Combat: Developing Confidence and Technique

 

Developing Confidence and Technique

by Lady Faelan


Alright, I’ll be honest and up- front here, this article is mostly for the girls. Guys, perhaps you can glean some insight as well, but on the whole I’m speaking to those of the feminine persuasion who muster up the courage to approach a bunch of loonies with swords to say, “whatcha doin’?”

I distinctly recall my first experience with a sword…I was in high school, holding a long foamy stick in my hands and facing a ridiculously tall opponent. What to do with this thing in my hands? The pointy end goes into the other man, right? I guess that wasn’t enough of a tutorial for me though, because I stood awkward and self-conscious as my adversary- who clearly DID know what to do with a sword- overwhelmed me in a matter of seconds…my poor legs were slashed to ribbons before it even dawned on me that maybe I could be putting that foamy stick to better use.

Alright, so I’ve got a competitive edge…I came back for more and got more limbs hacked off than I care to remember, got slaughtered fairly regularly, and, much to my dismay, got beat by someone who fought me left-handed while drinking a soda. Not exactly the greatest confidence booster, especially with a handful of guys standing around howling with laughter. It wasn’t cruel laughter, but still, it was humiliating! I was left to stew about that last bitter defeat for an entire week. I came back the next time ready and willing to pummel that fellow into the ground, and guess what? I won. Amazing.

Those times now are long gone for me. Oh certainly I get my butt whipped on many occasions, but never do I stand helpless and uncertain on the battlefield. Yet too often I see other women in similar situations, trying it out for the first time without the self-confidence or certainty to use their weapons in any suitable fashion. Many of the girls I’ve seen attend our practices seem to stand timid and weak, afraid or unsure of how to use whatever weapon happens to be in their hands at the time. Because I remember the feeling, I’m taking this opportunity now to pass on to you all what wisdom I’ve accumulated over my seven years as a fighter, so that perhaps your fighting experience will be that much more rewarding, and so that you can give all those fellows out there the beatings they so richly deserve. ^_~

See if this sounds familiar to you: you hesitate to spread your feet, preferring to keep them closer; you keep your hands and arms and elbows close to you, just in case you need to drop that sword and protect your face; you stand hunched over in an attempt to protect your vitals from whatever blow your opponent might be ready to deal you; when you go to attack it’s more like you’re trying to swat a fly so that you can bring your hands back in again; you slowly, experimentally extend your sword, trying somehow to hit someone else with it without getting within striking distance of their blade. Well, regardless of what your fighting experience has been so far, I’ve seen this reaction is many first-time women fighters. Many women overcome it, but some never leave it, and some just never come back to practice, which, to me, is the saddest thing of all.

Is it some feminine instinct that causes us to react this way? Are we accustomed to being the nurturing peace-makers? Do we feel intimidated and less capable or strong than the guys on the field? Is it that we’re less familiar than our male counterparts with the use of tools or even the full use of our bodies? Do we naturally have less confidence in fighting situations? I don’t know the answers to these questions, and I don’t care. If we have some natural inhibition then we have it. There’s nothing that can help the way you were born, but there is certainly something to be said for learning to break away from it when that inhibition becomes too, well, inhibiting. Reluctant to hit things or be hit? Too bad… you’re on a battlefield now with something big and (supposedly) sharp flying toward your limbs and torso. Holding back is not going to help you survive! And yes, admittedly, busting out of that timid shell can also make fighting just plain fun. Humans may not get much of a chance to use their body’s full range of motion in the course of a normal day, but we can certainly use it in an activity such as this, and let me just say, it’s downright liberating.

Now please understand, I don’t begrudge anyone, male or female, a few practices worth of timid fighting while you get a feel for the weapons and moves, but anyone who finds themselves in the same place after a few sessions could use a few pointers! So here they are, my tips to you, take ‘em or leave ‘em.

