Modern Chivalry

I fell flat on my ass, and I’m still not sure how that happened. Working with “Gunslinger” Van Humbeck, I’d opened with a clever lead. Single sword against sword and dagger, I chose to launch a thrust in terza to the inside, just next to his dagger. As my tip cleared his dagger, I snapped my wrist over to quarta as I extended into a passing step, going for the deep reach. As expected, he countered with rising thrust from his rapier up into my exposed face.

Having a lovely set of just-so curved quillons on my rapier, I snapped my wrist down to capture his sword, while maintaining my tip in high line to keep his dagger from stabbing in and finishing me off. The Gunslinger took a pivot step as a counter, disengaging to cut around my blade…but I kept the blade pressure on, leading him to briefly cross his sword and dagger. With that opening, I whipped my sword around for a dritto tondo at his head, as I stepped back and offline to create the opening I needed. In anticipation, or good reflexes, he’d already pulled his dagger back. My cut was parried, but I was in a better position for follow up attack.

Until I suddenly saw the ground rushing up at my face. Kept my rapier in hand, landed on hands and knees and immediately rolled onto my back, extending my rapier out for defense. I could hear the collected class suddenly turn into bloodthirsty savages, screaming at the Gunslinger to finish me off before I got to my feet. I expected him to. I was prepared to try and defend myself from my back…not the best position to fight from, but I do teach a martial art, not a sport. You have to keep an open mind.

Gunslinger would have none of that, though. He pulled back to a safe distance, crossing his blades low…still prepared to defend, but neutralizing his attack potential. I got my feet, we saluted, and fought on.

Chivalry is a complex issue. It’s been romanticized and villainized, it’s original context long forgotten until the word itself no longer represents anything more than a vague fog of concept. Knights no longer exist, and our idealized version of them likely only existed in reality for a few paragons, in a brief moment of time. I think it’s okay if we abandon the search for accurate chivalry to the academic wonks, and look to recreate a modern chivalry. What we chose to romanticize tells us nothing about history, but it tells everything about what we long for. Our ideals are in our dreams, they don’t belong to distant and lost cultures. They belong to us.

I might look to the samurai as being the epitome of warrior ideal, but that reflects none of the reality of the samurai…but it does reveal what it is in me that I long for. It reveals what I have created in my own mind, that I want to honour and aspire to be.

Chivalry, to me, extends from a correct practice of the four stoic virtues. It’s a way of expressing the virtue of justice, in particular. It’s the desire, in this case, to try for a real victory. It’s asking for the best your opponent can give you, and hoping that it gives you that chance to be the best you can be. One small facet of a complex ideal that deserves more attention from those who consider themselves martial artists.

 

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