A plan in four parts

This year I am looking at 15 years in the SCA, 8 as a White Scarf, 4 as a Laurel, and 1 as a Master of Defense. In that time, I think I’ve figured a few things out, though mostly a lot later than I’d have preferred. More on that below!

I have been thinking about what I want to do from here, and I finally hit upon the last piece of the puzzle yesterday. I’ve been more than a bit dissatisfied with my neck of the woods, but rather than go into that too much, I want to mostly talk solutions and direction. I’m not sure if I can do that without contrasts, so we’ll see how well I manage. Some of this may seem a reversal from earlier positions I have had, but I am herein talking about what to do as a fencing peer: not what the White Scarf should be, or what a candidate for the Order of Defense should look like. I’ve also had to sort this out as I’ve gone, and attitudes are evolving.

Saturday was Kingdom Arts and Sciences Festival, and there was a Laurel meeting. In it, we had 40 members all poll positively for Kat Ferneley, and TRMs made the decision after some consulting and debate to elevate her after announcing her as the winner of the KASF competition. I volunteered my medallion to the cause, having been elevated at that very site and event 4 years prior. I thought it fitting.

On the way home, everything clicked into place for me. I described my goals as a now double peer to my wife:

Teach people to fence well.

This really seems as though it should be obvious, but all told, it’s an underrepresented goal in our community. When I say “well,” I not only mean fence well enough to win tournament bouts and perform well within our ruleset, but to have a deep enough technical knowledge that they can train other fencers to use sound fencing theory, applied in the manner of their choosing. One thing I am very happy about is how the Stierbach practice I initiated now has more or less uniform instruction in the fundamentals: not everyone is perfect, but everyone learns the same core concepts and uses the same lexicon so that all new people receive the same message. Fencing is a science as much as an art.

Moreover, someone who has the ability to instruct and is too old or injured to compete is still a vital, productive member of the Kingdom. I aspire to be an old, broken down fencing instructor some distant day!

Get newer fencers involved in the Kingdom.

It’s pretty well established here that the White Scarf has a substantial, mandatory service component to one degree or another. I have recently characterized it predominantly as having been a leadership award in the past more than anything. I think that’s a fair statement, and your mileage may vary. There are a variety of reasons for why that happened, and it was ultimately a good strategic decision.

I think that modernly, we have to look to a new model. The Masters of Defense are going to start taking personal students sooner or later (if not already), and those students are going to get direct guidance in a way that doesn’t exist much in our current model. I think we need to move away from “do service if you want this award” to “follow me; we’re doing this thing now.” That’s a bit of an unfair simplification, but not overly so. The Masters of Defense need to guide the newer people onward and upward and create a culture where good citizenship is present because that’s how the game is best played and everyone knows it.

We will probably lose some people by holding them to that expectation with no tangible reward (except, you know, those whole peerage paths for service and art!). Oh well.

Connect newer people with the Crown.

We do a lot of service, but struggle some with the idea of being a servant or subject. Getting direct contact with the Royals is a really good way to support the kingdom in general, and to also become invested in its health. Moreover, it reinforces the idea that fencing isn’t an isolated pocket activity happening on the periphery– we’re not physically off to the side, but we’re not fully integrated at the entry level, either.

The Crown is also where everything happens. It’s a polling, not a vote! We make suggestions, and the best way to have influence over the direction we head is to be someone the Crown wants to hear from. Awards do not give that. Awards are a suggestion of characteristics, with no guarantees. There is one table: it is called high table, and you get there with a crown, a coronet, or an invitation.

Essentially, if we do this right we become the people the Crowns ask; we don’t make demands of them. Not because we wear some regalia, but because we have built a genuine connection.

Help give people stories to tell.

This is the final piece that cemented in my head at KASF. This is the core of why I find the attitude that competition, performance, and tournament victories don’t matter to be loathsome and toxic: people get invested in the kingdom when they leave an event having participated in or witnessed something they thought was special and worth talking about later. Mistress Kat had no vigil, but she has an amazing narrative that is worth retelling a decade from now!

