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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, August 5, 2009

Fencing and Dedication to the Art


In all our endeavours we must sit back and have a look at where we are going and where we want to go. It is the same with fencing, and it doesn't matter which form of fencing you are talking about. We need to have a look at our motivations and where we want to go, but also what this will require of us as students. One of the questions that is raised here is our level of dedication to the Art. This blog will address this particular facet of the Art that we have all chosen to pursue and ask just how dedicated we really are to it.

The Spirit of Fencing is something that we must ask ourselves whether we have or not. This is about whether the Art is within us and has been made a part of us or whether it is just another pastime that we do. This encompasses many questions that we must ask ourselves whether or not the spirit of fencing is within us or not.

Is fencing to you just another game or is it something else? Could you just as well be playing tennis? This is an important question as it tells us just how far we are willing to go with what we are doing. This also questions the level of thinking we have toward fencing, is it just something that we like doing or something that is more important to us than that? If we are truly dedicated to the Art then nothing will be able to take its place, and nothing will fill the hole that is left by the absence of fencing. For those who are truly dedicated to what they are doing fencing is something that cannot be put down and picked up, it must be held on to and utilised and followed.

Next we have the question of needs and wants. Do you want to fence, or do you need to fence? There is a distinct difference between the two. A person who merely wants to fence is stating that it is something which is not really necessary to them, a person who needs to fence is stating that it is something that they cannot do without. In order to be dedicated to fencing you have to need to fence. It has to be so much a part of what you are and what you do that its absence is felt in a very deep manner. This will determine your willingness to go out of your way in order to do things to enhance your fencing, and follow the path you have chosen.

We need to have a close look at the actual fencing that we do, and how we achieve the end that we seek. Winning is nice and is something which should be considered, but you need to ask yourself if the final result is more important than how you got there. Is it better to win by any means necessary, or is it better to stick to our form and win using skill and style? This is a question of dedication to what we are doing. Learning to fence is hard and winning by the use of pure skills and techniques looks hard in the beginning, but it will improve your fencing overall. Only a fencer who is dedicated to what they are doing will spend the time to ensure that they win using skill and not brute force or some trick. This leads well into the subject of learning and how important it is to the process and our level of dedication to the art.

Learning is important to progressing in the Art, and it is something that we need to be dedicated to in order to progress fully. It is important that we must always be learning in order to progress, and learning in order to improve our fencing. The only way to progress is to keep learning, while this can be a more difficult process as we progress in skill, there is always something new to learn and dedication to this process must be made if we truly want to excel in out Art. It is important that we take the opportunity to learn from anyone who is willing to teach us something, a different point of view is always useful. This is the case even across the various disciplines, and this should not be underestimated. Even our students can teach us something, even if it is just a different point of view. This learning process does take dedication, and remembering why we are there and what we are doing.

Progression is important and the amount of progression in a period of time is actually irrelevant. We must be dedicated to progression in order to progress. If we are not we stagnate. Progression itself needs dedication also in order to be able to push us past those times where the progression is hard. Everyone hits plateaus in their progression, in fencing, in music, and in most pursuits. It is important to stay dedicated and work through this particular phase in order to progress. The progression may seem slow at these times, but it is important that we stick with the process. With regard to plateaus it will be noted that the early stages the plateaus are infrequent and short, as we progress and our skill level increases, these plateaus will become more frequent and longer. We must be dedicated enough to push through these periods in order to continue to progress. This will take a great deal of time and patience.

In the question of measuring progression there are different approaches. One is a physical evaluation based upon wins and results of encounters, the other is a more internal process which is based upon the increase of knowledge and its expression. The first one is what often drives sport fencers and those who are more interested in winning than the pursuit of the Art. The second gives a much broader playing field and progression can be noted in the form of the skill presented and the ability of the fencer to achieve their goal through the use of their skills. This enables the fencer to see progression in different places, from the performance of a skill against an opponent, to the realisation of a concept or the application of a piece of fencing theory. The measurement of success and progression is important.

