I like to use mantras. In its simplest form a mantra is an often repeated word, formula, or phrase. When something is very important to me I memorize statements to support it. I repeat these things often. I take time each morning to study. The last portion of that study is dedicated to fencing. This is what works best for me, but there are plenty of ways to use the technique.
I have several fencing mantras, in addition to my study time I repeat them to myself as I gear up on Friday nights. Each piece of gear I put on has an associated phrase to help me focus on better fencing or better leadership. All of my self talk in these situations is positive and focuses on what I can do rather than things I shouldn’t. I take this time each day and again at practice to build my confidence and affirm things that are important to me.
Building and maintaining this mentality has taken me quite a while. I’ve tried out several mantras and I’ve discovered that only things that relate to my true self have stayed in my thought processes. For example trying to insert false enthusiasm or unrealistic expectations or goals into my mantra process has only failed. I can’t say to myself, ‘I’m going to win every fight tonight.” because in reality I’m simply not going to win every fight.
Instead I use the mantra, “There is always more to learn.” This helps me cope better with loss and gives me a positive outlook on my next fight. Another mantra I have memorized is the definition of Honor. I use it as an internal measuring stick for my actions and interactions. I’ve shared with my apprentice the idea that every time she thinks ‘I can’t do this,’ to incorporate the word ‘yet’ at the end. Which is supposed to motivate her to keep trying until she can do it. These have helped me become a better fencer and a better person.
In our group we have mantra like things that we talk about all the time. They are the Four Levels of Importance. Safety. Honor. Attitude. Skill. A mantra is an often repeated word or phrase but unless what we are saying really means something to us they are useless.
The Four Levels of Importance have deep meanings, they are part of the core of our beliefs. They govern over us in a very real way. Each action we take, every interaction we have can fall under one of these core ideals. And they are not restricted merely to our fencing, they can be guides for our lives as well. These words we say multiple times each week at fencing, are like mantras to remind us of a deeper meaning.
I feel strongly about this topic and I am going to dedicate four journal entries, one to each of the Four Levels to share my thoughts about them. I hope others will find it helpful and that it can inspire introspection regarding our values. After all ‘There is always more to learn’