When we say tournaments aren’t important and that doing well in them doesn’t matter, we undermine everyone’s potential to have a special moment. I still remember my first tournament win back in 2003 because it felt good and was treated as a big deal. I was hooked, more so than ever before. When we denigrate those kinds of moments, we denigrate the experience of our rising stars– our possible future peers! If tournaments don’t matter, if the finals are just another fight, and if we don’t do our best to be our best, then we devalue all of it… and why even bother? Things matter because we decide to care about them; apathy is poison to our kingdom.

The atmosphere matters, and it’s fun and serious all at once if it’s treated as such.

What now?

A few things. First, I will continue to do the best I can as I leave my physical prime and as the next generation begins to take over as the fighting force I still try to be. My knowledge and experience are resources at their disposal, should they want it. I’ll also continue to participate in tournaments and do the best I can in them at all times, because people need the chance to defeat me legitimately, with no excuse to take away from their success. The next generation deserves its chance to build its renown partially off mine.

Since there is no new height for me to attain, I will try to be the best peer I can be. I intend to focus my energies on the lords and ladies who are still at the beginnings of their journies. I think the job of a peer is to ready the next generation for their future elevation.

The best possible outcome is that everyone look both above and below themselves on the Order of Precedence, and think about what they can do to help others reach their level, how to be the best example of their level possible, and how to be undeniable as a candidate for elevation to the next. This can never be about your own emotional needs: care first for the kingdom and the rest of it resolves. It’s not about you, but if you do it right, everyone’s success is your success.

If every fencer in the kingdom set their sights on becoming an undeniable Master of Defense, we would have the finest group in the world. Even if we cannot all achieve that end, to borrow from an older Order: a person can be knightly without being a knight.

27 comments to A plan in four parts

  • Tibbie Crosier

    Very thoughtful post. One thing you could do for your fellow Masters and the White Scarves is to teach time management and organization. Right now, I don’t see how Atlantian MoDs will find time for students when they don’t have time to answer emails from people seriously seeking advice.

    Another, random thought. I agree that tournaments make classic stories. But so do melees and war battles. My personal epic stories mostly relate to Pennsic woods battles. I’ll never crush someone in a tournament final, but I’m immensely proud to have been part of the Atlantian rapier army crushing the other side at Pennsic, helping to defend a flag against numerically superior foes in intense heat and humidity and lasting the whole battle without falling out, despite many trips to and from a resurrection point.

    If you want every fencer to set their sights on being an undeniable Master of Defense, you have to encourage *every fencer,* not just the stars, and you have to respect their efforts, even if they don’t reach the destination.

    More later.

    • Tibbie Crosier

      How will you, and how can the rest of us, encourage rapier fighters to aspire to the Order of Defense? Some people say that their goals are different ones and that they’re not seeking the rapier peerage, though they’re seeking personal excellence. For those fighters who do aspire to the Order, how will you guide them toward meeting the Order’s entrance requirements?

      • Dante di Pietro

        “Personal excellence” is the same thing, but without having to face the judgment of others or the curve balls and monkey wrenches the SCA can throw you. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t overlap at 99% of items. Whatever it takes for people to not crack is fine.

        As for guidance, that again depends on the person. In general, I try to be clear about what I expect (ask me and I’ll tell you) and create opportunities for people to do good stuff.

        At the end of it all, the debates happen about people who have a borderline component to them. The undeniable people, who do everything possible well, will be easy elevations.

  • No one’s emailed me and been ignored, as far as I know. 🙂 I can only control me.

    I absolutely support and value melee contributions, and those who achieve great teamwork through positioning, awareness, planning, etc.. I think we have a lot of good army stuff going, so that’s not my direct focus. Time, etc., as you say.

    • Tibbie Crosier

      I don’t doubt your responsiveness, Dante. I acknowledge that you’re responsible only for yourself. Unfortunately, I’ve been frustrated with at least one of the MoDs (and a few White Scarves) up here.