Progression is necessary as has been stated, but how it is achieved is also important. In order to progress we must stay dedicated to the Art which we are learning. This means progressing through the lessons, drills and bouts associated in a methodical manner. A training program for yourself will help in this particular aspect so you can see where you are going. This needs to be based on a set of goals, short term, and long term ones as well. Once you achieve a particular goal, it needs to be recognised in proportion. This is important as it recognises the successes that you have had. It is important to push through those lessons which seem difficult and those times where progression is not immediately evident. These are the times where your dedication will be tested. If you can push through this you will achieve a much greater result than if you give up and get distracted part way through.

Dedication, or a lack of dedication is expressed in many ways. Some of these expressions are very subtle and some are quite overt. The first and most overt expression of dedication is attendance. A person who attends all the training sessions and tournaments that they can get their hands on is a person who is clearly dedicated to learning and performance of their Art. A person who is less frequent at training and tournaments displays a much lower level of dedication to the Art that they have chosen to pursue.

Mere attendance is not the only method of expression, there is also the performance at these training sessions. A person who just hangs around and talks at training sesssions and only participates to the minimum amount even though they are attending training sessions is clearly less motivated than the person who engages in these sessions to their full capacity. As for tournaments, it cannot be expected that a fencer will win every tournament that they enter into, this is reliant on several different things, but if they do not do their best at the tournament and fight their hardest this will be seen.

Another expression of dedication can be seen in the fencer's equipment. If the fencer's gear is left in a state of disrepair, or if they forget parts of their equipment, then it is clear that they are not as dedicated to what they are doing as a person who turns up with their gear in good working order, and all present. This also goes for the acquisition of equipment to use at tournaments and training sessions. A person who is constantly borrowing gear from other students or the fencing school rather than going out and buying their own equipment is clearly less dedicated than the person who obtains their own equipment at the first chance that they are able to.

Dedication can also be seen in the preparation for lessons, this has physical and psychological elements which are all important in the person's level of dedication to fencing. Part of the preparation for a lessson is ensuring that all the appropriate gear is in good working order and is preent and packed before leaving for the lesson. Forgetting some part of the equipment shows a lack of dedication as this should have been checked before the person left for the lessson, and ensured that the gear is in good working order.

Next to look at are less overtly expressed elements in the preparation and attendance at training sessions and tournaments. Attitude has a great part to play in the student's ability to learn and also the way that they approach the lessons and tournaments. If they have the attitude that they have already learnt what they need to learn, then it is less likely that they will pay close attention to the class being taught.

Ego is an element which needs to be controlled and kept in check, this was already discussed in one of the previous blogs but relates very much to dedication. If the ego is used to fence rather than the skills learnt, this says something about the fencer, and alludes to their level of dedication to the learning process and thus the Art overall. Obviously in order to participate completely in the lessons, a person needs to have the willingness to learn what the teacher is imparting at the lessons. The willingness to learn is expressed in how they approach the lessons themselves, but this is something which starts before the lesson starts. This willingness needs to be enshrined in the individual before they leave for the lesson, and is one of the most important elements. It relates very much back to the question of attitude and ego.

The dedication to the Art of fence is something that each person needs to consider on their own part and to what level they are truly dedicated to the Art that they have chosen. This dedication will be expressed in many ways and it is up to the individual to ensure that this dedication is enhanced in order to gain the greatest benefit from the Art. Dedication will determine how far we will be able to go more than pure phyiscal ability. Skills can be learnt. Concepts can be learnt. Theory can be learnt, but the fencer has to be willing to put in the hard work that is required in order to gain these things and this will take dedication. It is dedication that will see us through the hard parts of the fencing process, and only dedication that will assist us to surrmount the largest obstacles in our path. As a fencer, dedication is something that we must all consider personally as it will determine how far we are able to progress within the Art.