by Bill Grandy, Virginia Academy of Fencing, USA
(Author’s note: Before anyone calls me a hypocrite, let it be known that I am training while I write this. I’ve set the requirement for myself to do 20 squats before typing a new paragraph, with the first set starting the moment I finish this sentence… hopefully this will keep me brief and to the point!)
If there’s one thing that has brought the world of Historical European Martial Artists closer, it’s the internet. And if there’s one thing that has brought about the most dissonance and conflict amongst us martial artists, it’s the internet. It is a medium to share knowledge and trade ideas, but as we also all know, it is a medium where it is very easy to type first and think later. Social media in particular has made it remarkably easy to spit out a quick reply without thought, and the effect of a negative comment can be amplified in a medium where it is easy to read an innocuous comment and ascribe a much more malicious intent behind it. An hour and 100 angry posts later, half of our entire community will feel the need to jump on board to voice their Must-Be-Heard-Opinion in a virtual screaming match that is SO. VERY. IMPORTANT. TO. WIN. And then we have what we used to call in the olden days a “flame war”.
(Pause for squats.)
These squats are reminding me to get to my point. It’s a new year, so let me lay down a little challenge for you, if I may. In fact, this challenge is nothing original: I’ve seen variations like it laid down for writers, fitness junkies, and even in other martial arts circles. Heck, I’ve even seen it laid down within our own community before, so it’s not even original in that regard. It goes like this: Any time you see something on the internet where you just HAVE to state your opinion, you are required to do a certain amount of training first. For the Liechtenauer longsword guys, that could mean doing 10 sets of each master strike against a pell. For the rapier fencers, perhaps that means 50 lunges against a target wall. Don’t have a sword (or whatever you train with) handy? Push ups, sprints, whatever. Maybe you have a daytime job at an office (in which case, you should stop wasting time on the internet!) and you can’t start doing footwork drills in front of your co-workers. Take a short break to the restroom and do toe lifts for two minutes straight. If you’re on a plane reading on a laptop, then take out your complimentary blanket, grasp it with your fists, and squeeze tightly for 10 second intervals for twenty repetitions. It’s easy to come up with something. If you can’t figure out a drill or exercise to do, then you aren’t allowed to post a response to that really, terribly important comment on the internet that simply can’t be ignored.
(Up to sixty squats now.)
But that’s not the end. Let’s add one more aspect to this challenge. When you are doing your training exercise, don’t just rush it so you can get back to your keyboard or touchpad. Actually think about what it is you so badly want to post to the internet. Maybe, just maybe, it was just for you to vent, in which case you may be better off not posting it. Or maybe it is absolutely worth posting, but the extra few minutes spent on training can allow you to focus your thoughts on making it a comment that adds value rather than simply space. Don’t like someone’s video interpretation of Fiore? Great, go train and think about it before you come back to your computer to tell them why. Have a strong opinion on why tournaments are the greatest/worst thing to happen to historical martial arts? Perfect. Go train and think about what you want to say before typing it up. Feel like someone’s new idea will destroy the very fabric of HEMA reality? Train first, type later.
Let’s face it. There’s a lot of garbage on the internet. We should focus on putting out quality over quantity, and if we can’t do that, let’s at least make ourselves better martial artists in the process. So here’s to 2014… and to better discussions and better training within the Historical European Martial Arts.