I look forward to Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings. Really, I do. Tuesday evenings, after a long and often stressful day of office patients, I get to pull out my swords, attack with everything I’ve got and blow off the steam.
Tuesdays, Greg does some more intensive teaching. Mind you, it is 95 degrees, dress out in full gear, for 40-60 minutes. It is an intense workout and I am drenched from head to toe at the end of the session. But, at the end of these training sessions, covered in bruises, I feel amazing. It’s not that I enjoy the pain, but I’ve learned that each painful blow leaves a memorable lesson on what not to do. Much like life, you learn from the pain and the struggle. Though it isn’t always fun, it is in reality the fastest way I learn.
In medical school, the learning format was “see one, do one, teach one.”
You learn fast by closely watching . . . realizing that you will quickly be expected to perform that task proficiently, and then turn around and teach it to someone else.
Tiffini has been training with Greg for about two years. She started training with my daughter who has taken a break from sword fighting while serving a church mission in Missouri. I watched in awe, my wife and daughter become very skillful at this martial art. It inspired me and I started a little over six months ago.
You’ll notice in the video that my wife has a pretty wicked riposte – an attack made immediately after a parry of the opponent’s attack. I am still trying to figure out how to defend against this. I have the bruises over my legs and flanks to prove it.
What I truly enjoy, is that we are being trained to fight with both hands, single and double weapons and with rapiers, daggers, sabers, long swords, katanas, broad swords, shields and bucklers. We train like it is a real street fight and anything goes (with each other’s safety firmly in mind, of course). It is like I am reliving my 14 year old childhood at age 51.
This evening’s practice was just Tiffini and I with Greg. He worked with each of us, one-on-one, providing pointers and with some focus on thrusting and footwork. Then, Tiffini and I spared at the end. I guess you could call this “couples therapy” as well. I will tell you that this type of activity forces one to face and resolve their differences as a couple.
Over the years, I’ve struggled to find balance between the physical, spiritual and temporal aspects of life. I am deeply religious, but many spiritual mentors I’ve had were not balanced in the physical or temporal aspects of their lives. And, vice versa when it comes to those I admire physically and/or academically. Do I have all the answers to balance in life? No. What I do know is that balance in life is a myth, the pipe dream of self-help gurus selling a book or a course.
I’ve learned that you must stay concentrated long enough to work on your own negative states. Anyone can do anything they want if they concentrate enough on it. Your greatest contribution to humanity is your own self-realization. Martial arts force one to come face-to-face with this self-realization in all the aspects of your life. As you uplift yourself, focus energy, and re-direct states of pain, anger, and anxiety, you uplift everyone else around you. I’ve learned that you don’t pursue happiness. You pursue a lifestyle that results in happiness. That lifestyle must include aspects of the spiritual, physical and temporal. This blog is a journal, of sorts, to record that pursuit.
The last engagement of the evening ended when my sword thrust caught Tiffini just outside her chest protector, worn under her jacket. It caught her right on the 3-4th ribs at the upper aspect of her chest (a very sensitive area on a female – for those that are wondering). She was done for the evening.
I am amazed by my wife’s fortitude. Over the years, My wife and I have been active in running, swimming, triathlons, archery, aikito and cycling at various competitive levels. Sword fighting is probably the most intensive exercise in which I’ve ever participated. It is like playing high speed chess with your whole body. But, it is also a potentially painful martial art. Getting hit on unprotected skin with a steel sword leaves a mark, may lacerate the skin and can break bones. Most women, and many men, shy away from this type of potential pain. I’m learning that it takes a unique type of warrior mindset to continue this type of training.
Martial arts teach one that in life crawling is acceptable, falling is acceptable, failing is acceptable, puking is acceptable, crying is acceptable, and pain is acceptable. Quitting is not.
I am grateful to Greg and his willingness to teach and the patience it takes to share the amazing skills he has acquired in over half a century of fencing and sword fighting. He is a truly gifted soul.
I’ve posted some excerpts from our May 4, 2021, practice below. Enjoy.