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Choppy Zen: How I Found the Calm in Stabbing

Updated: Dec 13, 2020

One of the most surprising things that has happened on my HEMA journey is the ability to find the zen of getting lost in the fight. It’s akin to the floaty kind of bliss one might feel in meditation. It was something that I heard in the beginning from sword fighters more experienced than I. That they would get caught up in the exchange, the energy. That they could hardly recall what they had actually done from hit to hit because it wasn’t planned, it just flowed.

At the start, I just sort of stared at comments like that. A little Luke on Dagobah being told to lift an X-Wing level of “What?”. When I first started sparring it was all

So it was very hard to process that you could just let go at some point. That your body would become possessed by the teachings of Meyer (Or Fiore. You’re welcome, Phil) and you would just somehow know what to do. Every one of my actions required forethought. Not only what should I string together, but how was each one executed. What were the connector steps? What was the timing? Did my h-


Right about there is when I’d get a smack to the fencing mask and have to snap out of my three-year plan of HEMA fights to realize I had wasted my fight opportunities by trying to plan fight opportunities.

It’s overwhelming when one first begins to spar. You can’t see as well. It’s harder to hear. Your hands are jammed into ill-fitting lobster claws. Your arms don’t raise up without the jacket bunching. On top of that, you’re a bit dumbstruck with trying to recall all the things you know and how you might employ them against a real opponent rather than a compliant drill partner.

There were a lot of head hits in the start. And hand hits. And did I mention the head hits? Thankfully I was guided through sparring by a mentor, focusing on small bites rather than just be left to flail. First, it was footwork. Then it was stringing cuts together. Then it was building up power. Then it was…

You get the idea.

Fast forward to a year later and it happened. My first fight where I really felt like I just blissed out. There wasn’t all the leapfrogging in my head about what I would try to do. It was just me standing across from someone else with a sword. Their body moved, so mine did. It was a space where everything felt right. Purposeful.

This blog post was a bit of a love letter to the beauty of progress over time. That there is no substitute for investing in your own training and just trusting the fact that improvements are being made even when it feels like you're hitting a wall.

I won’t ever cut out traditional meditation, but I find myself chasing that sensation of getting caught up in the exchange. My Choppy Zen Place.

What’s yours?

HEMA on, Wayne.

HEMA on, Garth.

- The Fearless Nymph

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