Wistric’s Musings – What’s it take to be a free scholar?   2 comments

It’s a question that comes up often enough.  I figured I’d provide my thoughts.  They’re just that, thoughts.  Since I have no say in making Free Scholars, all I can do is say what I would suggest to anybody who asked.  Here goes:

So what’s it take?

The quick answer:  Three provosts who like you

The slightly less quick answer:  Three provosts who don’t hate you and a bottle of scotch.  Good scotch.  Don’t get cheap.  Single malt.

The even slightly less quick answer:  Be an example to the rapier community.

Going further away from the quick and easy:  Prowess.  Service.  Comportment.

Now, the painfully real answer:  Sacrifice

What will you need to sacrifice?

Time, and lots of it.  It’s time to start going to practice (five a week, if you’re… er… crazy).  It’s time to start going to events, driving long distances to get to where the stabbing is, where the people with the best advice is.  It’s true, you don’t have to travel to become a free scholar, but you then end up waiting five, six, ten extra years.  It’s time to start driving to practices in the next barony, seeking out one-on-one time You get to start studying fencing manuals, period and modern, to expand your arsenal.  When I got the fire in my belly, Alejandro said to Sunneva “You know you’re about to be a fencing widow, right?”  He was right.  I am lucky enough to have a very understanding and patient wife, though, who has put up with not seeing me some nights until I crawled, too tired to shower, into bed next to her.

Fun.  It’s not the death of fun, but getting better at fencing means stepping past the “I’m just here to have fun” mindset.  It’s not going to always be fun.  You get to start drilling, you get to start minutely working on your own flaws, you get to start teaching others so as to have a mirror for yourself.  All of this, instead of playing.

Pain.  Well, you don’t get to sacrifice pain, you get to have a whole lot of it.  There’s the easy pain, the pain of burning muscles, of thighs throbbing from forcing out bad habits of form, of jogging or biking, of squats and pushups and calisthenics.  Then there’s the hard pain: brutal honesty of self-examination, of looking hard at your own flaws, of killing a bit of yourself so that something better can grow in its place.

Pride.   Pride has got to be the first victim of self-improvement.  You’ve got to get worse to get better.  Swallow it down, prepare to die a lot, prepare to lose, because you will.   Because you have to measure your performance not against those you fight, but against yourself.  Your competition is the You of last week, and the week before, and nobody else.
You’re going to lose.  You’re going to be frustrated.  You’re going to be angry and humiliated.  You’re going to wonder why you even bother fencing.  You’re going to look at the blue scarf on your arm and try to figure out the most dramatic way you can chuck it in a provost’s face, break your blade over your knee, and storm off.  You’re going to ponder quitting the SCA.

Because my brain is weird, a movie quote comes to it at this point, a quote from the great life-changing drama “Men in Black”.  Will Smith, after having the total cost of joining the organization laid out before him, asks “Is it worth it?”  Tommy Lee Jones says “Yes, if you’re strong enough”.  Being a Free Scholar, carrying the mark of bad-assery (and it is) and whatnot, is worth the cost, but through the sheer machinery of reality it’s not always a cost we can afford.  Don’t let chasing the scarf screw up your dreams for your real life.  At the end of the day, the SCA is just a game (You can at least put “Eagle Scout” on a resume, but “King of Atlantia” not so much).  But also, don’t quit if the going gets tough.  Because knowing that all scholars look to you as an example, and that all fencers fear you on the field, is totally fucking worth it.

I assume all of this is true of the White Scarf, too, just moreso.


Posted April 20, 2009 by wistric in Musings

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