So this morning this video was posted on Facebook. The instructor here, my friend Maestro Sean Hayes, invited two of his students to spar with him.
I loved watching this. It reminded me of something important to me – a long-term goal I have, that while seems so remote, distant, and impossible, has kept me working toward improving my physical health.
Three years ago, in the summer of 2011, it finally became obvious to me that I was in poor health. I was overweight. I was weak. I had no endurance.
It was a slap in the face to me, because I have always considered myself fit and healthy. And energetic, too. But it was gone.
I felt like I lost part of myself at that point, with the realization that my youth was gone and now I was going to have to work at it if I wanted to regain any vestige my former self. But I didn’t know what to do.
I was in a rut.
The following spring, we got some news that actually improved my mood. It wasn’t good news, actually, but news that we needed. That was when my son got his diagnosis of an Autism spectrum disorder.
Suddenly, his behavior problems weren’t my fault any more. I hadn’t realized I was blaming myself, of course, but once I was released from the responsibility, my life turned around.
I began to lose weight. Apparently, I’m a comfort eater, and I didn’t need that comfort any more.
Fifteen pounds down, and I felt a ton better. My knees and back improved. All my clothes were loose.
I don’t remember exactly the order in which it happened, but I found myself wanting to begin regular exercise. At about the same time, I watched the movie Ironclad and was reminded of a former fascination I had with swordplay and the Western martial arts (though I didn’t know the word for it at the time).
I began to exercise and more weight fell away. It was painful at first – really painful. It’s funny to look back on it now. Those early workouts killed me then. I could probably do them back-to-back three times now with little stress.
I also started seeking instruction in the longsword, and finally found it at the Crown Academy of the Sword.
Fast-forward now, two years later. I’ve dropped a ton of weight and am probably now more fit than even when I was running competitively in high school. I’m finally overcoming knee and hip issues (through physical therapy) that have plagued me for more than 20 years.
I’m still a million miles from being a swordsman, but I’ve now held a longsword and had a few lessons. I know substantially more about fencing then I did, though I’m a long way from being anything other than novice at that either. I’ve learned about an art that I thought I’d never have time or opportunity to study.
My goal of being a swordsman is still a long way off, but I’ve made the crucial first steps to accomplishing it. I’ve rebuilt my body so that it can handle the rigors of wielding a sword. I have excellent instruction, which is only limited by my ability to get to class (which is a far greater challenge than I wish it was).
Then maybe, one day, I’ll be able to be in the middle of a match like the one in the video above.
Pay attention to it. What do you see? I see lots of strength and control. I see bodies doing exactly what their owners want them to do. I also see three people having having a blast, despite the hard hits and heavy breathing.
I want to be a part of that! Watching the video filled me with such joy that I almost started crying.
So I’m reminded today of what it is that I am working towards. I can look in the mirror and see my clothes fitting right, and those little bulges on my arms that could be labeled ‘biceps’ and ‘triceps.’
And even if I don’t make it to ‘swordsman’ ever, at least I can call myself ‘fit.’ That’s worth hanging onto.
That’s about as good of a birthday present that anyone can hope for.