Archive for February 15th, 2010


Learning to Attack

on February 15, 2010 in Misc 5 Comments »

You know that scene in Die Another Day when James Bond fences with the billionaire bad guy? It’s completely over the top, of course. There’s more swashbuckling than true fencing going on, especially when they switch from epees to real-life sabers and then broadswords and brawl their way through a super-swank fencing club that couldn’t exist outside of movies.

Still, the scene is fun and I like watching it. But there are two points (pun intended) that bug the hell out of me.

First point: Why can’t James Bond be really lousy at something?

I mean, come on already! Yes, Bond is the ultimate fantasy action hero for men, but fantasy without limits becomes delusion. And except for being a flop at long-term relationships, Bond can always do everything in the universe. He can even whip an Olympic-level fencer despite the fact that he himself seldom has time to practice the sport because he’s so busy saving Western Civilization. Which leads me to the…

Second point: Only days before out-fencing said Olympic-bound athlete, Bond had been released from a North Korean prison. For fourteen months he was beaten, tortured, kept in a cold cell where he could do nary a push-up, and when he unsteadily walks away from his captors, he’s clearly a physical wreck. But give him one night in Hong Kong and a day or two in Cuba, and he’s in tip-top shape once again. Even his fencing reflexes are back up to par.

Let me tell you about those fencing reflexes. If you don’t fence for just a couple months, you can tell your game is off.

Mine certainly is. As you know, fond readers, I had to give up fencing because my car died and the weather was frigid and I was really busy at work and I didn’t get a new car until mid-January. Finally after two months of being away from the sport, I was back at it the first week of February.

I sucked all week.

I lost every bout I fenced. I swear to God I had the reflexes of an old cow. By the second week I improved, but my reflexes were still uneven, my bad habits had resurfaced like nasty warts, and without realizing it I was falling back on purely defensive tactics.

“ATTACK!” one fencer advised me after he had creamed me 10-2. “You have to attack more!”

His words hit me like a brick. All that night and the next day, I kept thinking about his simple command: ATTACK. Because I really don’t attack enough, do I? Not in fencing, not in my professional life, not in my love life, not in my writing career, not on so many levels. And I don’t mean being obnoxiously aggressive, but rather taking on the barriers that stand in the way of where I want to go and what I want to do. Maybe this is because I’ve gotten tired. Maybe it’s because settling into a kind of comfortable passivity is so easy. I know my chronic lack of rock-solid confidence doesn’t help. And there’s the whispering fear of failure.

Whatever the reason, I can now see that I really haven’t been attacking my own life as much as I should – attacking it with joy, with excitement, with exuberance, with a devil-may-care abandon. Yes, I’m taking on all kinds of physical challenges in this Becoming Layla plan of mine. But emotionally, I really don’t think I’ve been aggressive enough in my day-to-day life. I have not been brave enough. I’m not really going full-barrel after all the things that I want.

And that, of course, is where James Bond gets it right. What he wants he gets because he always goes for it in a full attack mode. Yes, he’s a fantasy figure. He’s got the Power of Myth behind him. But sometimes acting like the heroes in our favorite myths can give us a personal power, including the power to change our lives.