This is a surfer.
He's riding the biggest wave he can. He's beating the odds. He's out on a limb, and the only way home is to tame this monster and ride it back to shore. Swordplay ain't so different. Don't laught, it is
. At least the swordplay I prefer to indulge in is - it has to be a little scary or it just ain't worth it. Furthermore, even the biggest of waves isn't trying
to beat you. I am, and I suppose when sparring that makes us both the surfer and the wave.
I often look to surfing for inspiration to understand what people get out of the things that they do. Surfing is really rather popular, has a strongly defined culture all of it's own and seems to consume those that indulge in it. Why? If I could understand why then perhaps I could understand my own obsession to only think of swordplay day and night.
Surfing is always described in terms of the surfing. Heroically riding the biggest wave one dares, facing possible death or maiming to gain the exhiliration of beating the odds with only one's board and one's skill. Surfing is always described with reference to the surfing. A romantic ideal carefully edited to include only that moment of freedom.
But what about the waiting? The not
surfing? If I understand surfing correctly the majority of the time is spent waiting for that wave. Of course, you and I don't actually see
the waiting. This would make for a rather boring spectacle. But it's there and it must be as fulfulling as the surfing to attact those that indulge. Or perhaps at least, all the waiting must make that moment of surfing all the more vivid.
So, what are they doing during all this waiting? A surfer
once said he loved to surf off the coast of his home town because from far out to sea he could see where his life took place in one grand eyefull. It seems that from such a distance he could gain some perspective, like an astronaut in orbit he could grasp his whole world between finger and thumb. And a thought occured whilst I listened. Whilst out there on the sea when do such thoughts come to a surfer - where they are crashing towards home on the crest of a wave, or do they come slowly, in the waiting? I suspect the latter.
Where am I going with all this? Well, what about the not
swordfighting? What is swordplay all about between those few moments when one indulges in the pleasure of a real live opponent. It occured to me that my swordplay was also all waiting. Waiting for the next bout. Waiting for the next opponent. Waiting for the next victim. And while waiting, training. Is there anything in my training, my
waiting, that holds for me some of the pleasures of the fight? Is there anything in the solitude of driling that I find in the solitude of the fight inside my fencing mask?
I suppose it depends. It depends upon the drill. For most of my solo training is drilling, drilling drilling formal repertoire. Constraining one's movements to those that I am worst at, to those that I must improve. To confine oneself to the straightjacket of technique until one gets it right. This does not feel like bouting. For in bouting any premeditation is made on the spur of the moment. Forward planning is spontenous. If you've trained well it's your body that makes all the decisions whilst you are only along for the ride. Formal drilling feels nothing like this to me.
So I changed the drill. I assaulted a tree. At nice steady pace, but allowing my body to choose the repertoire, allowing the momentum of the weapon to lead me into the next posta and on into the next assault. An unpressured flow not through all the repertoire I know, but through all the repertoire I favour. You drive
cattle whilst you ride
a horse. This was not fighting, but to my surprise part of this felt like fighting, and it felt good.
Something to do for its own sake inbetween waves.