Sunday, September 13, 2015

On Winning


Sorry about the lack of a post last month, I had an event on which I help run every year and then I moved.

Everyone likes to win. Everyone likes the feeling of defeating an opponent and feeling the sense of victory. This is a positive feeling that surpasses many. It is highly addictive as many will attest to. What needs to be noted, and will be demonstrated in this post is that there are really two paths to victory and greatness, and these two paths result in two different results. We should all consider what path we are on and whether or not we are willing to live with the consequences of this choice.

Two Paths to Greatness

To describe these two paths to greatness I will use the philosophies and use the names and headings of two great writers of the Renaissance. The first is Niccolo Machiavelli, and in this I will focus on his famous book The Prince. The other is Baldassare Castiglione, the writer of the famous book of etiquette The Book of the Courtier. Each one will be used to present a different set of principles and a different approach to victory.

1) Machiavelli

"Lisa: ... Ralph Wiggum lost his shin guard! Hack the bone! Hack the bone."
("Lisa on Ice" - Episode 6, Season 6 - "The Simpsons")
The general reading of Machiavelli's The Prince is about a sanguine individual who will do anything to keep his principality alive. Machiavelli is a very practical man and for the most part is about survival. I would encourage all to read his insightful book. However, using the generally accepted view, this discusses anything for a win. The Machiavellian combatant will find the opponent's weakness any way that he can and use it against him regardless of what it is. This combatant is often brutal in his attacks and will exploit weaknesses in armour as well as in defences.

The Machiavellian combatant will be noted for his practical manner of his fighting rather than finesse. While having skill in his method, there will be a lack of flair in his method, and there will be little satisfaction fighting this combatant as his methods will always be focussed on the gaining of victory rather than the pleasure of crossing swords with an opponent. This combatant will be respected for his ability to win, and his fighting prowess, but not respected as an honourable combatant, thus for the most part he will earn notoriety rather than renown for his exploits.

2) Castiglione

"The art of fencing is about gaining control over your own actions. It is about self-discipline. It is mastery of form and technique, which leads to the effective maneuvering of body and weapon"
Maestro Nick Evangelista
Baldassare Castiglione's The Book of the Courtier was heralded as the book of etiquette for the Renaissance gentleman, and is often still referenced for opinions with regard to the subject of gentlemanly qualities. It presents an individual imbued with qualities which will make him the flavour of the upper crust of society, and an all-round generally pleasant individual to be around. I would, as with Machiavelli's book, encourage you to read this book. The Castiglionian combatant will seek a quality engagement with all of his opponents, regardless of their skill level. His focus is not primarily about winning but about the presentation and performance of his skills. This combatant will use timing and precision to defeat his opponents.

The Castiglionian combatant will be noted for his finesse in the manner of his fighting, along with his timing and application. There will be flair and also the correct application of skill, there will be lots of satisfaction in fighting this combatant as his methods will focus more on the performance on skill rather than winning the engagement, and the pleasure of the encounter. This combatant will be respected regardless of whether he wins or loses due to his application of skill, and his method. He will be respected as an honourable combatant and for the most part will earn renown for his exploits.


I have drawn a stark contrast between the Machiavellian and Castiglionian combatants, however at times we will all drift between the two of them. We should all, however, do our best to focus more on the Castiglionian and the gaining of renown as this will last regardless of our victories. Take care in your actions as there is always someone watching. This counts as much in our training and social bouts as it does for tournaments and public events.