Well, it’s been all of a day since I posted my recollections about the recent Crown Tournament. My post has been reshared and commented on, and I have received a small deluge of personal messages and emails. Also, the King posted this to the populace:
Unto my cherished Kingdom of the East,
I owe you an explanation and an apology.
While I am so proud of the way the day progressed through the adversity of the weather, my determination and preparations to ensure a clean and decisive crown finals proved insufficient for the challenges of the day.
The conduct of my Crown Tournament is my responsibility. In this, I failed you, and ask your forgiveness.
The fact remains, that I am your king and have sworn myself to you, and must ask and require your assistance in making the kingdom whole on behalf of my Queen and every good gentle in the East.
Maybe I’m putting too much of my personal slant on this, but I read it as “let’s figure out how to learn from this”, which is the best that we can all do.
So, let’s do that… what can we learn?
I have re-read my own words many times. Every time, I get something different from it. “I was too apologetic”, “I wasn’t apologetic enough”, “I didn’t provide enough commentary on the shots I thought landed”…. and so on…. I stand by what I wrote, and will not let editorial second thoughts win.
But one thing kept coming back to me, over and over, and that is: Silence is what is strangling us here. And the Silence came in three forms: During the bout, Immediately after the tournament, and during the Fallout
If anything, the Silence immediately after the tournament was cathartic. Many of us apparently felt non-positive feelings. For some, it was confusion; for others, it was shock; for others still, it was anger. And in our communal Silence, we at least let each other know that we were not OK with what had just happened, but that we weren’t quite ready to deal with it just yet.
Then there was the Silence during the Fallout. A Silence that was impure, because people *were* talking. They were talking a lot, but as I discussed in my previous blog and on FB, there were countless whispered conversations being held in dark corners, and in these conversations opinions were being solidified and plans were being made for “action”. My fear was that if these coalesce based on incomplete information, then we will be far far worse off. Hence, my own post to at least call for an open discussion. I’m humbled by how many people have written to me to thank me for writing. So in a small way, this Silence is being solved.
That leaves me with the Silence During.
And that, I have come to realize with ever-increasing clarity, is the crux of the issue, and our key to a solution.
By the Silence During, I mean this: The Silence of the marshals, who questioned some shots but not others. And if they questioned the shots that combattants brought up, then I will also add to this the silence of the combattants who didn’t speak up about a shot that they questioned in their mind but not from their lips.
And now I will diverge away from the specifics of this past Crown Tourney, and speak about what I see as the general problem and associated solution. In other words, I do not mean to imply that any problems noted below specifically happened last Saturday by the specific persons involved.
It is our duty as combattants to call shots as they land, and to take the shot if it could have been good. It is our duty as combattants to then inform our opponent if the shot was actually not good (for example, flat).
What do you do when you feel that someone’s armor is beating you? Point it out to them. Should we add that to the combattants’ list of duties? Depends. My personal feeling is that you should speak up and ask about a shot that you felt was good, that wasn’t taken, and you must do so immediately. If you do not, then you give up your right to complain about it later. Kick yourself for not speaking up when you should have, not your opponent for “not taking your shot”, because you could have been wrong, and time long past is not the time to question a specific shot.
This does not absolve the marshalate. Far from it. The marshals have the hardest job of all. They must watch carefully, both the mechanics of the fight and also the interaction of the combattants. I’m not saying that if the fighter doesn’t speak up about a questionable shot, that the marshals should do so for them, but the marshals should be ready to step in and help a combattant understand which shots were likely good, and they must be ready to force the issue when it matters. And this must be done IN the list, not later. It’s too late later. Being able to watch a fight and understand what just happened is tough to do. Some people can do it better than others, but it is a skill that most people can learn, if trained in it.
I come to this list of duties, for the combattants and the marshals, not just because of Crown Tournament, but many other tournaments when something important was on the line. This includes fencing, which I am far more knowledgeable in. What I am suggesting is generally called Active Marshaling. It must be TAUGHT. It should not have to be used. Ideally, it would never be used. But when it is needed it must be available.
I reiterate: this includes the combattants themselves, who should be trained to speak up in the list, and the marshals, who should be trained in how to observe a fight, and how to stand up for what they feel is right, even in the face of big personalities.
To get matters rolling, I will be at this coming weekend’s Northern Region Rapier Academy. I am far from perfect in being able to dissassemble a fight, but I seem to be able to do it better than most, and so I will happily, though with many humble caveats, share what I know and will spend the afternoon discussing how to watch and understand a fencing bout with anyone who would like to listen.