Stretch your Body

Let’s face it: our bodies don’t get a lot of strenuous use through the course of a normal day. Our muscles are only accustomed to limited, detailed motions, and rarely have to move very quickly. Any survival instincts beyond “fire = hot” that we might once have had have long since atrophied. For this reason, my first rule if you’re planning to go out and sword fight, is to stretch your body. Stretch every muscle you can think of before you fight. And while you’ re stretching, stretch in funny, crazy positions (Not only does it loosen you up, but it’ll help make you less self-conscious in the long run). Make your limbs move in ways they aren’t used to going on a day- to-day basis. For fighting you need to be able to move your arms and legs back and forth and around in some fairly bizarre manners. Get them used to it! Then they’re less likely to balk at such movement when you’re actually holding a sword. Lift your arms over your head, swing them in circles, do twists from the torso, pretend you’re swimming in front of you, ANYTHING to get them out of the rut they’re usually in. Your legs need attention too…stretch your muscles gently, but firmly by touching your toes, or sitting down and extending them, etc. Once you’ ve done that though, bounce up and down like a five year old on a trampoline. Skip through the grass. Do a funny dance. I don’t care, but one way or another get those legs working! You’ll need to be nimble and light on your feet to survive here, especially since the chances are that you’ll need to make the most of your natural speed when fighting people who have a longer reach than you do. Look at it this way, the sillier you look and feel doing these exercises, the better it probably is for breaking your body out of its shell. After all, if you can’t get beyond looking silly in front of people, then you’ve got no business dressing up and waving a sword around. ^_~

Stretch your Mind

Alright, you’ve stretched, now what? Now…for a bit of make-believe! Many of us need to step out of that day -to-day persona that we have, because on the whole that persona is NOT accustomed to fighting, and it will react with insecurity. You don’t have to be the master swordfighter to have confidence in yourself…this may sound crazy, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say…fake it. Pretend. Make believe. Come on, you’re a kick-ass warrior with a sword in your hand! A warrior doesn’t hold a sword limply and close to their body…that’ a reaction born of insecurity! Hold it out, point it at your opponent, stand, not stiff, but tall. Convey strength and surety even if it’s a surety that you don’t have at the moment. Already, regardless of your actual fighting skill or confidence, you’re in a better position to fight, and to learn from your fighting. With each fight, whether you win or lose, you’ll already have more reason to have that confidence and security. I’m not saying to fight with arrogance, since arrogance tends to irritate people, but I am saying that there’s no reason to fight with a self-defeating, “I don’t know what I’m doing” sort of attitude either. Fighting with no confidence in yourself almost guarantees you a loss every time. Put simply, fighting confidently will make you a better fighter, even if it’s a complete front. Fighting insecurely will only breed further insecurity. Be bold!

Fear Nothing

This rule is the hardest to follow…don’t be afraid. Of anything. Even the occasional grass stain. (Wretchedly hard to do at times, I know.) You can be cautious, certainly, for there are definitely dangers to fighting, but fear will blind you when you most need your head to be clear. Being afraid will cause you to hold back when you should go for it, will cause you to injure people by flailing wildly about, and will inhibit you in more ways than you know. Just remember, the people standing around and near you aren’t there to hurt you or judge you, and you’ve got no reason to fear them. And hey, if you’re unaccustomed to being hit and it freaks you out, guess what… you can ask them to hit a little lighter until you get used to it! There’s no shame in that at all, and any fighter worth his/her salt will happily accommodate you and perhaps even give you a helpful pointer or two. The entire reason you’re there is to learn and to have fun, and if you’re not doing one of those two things then something is wrong. Anyone preventing you from learning or enjoying your time there isn’t worth fighting.

So there you have it, stretch your body, stretch your mind, and fear nothing. Additionally, have faith in yourself and the people you’re fighting with, constantly work to improve yourself, and, above all, always enjoy what you’re doing. Following these few rules can really help boost your confidence as a fighter, can speed up the learning curve, and will help you really get the most out of your fighting experience. You don’t have to be a master of history, or special techniques, or even simple ones…lord knows I’m not. The only fundamentals you need to make it in this group is an ability to adapt, grow, and evolve. With these traits you can be sure that you’re always the best fighter you can be. Time, experience, and self-motivation will take care of the rest.

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

   

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