Does fighting fix everything?

12 May 2015 by gebhard, 1 Comment »

unbelts1

Growing up, I’m sure we all heard “fighting never solves anything”.  Yet, fighting is the staple of the SCA.  Our combat, for better or worse, sets our hobby apart from many others.

Is fighting bad? Nearly every martial art teaches the importance of not only understanding oneself, but also your environment and opponents. The study of a martial form becomes the forge that molds and shapes us, working out the impurities and turning us into something more.

This is quite a claim. Could it be true? If it was true, could it mean that fighting fixes everything?

Let’s take a moment to consider that.

When we choose to step onto the path of swordplay, we start out learning basic blows and basic blocks. Within a few years, this is likely enough to win a novice tournament. Sometime after that, the bottom of the box falls out.  The easy to implement advice is used up. A fighter must look inside themselves to find a way to continue improving, in order to get further down the path. Sure others can help, but inside a helm, it’s only you.

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.” – Sun Tzu

This is a critical part of any person’s life, self discovery. Before you can overcome an external challenge, you have to understand yourself and how you move, react and respond, and you need to understand how you see the fight. Through this process, you can see how to adjust and how to respond better in a given situation.

Does this mean you must redefine yourself to improve?

Maybe. Let’s say a fighter is energetic and quick.  This may mean opportunities get missed that would reveal themselves with a little more time, with slowing down. Being quick may be an advantage. Being too quick is a problem much like being too slow is a problem. And so, the quest for balance begins. These are best addressed by making small changes to nudge what we already do well into helping with what we aren’t doing as well, with the goal being to become centered or balanced in all things. However, we may each take a different course to get the center.

If you’re non-aggressive, this same process will teach you when it’s appropriate to be more assertive. If you’re overly assertive, this process will teach you when to use patience.

These are the attributes that make you… you. Being successful will mean using strengths well and improving on your weaknesses.

It’s a long dark chasm to go through: self discovery and refinement. Over time, with persistence, we can gain insight into other paths, even ones we do not favor ourselves.

This process helps in more areas than just whacking someone with a sword. Jobs and relationships also benefit from the understandings gained from self-study. Becoming a better swordsperson inevitably helps in the process of becoming a better person.

Are people on the path better than those who are not?

In short? No. One of the other advantages of combat is that when someone starts thinking too much of themselves, someone else will happily show them the errors in that line of thought.  Humility, too, is built into the process.

If so much is be gained from fighting, then why do so many believe nothing good comes of it?

There is a vast difference between fighting and violence. I think of it like this: what’s the difference between stepping on a bug while you’re walking down the street, and stomping on a bug you find in the street? Intent.

The intent when you’re on the field should never be to harm your opponent. If it is, then you need to spend time off the list.

Any time you’re in a helmet, you should be pursuing a good fight and a means to improve yourself. With these as your aims, there can be no doubt that fighting will fix everything.

 


Picture taken by: Dianimh Ban

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One Comment

  1. Ray Strobel says:

    These are good points. As a musician and one who avoided conflict for much of my life, much to my detriment, the last six years as a squire learning the marshal path has taught me so much on how to refine who I am and how I deal with all situations. I was told by one knight- “Fighting is a social interaction.” Plain and simple.

    Kieran MacRae, AEthelmearc

    MKA Ray

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