Going into the Four Levels of Importance lesson, remember that it’s a conversation. A discussion and exploration of the four principles we hold most dear in the Order of the Rose. At first glance, you may feel disappointed about discussing fencing instead of going out and fighting, but fencing is steeped in philosophy and mentality that shouldn’t be ignored. You might be surprised how a study of Safety, Honor, Attitude, and Skill can greatly impact your own fencing experience. It is exciting to rally around principles that are bigger than ourselves and every person you talk to will have their own understanding and unique experiences that have taught them about the Four Levels of Importance.
First and foremost, we expect everyone to be safe. Period Fencing is a contact sport, and most fencers will take home a token bruise now and then. However, if all safety requirements are met, we are confident that we can all engage in combat and avoid any major injuries. This should be your top priority. Consider the following when it comes to safety.
- Follow the Safety Rules: The basic safety rules are designed to keep us all safe. Take care not to do anything stupid or dangerous and most situations won’t be a concern. In the event that something does come up, don’t be afraid to call a Hold and stop fighting to address the situation.
- Use the Gear Properly: Whenever you fence, you should be completely geared up. But going one step further, each piece of gear should be used properly. Our swords are designed to bend when thurst and making strikes, but aren’t designed for constant hacking and slashing. Taking care of how we use are equipment can keep us all safe.
- Learn Safe Fighting Technique: The fighting techniques we teach are designed to make every fight as safe as possible. Though we use the term “kill” frequently, we are not really trying to “kill” each other. Fencing is more of a game of tag, and you will learn how to stab, cut, and skewer safely. As you learn new and exciting skills, pay attention to how you can perform these techniques safely.
- Be Considerate: As you fight, consider what your opponent’s experience might be as they fight you. Do your actions and techniques make them feel safe? Part of Safety is doing our part to make the group a safe place and a refuge for everyone. Our words and deeds can add or detract to that feeling of safety.
Your honor is what will define you as a fighter. That sense of doing what’s right and following the rules. We don’t usually have referees and there are no fancy methods of telling whether or not a shot was good or if you broke a rule. It is up to each individual fencer, to be honest, and hold themselves to a high standard of honor. Call and take any shot you believe to be good. Call and take any shot you aren’t sure of, and let your opponent dismiss the shot if it wasn’t. Don’t let your opponent take invalid shots you have given. Let yourself be honorable the first time you pick up a rapier, and you will be respected no matter what your skill level is.
- The Honor System: Without any fancy technology or technique to indicate who wins or loses a fight, we rely on the Honor System and being honest with what happens in a fight. There is honor to be found when we play by the rules and accept what other’s say. Even if someone calls you dead from across the field, it’s on your honor to take their word and it’s on their honor to be truthful.
- Chivalry: Similar to honor, there is a concept of chivalry as we fence. It’s the idea that we can choose to take the higher road, even if we don’t have to. An example of this would be to rotate a fight to allow your opponent to not have the sun in their eyes. There is nothing against the rules that would prevent you from using that to your advantage, but being chivalrous is giving up an advantage or opportunity to improve your opponent’s experience. It’s up to each of us to define our own sense of chivalry and to respect others when their’s might be different than ours.
In Order of the Rose, we are here to have fun. That is the whole reason we fence. Fencing can be frustrating at times because all of us want to become better fencers, win the fight, or kill that certain someone once in a while. If you find yourself getting discouraged, try readjusting your attitude and remember why we’re here. Being a member of Order of the Rose isn’t about winning. It’s about having a darn good time.
- Attitude is a Choice: Your own attitude is a choice only you can make. You can choose to focus on the positive or the negative throughout your fencing journey. It can be really tough at times to see the silver lining or your own progress, but we can promise that your fencing experience will improve as you focus on your successes rather than your failures. A classic example of this is remembering the ‘yet.’ When you get discouraged that you can’t do something or something is working, just add a little yet to change the meaning. “Man, I can’t seem to get this technique right!” becomes “Man, I can’t seem to get this technique right…yet!” Do you see how the meaning changes and you can choose the attitude you want to have?
- Contribute to Other’s Fun: You have the ability to add or detract from someone else’s fun. How you fight and interact with others can affect their experience at practice and so we encourage everyone to bolster each other up. Don’t go out to crush your enemy, but rather go out to have a good time with your friend. Just because we’re trying to “kill” each other doesn’t mean we can be laughing and smiling the whole time.
- Assume the Best Intention: There will be moments of frustration, or even anger, as you fight others. A melee might not have worked out, someone might have done something you don’t agree with, or you might have just received a really hard shot. Unfortunately, there is no way of preventing these moments entirely, so all we can do is assume the best intentions of our fellow fencers. In most cases, your opponent didn’t mean to hit you so hard. It was an accident. They may not have realized how their actions in a melee might affect your experience. You might even do something that could upset someone. Who knows? All we can do is forgive each other and trust that we’re all looking out for each as best we can.
Skill may be ranked last in the Four Levels of Importance, but it is still important enough to make the list. We train every week so that we might become great fencers. Take your lessons and the things you learn seriously. With practice and determination, you will improve your fencing skills. With that increased skill, you can feel more confident in dueling and melee fights, and your enjoyment in the Order of the Rose will grow. Remember that becoming a skillful fencer takes time and hard work. Don’t expect to pick up a sword and win every fight or make that your only goal. Work hard and revel in the things you learn over time.
- Take Your Time: The excitement of learning to fence will tempt you chase after each new technique and skill in quick succession. While your desire to soak everything in is admirable, it may not lead to results you want. Fencing takes time to learn and each new skill layers on the skills you’ve learned before. If you don’t take the time to develop a strong foundation, higher level skills may not come as easily or as procificiently as you’d like.
- Work with Others: One of the most wonderous aspects of fencing is how many other perspectives you can tap into. Every fencer understands things a little differently and will present new ideas and new techniques to you that you wouldn’t find on your own. Never hesistate to reach out to a fellow fencer and work with them. They might be able to help you with something you’re working on or maybe they’ll introduce you to something they are working on. The possibilities are endless.
- Focus on Your Progress: Fencing, unfortunately, is a very critical sport. There is a constant sense of comparision and self-assessment that can frustrating, or even demoralizing. But, rather than comparing yourself to others or even the vision of the fencer you hope to be, focus on the progress you’ve made. Compare yourself to what you knew on your first day, last year, or even last week. Overtime, you’ll see how the tiny improvements add up to massive progress.