Posted in Uncategorized

The Annoyance of ‘You Can Do It!’

catexercisYou’ve certainly heard it before: You can do it! It’s usually meant as an encouragement, but just because it’s meant that way doesn’t mean you will really feel encouraged and find that last ounce of strength, the one even you were unaware of, and accomplish the deed.

On the contrary. It’s perfectly possible that You can do it! will only annoy you.

Several years ago, I tried doing Pilates. I did it for a few months (maybe just two?), but gave up after that, and never returned to it (fencing is way more fun, anyway). The instructor was a nice, optimistic girl who would sometimes crouch next to me and tell me something along the lines of You can do it, I know you can!

The thing is, I couldn’t.

Encouragement is nice, but I expect an instructor to know what he or she is talking about. If they tell me I can do it, I expect their assessment — an assessment of an experienced professional — to be more accurate than mine. In other words, if they tell me I can do it, they better be right. Because, if they’re not, if I truly can’t do it, no matter how hard I tried, I will no longer trust them. And I’m not really motivated to follow instructions of a person I don’t trust to know what they’re talking about.

Our fencing teacher never says You can do it. He tells us how to do something. He corrects us. He reminds us to look at the opponent’s sword and legs, not the face. He shows us how to do it. If I don’t do it right the first time, he’ll correct me, and show me again if necessary. We’ll repeat it until we make it. Or, if I still can’t make it, we will try it some other time, and I’ll keep practicing other stuff.

He doesn’t tell us that we can do it. He keeps teaching us until we can. His assistants are the same. They’ll show us, correct us, tell us It’s okay, we’re learning, let’s try again.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that telling someone You can do it! is as bad as kicking puppies. It may not be bad at all, it can be encouraging, but it is a promise. It can be a very important promise, too, so the one giving it should keep it. Or not promise in the first place.

How about you? Am I the only one who sometimes finds You can do it! annoying, or does it annoy you as well?

Posted in Uncategorized

The New Fencing Mask

My new fencing mask
My new fencing mask

I finally got my own fencing mask. If you’re taking fencing lessons, it’s perfectly fine if you use the school equipment, but it’s still recommended to purchase your own mask, for obvious reasons.

Before I got this one (that is, before the last night), I was using the school mask. What a difference!

If this mask looks bulky, it’s because it is — it’s certainly bulkier than the school mask. And heavier, too; SO tells me it’s heavier than a construction site helmet. Yikes! The wire on the mesh is more dense than on the school mask, making it harder to see properly, at least until you get used to it; last night, I was seeing double sometimes. The combination of the dense wire and the smell of the new made me a bit sick, too, which didn’t exactly help me train; I was more clumsy than my normal self, and managed to scare my partner a few times. The teacher tells me it’s all a normal reaction, I’ll just need a bit of time to get used to it. I hope I get used to it soon!

A few other people purchased new masks too, so we were comparing reactions; one girl told me she found it difficult to hear the teacher properly. Not much of a surprise, since the mask covers the ears, too. The teacher knows about it, of course, he’s been doing this for 30 years, so he speaks loudly when instructing us.

All in all, it’s an interesting new experience — a single change, and yet so many reactions coming from it.

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Things I’ve Learned From Fencing

A fencing lesson
A fencing lesson

I had many doubts when I started taking fencing lessons. Was I strong enough? Would I be able to endure? Would I end up injured? Would this happen, or that? After a few months of it, I’ve learned several things.

1: I’m not going to fail. Once upon a time, I used to do yoga. However, during the last 10 years or so, I was mostly sitting, so I thought I would do terrible. It turned out I did just fine. No, I’m not going to become a champion – but I am on my way to become fit, I have a lot of fun, and I’m learning a beautiful new skill and art, which is the point of doing it in the first place.

2: I’m not the oldest one (not that it matters). Many people in my group are younger than me – the youngest one is 11 (younger kids have their own group). However, some are older, and the oldest one is our fencing teacher. So, I’m not too old. There is no too old when it comes to fencing.

3: I’m not the worst, either. With so many younger people, I thought I might slow them down. It turned out many of them tired just as quickly as I did. Fencing takes a lot of effort, period. And you build up stamina in time, so it becomes easier, until you get to the more difficult part. Then you build up some more stamina.

4: Strength isn’t all that important. Holding a sword – for the time being, a foil – is something none of us was used to. The weight of a foil is about one pound. A child can hold it, so your strength doesn’t matter much. However, since you’re not used to holding it properly, your arm will hurt for a while. It’s normal, and it will pass once your body learns this strange new thing.

5: Body quickly gets into better shape. Our bodies were designed to move, not to sit all day. They were designed to have muscles and stamina. Once we start moving them, especially if we do something that takes considerable effort, the results become visible really soon. After a week or two, I got muscles in my legs. After a month, my waist was 4 centimetres thinner – and I certainly wasn’t starving myself. And I’m getting better and better.

I believe that all of this applies to other things in life. We won’t fail, at least not if we keep trying. We’re not the oldest (and even if we are, so what?), and we’re not too old, either. Nor are we the worst. Strength doesn’t always matter, and once we start doing something, we gradually become better.

Have you learned something good recently?