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This is something I wrote some time ago, closer to the beginning of this journey. Every time I re-read it, it still rings true. I thought I'd share it in case it gives any of you- especially those of you who are masters- a chuckle or two.
Quick Guide to Becoming a Fencing Master's Apprentice:
Things I think anyone considering such a thing should know
1. It's a process, not an event.
2. If you think it's only about fencing, forget it.
3. It requires both commitment and change. Real change. It is not just the gaining of new skills, but the replacement of old unproductive thought patterns and habits. Changing how you see and relate to most everything and everyone. These changes will not necessarily be easy. And that's not only for you, but for other people in your life- they may find the changes difficult.
4. People are going to think you're nuts. As a rule, even those who most want to be supportive will only support you to a point- the limit of their understanding of what you're doing. To most people, fencing is a sport, an insignificant one at best, a game, and what you are doing is learning to be a coach. A coach, mind you, for a sport no one watches, participates in, or understands. At best, a marginalized activity, a part time thing, benefitting very few. So why do you care so much? And if you make any attempt to explain why, to get at the level of personal growth and where that leads you, they'll think you've gone right over the edge entirely, because the concept is not in their worldview, it's a bunch of hooey. (Are you sure this isn't a cult?)
5. It's about teaching, about learning. If you aren't enthusiastically interested in both of those things, this is not the opportunity for you.
6. The level of detail will astound you. Repeatedly. The sheer number of hours this is going to take is huge. We're talking years, not months. A long term commitment.
7. This has the potential to rearrange your entire life. In ways you may not expect. It will change your priorities, change how you relate to people, change what you think and do, change how you make decisions. It may well change your very values- or at least, accentuate them if yours are already compatible.
ps. This scares people. A lot. Do not underestimate this.
8. If you think you understand all this, and you still "agree" and you're rarin' to go, you've got a handle on it, this is the path for me, made my decision, yessir...
you're wrong. :-)
No matter how much you understand of it, no matter how much awareness you have of what is involved, no matter how ready you are for that, no matter how committed you are, you will still have moments of nearly-overwhelming mind-boggling eye-opening "what the fuck?" discovery of yet another level of possibility. It may delight you. It may astound you. It may temporarily (or permanently) overwhelm you with the feeling that you will never, ever, be able to do this. But you cannot possibly, right now, really understand what you are getting into because you simply do not have the ability to understand things that you can't yet imagine exist. You can't see around corners, or into the future.
Did I mention that this is not a smooth featureless landscape?
Perhaps the reason the process takes so long is that it takes years (what is the theoretical number, seven?) for your body to replace every cell- and that, in a nutshell, is the level of change you're attempting. Every cell. Every nerve. Every pre-existing pattern. Every instinct. Every "natural reaction." That level of growth and change. Becoming, literally, a different person.
It's not that it can't be done.
But it can't be done by someone attached to what they've known before, or know now. By someone resistant or reluctant to change. By someone who enters into this with any intention of withholding or being in any way- even the tiniest way- dishonest.
It is about exposing your own weaknesses, not hiding them. Admitting to difficulties, not avoiding them. Embracing responsibility. About understanding, not pretending.
Perhaps the simplest way of explaining is to use something my fencing master has said to me. Simple as it is, I only began to understand it in layers, as I met them, and I'm sure I have not reached the deepest one yet.
You must be willing to do whatever must be done to achieve your goal.
Further, you must be willing to sacrifice whatever must be sacrificed
to achieve your goal.
These are not lofty statements, intended to inspire. They are the literal truth, each word specifically chosen, and equally important. "Willing" is as important as "must." And you can't possibly predict what things these will be, in either direction. They are different for each person, bound into your very self, your life, your beliefs, your experiences. Some will seem small things. Easy enough to let go of. Some, your ego will fight you tooth and nail over.
There. That about sums it up. Ought to scare off any sensible person.
Interestingly, both none of it, and all of it, are directly related to fencing itself.