      • Dante di Pietro

        Since I can’t do much about someone else, feel free to shoot questions about fencing stuff my way. I may not have the answers, but I probably know who does.

        If it’s any consolation, I know you’ve made an excellent impression on the Queen and some Roses this reign.:)

  • Tibbie Crosier

    After re-reading your post, I want to ask: how will you carry out your goals of getting newer fencers involved in the Kingdom and connecting them with the Crown?

    I appreciate your focus on guiding fencers in the way of service. That’s the only goal that seems somewhat new for you, although it seems important to the MoDs in general. I would add that people can be guided into service at different levels. Serving a barony or shire is valuable training for kingdom-level service later, and is also valuable in itself.

    I’m still skeptical that the peer-associate model will take root in Atlantian rapier, because of our collective-teaching model, our emphasis on fighters directing their own learning and progress, and the limited time and attention that Atlantian MoDs and WSs have available for mentoring people.

    But, our current Academie model seems to work OK in terms of encouraging service. Why would we need a different model of teaching service? I don’t understand that part of your argument.

    • In terms of getting people involved, that really depends on the person and the reign.

      I don’t personally see a meaningful distinction between taking on baronial jobs versus kingdom ones. The baronies ARE the kingdom, after all, and have far more opportunities readily available. Crowns can be from 400 miles away, but you always live locally.

      The peer-associate model will happen for those who want it to happen and will work best in that model. I was never an apprentice and am a Laurel, but that’s not the best path for everyone. Plenty of people wander and/or stall without direct guidance. Let me ask you: do you feel especially benefited by the “collective-teaching model,” as you call it?

      And, while “OK” seems like a low goal to shoot for, I am talking about much more than service. I am talking about citizenship, and all of the game enhancing things that go with it. It isn’t service, per se, to hide your gear behind a tent, but it’s good citizenship to do so. It’s not service to use titles and to hide your soda can, but it’s an enhancement– citizenship. Service is only a facet of the total package.

      • Tibbie Crosier

        Dante, I haven’t benefited from the collective teaching model; I’ve suffered from it. I’ve certainly “wandered and stalled.” I’ve made it clear over the years that I would like to be a personal student or cadet. I would love to have structured, personalized regular teaching and coaching. However, the senior fighters around me don’t seem to have the time or interest, or I don’t connect with them in the right way. Also, I’m an introvert and I don’t show potential for being a star on the rapier field.

        However, it doesn’t matter what *I* think about the collective-teaching model. It’s Atlantian culture, and that culture can be changed only if people at the top want it to change. The peer-associate model will happen in rapier only if the peers *want* to take associates.

        Further, I understand and agree about the “citizenship,” and I’ve tried to work on that by myself and by studying other people’s examples, both positive and negative. However, although I can practice citizenship, I’m not in a high-enough position to set an example for others.

        • Dante di Pietro

          Though it has many additional benefits, I think we all suffer for it, to one degree or another. I lucked out.

          Our general geography remains a tough hurdle to clear; at some point we’re limited by driving distance. That’s part of why I recruited for the Di Pietro School of Defense from several different states and why we have degrees of attachment/affiliation. Sometimes stuff just isn’t right for people, and alternatives are good to have.

  • miguel

    To address your 4 points with my own limited yet unique insight.

    1. Teaching fencers to fight well- this is something that I think is lacking in many SCA fighter practices on both the rapier and heavy side. We as a community need (and especially as teachers) require constant observation of students and ourselves to reach be the most effective teachers possible. Pedagogy requires practice (as I am sure Dante you know all to well) and it don’t think it is outside the realm of reason-ability or practicality to have peer level (or people who show peer like qualities) to occasionally get together and work on how they teach (since so much of their normal practice time is focused on others). The largest flaw I see with this method is it removes the “Everyone is equal” as a peer as there will be people who are more skilled and those that aren’t, will need to be willing to listen.

