When it comes to improving and progressing as a fencer, there are a lot of different ways to go about it. Coming to practice, finding a Master/Apprentice, reading the Woodland Watch, etc… Each method has merit and should be utilized at some point. In this Woodland Watch though, I wanted to discuss three common principles that are applicable to each of us, all the time. Those principles are Hard Work, Drive, and Talent.
I wanted to emphasize these three principles this week because we are nearing the end of the season. It’s this time that we begin to reflect on how far we’ve come and what we might want to accomplish/focus on next year. My goal with this Woodland Watch is to inspire hope and excitement in each of our progress and what lies before us all.
The Principle of Hard Work
Hard work is at the foundation of any athlete, and fencers are no exception to this. It follows that the more you put into something the more you’ll get out of it, but does hard work really pay off? Is it possible to see the results you want just from putting in hours and hours of training and effort? The answer is yes…eventually.
Ultimately, if you have a desire to put in the hard work (read here as your time, effort, focus, etc…), yes, it will pay off…eventually. There is no way to know exactly how much effort or how much time this will take. The reason for this is because the Principle of Hard Work manifests itself in small and noticeable improvements to your fencing along the way.
For example, by working hard you may notice that your endurance has improved, especially in longer fights or melees.
You may notice that your sword doesn’t feel so heavy anymore, and is easier to hit your target. You may be able to execute more and more of the elements of the technique you’ve been learning in lessons or from your Master. For example, you may see your opponents’ actions faster and clearer, while your own movements are sharper and more precise. Your footwork may be more efficient and your offhand is more accurate.
Hard work is about putting in the effort to earn little bits of improvement that will build upon each other, adding up eventually to your end goals. There is a reason the word “hard” is included in this principle, but that just means your results will be worth even more.
The Principle of Drive
Simply put, the Principle of Drive is a feeling that pushes someone to reach goals, then break them. It encourages them to advance beyond the expectations of their Masters, their peers, and themselves. It’s a passion for a sport that fuels a love for the game.
When you love what you do, when you have a drive to fence, it’s easy to find yourself going an extra mile to improve your technique. In fact, you don’t even need to have the most talent, the most natural ability, or even have fenced for very long to tap into this passion and love for the game.
The Principle of Drive manifests itself by the feeding the desire of even the most inexperienced of fencers to reach higher, do more, stay late, work harder, push their limits, and learn not just from practicing and training, but from watching and observing other fencers. Best of all, this Drive can be mimicked and nurtured until you have your own burning drive to motivate you.
If you want to nurture the Principle of Drive in your own fencing all it takes is a little extra effort. Show up early. Leave late. Watch fencing Youtube videos when you’re waiting at the bus stop or for a friend to pick you up. Review your own fights, especially those where you lost. Watch other fencers that you look up to and respect. Stay open to feedback from officers or peers. Ask for help. Take private lessons or find a Master. Do your homework on time so you do not skip a practice later because of it. Even the smallest extra effort beyond your standard routine and practice has the potential to improve your game and fuel a burning drive in your heart.
The Principle of Talent
Having natural talent is always helpful. Being naturally athletic or mentally tough is also a huge bonus, but it is not required to be a great fencer. I saved the Principle of Talent for last because it manifests itself when combined with the other two principles. Let’s take a look at a couple types of people:
A person with lots of talent but no drive: This person may likely never pursue their abilities, and as a result, not realize their talent to its fullest potential. They may procrastinate or lack the burning drive to push forward and embrace this natural talent with hard work.
A person with lots of drive but no talent: In some cases, this person may actually have more success in the long run. They will most likely work much harder and better than any other person in the group. They will dedicate all their time and energy to the pursuit of their drive. While it may not be something that comes easily or naturally, they will likely get over every hump and surpass every plateau at some point, and end up finding success.
A person with talent AND passion: This person will likely not have to work as hard as some of their counterparts, but they will likely be able to work smarter. Learning more quickly, adapting to changes, and improving seemingly overnight. When this natural, raw talent is combined with a passion for the sport, it’s inevitable that they will quickly rise in success.
Even with a lot of talent, if there is no drive or willingness to work hard, the Principle of Talent will never come to fruition. But if we are willing to search for the seeds of talent and develop a drive to nurture those talents with hard work, each of us can become great.
Whatever you find you have a knack for, whether it be blocks, footwork, tactics, leadership, etc… the Principle of Talent follows that with a burning drive and hard work, those knacks will grow into a notable talent that is unique to you.
Where Will You Focus?
I hope that these three principles can help each of us along our own fencing journey. Some of us may need to double down on our hard work, nurture a sense of drive, or discover a talent. It doesn’t matter, but I challenge you to find where your focus should be and find ways to implement that focus through the end of the season and into the next.