My mom grew up in the German speaking part of Switzerland in the 1950s, and occasionally she would reminisce about her high school and college teachers.
I was always intrigued by her stories about the old teachers – the regal “Herr Professor Doktors” – who proudly sported big scars on their faces, tokens of a time when they themselves had engaged in a strange custom known as ‘Academic Fencing’ or ‘Mensur’.
In this form of live blade fencing, practiced among the university fraternities of the time, the participants protected their eyes and sometimes their noses, but left the rest of their heads exposed. Footwork and dodging were not allowed. The goal was to stand right there in the pocket, be brave, endure the injuries, and try to cut your partner on the head.
(Apparently the chicks at the time really dug the scars.)
Now I’m not advocating cutting your own face open with a straight razor just to look tough, and I also don’t want to do a deep dive down the Mensur rabbit hole just at this time. But while researching this topic for my own enlightenment I did come across an awesome quote to share with you that relates directly to martial arts training.
Here’s what one enthusiastic participant in these duels had to say about this stylistic form of combat:
“My knowledge of pain, learned with the sabre, taught me not to be afraid. And just as in dueling when you must concentrate on your enemy’s cheek, so, too, in war. You cannot waste time on feinting and sidestepping. You must decide on your target and go in.”
Let’s concentrate on the first part of that…
“My knowledge of pain, learned with the sabre, taught me not to be afraid.”
Ain’t that the truth: if you’re facing another human being with a very real chance of getting your ear separated from your head then you’re going to experience fear. And if you keep on doing it then you’re going to get better at dealing with it.
Fortunately a little of fear induced by hard training goes a long way.
My point today is this: if you actually put on the boxing gloves and risk getting punched in the face then you’re facing your fears…
If you actually put on a gi and risk getting choked you’re learning to deal with discomfort…
If you actually pick up a stick and fight with it then you’re inevitably going to learn to deal with pain.
The mental toughness you develop in one area has carry-over to other areas. If you get used to pushing yourself to the limit then operating near that limit stops being so scary.
Get used to having big sweaty people trying to rip your head off in the relatively controlled setting of a class and then you’ll be able to keep a much more level head when some idiot is in your face, yelling and screaming at you.
Bravery is contagious; congratulations for training!
P.S. We’re just beginning to grow out the Self Defense Tutorials instagram channel. A sample of that is below! Give us a follow and some likes there, won’t you?
Live blade fencing from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was known as academic fencing or ‘Mensur’ fencing. Facial scars were common and the chicks supposedly loved them. The full quote is “My knowledge of pain, learned with the sabre, taught me not to be afraid. And just as in dueling when you must concentrate on your enemy’s cheek, so too in war. You cannot waste time feinting and sidestepping. You must decide on your target and go” and it comes from Otto Skorzeny, who became a very famous WW2 German commando. #duel #dueling #liveblade #mensur #bravery #training #fencing #scar #putitontheline #skininthegame #faceyourfears