Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too little, too late

I'm getting worried.

Fencing, real fencing, is very close to passing from this world.

There are very, very few real fencing masters left.

There are plenty of coaches, and instructors, and people who believe they are teaching fencing.

But those who are able to pass on the knowledge, the theory- the art, science and spirit of the sword?

Damned few.

There are many reasons for this, ranging from lack of time, to lack of opportunity, and a variety of other things in between. I could write at length about any of them. The fact that people do not need to rely on the sword to defend themselves is a very good thing- but it means that very few ever do what is necessary to gain the skill to actually be able to do so.

So, you may ask, if people don't need the sword, then why does it matter if the skill and knowledge of it disappear?

Fair question.

It's not that I expect some sort of apocalypse, where people will suddenly find themselves needing to fend off attackers- although, the way things are going, that certainly could happen.

And it isn't that I think it's important to save the knowledge simply for the sake of saving it, for history, or some such. Although I could make an argument for that, too.

It is that as the foil is the training weapon for the sword, fencing itself is an excellent training method for so much else.

Self control, both physical and emotional.
An understanding of conflict, and the ability to manage it.
An appreciation of the truth of combat, of what it is like to face death, and to be able to cause it, so as to avoid the necessity of doing either.
An understanding that some laws can't be broken, that who you are, what you have, who you know, or what you say does not matter.
An understanding that it is not what you meant to do, but what you actually do that counts.
Likewise, the understanding that it is what your opponent actually does that matters, not what they intended to do, or might do in the future.

It is easy to mouth these concepts and give lip service to them. Most people know what is right- they just don't do it if it is difficult.

It is difficult to put your body where your mouth is, so to speak, and to put in the mental and physical labor and effort required to really know these things. To live them. To control not only your thoughts- or absence of thought- but your emotions, actions and reactions, to the level of reflexes.

If there ever was a time that the world needs people able to do this, it is now. We live in a time of madmen, when those in power routinely send OTHERS to risk their lives, to kill other people, for reasons that are largely about power and money and most of all, greed.

Most people, whether anyone wants to admit it or not, live at the level of sheep. Living how they are expected to live, doing what they are told, keeping their mouths shut, and going along to get along because they perceive anything else as too dangerous, too "weird," or too something else undesirable to be able to step out of their perceived safe little worlds to take action. Shakespeare's Hamlet was written how long ago, and we still have the same damned problem?

Fencing is not a sport.
It is not a game.
It is not a recreational pastime.

If it was, I wouldn't give a damn what happens to it. It wouldn't matter. There are billions of games to play.

But it may well be one of the only accessible ways left for people to learn some vitally important things for the very survival of any real "civilization."

It is a shame that almost no one recognizes or believes that. Certainly not enough to keep it around for very much longer at all.

All of us who care will do everything in our power, for as long as we can, I'm sure.

I don't believe it will be enough.

Me, cynical??

Go ahead.
Prove me wrong.
I'd be delighted.

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