Whenever I'm feeling discouraged
because I've just spent an entire fighter practice being pounded into the
ground like a tent peg by fighters who, I believe, are actually younger
than some of my shoelaces, I try to boost my morale by working out at the
gym. There, I can hear burly, sweating men express such masculine, virile
sentiments such as, "Hooooooo-rawf!" while lifting barbells the size of
small mini-vans with their necks!
This does not necessarily make
me feel better, but at least when I'm done my arms hurt so badly that I
forget what I was upset about while I try to devise new ways to eat without
using any muscles below my shoulders.
While I often spend time in
the weight room with the Hoo-rawf crowd, I also work out on the Stairmaster
machine because, A) building cardiovascular endurance leads to enhanced
athletic ability, and B) it gives me a chance to leer at leotard-wearing
women in the aerobics area from the second story balcony. (Fortunately,
I've managed to convince Felinah that in my nearly transcendental state
of pure endorphin-induced concentration I am completely oblivious to my
After about 30 minutes of struggling
with this ridiculous machine, which seems to be deliberately stretching
out each passing second longer and longer, I begin to read the witty and
colorful slogans on some of the tee-shirts the Hoo-rawf bodybuilders are
wearing. The most popular these days is the "No Fear" shirt. I saw one
the other day which read:
"Seventh game of the world series,
bottom of the ninth, two men on base, the pitcher has a mouthful of tobacco
and nowhere to spit ... No Fear."
(Yes, Sir Ryan, I know that
was a baseball joke. I had some of the guys at work explain it to me.)
A whole new generation of people
in this country find the "No Fear" attitude very admirable, and it's not
difficult to understand why: Everyone wants to be fearless, valiant, and
unstoppable. These young people will be our next generation of doctors,
lawyers, plumbers and accountants. They will also very likely be our new
pelicans, dukes, laurels and knights.
Perhaps we need a No Fear SCA
shirt which reads:
"Ninth round of Queen's Champion.
Sir Atilla is using his 'fast' pole arm. Jarl Ivan has been eating nothing
but raw meat for weeks. Sir Gavin can hammer a 20d nail into solid oak
with a single blow. And Duke Guy just sent three unbelted fighters to the
hospital. Negatus panicum."
Certainly in the middle ages,
"No Fear" would have been a rallying cry of knights going into battle.
When the king orders you to charge your 2,000-pound warhorse into a wall
of sharp iron spears, you can't stop to say, "Wait, this is stupid! Somebody
might put an eye out!"
We have, however, progressed
away from the brutal reality of the Middle Ages, with the possible exception
of the audit bureau of the IRS. Let's face it, whether we're talking about
football or SCA combat, what we're participating in is just a game. If
we really do fear what we do for recreation (or re-creation), maybe it's
time to reconsider how we spend our leisure time.
For the Current Middle Ages,
a real "No Fear" slogan should read something like this:
"It's 1 a.m. and Coronation
starts in eight hours. The embroidered Gothic vinework on your new bliaut
- which you loudly announced to Master Giles would be more authentic than
anything the laurels could come up with - is almost finished. On the first
sleeve. Two hours ago your lord told you he needed a new pair of arming
pants for Queen's Champion. Then he went to bed. And you're supposed to
be making meat pies for the Royal luncheon your household is hosting..."
"Baronial council starts in
20 minutes. Twelve different households want to autocrat crown tourney.
The anniversary coordinator plans to decorate the feast hall in Neo-Cubist
style and hire a band called 'Crazy Ned & The Pounding Headaches.'
And the pottery guild is requesting $1,200 of SCA funds to make a full
sized Byzantine Imperial mosaic - of Homer Simpson..."
In a world which often seems
paralyzed by indecision, confusion and conflicting obligations, it's easy
to see why people - especially young people - admire the willingness to
plunge forward without fear. The Western World has held such decisive action
in great esteem ever since Alexander cut the Gordian knot.
Unfortunately, the implied message
behind "No Fear" is "No Mercy." No compassion. No consideration for the
welfare of others. No sympathy for the people who may be trampled by such
In short, "No Chivalry." That's
the unspoken message we send when we get swept up into the desire to overcome
I'm just as guilty as anyone
of admiring the No Fear, Hoo-Rawf, Take No Prisoners mental attitude. Just
like every other fighter, I fantasize about stepping onto the tourney field
and launching a relentless attack. I'd grab hold of my opponent's shield
with one hand, catch his sword in my teeth and throw a mighty blow which
would drive him to the ground with its sheer force, then I'd rip off his
armor and hold up his battered corpse as an offering to the all-powerful
Sun God! Aaarrr!...
(Don't worry. These kind of
delusions are normal after 45 minutes on the Stairmaster. At least that's
what the trainers tell me just before they ask me to sign a membership
As I was perched up there on
the Stairmaster watching the grunting, frothing, No Fear bodybuilders,
I noticed another fellow with a unique weight lifter's belt. On the back
was stenciled: "Positive thoughts produce positive results." He was alone
on a weight bench, quietly doing his exercises without any extraneous howling
or spitting. And, in between his sets, I noticed he was smiling.
I've pushed myself to my absolute
limit in many fast and furious fights, and I've no doubt lost more than
I've won. Although there are probably some fighters who thrive on "No Fear,"
I find the fights I've enjoyed most are the ones where I smile and joke
with my opponent, giving him (or her) all the time and space necessary
to fight the best possible fight, and, in return, finding that I'm pushing
myself to fight just a little bit better.
Any athlete can stomp their
opposition into the turf. Perhaps it is the mark of chivalry that when
we strive for excellence, we also try to elevate our opponents to their
highest level of performance too. A unique mixture of "No Fear" and "Positive
Thoughts" which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to help in the struggle to
survive a full hour on the Stairmaster. Hoo-rawf!
Copyright Reserved to Scott