30 for 30 Swordplay Challenge 2020

The seventh annual 30-for-30 Swordplay Challenge is just about to start on January 2nd. If you’ve heard of yoga challenges, you know what this is about. It’s like that, but with swords! The challenge: practice swordplay for 30 minutes per day for 30 days in January from the 2nd to the 31st. This requires no…

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One Mindful Breath: Minimum Viable Commitment

Sometimes the most you can muster is a single mindful breath. And sometimes that’s all the meditation you need. One set of crunches. One line on your manuscript. One walk around the block. We often overestimate what we can accomplish in one day, while we underestimate what we can accomplish in five years if we…

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Remember Your Students’ Names: Three Tips

At Academie Duello we care both about the process of developing great students but also of creating great teachers. To that end I like to periodically share articles about the process of teaching and learning to teach. Dale Carnegie, in his influential How to Win Friends and Influence People, says “the sweetest sound to anyone…

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Getting the Most from Mixed Experience Levels

We were all newbies once. We were all the person who worried that our lack of skill was holding others back in their practice. And in some cases maybe we did. It is difficult to manage levels of challenge within a mixed level group. The needs of the experienced practitioner and those of the newcomer are quite…

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The Three Ms of Excellence

The idea of pursuing personal excellence is great, but functionally how do you do it? I’ve written about beating the boredom of repetitive drilling, and promoting an excellence mindset. Yet when you get the opportunity to really up the quality of what you’re doing, where do you focus? Below is a piece of guidance material I…

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Learn to swordfight again from scratch. Learn new things about yourself!

The Mountain and the Bliss of Ignorance

A new student at Academie Duello recently said to me “There’s so much to learn, it’s like being under a mountain!” It can feel that way. It truly is a mountain of knowledge, practice and craft one must climb to become a master of these arts! The Dunning-Kruger effect, which has gained such popularity of late,…

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What is a Modern European Martial Arts Master?

Recently I was asked in an online thread what I thought constituted a modern master of Historical European Martial Arts and whether I thought there was worth in the creation of modern masters or the use of the master title at all. In short to all: Yes. A Little Backstory on Fencing Mastery Before I…

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Is Full Speed and Full Contact Required?

A good friend of mine is a special forces combatives trainer. I asked him how much of their training is devoted to full-speed and full-contact simulated sparring. He told me “no more than 5%”. For him it was a matter of balancing value and risk. Full speed, full contact sparring has the value of exposing…

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Slow Down Sign

Why Go Slow? The Benefits of Slow Sparring

This past week, at our 50-hour instructor intensive, I introduced a new batch of students, who travelled in from various places around the world to the method and benefits of slow sparring. Slow sparring is exactly what it sounds like: sparring done slowly. It has proven itself to me to be a tremendously valuable training…

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Proficiency by counting strikes on a blackboard

To Build Proficiency: Show Up

In his book Mastery, George Leonard recounts a story about an Aikido class where his Sensei had them repeat a single technique for three hours. George was a fairly senior student at that time who had a solid training ethic. But this particular three hours represented quite a journey for him, and I found it…

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The Pursuit of Craft: Why Do Martial Arts at All?

Why? This is a not too uncommon question that comes up from both outsiders and insiders of martial art. What is the purpose that your art is serving? What are the ends that you’re driving toward? What will it look like when you’re done? Who will you be? I pondered this question today as I…

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The Beautiful Art of Solitary Practice

Practicing martial arts on my own can be one of the great pleasures of my week. It is a time that is just purely for me. Within the time spent in solitary practice, I don’t have to worry about providing for a partner or guiding a student, I can simply focus on my own body,…

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How to Get People to Drill

In an online conversation with members of our instructor training program this past weekend, an interesting question came up, one that I encounter on a regular basis: How do I make the other people in my group drill and do exercises? The short answer is that you don’t “make” them do anything. Their training is their…

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