The next time you are at a tournament I invite you to watch the various participants. Ignore for the moment what they are doing, but look instead at how they walk into the field. Can you pick the winner of a match by their presence alone? How do the more experienced carry themselves compared to the novice?
This is not an idle musing on deportment but rather thinking about our purpose and focus on the execution of the armed encounter.
It has been often said that you can win something by being confident in your training and abilities. I think this is often true. A person who is sure they have done the training hours, given enough sweat and effort takes this confidence into the match they now will face. This also represents a calm of mind and allows the individual to focus on the task at hand.
This is not the bravado of someone who tells you that they are awesome, despite never having been at practice. But certainty and clarity that they can do what they need to do to be victorious.
If having the right mindset is vital, how then do we arrive at that point? There are a great many books and websites devoted to what we now will call sports-physiology. If you want to read this sort of thing (and I suggest you do) then In Pursuit of Excellence by Terry Orlick is a good place to start.
One of the interesting things Orlick points out is that success does require a high level of enjoyment in the given activity. So it is essential that we enjoy what we do. We do need to seek a ‘rush’ of excitement and fun in our tournaments and wars; we cannot be all focus and intensity. Now having said that, it is important to have some level of focus or we will not succeed at all.
You often hear people speaking of being ‘in the moment’. That moment were time slows down and you do everything right. This is that critical time that we all try to replicate every time the lay-on is called. How do we get to that point? I am still not sure, and if I was I would be earning a great deal more than I am…8-)
There are some things I do to try to get myself in the right head space. Not all of this works for everyone.
As I mentioned earlier, you must be sure you have done everything you can do in training and preparation before you walk onto the field. Sometimes this needs to be measured in months if not years. Do not be put of by this, but rather understand what you can do and make sure you can do it well. This may mean blocking that attack by His Grace until you see an opportunity to counter.
I like to ensure that all my harness is in excellent working order. Everything works and I have confidence that nothing is going to break or fail on the day. Do any repairs well before that day of the event, running around trying to fix something with borrowed tools is not the best way to keep calm. Make sure you are comfortable with your harness and that it gives you the protection you require. I make sure that my gear helps me set the right example on the field, retouch the paint on your shield, re-tape your sword and wash your arming doublet.
Walk the Field
This is something I do before any big tournament. As early as I can, I have a wander around the field. I make it mine. This is all about getting into the right frame of mind. It is the beginning of drawing in my thoughts so I can focus on the competition to come.
I mentioned the role of the consort some time ago. Something I have seen that is excellent is the couples who work out where they will stand before every bout. Knowing where to look helps in staying focused.
Listen for the calls to arm and stand ready. I often try to be ready and waiting for my opponent to arrive at the entrance to the lists. This also extends to making sure all your gear is packed the night before. You alone are responsible your own gear.
You are a Noble
In the SCA at least everyone is considered a member of the noble class. Be one! In The Book of the Courtier, Castigilone describes the courtier is described as having a cool mind, a good voice (with elegant and brave words) along with proper bearing and gestures in addition to having a warrior spirit, to be athletic, and have good knowledge of the humanities. Everything you do must be with a certain level of ease and grace. Step confidently onto the field and perform your salutes with confidence, and poise. Look like you know what you are doing. Those watching have come to see knights performing great deeds of arms, be that knight.