“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”
– Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings
Although Second Intent Fencing’s focus is on western martial arts, other martial traditions have wisdom to offer as well. Musashi’s words are a caution to the martial artist that ultimately your improvement comes from your own impetus. What you get out of it is directly related to what you put into it.
Fencing, like many martial arts, has much to offer. It develops physical fitness, stress relief, your ability to deal with pressure calmly, and confidence. Unlike team athletic activities, proficiency in the martial arts is an individual accomplishment. No one can do the work for you or carry you over the finish line to your goal. Success is up to you. Only by practicing frequently with thought and intent can you truly internalize many of the lessons that fencing offers.
Physical Fitness and Cultivation of Mind: If you apply yourself to the drills and footwork on a regular basis, you will eventually note increased flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and improved balance. Repetition of the movement is essential to building muscle memory and freeing your mind to worry about the strategy and tactics of a situation. If a fencer does not do this work, and is worried about how to execute a technique—instead of looking for the right opportunity to use it—she will find herself at a disadvantage against a better prepared opponent.
Calm: The fencing student that cultivates calm under pressure will go on to excel. There is stress in any kind of combat. When an opponent is trying to shove a metal point into your body before you can return the favor, the person who can think (not react, but think) most clearly by evaluating the situation and adjusting himself appropriately will come out on top. A calm fencer will move more efficiently, waste less effort, and can generally expect to end the combat in better shape than his opponent.
A state of calm in combat can be developed by various “hot-seat” drills, multiple opponent drills, and fencing more advanced students to face that kind of pressure repeatedly. You may find that, having learned to adapt to this kind of pressure in the ring, other stressful activities are easier as well. An angry customer often seems easier to deal with once you have spent an hour or two with multiple opponents trying to hit you with longswords.
Confidence and Decisiveness: Each moment in a fight involves choices, cost-benefit analysis, and, when the time is right, the ability to commit your full effort on a moment’s notice. Do this often, and you will find yourself gaining confidence in your judgment. After a successful day of mastering a new technique, making progress fixing a bad habit, or finally pulling one over on an opponent, you will find yourself walking a little taller.
All of these benefits, however, rest upon commitment to practice, putting yourself forward to try difficult new things, and above all, to thinking about what you are doing as you are doing it. I am not talking just about the “how,” but the “why.” We can and will teach you the proper way to hold your sword, lunge, and far more, but this is the “how.” It will mean very little if you don’t internalize why it is appropriate at a given moment, when you should do it, and which tool is right for the job at hand. This is the “why.”
Understanding the why in addition to the how boils down to the student’s effort, and differentiates the technically proficient from the true martial artist. The people who drill on their own, attend class regularly, and fence as many different opponents as possible will develop these talents, and quickly surpass those less motivated. Becca and I will do our best to be here to teach what we know, encourage your successes, help you work on weak points, and provide you with the tools to succeed. If you wish to reap the benefits that fencing can provide, all we ask is that you work hard, think hard, and ask questions.