The process of discovering who you are is fascinating, and often easier in review than in the moment.
I think there was probably a phase in my early 20s when I thought I could be any kind of person I wanted to be, but that belief did not contunue into my 30s when I started to notice that I had edges - things I was drawn to, things that make me happy, and things that make me angry and upset.
As I get older, these edges become a little harder and narrower, my patience for many things has worn thin and I find myself concentrating more and more on that which has held my interest over these many years - martial arts and the art of the sword.
Nothing wrong there .... Follow your passion and all that ....
But I was struck by a couple conversations recently, on line and in person, about this apparent 'self discovery' of individuality, and what that means.
On the one hand it is good to 'know yourself' your strengths and weaknesses, and particularly what you can give back from your unique point of view, as a teacher or whatever ...
On the other hand, this definition builds rigidity, in the same way that we walk a certain way that makes us easy to pick out in a crowd of strangers, we dance how we dance, and we look out of the eyes we have seen out of through many many decades of habits and tendencies. We all have a 'schtick' if you like, a thing we do, a role we play, and at this point in life, I am not sure if to view this schtick as a gift or a hindrance ..
Specifically in the context of dueling, this 'schtick' is your fighting personality, your tendencies and your glitches, and having one limits you in two ways - first in that you are predictable to those that can read you, and second, and more corrosive in my mind, in the natural ceiling this sets up as to how much you can improve.
There is a limit to every game, how fast, subtle, or even slow you can do what you do, accuracy has a finite quality to it after all .... So this may be splitting hairs, I mean after all, enough is enough, right? Surely we should be happy with who we are, and accept what we can do, including our limitations .... But, this tendency as we grow older to close in, and narrow down our comfort zone, is starting to feel claustrophobic to me. It seems natural, but that just makes it more insidious.
Improving yourself gets harder with age, I suspect mostly because of this 'edge hardening' of our personalities and self identities. Some may point to physical diminishment, but if the most highly skilled fighter I learned from was a skin and bone, chain smoking, cancer sufferer, then I don't think I can agree with that. I think it is because at some point you have to look outside yourself to do this, and often that is not so simple, it involves the possibility of change, and the older we get, apparently the less we want to do this. It make us vulnerable and uncomfortable, two things that we tend to avoid as we age.
So, to those out there feeling the same claustrophobia, here are a few things that I've come up with that seem to help -
Play outside your system
Work with different weapons, different, and new people.
Try absolutely different pursuits.
Particularly look for resistance to certain things and go do them.
Keep your eyes open and you will see the links and the patterns without forcing them, and remember, the most potent place for improvement are in mistakes, errors, close shaves .... and losses ...
Other suggestions welcome.