Preliminary Axesperimental Findings

So I had a chance to work on my mind game at heavy practice last night, and while my previous post on the matter may have edged toward melodramatic, I think I had some success. I have also noticed some differences between how it works in heavy fighting versus fencing that I’d like to discuss.

But first I want to try to clarify what I mean by the “they are meat” mindset. For me, it is a way of reminding myself that during a fight my goal should be to win, not to merely pass the time or make sure the other person feels good about themselves. There is a place for that, don’t get me wrong, but for a long time that has largely been my default setting, and I think it’s working to my detriment right now. The “meat” thing may seem extreme; I will concede that it may be, but sometimes it takes an extreme shift of perspective to move you out of a rut. It is a tool in the bag, one that will hopefully help boost me to the next level.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about how it went last night.

I found I was much more focused on the fight than I usually am. Once my helmet went on, I put myself in my “fight mode” mentality. I also made a point to re-center in this headspace after each bout, whereas before I might keep on going, gradually slipping further from the mental goal. My aggression level was definitely up, but it was for the most part a calculating aggression (when it wasn’t I had a tendency to over-commit, getting out of position and paying for it). I was right about not being a very good fight for newbies (read: being able to dial down) when working on my mental game.

Now to contrast last night with the way it went in fencing last week. I found it more difficult to focus on an abstract spot in front of my opponent. I think this may be because the shield tends to hide a good part of the body on most fighters; I did not have as much of a problem doing so when my opponent didn’t have a shield. As a result, when searching for a place to look, I tended (at least early in the night) to inevitably focus on my opponent’s eyes. It’s hard to mentally dehumanize (meatify?) someone when you’re focused on a very human-centric feature (i.e., the face). With a fencing mask, the face is largely obscured by the mesh, but most heavy helms have a significantly more open bar grill. It did get better as the night went on; I started to be able to focus in front of their face, in line with the top of the shield.

One thing I did not foresee was how adrenaline would affect me. With fencing, it is very much a finesse game; you may get a little hopped up just to get some mental and physical speed, but it doesn’t usually hurt. Heavy, on the other hand, and being a full-contact sport, has a much more visceral feel. It’s hard to stay calm when a big guy in plate armor swings a tree trunk at your head (or your unarmored butt). As such, I found it difficult to maintain the cold, calculating mindset I was able to find while fencing; the adrenaline was just too high in my system. But much like when I talked about the difference between not feeling and repressing emotions, I found it was better to work around the adrenaline rather than trying to fight against it. If you can manage to compartmentalize it, that sort of energy can be quite useful.

There are a few things to work on next time. I still have a tendency to move only forward and back; I need to change the angles I work at. As mentioned above, I found myself over-committing a few times, mostly against fighters I felt more threatened by than others; I was worried so much about killing that I momentarily forgot about not being killed. My knight also suggested I have a cue, something that signals to the lizard brain that “stuff just got real.” I have one in fencing (scraping blades together makes a very distinctive and delightful rasp), but I’ll have to think about what to use in heavy. A salute? A shield tap? A dirty limerick? Food for thought.

So yeah, I’d say it was a promising first success, and luckily I’ll have this blog record to remind me what I’m supposed to be working on (I’ve never been good at keeping a fight book). And if you were there last night and saw anything I missed, or have other commentary or criticisms, I would be more than happy to hear them.