Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Become a Scholar?

Over the course of my involvement with AEMMA there have been scores of students who have darkened the door. Some have stayed for just a few classes, some a few months, some for years. Others have decided to commit to achieving the rank of Scholar. A few have, through much training and study ascended to the illustrious rank of Free Scholar. There are examples of individuals who are content with each of these scenarios and have found the appropriate place in their lives for this study.

I have noticed that it is not at all uncommon for students to hover around the decision of whether or not to commit to playing for the prize of Scholar or not. The following are some thoughts and personal reflections which may help your internal dialogue.

Shawn Zirger, who challenged on September 9, 2007, is being observed under the watchful eyes of Frank Williams FS, Brian McIlmoyle and David M. Cvet Provosts, Kel Rekuta FS and Anton Cvet Provost.
Firstly, and this can’t be said strongly enough, there is no timetable, other than the one one imposes on ones’ self, for becoming a Scholar. Some set short time lines and strict training regimens and eagerly set test dates. Others linger, taking time to digest and make sure they’ve internalized key skills and concepts. Both strategies work depending on what type of individual you are.

Secondly, we all start from a different entry point. That is, some are fit and lithe and have scads of martial study under their belts before they enter the salle d'armes. Some are a tad longer in the tooth with conditions or injuries to contend with. Some are single with a good measure of free time. Others have schedules that are not their own. All these things must be considered when developing a time line for your scholar test and expectations for yourself. Many students who get to the point of setting a date for their Scholar test, find it prudent to back the date up for some time to make sure they are ready. This is not out of the norm and can be perfectly acceptable.

Aaron Bolarinho, who challenged on December 14, 2008, sits patiently in the middle of the salle d'armes at the conclusion of his test, awaiting the results of the deliberation of the Schollers and Free Schollers in the armoury.
Some find that there are several advantages to becoming a Scholar. The first and most immediate is a sense of accomplishment. It is no small task to be successful in your challenge. As with anything difficult, success breeds enhanced self-esteem and self-concept proportionate to the task. However, it has happened in past that individuals are not successful in their initial play for Scholar. This is not reason to give up or pack it in. Rather, it’s a time to reflect and retool.

One of the most obvious advantages of “scholarhood” is the opportunity to participate in free-play with a variety of weapons. This is truly a most excellent thing. I cannot find words to describe how much fun, how invigorating, how much of a multi level superb experience this is (and this is written by a person who rarely “wins” a bout!). Participation in tournaments is an opportunity to meet new people in the broader community and test yourself. They are a wonderful opportunity to put your own skills under the microscope and set study and practice goals for the next opportunity.

Personally, I find the biggest advantage to becoming a Scholar is the freedom to self-direct study to a large degree. The very word scholar implies study and, for me at least , this limitless field of study is the single greatest result of becoming a scholar. Over the years our community has grown and accordingly, a greater number of players is becoming available to fellow Scholars. The ability to study together, in text and on the floor is valuable and allows one to propel one’s own study.

For some, achievement of the rank of Scholar is an end in itself. For those people, occasional practice, visits to the salle d'armes or online participation adds to the richness of their lives. For others, WMA study is woven into the fabric of the rest of their lives. They continue, in whatever capacity possible, to train and study and improve themselves and their understanding of the art. It becomes a necessary component of life. If you’re worried about not having “the stuff” don’t. You can do it. If you’re considering to move beyond recruit training, you’ve already taken the first step. Once you’ve decided to pursue this path, it’s simply a question of hard work, hard thinking and patience. Feel free to talk to any or all Scholars at the salle d'armes or online if you have questions. Good luck and I hope to see you in the circle!

A link on the AEMMA website which describe the requirements for becoming a Scholar can be reached by clicking here.

Matt Brundle