Thursday, February 14, 2013

Improvement; Advancement; Growth

I've been training with Randy for months now.  I go in (usually) twice a week, grind my body into dust, pour beer on it after so it doesn't blow into the breeze, sleep, whimper softly upon awakening, and steel myself to do it again.  Three months with that small, close knit group.  Twice a week with Tyler, who is strong, and fast, and a long time student of Randy's; with Jordan who is a dear friend and introduced me to the master; with Kaja who is lithe and graceful; and Troy the wrathful pirate.  Good men and women.  Good partners.  But only fencing within the same pool of people who all fence in an approximation of the same style can stagnate.  No, that's a bad word.  I haven't stagnated with Randy, I've become strong and fast.  But more on that in a minute.  I suppose it would be better to say that I have trouble measuring myself against my fellow students, because we're all improving together, and at much the same speed.  I once heard Devon talking about advancement in Duello, and he said it wasn't a good idea to measure yourself against a fellow student, because they're not going to slow down and let you catch them to measure yourself.  I'm inclined to disagree.  No one worth fighting will ever stand still and be my control, but they're all worth measuring myself against.

To that end, I had most of a Friday night off last week, and decided to spend it at the Academie for fight night.  I fought for three glorious hours, and against people I remember fighting many times in the months leading up to November.  I fought the green cords, and found myself able to exert complete control over the measure of the fight.  I fought the blue cords and where I was once left confused and bewildered by the new adaptive plays they were taught, I had a few tricks of my own to throw against them.  I fought with a few of the red cords and while I'm not at their level yet, I move swiftly enough to fight them; I landed clean, solid blows against Mattheus and wasn't surprised by it.  I landed a number of blows on him that were less clean, and he on me.  The biggest change from the last time I fought him was that I wasn't afraid of combat with him any more.  I stepped into his measure without fear, but instead with hunger.  He and the other red cords.  They are the mark which I am measured against as a student, and for the first time, I feel as though I'm up to the task.

And then I fought Devon.  Where I was hungry and joyful while fighting Mattheus, my demeanor changed while fighting Devon.  Victory is the measure of my skills against the other students; the feedback I get is the measure of my skills from Devon.  My fighting was erratic, most of my cuts struck with the flat, and I was flaily.  "Chaotic" was the word that Devon used.  He agreed with my assessment that my control of measure had improved, but my control of the center line has fallen on the wayside.  The fight was humbling.  I've learned much, but there's still much in the manner of basics for me to improve.

I left for work that night exhausted.  But exhausted by three hours of combat.  I can last longer, fight harder, and move faster.  I'm better, stronger, I'm....

Oh god, I've become a Daft Punk song.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Interview with the Scrapper

In keeping with a previous post, I conducted my first interview.
On December 3rd, 2012.

The link to the interview is here.  I don't know if blogger will let me embed the file properly, so bear with me.  It's kind of a long listen.  I recommend a cup of coffee or tea, and I hope you'll join me as I explore interviewing.

I've been sitting on the interview for almost two months, pondering what to do with it.  I thought about direct transposition, and decided against it due to a lack of patience.  I thought about just putting the interview up with name, date, and particulars, but that felt rather lazy, like something would be necessarily missing from the experience.  For now I think my best course of action would be to post the audio file, and my thoughts and reflections on the content.  As a postscript, I will try to give a few thoughts on the process of the interview.
The interview began with an introduction, and a small bit of gushing over how cool Claire is.  I started the interview proper with a question about her background in the martial arts, and she suggested I amend that to "forms of movement" because her history in combat actually began with taking dance classes to try and make her less of a scrapper as a small child.  I didn't think much of that at the time, since I was still fairly new to Randy's classes.  Recently however, this has started to make a measure of sense.  I've been looking at the movements that I have to undertake in Randy's class, and asked myself why they're useful.  Personally I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone in class is going to wake up a year from now and realize they've been Miyagi'd, but I digress.  And since she made a point of including her background as a dancer, and thinks of martial arts as movement as much as combat, I was naturally curious as to how that has informed her fighting.  Because moving one's body is a skill, and the more you know how to move your body, the more you can do with it.  From a much more literal viewpoint, specific styles have brought something to the table for her fighting.  Belly dancing was focused on isolating single muscle groups and learning how to move her body, break dancing was about learning to interact with the space around her, and with the space of the people she was dancing with and against.
After talking about dance, and her early years in combat I wanted to know about her teachers, and some of the faces she had encountered.  Outside of dance, her first teacher was a man named Ryan who plays in the SCA, who taught her a lot about fighting in armor, and the basics of how to attack and defend.  It's an interesting similarity between the two of us that we both started in the SCA, though we went in very different directions with our fighting and training.  While she's one to really look at movement and fighting styles, I personally don't have much of an eye for it.
The interview continued with some anecdotes about Sean Hayes and teaching; the points Claire made on connecting with students via low impact motions, and the development of a rapport and physical echo felt important.  I wonder, what manner of theory theory there is to accompany that observation?  The statement and wisdom gleaned feels like the logical consequence of a deeper concept.
I asked her to close off after a bit of discussion on the society, and who her heroes are.  That she included me among people she really admires in the WMA community is one of the most singularly flattering things I've heard since deciding to pursue this dream.  And if any of you bothered to listen to the whole interview, with awkward stammering and slightly scratchy audio, I hope you'll follow her recommendation and try it out. 
Because so far, there's been nothing but changes for the better.