What the Ronin Want

You’ve been fencing just about x years. You’ve seen it all, from hardcore national level sport fencing to truly wacky Gladiator Cop SCA types. You’ve trained, you’ve taught, you’ve plotted and planned, you’ve traveled and mingled, you’ve written, read and reread.

  • What next?
  • How will you keep it all fresh?
  • How will you keep from trading it all in for something new?
  • What is your criteria?

Sometimes we used to think about the intended goals of fencing. Some of that thinking gets put into simple phrases like:

— give them whoppin’s like they’re all your sons —


— be a walking encyclopaedia of fencing ability —

Sometimes these two ideas meet and cooperate, sometimes they don’t.

But you know what? When you can assess a fencer in about 30 seconds and you are already looking around for somebody else to fight, it’s difficult to stay on track to give him the proper whoppin.

So you know what happens next? You start looking for that person to give you the whoppin of a lifetime. How does that look? There was a movie some years ago called Our Man Flintour man flint movie image, a great spoof of the Bond genre, and in that movie Flint discovers that a poisoned dart intended to kill a VIP had trace amounts of what he deduces are ingredients to bouillabaisse – and no ordinary bouillabaisse, but only that originating in Marseilles. Only there do they use that proportion of garlic to saffron!!! So wasting little time Flint flies in his personal jet (which he pilots himself) to France where he begins sampling the best bouillabaisse they can muster. This is where it gets classy – and bear with me if I take too many liberties with the exact chronology of fictional events here – in the first restaurant Flint sits down, orders, bowl is brought, he smells the aroma, and with spoon tastes what must be pure delight. Puts spoon down, dabs corner of mouth with napkin, thanks the waiter and walks out.

Pimpin? Wait for it…

Next restaurant same procedure only he barely sits down and waits for the bowl when its brought – cuz he can smell it and senses that its not the right one, stands up immediately and walks out.


Now that’s you on the piste looking for that whoppin of a lifetime. Only the guy in front of you hasn’t got the ingredients in the right proportions. And you can tell this almost as soon as you _smell_ him.

So what do we want – keeping in mind one day that we may actually get that whoppin?

  1. regular days and times agreed upon when everyone will do their best not to schedule anything else in their lives.
  1. a constant location
  1. training partners dedicated to keeping training difficult, never accepting the easy way, always discovering new ways to challenge themselves.
  1. being open to students once in a while to keep things fresh and to maintain contact with the larger community.
  1. to remain true to the fundamental truths of the art and science.

This is a daily prescription. What do we do when en piste with others? Do we exert our abilities and look for defeat in their eyes? No, we take that in stride as we continue to look patiently for those that can actually give us the whoppin we deserve.

And that may be the final word between what a person of the sword wants as may be compared to the sport fencer. My experience is that in the sport of fencing you want to win and that forms the basic struggle. And with such uncertainty built into the current iteration of the sport that can actually be up for grabs. But outside of the sporting environment things take on a different colour. I agree with Christoph Amberger’s recent essay about conflict and fencing so I admit that this is all academic and to some degree artificial (even if in unison we all hail, “As tho they be sharp!” three times). Our training is such that we know what may happen – knowledge provides a degree of certainty. We can measure the opponent objectively based upon powerful criteria: velocity, distance, geometry of lines intended and actual, control, etc. Sometimes you get the urge to prove something to the fencer who simply doesn’t measure up to these criteria, but that’s just to satisfy the ego momentarily, because we ALREADY KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. Science is funny that way.

So we wander occasionally from the cooperative home environment of our training, we wander as we like, where we like, outside the parental scope of a master.

We go wandering for what we want.