It’s Saturday night and I am lying on my bed (writing this post). My entire body aches. I’m trying to identify any major muscle groups that don’t hurt right now. Even my finger muscle hurt (in my forearms). What have I done to myself?
Today I had a sword lesson. Actually several.
Today’s sword lesson(s) kicked my hiney. Tomorrow I won’t be walking well. #totallyworthit
— Penny Higgins (@paleololigo) January 12, 2013
After spending several months searching, I finally found a sword instructor willing to teach me the longsword as well as the entire discipline of the western martial arts. Such instruction is hard to find, because most current sword instruction out there is primarily in sport fencing. I’m not interested in sport fencing; I don’t want to go to the Olympics. I want to know the entirety of the western martial arts, or historical European martial arts, or the knightly arts of swordplay. This includes the longsword as well as smallsword, rapier, saber, and foil fencing. But it’s a martial art, not a game of who can touch whom more often. There’s the mentality with it, and the rigorous discipline.
I found an instructor willing to teach me the longsword, but only after teaching me the more applicable skills of classical fencing. Everything I learn about classical fencing will parlay into the smallsword, then ultimately into the longsword. But no longsword until I master fencing and the smallsword.
I’ve accepted this. I have no argument. The longsword is a very specialized weapon. Certainly not something one might ever carry on one’s hip on a day-to-day basis. Fencing teaches a sound basis for all manner of swordplay. Necessary things like balance and footwork, and more fundamentally an awareness of where your body is as well as the point of your sword.
I have been completely delighted to begin the journey into swordcraft. The only challenge is that this instructor is two hours drive away from my home. While lessons and classes are conveniently on Saturday, it is still not practical to take a lesson each week. Instead, I make the trip once or twice a month, join in two consecutive classes (one beginning, one advanced), then take a private lesson. That’s two and a half hours of fencing fun. It makes the trip worthwhile, but it makes the body very, very weary.
Why, then, do I do this? That’s a lot of driving to beat the crap out of myself. And, as I’ve noted, I’m actually not learning exactly what I set out to learn in the first place. And seriously, what good is it to learn the sword anyway? At least Karate can be used in self-defense, but it’s not like I’m going to now start strolling down the street with a sword on my belt. Right? Is this not just a waste of time and money?
The reason is simple. It’s not just because of the sword. It’s not just the romance of it, or the coolness factor. In practicing swordplay, I’m learning a lot about myself. What am I actually capable of? What can’t I do, and how can I compensate (I’m 40, I don’t bend like I used to)? I’ve learned that I have a lot more strength than I thought. I’ve tapped into that endless energy that I recall from my youth.
These are powerful things. It helps me slog through a brutal week. It gives me the strength to say ‘no.’ Or to say ‘yes’ when it needs to be said. It makes me feel like I’m in control of my body and emotions like I have never felt before. Undoubtedly, these feelings will get better.
I’m sore today. And I’ll really hurt tomorrow. But it’s totally worth it. If I could do it every week, I would. I feel good about how things are going. I feel like I’m improving and developing. It’s a wonderful way to feel when you’re middle-aged and have been thinking like it’s too late to start something new.
Totally worth it, indeed!