Martial Arts Students in a Line

Failure and the Journey of Success

This past Friday, Academie Duello held a rank exam with 14 students across both adult and youth programs examining for Scholar and Free Scholar levels. We had a tremendously full house with somewhere between 60 and 70 fighters on the floor and dozens of observers. Exams are challenging affairs and we are not afraid to put…

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Developing Tactical Senses

This is the second part in a series on Awareness. Part 1 explored how to develop your ability to recall and diagnose what’s happening in combat through three games. In this post I’m going to delve into the second definition of awareness: Feeling, experiencing, or noticing something (such as a sound or sensation). Tactics Being…

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How to Have an Effective Training Partnership

When I first started going to the gym, it was with a colleague from work. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays instead of going home from work we would head to the gym together. We were generally there for an hour, sometimes we’d work out together, sometimes we would follow different routines. Though our approach to…

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The Difference Between a Fighter and a Martial Artist

If you can kick butt, does that make you a martial artist? Not necessarily. The word “art” is etymologically related to the word “artisan”. To the renaissance man, something was an art because it is based on well-ordered principles. A sound art is able to efficiently and effectively achieve a desirable end through a seamless alignment with…

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Am I Learning Fast Enough?

It is tempting as a teacher to always respond to this question with “Yes”. I have found that people these days seem to be hard on themselves and are terrible at accurately assessing their own progress—I certainly have seen this in myself. It is difficult to view progress subjectively because with learning comes a greater awareness of what you…

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It’s Never Too Late

You’re not too old to learn something new. Unless you plan to die in 10 years, there’s still plenty of time to gain a notable level of proficiency. Perhaps you won’t be leaping five feet into the air or out-competing some young competitor, but the benefits for your mind and body actually increase over time.…

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Willpower is for Suckers – Make a Training System to Succeed

Willpower is not enough Any plan that depends on willpower for success is doomed. Success in anything is largely based on rhythm and the ability to take gradual and reliable steps toward your goal. Crunching away at the 10,000 hours of mastery required to become excellent at a skill is not going to come from a…

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Ways to Keep Training When You’re Sick or Injured

Training is at least 50% mental and 50% physical. If you’re truly down-and-out sick, then just let yourself be sick. No sense resisting the sleep you need and prolonging the pain. But if you’re just out with the sniffles, or you have an injury that prevents you from physically training, then here are some things you…

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Ways To Test Your Art — Triangulating on Life and Death

For the past many years my focus in the pursuit of Historical European Martial Arts has been very much on safely exploring the “martial” aspect. I want to get as close to the original martial art as I realistically can without actually putting myself, my training partners, or my students in mortal danger. Yet that is…

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Taste of the Renaissance Beginner's Course

Four Strategies to Combat Technique Repetition Boredom

“The difference between an advanced action and a simple action is that an advanced action is a simple action done very, very well.” A student and colleague of mine reminded me of this quote recently. I very much enjoy its sentiment every time I’m exposed to it. It reminds me of how much of my…

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Is Focus Stressful?

Do you find it stressful to keep trying the same combat movement again and again, knowing with each pass that it still needs improvement? When working with a partner, does it raise your blood pressure when things go wrong? And as soon as it goes correctly, do you want to stop? Alternately, in some cases,…

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How to Create Empowered Learners; Not Just Competent Practitioners

A good teacher doesn’t just impart information to their students, they empower their students to be excellent learners. In my classes, I’m thinking not just about how I can increase my students’ ability with a given technique in that moment, but what I can give them that will help them meaningfully practice, implement, and build…

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Managing Safety in Martial Arts

Swinging a steel sword at someone, even a blunted one, seems risky. That’s because it is. How do we manage to practice an art that is traditionally deadly in a way that allows us to keep practicing it — often rigorously — for a long time? There are three primary ways that we mitigate risks…

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Learning swordplay is different for everyone.

10 Steps for Running a Successful HEMA Study Group

A study group is a group of peers devoted to helping each other get better in a particular martial practice. If you don’t have an experienced and savvy instructor in your area, or you want to pursue learning something that is not offered by your group or school, or you simply want to get in…

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