Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Be the change you want to see in the world

I decided I wanted to study foil, after all, some of my misconceptions having been rectified.

In addition to the appeal of the sword, itself, I found the environment of the classes to be something I very much enjoyed and appreciated. Good, honest, hard work. Respect and encouragement from the other students. Overall, a time and place set apart from the rest of the world, from the stress and everyday troubles I normally dealt with.

A place I could stop thinking, and just feel. Moving meditation, in a way.

Each class in the introductory series of classes has its own "personality." Certain topics are covered in very specific ways. I began to recognize some of the patterns.

The first class is the set up for all the rest. That's an important thing. Safety rules are laid out. Expectations communicated. Students are welcomed to the art, science and spirit of the sword.

One of the best thing about classes taught by our fencing master is that he often illustrates things by telling stories. And he's a great storyteller.

I remember one particular first class when he talked to everyone about what they were getting themselves into. He talked about the three musketeers. About honor. And about how if you want the world to be a certain way, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to make it that way. Sometimes, there won't be much you can do- but you must try. Sometimes- maybe always- it will cost you, but you still must act to create the good, to stand up for truth.

You can only affect those within your sphere of influence, which means there will be many things, many people, you can't reach. But those you can reach, you have a responsibility to. Those who can, must, because those who can't, can't. It is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak.

For some reason, that particular day, those thoughts really struck me, really hit me hard.

I had somehow found this place in the world where people treated each other with respect, where it was a safe place, emotionally and physically, to be, where no one was treated differently because of their age or size or sex or skin color. And I liked it.

While there may be little I can do to change the world at large, this, this fencing thing, this is something I think I might be able to contribute. Maybe I could help, somehow, by keeping alive the spirit of chivalry, by providing at least these students with an environment that is so seldom found elsewhere. I realized that these very people were the ones in my sphere of influence, the ones I therefore have an obligation to.

If I didn't do it, who would? Fencing, real fencing, is fast disappearing from the world, after having been a part of it for hundreds of years. There are things, important things, to be gained from its study that are likely disappearing as well.

I did not - do not- want this to be so.

So I did the only thing I could do.

I went to talk to him about wanting to teach, if he would help me learn how to do that.

Interestingly (though no longer surprisingly), he seemed already to have known I would do so, and was prepared for my questions, and invited me to start assisting him.

I had no idea, at the time, what I was getting myself into, how much effort and dedication it would take, or how profound the changes in myself would be. Not a clue.

That's probably a good thing.

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