I've been really enjoying training of late. I've been taking a (for me) pretty laid back approach to it. I train fairly hard and really enjoy looking at the details of what we do. I'll probably head to the syllabus day next weekend and although I may not learn anything new, I'm pretty sure I will get new insights into the material. As one of the more senior students, I have no doubt that we'll be pushed a bit mentally and physically, perhaps even do some freeplay. I used to not enjoy this type of stress and always performed pretty badly at freeplay prep and freeplay itself. My poor performance led to me worrying about it, which somehow turned the whole business into something a bit negative. This isn't a reflection on the excellent training we were given, more a view on how my own mental process goes. If things don't go well, in my mind, everything just goes to shit. I guess I am competitive after all.
However, I think I've finally got my head around not trying to be the "best" in this hobby. By this I don't mean trying to be the "best of the best" and other crap that sounds like US Marines-speak. Frankly, while possibly achievable, it's realistically improbable. I think I'll settle instead for being more competent and less competitive. Is this a cop out? Some might think so, particularly in light of the increasing interest in tournaments within the HEMA world, where despite claims that people take part to test their skills and improve their fencing, there is a clear desire, even need for some to win, win, WIN! Nothing wrong with this per se because hell, it's nice to take part and win things occasionally, but is someone who wins a longsword tournament really a representative of the "best" for that weapon? It may be so, but could it also be that they had trained specifically to be very good at tournaments, as well as being an all-round swordsman? There seems to be quite a lot of prestige and kudos for tournament winners. This is nothing new and is true for every type of competition ever held. After watching the tournaments at Swordfish for the past few years, I just sometimes wonder....Is the increase in interest in tournaments (with the attendant arguments about how different rule sets promote realism or reward buffalo-style fighters) less about being an acid test for one's skillset and really about gaining kudos from one's peers? I realise of course, that you do need to have some competitive spirit, or indeed "fighting" spirit to effectively compete against another, be it at the club level in free sparring or at a tournament. Ths is a necessary requirement. But is there a limit? Do we need to win at all costs? If the answer is yes, does this still encompass using proper historic technique, meisterhau, control and respect for the other competitior? If not, then IMO, someone who wins a tournament like this is not the best swordsman and ultimately, a poor representative for HEMA.
Just my two sents.