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 students up to challenges they might not pass on the first or second time around.

It can be challenging to fail your own students. I care for them and empathize with both the disappointment and frustration. As a teacher, I share in those feelings as I am a direct part of each student’s journey.

We are Accountable to the Standard

On that journey, it’s important in my part as mentor and guide that I endeavour always to act in my student’s best interest, even when that leads to uncomfortable feelings. My good friend and colleague, Maestro Puck Curtis, said to our Provost candidates when he sat on their examining board “I promise to you, that in this exam, I will act with the integrity required to fail you.”

I hope we can each seek to follow that example for our students and peers; to act with the integrity and compassion required to be true friends and mentors.

A Place to Safely Fail

Success is by its nature a journey through failures. One of the beautiful things about martial arts is that it can provide a supportive community and environment to learn and build the passion, resiliency, and devotion required to move through failure and find success in all parts of our lives.

I hope each student who did not pass their exam gains from the experience, and in the end finds joy in the challenge. For those who did pass, I look forward to seeing you face the next trials on the path.

Learning new things and testing that learning is rarely easy but it is always worthwhile. To students at Academie Duello and everywhere who choose to step into the arena. I salute you.

devonboorman Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.