Two paths you may go on

Being stuck at home feeling a bit under the weather I asked what I should write about in this post. On that popped up was the question, ‘ what is the difference between a fighter and a swordswoman/man’?

I have mentioned in previous entries my dislike for the term ‘fighter’, evoking images of bare knuckle boxing and bad MMA. I have tried to use other terms in its stead: combatant, swordsman and knight are a few of the options.

Anyway, here is a bit of thinking about these two terms and how they may describe different approaches to the tournament arts

A fighter in one sense of the term is a person who seeks to gain victories on the field. The development of technique and skill is focused this very tangible outcome. The fighter works hard to develop game winning moves and becomes very good at what they do. 

Traveling on a slightly different path is the swordsman. The Swordsman is studying the tournament arts to better themselves. Victory is an outcome of their training, not the focus of it. To shamelessly steal something from kendo-

The study of swordsmanship is:
to mold the mind and body,
to cultivate a vigorous spirit,
and through correct and rigid training,
to strive for improvement in the art of the sword.
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honour,
to associate with others with sincerity, and
and to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.

To relate this to my conversation about the Rowany Fighter Auction. I won that as a fighter. I need to now look to being a swordsman.

I feel that we can step from one road to another on our journey. One is not better than the other. They are just different approaches to what we do.

A small note. We will always have some struggle with gendered terminology. This is perhase where the term ‘fighter’ is useful. Anyway – I only use ‘swordsman’ as a short hand because writing swordsman/woman is clunky. I convey no appropriation of a gendered meaning to these words.

One back, two forward…

I talked a few weeks ago about how I was unhappy with my performance at the Festival Fighter Auction Tournament. In short, when I am faced with a high calibre opponent I tend to not move in a positive manner. I hunker down, go very defensive and turn the match into a defensive grind devoid of any crisp and decisive plays. This is not how I want my tournaments to be.

In order to change out of this I am needing to approach some of my training and fighting differently.

We often rank our skills in terms of a win-loss ratio. How many wins you rack up, in both tournament and practice becomes the benchmark of our progress as well as a primary driver of renown. I must firmly move away from such an outlook. I no longer can chase the simple tournament victory but must look at the entirety of my performance. Sometimes we need to change our victory conditions in order to progress.

While we all now nod our heads and agree, this is sometimes a very hard thing to do. For those seeking the recognition of Knighthood in the SCA, not focusing on immediate victories can be seen poorly. For those already with belts there is the expectation of peers, squires and consorts to consistently perform. There is also the very real challenge to one’s deep ego that has too long become accustomed to success.

The challenge (and this is one of absolute necessity) is to accept that a victory is no longer one of striking your opponent first, but lies in the way you accomplish this. This will be a difficult thing, but I hope that I am able to continue this journey of swordsmanship and find a new understandings of what we can do.