Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Lady's Blade, Part 2: Nature vs. Nurture

Upon admitting my reluctance to bout with children, I have been told that these reservations are unfounded. The fact that "Well, they want to beat you" seems to be provided as carte blanche to whip the little ankle-biters into submission. And, while in a tournament you can be assured I would (do my best to) whip them all heartily, I just can't bring myself to be merciless at a practice.

I have noticed the look of frustration when they find they can gain no ground. This is especially apparent with boys who cannot bear the thought of being beat by a girl - even if she is twice his size. And so, we come to an area of great contention for madam fencer. That is that battle between herself and her foe in so many pursuits: the mothering instinct. It is a battle which isn't meant to be won, but a game of careful balancing. For me, it goes something like this:

Score a couple touches. Then, respond a little too slowly and let them land a solid attack. "Oh! You got me that time for sure." (It is not condescending, but matter-of-fact.) Another touch for me. Another for them. "Okay, here we go." Of course, I must win in the end, but I find for them a look of sincere relief when I pull off my mask: it was close all along, I assure them silently.

In the vast reaches of my experience, I have found false hope to be a faithless teacher; losses will pay for themselves in time.

Coaches aside, do men have this same sort of struggle? I suppose it depends on the man. And the child for that matter. I admit I have come across some that certainly deserved a right and proper beating. For those, the nurture trigger is dampened. Let nature take her course.

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