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.