Some nights are good, some are bad. A month or so ago I had a night where I didn’t land a single touch on any of my students. I got maybe a few double-kills when I screwed up, but that was about as good as I was going to do. Frustrating, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I train my students to be better than me at every step of the process, and they do well. I love it when they perform at their best, I do my utmost, and they nail me anyway. That’s a good feeling. It shows that they know my habits and have worked hard on their own skills.

It’s absolutely in me to get better. I have the experience and the knowledge to fight at as high as level as I want. Only my mind stops me from reaching the heights. I’m usually okay with that. But when you don’t land a single touch, it’s maybe time to bring it up another level. For me it means finding a new way to think about fights and fighting. I had to spend a little bit of time thinking about what was going through my mind when I fought, and how it was effecting my fight.

My primary concern when I was sparring was the safety and enjoyment of my partner. I am always concerned that I do not hurt my partner. Nothing we do is real, no matter how much you want to fantasize about making it realistic, so I do worry about hurting people. I’m more than capable of it. The enjoyment thing is also big. It sucks for me to take the wind out of someones sails. I know some people like it but I don’t. I know people expect it but I’m not a fan of it. I prefer to encourage growth and guide people. I’m not wrong. It is my preference. It’s part of who I am.

Regardless, those were the two factors mostly holding me back. I did a little reasoning with myself, and justified ramping things up a bit. With the logic in place, I had to find a way to develop a new habit in fighting. You can’t just think yourself into behaving different, you have to practice it with real results. Pre-fight rituals have always been big for me. I loved the feeling of putting on my gi, and tying on my belt. It was a moment of seperation from daily life, and I learned to let all my outside cares and concerns fade away as I dressed. Walking into the dojo completed the feeling. When I bowed in, I was in that world and that world alone.

That ritual doesn’t exist in our rapier world, so I’ve learned to do it for myself. My salute has become my mental switch that puts me into fighting mode. To change, I changed my salute. When I first decided to bring things up, I didn’t think about what to do. I just firmed up in my mind how I wanted to approach the fight as I walked on to the training floor…and then I looked down, and shook my sword hand and blade out. I shook out all the concerns and worries, all the fears and trepidation. Shook it all out. Then I lifted my sword up over my head as I took a deep breath, looked at my opponent, reminded myself that they were an opponent, and then breathed out, empty my thoughts completely, and swept my sword down and to the side before taking a guard.

Won ninety percent of my bouts that night.