    2.Get new fencers involved- this one is hard for me as I personally am not super involved due to mundane requirements, yet I can relate a conversation I had with Connor on this when I was still relatively new to the SCA. The take home message was “you love coming to events and fighting in tourneys and melee right? Well those don’t happen without a retinue of people making them happen. So why not take some time and bring a smile to someone else face, and not be such a selfish asshole teenage (the last bit I added but you get the gist) Within that same vein, before the MOD was more than a thought I never felt like there wasn’t someone in the SCA that didn’t have my backand was pushing me to get more involved. This was important to me when I began to get involved as I knew if I made a mistake their was a proverbial safety net. How many times have you heard on the side of a list “Ohh he or she is one of (insert teacher) students”. White scarfs (at least since I’ve been in) have always taken people under their wings (some more willingly than others), now with the MOD they can do it in a more formal manner, but that quality was already there.
    1
    3.I see the third one as a two way street. I am willing to play the SCA game, but have always has an issue with the idea of the crowns. I don’t give my respect away, it needs to be earned. That being said there are lots of people who aren’t anti=establishment anti- authoritarian assholes like me that accept and even enjoy the crowns and associate shenanigans. I think as a community we need to pick this fight carefully, wait for the right reigns and establish precedents that carry over. I know here in GA I have been discussing fervently ridding ourselves of “SCA time”(since it only exists because we let it, if we kept hard deadlines that weren’t met and there were consequences for missing them then this would go away) and having martial activities at events staggered so multiple cross over participants (including the royalty) can participate. I think this is by far the best way to promote fencing to the crowns and crowns to fencing.

    4. This is the most important part to me. Shared experiences are the best way to meet all of the above criteria. for example “you remember that grueling day of training, man that was tough but it made this event way easier” , or “OMG I went to that party with the royalty as a retainer and it was so awesome and I met so many people I had previously never met” these memories are important. They are why I put up with the crap that sometimes finds its way to my door step via the SCA. I think this boils down to what stimuli, positive or negative, should be used on a person and this is person specific. I respond best to negative stimuli, I hate losing (not being beaten, but losing) its what drives to be better. As a result I put a great deal of emphasis on my performance in tourneys and melees, when I lose I get upset. There is no reason to chastise a fighter who gets REASONABLY upset when they lose, the current rule of “you can’t get upset that is bad sportsmanship” or the reverse of “you can’t be excited about winning because it make your opponent feel bad” are childish and silly. We are all adults on the field, if your fragile psyche can’t take some negative feelings then you need to fins a different hobby. It put all the focus on your opponent’s feelings and not the fighter who is distressed, and to be somewhat frank, is none of my concern. (the obvious caveat here is that REASONABLE is vague an open to interpretation, but I think we can almost all agree what is out side the realm of reasonable)

    Over all this is a super well throughout an interesting post and it shows your commitment to actively becoming a better peer and a better fencer. There are many hurdles in fencing and much anxiety, but none so much (at least for me) of having a student and that is why I see MODs (and WS) as they are in my mind (and when I describe them to non-Scadians) blackbelts. A black belt (a real earned one that is) no longer focuses on themselves, it isn’t about them anymore. It is about the new student and the preservation of the art. I may or may not ever attain my MOD. Yet, I do know this, I will act like a peer, I will fight like a peer, I will teach like a peer, I will BE a peer.

    • Tibbie Crosier

      Miguel, thank you. Your perspective is interesting. I have a few responses to you.

      Point no. 3. I understand that you don’t want to give respect away. However, try to think of whether the Crowns do or have done something in particular that you think deserves your respect. For example, there have been at least a couple of kings in my kingdom who had controversial reputations. I found I could respect one of them for the fact that he still fought at an extremely high level at an age when most other knights had long retired from Crown tournaments. Another I respected because he chose the welfare of the kingdom populace over his loyalties to a popular brother Duke.

      Point no. 4. I agree that it’s fine to show pleasure in winning or disappointment in losing. However, this is more polite to do off the field. Make your opponent feel good about the outcome, too. Thank him or her and compliment the person in some way, whether you won or lost. Tell him or her whether you enjoyed the fight, whether you saw something good in his fighting, whether you saw something that could be improved.

