By Duke Malcolm Duncan MacEoghainn, originally posted on Facebook
I have read more than a few comments about anxiety and concerns by folks asking for fights, and I’d like to address that a wee bit. Let’s start with me sharing something that I don’t often share: I suffer from social anxiety. I don’t say that lightly as it’s one of those things that I just don’t talk about, but in this instance I think it’s important as it sets the tone for what I think I plan to say next. Just walking in the door to something like Ædult Swim is a non-minor victory for me. People I do not know intimidate me, and I never feel comfortable initiating a conversation. Ever.
So, I only say that to set the tone for making suggestions, and most of these suggestions apply to any situation, although in an environment like Ædult Swim or practices, even more so.
Primarily, remember why you are there. This is not Crown or a proving ground. Yes, there are times you see some of those Duke-types go at each other like it is, but believe me, they aren’t. They’re having fun, they’re playing, they’re testing each other and themselves. They are Duke-practicing. They are doing the same thing you are, they’re learning new things. It might not be obvious, but that’s what’s happening. It’s the same thing for you: you have nothing to prove except to yourself. Learn. Pick something that you need to know, and work on it. Or, and this is where the anxiety part comes in, ask someone to help you with that.
Fighters go to things like Æ-Swim to learn from resources that are not normally available. You can’t often get to spend time fighting someone from Lochac and the Midrealm and Caid all back to back. That usually only happens at major wars when there are a thousand other things going on. Practice is just that- practice. People expect to fight. The only reason people get turned down is because someone is waiting for someone else to finish arming and come out. And then, they’re likely to be willing to fight you next.
While I can only say this about myself, in conversations with fellow fighters of my level I feel confident that this next bit applies nearly universally: I love all my fights. At Æ-Swim II, I fought all level of fighters, from those fighting their first few months to those who have forgotten more than I will ever learn. I never.. EVER.. had the thought that “Gee, I wish I didn’t fight this person.” I was glad for each and every moment. For me, seeing the eyes light up as a newer fighter starts to see something gel is a thrill. Just as it’s exciting to see that look of “I got ya” in the eyes of the Superduke. At practice, every fight I teach, every fight I learn, every fight I practice. That no-ego, no-worries free exchange of knowledge is the beauty of Æ-Swim and practices.
And, for those of use who do suffer from anxiety, it is an opportunity to practice something else: courage. If you struggle with it, you get to practice enduring. You can practice your public skills and add that to your fight. With every encounter, and every moment, you take yet another step toward controlling the anxiety rather than allowing it to control you. I am not going to tell you to “not be afraid,” because that’s just not possible. I’ll tell you to go ahead and be afraid, be anxious, but do it anyway. That makes you stronger. Trust me on this one.
Lastly, let me give you this: you are a gift. You are a gift to yourself, and you are a gift to those who know you. If you are skilled, then learn more, push more, and share your skill. If you are learning, keep learning, and give the gift of practice to everyone you meet. While you may find some very few who do not accept your gift, they will be few and far between.
When you are at a practice, at a pick-up field, or something like Æ-Swim… grab that opportunity. Be the fighter, and go fight. Go learn. And if you see some chucklehead standing on the field by her- or himself, then go acquaint them with your friendship and ask for a dance. You got this.