Practice in a Nutshell
Type of Practice: Melee
The Students will get the opportunity to plan this practice during the first hour. Then we will play some melees!
Swordsmen if you don’t have anything to work on I have a challenge for you that involves a critical melee skill.
If you didn’t get your fees in last week please do so this week. Those fees are going towards fun activities and supplies for things like Woodland War.
August 27-28th. The epic conclusion of Cryptids!
There is likely nothing new I can add to the wealth of knowledge there is on Skill. There are thousands of TED talks on developing skills, and likely ten times that in articles and books. As near as I can tell they all come down to the same concept: if you want to get better at something, you have to do it.
So two stories and a final thought, that has taught me more about skill than anything else.
If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.
When I was young but old enough to know better, my family was remodeling something in the house that required the use of plaster and paint. The buckets used for application were rinsed out on a back patio, and once the water had dried, a fine white powder mess remained. Thinking to make a little extra cash I asked my dad for a chance to clean it up. He agreed, and I set to it with an old straw broom. It didn’t take long for me to realize the enormity of the task. I foolishly thought that I could rush it to completion by sweeping all the powder up into the air to let the wind take it away for me. This did not work. The powder went up in great white clouds covering me, the surrounding lawn, and trees, it might even have been visible from space, but no wind removed it. So I proceeded to try to make the air move. Right at the peak of my best tornado impression, my dad came walking around the corner. He rightly called me out with a sharp, “what are you doing!” I feebly mumbled out my explanation, which I instantly knew to be ridiculous. With remarkable restraint, my dad instructed me on how to do a job properly. I learned how to sweep, but in all his teaching that day, the phrase that stuck out to me more than anything was, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” With the implication that otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
The principle of Skill as we teach it in Order of the Rose applies to our fencing, and to our lives. Whatever you are doing, block/attack combos, baking, offhand defense, counting cashback to a customer, clearing a blade, mowing a lawn, talking to people, taping a tip, rat-catching, whatever, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
You have to want it like you want air.
Again when I was young but perhaps not old enough to know better, I went swimming with my cousins at an overflowing, derelict dam. It was great fun to slide down the smooth surface into the shallow river on one side. My cousins warned us not to go near the base of the dam on the other side, but I don’t recall any further explanation. I certainly experienced the reason for it though. While everyone was playing safely in the river, I explored a little too far towards the base of the dam and was sucked into a hole where the cold water was churning over and over. No one saw me, so no rescue was likely, and, being too little, I couldn’t get back out on my own.
This was my first experience with my mortality. I believed I was going to die. I remember being under the water so long that as I looked up towards the light the edges of my vision began to shrink into a dark circle. My lungs burned. The pressure on my head was immense. All I wanted was air! I scrambled, I kicked, I tore at the water. For no reason that I can discern, just as I was about to take a gulp of water into my oxygen-starved lungs, the current let me go, and I came popping out like a cork. No one noticed any of this drama, and for years I never talked about it. But one day a few years ago when I was in the midst of a great issue, and wanting to be better at something quite desperately, the memory of it came flooding back to me.
I had gone to my mom on a particularly irritating issue. One that required more skill than I had. Now my mom is a great listener. Unlike so many of us, she has no compulsion to insert herself, her opinions, her solutions into your situation. She just listens. She asks questions. She is genuinely interested, but she tends not to interfere. Particularly when you’re trying to solve something. So anytime she does interject, you can be sure it’s exceptionally important, and it behooves you to listen carefully. At the end of my tirade, she simply said, “you have to want it like you want air.”
I know what it means to want air, I’ve nearly died for it. And when she said that, I knew that the reason I wasn’t getting better at this particular skill was that I didn’t want it, enough. I wasn’t willing to fight for it like I was that day in the river when I was fighting for air. So I took her advice and pursued that skill like I wanted air. I’m happy to say it worked out.
This is the same with fencing. Do you really want to be better at dominating that center line? Do you really want to give more effective angled shots? Do you really want to have control of the fight through your footwork? You have to want it like you want air. You have to do what it takes to get out on the field. Does that mean going to bed early so you can be well-rested? Does it mean talking to your scary boss so you can be to fencing on time? Does it mean leaving the fun thing you’re doing a few minutes early so that you can make your lesson? It can look like staying late for pick up fights. It can mean being in a master-apprentice relationship. Maybe it means taking nearly three years to work on your blocks. If you want it, and struggle for it, like you want air, eventually it will work out. This applies to work, to school, and to relationships. Do you really want to be better at something? You have to want it like you want air.
Grit is the defining characteristic of success.
But it takes Grit. It takes courage and resolve, it takes strength of character. As Angela Lee Duckworth says ‘Grit is passion and perseverance in very long term goals.’ You should watch this video. What I’ll say is that success takes time and effort. It takes persistence through the ups and downs. It means that, while at times you may feel discouraged, you choose to keep going. If you stick to whatever skill you’re trying to obtain, eventually success will come.
If you want to get better at something, you have to do it.
Thanks for reading! See you Friday, and be SHASy.