      • miguel

        I have slowly become more accepting of crowns the more and more I have gotten to know them, plus it is part of the game and I am willing to accept that.

        As far as your comment on 4. I feel that I am not allowed to take it off the field. While I do agree that you need to treat your opponent with respect, I don’t feel their emotional well being is my responsibility. They entered the list knowing that one of us would leave victorious and the other defeated. My emotional state is often tied to my fighting, and I like it that way, it drives me to fight my best fight. That being said I wholly agree that their is a line of reasonability. The fencer who shouts with exuberance after getting a touch on a beginner is a dick, but if it was an especially tough fight or you beat an opponent that has long bested you, where is the harm in getting excited in you success?

        The prompt for my response to 4 has been several occasions where I was in a bout and I lost, clean and clear (or sometimes not as clean and clear) and when it was done the marshal asked their typical question “Are you satisfied with the conduct of the bout”, my knee jerk reaction is almost always “Heck no I freaking lost and that upsets me” but I respond “yes”, because even when I have responded otherwise there is no change in the end result (Actually most opponents and marshals are taken aback back you answering anything other than “yes”). At that point the question is no longer a question of what occurred in the fight but personal honor. I’m not going to shame myself (weather or not I thought I won or otherwise) by confronting someone in front of the entire community. So in these occurrence I am upset (either rightfully or not rightfully so), and I have a bunch of emotions running through my head, that is not the time to have a logical discussion and analyze what happened. So I remove myself from the situation, and take some time for myself to cool my whirlwind of thoughts, and make a sense of what just happened. On several occasions I have had to do just this, and it has later come back to me that I was seen “Skulking” off the field, and that I had “Bad sportsmanship, because I couldn’t leave everything on the field”. I don’t think that it is unreasonable to need some time especially after losing an especially crucial fight.

        • Dante di Pietro

          The “conduct” is a rules question. It’s asking if you believe they were fair and didn’t cheat. Saying “no” means you think they did something wrong, not that you’re unhappy you lost.

          As to the other stuff, I think we are all responsible for the well being of the event. If I get mad and throw my mask, I’ve made the event uncomfortable for everyone else. I’ve been selfish.

        • Tibbie Crosier

          Miguel, are you talking about situations in which you thought your opponent cheated? Public confrontation in the middle of the list field probably isn’t appropriate, but you *should* talk to a marshal as soon as possible after the fight, with your opponent there if possible. Get your complaints recorded. If the marshal won’t document the complaint, document it yourself and send it to the RMiC, then up the chain if needed. Or, go to a senior fighter you trust and seek advice on handling the incident.

          • miguel

            disregarding the fact whether I felt I was cheated or not, is not really the issue. The issue is that I am upset because I lost, and I shouldn’t be penalized for needing a moment to clear my head. As I agree with Dante that throwing my mask can ruin other peoples time, and that is a jerk move. Yet, should I be rebuked for quietly going off and clearing my lead/ focusing my thoughts? The root of this issue I guess is that I think the line of what is considered “reasonable” in our community is skewed to a point where I think it does more damage than good.

          • Ruairc

            Have you ever calibrated with someone, and your “lightest I give” is “too hard”?

            The SCA’s tolerance for displays of frustration sometimes seems roughly on par, and with similar ramifications.

            Yes, we should strive to accept defeat with decorum and grace. If we care a lot, it will be difficult, but this fact only ennobles our honest attempts.

            It is up to the leadership to carefully distinguish, by their words and actions, “inappropriate behavior is not okay” from “caring is not okay”. Poor management will send the message that the emotional attachment associated with hunger is unacceptable, and by extension, that hunger is not desirable or welcome.

    • Gawin

      1) “The largest flaw I see with this method is it removes the “Everyone is equal” as a peer as there will be people who are more skilled and those that aren’t, will need to be willing to listen.”

