I’m reminded today that it was eight years ago that I fought 500 passes in two hours.

I didn’t do it as a personal challenge.

I didn’t do it to prove a point.

I did it because my best friend had just died, and I needed to process my feelings.

You can sob your eyes out behind a fencing mask, wrench all the grief out of your heart, and pretend no one notices.

And despite all that rage, tears, and sorrow…you can still fight with all your heart.

And that’s why I chose to fight all those passes against everyone I could convince to show up and fight me. The lesson Yvonne taught me was that you always fight with all your heart in life. No matter how bleak and hard and pointless things seem…you fight.

Because fighting is joy. It’s happiness. It’s a dance we get to share with another human being, and it should make us both better for the experience when we are done. There is no other point to the fighting we do, or at least no greater point.

In the last eight years, my life has been in absolute turmoil. When I met Yvonne, my life was a rocket that seemed only to be going up. When she fought her second bout with cancer, and my life was feeling hard to me, she taught me not to be tough in the face of adversity, but to embrace it and find my own strength.

When she fought her third battle with cancer, my life was in freefall. She kept me focussed, kept reminding that as long as I lived, change was inevitable and good was as likely as bad. She taught me not to try and change or plan or hope for better, but instead to accept who I was and where I was, and accept that to be alive in the moment was the best possible thing.

After she died, my life crashed into ruin. Since then it’s been a gradual return to steadiness. There have been notable successes as well as failures, but I have never stopped growing as a person.

I am constantly using Yvonne’s lessons as a guide for my life. It’s very hard to accept yourself sometimes, to not plan to be better. If I am a better person tomorrow it will be because I accept who I am today, flaws and all. It will be because I accept where I am today for being the best place I can be, and appreciate it for all that it is worth.

Sometimes that means fighting to your absolute limit and beyond. Sometimes it means reaching deep inside and teaching people to survive the worst that can happen to them. Sometimes it means drinking a cup of coffee, looking out the window, and accepting that you aren’t leaving the couch today.

Today I’m helping teach a workshop on self-defense with two incredibly talented ladies.

When it’s over, I’m going to drink some whisky and toast Yvonne, because her and her lessons still live on in me and everything I teach my students.

Here’s to you, Yvonne. Thanks for all the fights, and for all that I have learned to enjoy in life.