Monday, 24 November 2008

Mental tiredness

Changing perceptions with responsibility
I have noticed that since I started to have some responsibility in my sword group, my appreciation of the fencing arts has changed, sometimes I am as enthusiastic as I was on day one, sometimes I never want to hold a sword again! I tend to fall somewhere along this gradient and as time has gone by and my experience in teaching slowly grows, I find the source of my enjoyment has changed and even if I don't get to train as much as I'd like, I get a major kick from leading classes.

But there's a hole in my training, dear Liza, dear Liza!
For a while now though I've felt as if this experience has become a little "top-heavy" mentally. Most of my swording experience seems to be learning the syllabus mentally rather than physically. As a class leader, I'm supposed to be au fait with the syllabus material at a fairly deep level. Fair enough, to be a good class leader this is necessary and important. However, it feels too one-sided because I'm not taking the opportunity to train for myself so that I also form a good physical knowlede of the syllabus, something which is also vital. Understanding something intellectually is fine, but with a physical art like fencing, there must also be physical training.

Sometimes fencing adds stress not relieves it
Maybe it's the time of the year, a time that I have a tendency to get a little depressed and thus a bit obsessive about the details, not just swording, but work, lack of work, etc. Sometimes, just sometimes, I tend to let all these things pile up to the point where the things I usually take pleasure in, become things to be endured, sword classes, seminars, our new flat, work, time spent with friends, and so on, even getting out of bed in the morning is a major obstacle. I wish everyone would just leave me alone and I could just spend my time quietly watching TV, reading or sleeping, because all social interaction just takes away what energy I have. I guess I also suffer a bit from what in Finnish is called "kaamos" or winter blues, or SAD syndrome.

Fencing stress coming to a head
This weekend will see another syllabus day take place in Helsinki, followed by the Christmas Party. I'm becoming less enthusiastic about it as it draws closer and begin to feel stressed, primarily by the thought that the purpose of the day is to see what we know, what progress we've made, and what aspects we need to train more. This stress is double-edged. Firstly, the standard of the Turku students is, in part, a direct result of classes I've led. I want Guy to know I'm doing my best as much as I want the Turku students to know they've made progress and still get a kick out of coming to training. So, rightly or wrongly, I feel responsible.
Secondly, and this links with the second paragraph of this post, I feel like I'm going to an exam totally unprepared. I'll have to stand in front of the class and physically try to demo stuff I know or at least am very familiar with intellectually, but have not actually trained for ages. I'm not looking forward to this, but I think I have enough experience and knowledge to carry it off. Then there is the one-on-one lesson with Guy or perhaps Ilkka, where we may do freeplay. This is the scariest thing for me because I'll be put under stress to see how I'll perform, and I haven't trained ANY free play preparation, let alone free play itself since last I met Guy in a freeplay lesson. So, I know that I have made no progress, at least in this aspect of sword training. My last freeplay lesson wasn't fun, it was very stressful for me, I didn't enjoy it at all, and only realised that I need to do more of this type of training, if I want to do better and realise some progress.

Disclaimer!: Freeplay IS fun!
For anyone reading this who thinks that freeplay is scary, it's very important to make one thing clear though: freeplay preparation and such training is not actually unpleasant per se, it is actually ok and even fun to experience some stress and test yourself because what is freeplay or even tournament bouting after all? The biggest positive lesson one takes away from freeplay is that you need to practice more, sometimes it might even be a specific technique or a sense of distance or often something you thought you "knew" or had simply taken for granted.

The answer can be "yes" and "no"
So, what is the solution? Is there one? I have to answer positively and say "yes". A general yes to the general problem, perhaps a specific yes to a specific problem. Then again, sometimes the answer will also be "no", and this is completely ok too. As in, do I have the solution now, today? In these cases, the answers may well be "no", but with a qualifier, "no today, now, but maybe yes later, tomorrow". There has to be some room for improvement, progress, change. I can feel like shit now, confused, pressured, useless, but I don't have to feel like this all the time.

No Beginner's Course for me next year
Regarding training, the solution is obvious. I need to take a step back from letting leading the beginner's course take over the rest of my training, get assistance from the rest of the more advanced students who, I'm sure are more than able and willing to help out. I will definitely NOT lead the next beginer's course and make way for the others to lead the classes. Even leading the advanced class takes less from me because I can train with them and they are at a level where they pretty much know what they have to do, if not they can make that "jump" most beginners could not. The group is smaller and I would not have to be as vigilant as with the beginners either.

Ok, rant over!
Ok, these were just some ides I had rolling around in my head for a while. Guess what? I'm just as screwed up as the next person! Surprised? Well, if you knew me, probably not. Don't worry though, most of my posts will be about swording. En garde!


  1. Hell, I could have written that! So these are really familiar feelings for me here, though I'm not in the deepest of valleys at the moment (we have snow here, so it brings a little light). The problem is that I don't have those advanced students here -yet. But there's light at the end of the tunnel! -Risto

  2. Oh yeah and the last time I did freeplay it was a blast, though I know exactly what you mean. :D

  3. Hi man. Thanks fr the comments. I was apprehensive about what sort of comments I'd get, if any, particularly as I wrote stuff that is personal. It helps to know that I'm not alone in feeling like this. Kev.

  4. Hey, acute (oh chronic) classleaderitis. I think we've all had it. The prospect of drudging through yet another beginner's course can be especially tiring. Even if it's just once per year.

    Always best if one can share the load and just concentrate more on own training and do the guiding on the side.

    I really think people should have more responsibility in their own training anyway, without someone watching over them all the time. Sure it might lead to slower progress and more uneven quality, but this is no factory anyway. And it's not going to affect them that much.

  5. Ya, we've all been there. These feelings seem to come and go in seasons. And it's during those seasons when sharing the responsibility with seniors and trusting them to do their part really helps, as it can leave more time for oneself to train - or to do something completely different! Read, sleep, watch telly or whatever :)

    And it's always been after these seasons, when my training enthusiasm has gone through the roof. Afterwards I feel refreshed, renewed and ready learn new things and pass the little I know onwards.

    Besides it is relieving to notice that things tend to go in right direction even if one's not looking after every detail oneself.