. This will also affect the way the person trains, seeking to learn from every encounter and every lesson in order that they can become a more complete swordsman. We must examine how our personality affects or performance and approach to every encounter.

"I’m not sure if I can stress enough how important having confidence is to your success at fencing (or life in general). What I’m talking about is not brash, loud, empty bravado or egotism, but the quiet assuredness you can feel emanating from people who are secure in themselves and their abilities."
(Kellner, 2009)
Ego is a necessary thing in fencing. It is what drives our aspirations in fencing, it is what enables us to succeed, and also to accept successes. In this way having the effect of ego is a necessary and good thing for the fencer, but this must be tempered by the fencer's approach to what they are doing and learning. The ego must be balanced with the knowledge that fencing is a learning experience, thus the ego must realise that there will be elements where you will not succeed the first time. These times must be taken as a chance to learn rather than a personal affront. In this way, with the ego kept in check and used to drive a person to succeed through the best methods, ego can actually be a good thing. Of course, as with everything there is a negative side which must be taken into account.

"there is a point when ego takes a step beyond the normal scheme of things, when feeling good about yourself and having aspirations become self-inflating conceits. When this happens, you will most certainly get in the way of your own progress." (Evangelista, 2000:219)
Egotism and ego to excess is a bad thing for the fencer. This will lead the fencer to be conceited and arrogant, this is not good for fencing and not good for the fencer. This must be realised and rejected. Conceit on its own will prevent learning as the fencer will feel that they have learnt everything that there is need to be learnt. This may be promoted by a long stretch of wins against their opponents. At this point in time where conceit has taken firm root in the fencer they will stop learning and stop progressing because they feel that they have learnt all that they need. Conceit will also be expressed in the fencer's attitude to other fencers and this will not be favourable at all. Arrogance is closely related to conceit in its effect upon the fencer. This is an aspect that the fencer should avoid as much as possible. These two aspects will result in the fencer thinking that they are the measure of all their opponents. This will lead them to stop learning. Egotism in the fencer is a detriment to them and will prevent successes that they would have otherwise had access to.

"You stop measuring when you think you are the ruler by which all things are measured. And when you stop measuring, you stop thinking." (Evangelista, 2000:219)
Ego has an effect on training, both what the fencer will learn and also how the fencer will learn it, or not. A fencer who has a lack of confidence or ego at all will mean that they do not have the will to succeed and will stop at the first problem. On the other hand a fencer who has too much ego will deride the learning process and will find it difficult to learn anymore. In this way too much ego and too little will be a detriment to fencing. The fencer needs to have enough ego that they will continue trying and learning, but not so much that they become arrogant nor so little that they stumble at the first problem that they encounter in their training. In this way the ego needs to be balanced in training with other factors such as the want to learn and the acceptance that they have not learnt everything possible. In order to progress we must learn, and learning is a process in which the fencer needs to be a full participant and thus needs the will to go further and the self-check in order to keep on learning. This ego issue is also reflected in the encounters between the fencer and their opponents.

"If you allow egotism to take over, you will underestimate every opponent you meet. You will overestimate yourself. ... Don't ever believe you can fall back on your reputation to create victories." (Evangelista, 2000:220)
As with training ego has a place in tournament and bouting. The same effects of too much and too little can be seen in bouting and in tournaments. Too much and the fencer will underestimate the opponent, too little and the fencer will give up before the bout has started. Arrogance as an expression of an over-abundance of ego will be expressed by the fencer both on and off the field. Off the field it will be seen as disdain toward other fencers and a complete lack of consideration for them at all. On the field it will be seen in the way the fencer approaches the opponent and how they deal with the opponent. Arguments about hits, especially against them where a discussion is not warranted will surface. There will be complaints about how the judges dealt with a hit where they are used, there will be complaints about how the opponent fences, and various other aspects such as this. A prime place where this can be seen is especially in sport fencing at the highest levels. There are arguments about the hits and the conduct of the bout. Large outbursts by the fencers is a perfect example, whether this is due to a victory or about a defeat. Classical fencing rejects these ideas about the ego and attempts to focus on the form of the fencing rather than the result.

"While a Classical Fencer places honour above all, even when it might cost him/her a touch, or bout or a tournament title, it is equally vital that fencing students come to appreciate the difference between "ego" and "honour." Ego says "Whatever I do is right." Honour says "Whatever is right, I will do." (You may recognize in this, as I do, the distinction between nationalism and patriotism.)" (Crown, 2006)
Crown (2006) expresses the difference between ego and honour in a succinct way, and it is a point that we should all consider in our fencing regardless of the form that takes. The points he raises are equally relevant to the Renaissance fencer and also the sport fencer. We all know when we have been struck by the opponent, whether that hit is acknowledged or not. This is something that we need to consider in our approach to fencing, is our ego driving our fencing or is it something?

There has been much said in this blog about personality and ego and they are important aspects which we must all consider as fencers. Does your ego drive your fencing or is it the search for the truths about swordplay? We should all at the highest and most expressed levels present ourselves as searching for the truths about swordplay, but we must also acknowledge the effect that our egos have upon ourselves and others as well. Approach your fencing as a learning experience in all accounts and a long road is opened ahead of you. Approach your fencing as the pure desire to deafeat all opponents and the road is shortened considerably. We must keep our egos under control at all times, use them in order to progress in fencing, but not so much that they are all that drive us. We all need to consider the effect that our fencing has on our fencing and also the fencing of those around us.

Cheers,

Henry.

Bibliography
Crown, A. A. (2006) Why Study Classical Fencing, http://www.classicalfencing.com/whystudy.php
Evangelista, N. (2000) The Inner Game of Fencing: Excellence in Form, Technique, Strategy, and Spirit, Masters Press, Illinois, USA
Kellner, D. (2009) Building Confidence in Your Fencing, http://www.sofaemployed.com/?p=1507