I think I need to me more of a sociopath when I fight.
Wait, don’t call the police just yet. Hear me out. At fighter practice this week, my knight told me he picked fights for me with the other knights there. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but he had an agenda. Turns out he had told them to really “take it to me,” and to not take my shots. Now SCA armored combat relies on the honor system, where it falls on one’s opponent to call a shot “good.” We do use marshals, but they are there to ensure safety, not necessarily to score bouts or act as referee. And as you can imagine in a game that prides itself on chivalry, this is usually enough. However, the reality is that sometimes people get a bit ramped up and worry more about winning than the spirit of the game. And since I’m fighting in next month’s Crown Tournament (the twice-a-year tournament where we determine our king and queen), this is something I’m going to face, and need to know how to deal with.
My knight was seeing if he could make me mad.
I tend to be a pretty laid-back person. It takes a lot to set me off, and frankly an excess of emotion on my part makes me a bit nervous. When I do get angry it tends to be a cold anger; emotion drains from my demeanor, and I become very flat and stoic in my inflection (my brother, on the other hand, tends to run hot and explode; a situation with made for all sorts of interesting encounters when we were teenagers cursed with raging hormones, but that’s a story for another time). But I didn’t get angry at practice. Instead, I started to wonder if maybe there was something off in my technique that night, something that I was doing that wasn’t working. So I guess in that respect, the experiment was a failure.
But it wasn’t a total loss. After my knight told me what he had done, I had a good talk with him. He reminded me that sometimes, it’s not just me, that I shouldn’t always assume that something (like my inability to win or throw a shot that gets called “good”) is my fault. That sometimes, it really is the other guy being thick, and that I shouldn’t feel bad or hesitate to ask about it. I had good talks with the other knights too; one of them felt so bad about what he had been asked to do, he apologized a least twice. Don’t worry man, we cool.
But my knight said other things, too. How it’s not always about winning, but if I want to be a knight I have to make the other knights respect me. He talked about the trap of being a “fun fight,” which is exactly what it sounds like: being challenging enough to be fun, but no so much as to be a threat. And to get out of that, you need a “game face,” a state of mind where the person in front of you is your enemy, no matter how friendly you are off the field. In the fight, they become an obstacle between you and your goal. They become meat.
It’s something my don (fencing mentor) has mentioned before as well. And they’re both right: I’m too nice for my own good. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, let alone their bodies. I have fun when other people have fun, especially newbies. But it’s starting to look like that mindset has taken me as far as it can. That’s why I started thinking about how I get angry: that cold, emotionless state. If I can cultivate that mindset, turning it on and off as needed, that may be my key. Turn off the empathy, at least until the fight is over. Make them meat.
So that’s what I’m going to be working on the next few weeks at heavy and fencing practice. If you come across me there and I seem in a bad mood, don’t worry: it’s not something you did (unless that something is squaring off against me in armor). That also being said, I’m not going to be in the best mindset to fight newbies for a while. While I probably won’t go out of my way to not fight them (even if that would be ideal), I’m not going to be nice either. I know that can be discouraging, but consider this my attempt to keep you forewarned.
In other words, no more Mister Nice Guy. Let’s see how this goes.