Picture this, you’re in a Bear Pit fight. You’re itching to fight, and you’re getting closer and closer to the front of the line, and you’re watching people fight. There are some good ones out there, and it’s pumping you up even more. You’re at the front of the line, and then…Oh crap. You see them. That one person you can never beat who is really good with this side, or has the craziest footwork, or whatever, and you know in your heart that’s who you’re fighting next. You start sweating, looking around anxiously at the other fights, pleading that you’ll be able to fight someone, ANYONE else, or that by some chance, that person will lose, and you’ll fight-
Yeah, I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Every single solitary individual person in the Order of the Rose has “that” person- the one (or likely several) people that no matter how often you try to fight them, change up your style, or use a different side weapon against them, always seem to get the one-up on you, and stab you in the head. Don’t believe me? Maybe not. You’re probably thinking, “Oh silly Lorcan, my nemesis doesn’t have anyone like that. DON’T THEY? Go ahead, ask them. Ask literally anyone. Doesn’t matter if they’re a Newcomer or Swordsman, we all have that person we groan about before fighting. I have personally had conversations with several members of the OotR that we have legitimate, honest-to-Sylvanus nightmares about fighting a certain nemesis, so DON’T GET ME STARTED.
So, why is all that? Why do we feel fear and dread/irritation when we need to fight that one person? Heck (pardon my language), it doesn’t even need to be one person. You could feel dread about picking up a sword and facing EVERYONE. Maybe you’re just a lovely person that wants to hang out with friends and have a good time, and don’t think you’re that great at fencing. Maybe you’re tired of stabbing at someone, only to have your sword pushed away time and time again by a Deathstick, Cloak, or Buckler. Maybe you’ve been in one too many melees where you get sniped in the head by a longsword, or were on the receiving end of an infuriatingly well-executed DFB. Or MAYBE, somebody is using two swords in perfect tandem, and you’re still trying to figure out how to use one sword (I poked myself in the eye with a quillion once, and that was great). I feel that. I literally feel phantom bruises.
Whatever the reason is, you’re feeling discouraged. You feel like, “Hey, maybe I’m not cut out for this fencing stuff. Everybody seems way better/confident than me.” You feel like, “I hate this gosh-darned, stupid, flipping, no good, terrible, awful, worthless, dagnabbed, blue-blazin’, hecking sword!! (Pardon my wanton use of profanity. I wanted to cover all the bases.) Or, you feel like, “I don’t know, I don’t think I’m doing that well. I’m probably just embarrassing myself, and being a burden to everyone else that’s just being nice to me. I should probably stop coming…”
STOP RIGHT THERE.
Look, it’s probably really hard to believe, but most, if not all, of us feel that way. This year, I’m serving as one of the OotR’s Sergeants. It’s a huge honor for me, and I really want to do my best. But, I too feel a lot of inferiority and nervousness about it. I still give some hard shots, I miss easy blocks, I still get my butt handed to me in a lot of fights, from everybody (and not just “those people”). There a lot of times where I’m not sure how or what to contribute to the group. Do I consider myself a pretty good fencer? Sure, I’ve worked hard to get better, and I’m glad that practice has paid off (as it will for you too). I still lose a lot. Even as a leader now, am I always sure how to interact with people, or how to be open and friendly with everyone? No. I don’t think I have absolutely miserable people skills, but sometimes I wonder if I really should be doing better, and be more welcoming to those of you that would like to have a fencing discussion, a friendly chat, or some well-intentioned bloodshed. It’s discouraging, as I’m sure the situation is for pretty much all of you.
There’s something in you that makes you feel bad about yourself, frustrated with your progress, or seeming lack of it. It could be that there’s somebody you can’t seem to beat (as this article was supposed to be about, and kind of branched out. Sorry.), maybe it’s just you worrying that you aren’t that good, or that you’re in a slump/rut, or you aren’t getting through the lessons like you want. You could feel socially inadequate or awkward, feeling like people only tolerate you instead of like you. It could be something else entirely! But…
Here, click this link to this website’s About page. Read the first section, Who Are We? What do you see there? “We’re super competitive people that only accept the best of the best. We want the best fencers, the most socially apt people, the most interesting, talented, cream-of-the-crop people. Anybody else, get lost!” Yeah right! we are “a community of friends and family, open to anyone who wants to learn without fear of ridicule or judgement. It is a safe haven for outcasts, vagabonds, and misfits who need a family like group of friends. As we grow, our goal is to continue to provide a refuge from the tumultuous world around us and to ensure that everyone is welcome around our fire; to be treated as equals.”
So, first of all, if you feel like you aren’t contributing to the group, and should stay home, please, stay with us. We’re taking you, drama and all, and sincerely being your friend. If you feel like you aren’t doing well in fencing, and can’t seem to beat “that person,” keep practicing. If you’re a Swordsman, look for a Master, or crazier yet, think of taking on an apprentice. Talk with your fellow fencers, and practice something new with them. Watch fights with someone else, and discuss what you see. Realize that whoever you think is better than you, they have that same issue with someone else. They probably walk into Bear Pits thinking “Please, don’t make me fight that person. I’m gonna get stabbed in the head.” Hey, it might even be you they’re thinking of.
You, by yourself, have a lot to contribute. Yeah, even little old you. Pick up that sword, and keep practicing, keep learning, keep stabbing your friends (safely). There are people in the group that would absolutely love to hear what you have to say, even if it’s not fencing related. For example, Ul’vade loves talking about B movies. Tilly is really talented with creative stuff (she made me a leather gorget once). Damian does DnD (I think). Shay has the most impressive collection of really cool board games I’ve ever seen (which is why you should check out the Gamer’s Guild). You’ve always got something to learn, chat about, practice, or whatever. You don’t need to be the best. You don’t even need to be proficient. Everyone is welcome around our fire.
You’re doing great, and you’re only gonna get greater.