      The “pretending everybody is equal” thing is, in reality, a characteristic of a dysfunctional team and it’s one of the geek social fallacies that I think does the most damage. Within the SCA, I don’t generally see this attitude in the Chivalry, but it’s pretty rampant on the rapier field, and the MoDs would do well to try to eliminate it. Productive groups recognize utilize the differences in expertise and skills between members in order to achieve their goals. This is especially true of groups of people who have big egos. Mundanely, everybody that I work with has a Ph.D. and several *also* have an M.D. However, we each have our own strengths and weaknesses and the fact that we overtly acknowledge these things is super-important to allowing all of the various egos to work together. If we were to instead pretend that everybody was equal, we would at best end up assigning people tasks for which they are poorly suited (which would make things take longer if they got accomplished at all) and at worst, all tasks would simply turn into a pissing contest because everybody would feel the need to defend “their turf.”

      3) I’d recommend thinking about it another way. Going through the motions is part of the game that you are playing. Your personal respect isn’t strictly relevant because you’ve chosen to play the game and likewise. Whether or not you like the particular monarchs, following the “rules” of the game is something you do out of respect for the group as a whole.

      4) Humans are social creatures and so shame is likely one of the most powerful and destructive emotions that we can experience. Shame is the reason that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death and shame is the reason that high school is so awful. Indeed, the entire creation of “politeness” is rooted in helping others to save face in order to avoid shame because (ironically), the experience of shame historically had deadly consequences, namely dueling. Shame is probably the easiest way to provoke someone to anger and violence because unlike fear, the root cause of shame is abstract, intangible, and frequently cannot be countered directly.

      Because of all of this, we humans have developed a number of self-delusional defense mechanisms that allow us to avoid feeling shame. That being said, the reason that people respond negatively to (other) fencers expressing their emotions following a victory or a loss is that they are employing one of these defense mechanisms. You see, it sucks less to lose something that you don’t care about than it does to lose when you’ve worked really hard. However, the gain from winning after working hard vs. winning without effort is marginal. As a result, many fencers will shield themselves from embarrassment/shame by adopting the attitude that fencing isn’t something they care about and as a result, winning or losing isn’t important. For those fencers, emotional responses to wins or losses are illogical, indicating that the (other) fencer is emotional/childish/a braggart/etc or, perhaps worse, the (other) fencer’s display of caring will cause them to feel shame (because they realize that they *should* care and that they lost due to their own personal failing rather than a lack of interest). In the latter case, they will frequently lash-out with anger and/or build a strong negative opinion of that (other) fencer (because they made them feel bad).

      Tibbie is certainly correct, that saving those emotional responses until you are off the field is “polite,” but it is worth pointing out that the purpose of politeness is to allow others to maintain their own personal self-delusions (so that we can avoid sword-fights :-P).

      As far as fixing this attitude, well, it’s a trap. The unfortunate reality is that the direct approach, namely pointing out the self-delusion, will result in the individual feeling shame (so you’re a mean person who made them feel bad). Similarly, just beating them all the time is likely to result in them writing you off as someone who “cares too much” and “tries too hard.” Even worse, they’re also likely to engage in a great deal of confirmation bias meaning that any win against you will be “proof” that you’re not that good, regardless of whether you win 99% of your fights against them.

      Sadly, there’s not much that we can do in order to correct such defense mechanisms once they’re created (well, professional therapy…), so instead it’s important that we as fencing instructors focus on preventing their formation in the first place.

      • Tibbie Crosier

        Gawin, “no. 4” in your response is interesting. Because of where I play (northern Atlantia), I haven’t seen these attitudes. Fighters here are intensely competitive but also fairly gracious. (That’s where I’ve learned the responses I suggested above.) The more common response of people here ashamed of their fencing is to not fight in tournaments, or drop out of rapier. Perhaps the weeding out of weak fighters is a good thing, but then the rapier community may lose out on those people’s other talents, which they take elsewhere in the SCA, or out of the SCA altogether.

        • Dante di Pietro

          Just for clarity, I don’t think anything we do is *especially* competitive. We value friendship more than victory; if we were a truly competitive sport I wouldn’t care if my opponent felt bad afterward. Here, I don’t even want to cause *physical* pain if I can avoid it.

