leaderThis weekend is Labor Day and my inner bear would like nothing better than to shut the doors, pull up the sheets and occasionally eat or watch movies. But that is not productive and won’t forward my skill level and there are people counting on me in Phoenix Swords. I’m sure the world would keep chugging along without fire performers and sword demonstrators but I think it would be a sad place.

So I get out of bed, ignore my car that smells like a cookout(fire tools after a burn), try not to think about my lost mileage to bags of swords and sundries and get my lazy butt to practice.

Biggest badass in your living room.   I laugh because there is nothing like being lectured by someone who never actually leaves the house to do physical activities. Your paladin may have cleaved his way through every expansion of World of Warcraft but chances are you couldn’t cut your way out of a plastic bag.  I’m not saying the activities are exclusive, but you do have expand your horizons and speak from your own life. Not who you know, not what you read on the internet, not what “everybody knows.” I will have far more respect for a five-year-old who will do her katas for me to show off, than a 50-year-old who hasn’t so much as picked up a steak knife.  That illusion is shattered when someone picks up one of my lightest blades and tires within seconds. Let me be clear, if you are still game to pick it up and keep going-kudos, it’s not a strength contest. But if you are “Master sword artist” and your first response is to almost put your own eye out-well, let’s just say I’m dubious about your expertise.

Learning never stops. Let me preface this with the sentence,” I loathe name droppers”  But I like to think in this instance it’s important to have context. Fenix took a class with John Waller, who at the time was in his 60s, and he was able to do leaps and rolls.   That is a life to which to aspire and I hope that even when I am using a walker, that I’m still willing to pick up a blade. It’s hard to remember when you are popping Advil or using icy-hot on your muscles that it’s worth doing, but then I look at people my own age who have trouble with stairs, I’m okay with it. Every time I get up, do my drills, work with others and keep reading and trying, it’s one step closer to being that person I admire.

The other side of that is that people who are new to things have a fresh perspective and I like learning things from them as well. At one time we were the new people and we had ideas and things to say. And there is nothing like someone asking a question you can’t answer (Like ‘why do you do it this way?’) that shakes out those well-worn habits and shines light on all the holes in it.

Don’t look like Crap. I get what I call “klutz days” that’s the day when from start to finish you are starring as a cartoon character dropping things on your own toes, finding every gopher hole and twisting your ankle stepping off a curb.  You have ‘brain farts’ and can’t remember your fights and you have to keep asking when your performances are because you can’t hold a thought in your head.   I am one of the few folks in the troupe who has to practice fights before *every* performance because I have a very tiny brain that can only hold so much. In fact, I have two fights that involve sword and buckler that I have to have secret signals from my partner to remember which one I am doing.    But with practice I can recover faster, or find a way to make it funny and just roll with the fact that I can’t maneuver my own feet that day. That bad side of this is when my sword partner thinks it’s hysterically funny and then it’s all over.  Practice makes a bad day into one where you connect with your audience and still give good show.

I’m awesome! (not) Folks who tend not to stay with the troupe long are the ones who have to tell us how amazing they are all the time, because it sure doesn’t show in their work ethic.  I know folks who have done fights together for *years*  who came back after a bit and found that no, they didn’t remember ALL of their fights. I’m one of the members who keeps a written copy of my fights and others because you never know when you may have to pull one out of cobwebs  and do it for a show.  I think it’s great that people can hold all their fights in their heads, but from experience, it means they don’t have very many to begin with. Be extra awesome and practice, because nobody I know looks good trying to do it cold, me especially.
Last but not least, we are all rowing together.  People who leave fight partners dangling tend to not keep fight partners long. People who won’t learn to be spotters don’t get to come to fire shows. When we have a small show with a limited budget, we’re going to choose the person who knows four fights, can do fire and can support other members. I’m not proud of this but we had a show with one last slot to be filled and two troupe members had to go head-to-head to explain to our leader which of them was the most useful. One extra body could cost us 500+ dollars so that body had better be able to bring it. And we have replaced people who don’t come to enough practices-because that is a safety risk.

But this blog is about why I find it important to go to practice. Well, when you help run the thing, it’s not exactly the best leadership practice to sluice off the work to the people you expect to follow you. I can be a terrible micro-manager and whenever I’ve missed a practice, even for completely legitimate reasons, I feel like 1) I’ve missed something important 2) Some things may not get done that I find key.   My partner and I have different priority lists, it can cause clashes but most of the time it’s a good mash-up.  And there are worse excuses for  getting in the car and spending three hours in the sun playing with swords and fire.  So although I have my grousing weekends, as a friend says, half the battle is showing up and being there.