          • miguel

            Should we not try to change the mentality in the SCA that Dante mentions, ie push competitiveness (specifically on the field) and promote friendship, off the field. I also want to make it clear that I do not want people to be impolite on the field, I just don’t want to be chastised by the community for caring about my performance in this SPORT. Also Tibbie I totally get where you are coming from, but if I may or may not remember correctly you are in a group of highly skilled individuals that are seen very highly in the rapier community but is that a result of their position in the community, or their personalities or …..?

          • Tibbie Crosier

            Miguel, I’m afraid I don’t understand your post. What are you asking about the individuals I play with? (In my own case, I’m a very low skilled individual with no status in the rapier community.)

          • miguel

            My point there was it is easy for people who have reached an upper level in our community to lose because they have already made their name for themselves, so of course they are not going to put as much weight in their wins and losses. While as a fighter who has trained past the point of beginner and it trying to make a name for themselves in the community puts more stake in their win/loss record. I hope I’m not sounding combative as it is not my intention.

          • Tibbie Crosier

            Miguel, I’m afraid you are quite wrong about it being “easy” for top-level fighters in northern Atlantia to lose (unless they’re quasi-retired fighters). You’re speaking of Dante, Dominyk, Celric, Caitilin, Brian, Bumi, Alessandro, Alric, etc. Even Connor is competitive, just not so overtly.

            In your other post, in regard to what is considered “reasonable,” are you referring to your current kingdom? I don’t believe I’ve seen Atlantians faulted for going off the field to clear their heads.

            Have you talked to senior fighters in Gleann Abhann about your concerns? It’s also possible that if you individually have developed a reputation as a hothead, deserved or not, then people will see brashness as your default setting and not give you the benefit of the doubt. They might even think they’re helping you by counseling you. Perhaps one of your personal goals should be “sprezzatura,” in which you fight with mental and physical intensity while showing emotional calmness (if I understand the term correctly).

          • Dante di Pietro

            There’s some truth to it. It’s really not a big deal if I lose a fight in terms of my overall renown: I’m a proven commodity and have enough of a resume in my favor that a bad day isn’t a big deal.

            When I was newer, having a bad day (like skipping lunch and crashing) might mean that the WS I just fought thinks I’m overrated at best and it might be 6-12 months before I see them again to set things right (true story).

            Trying to climb the renown ranks is grueling, physically and mentally.

          • Miguel Mono de Hierro

            Dante, that is exactly what I was referencing. Actually being in Gleann Abhann has made me care significantly less about winning or losing because no one down here really puts any stake in things (at least this has been my somewhat limited experience with tha rapier community down here). There are definitely pros and cons to both. I know when I first arrived her my attitude/ intenesity was a bit much for many of the people. I have since curbed that to fit into the group better. There is a great deal of credence to the idea that the seniors in the community dictate the “tone” of the community. I was having this conversation with wistric the other day concerning if thing are really going to change with the creation of the MOD. He believes it will, I hold a some what contrary view on that. I think like any social change we need to change attitudes and view points at the bottom before they change at the top.

        • Gawin

          I don’t mean to make it sound so dire, ultimately defense mechanisms such as the ones I wrote about above are the grease that keeps civilization functioning.

          However, there are plenty of people who downplay the importance of winning, tournaments, etc who are well-respected and in positions of “authority” within the fencing community, and I would argue that in many cases, this is an application of what I wrote in #4 OR an attempt to be “polite” in order to protect others from confronting those kinds of feelings.

          That being said, a huge part of avoiding such defense mechanisms is to focus on building a system for providing good, consistent fencing training. We need to get past the point where we put a sword into a newcomer’s hand, let them spar for a couple weeks, then enroll them into a major tournament because that approach causes people to avoid tournaments (which has a number of negative consequences for both social and skill progression) or stop fencing entirely because we’re putting them in situations where they’re ill-equipped to succeed.

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