New Year’s Resolutions for Fencing – A Review of the Slight Edge

Over the winter holiday I have been reading a book on the subject of
personal mastery called The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. It is a good and relevant read for
those interested in mastering fencing (and not just because of the
title!) or really any type of new year’s resolution or goal you might
set. The book spends most of its first half with success stories and
parables geared to helping you understand the full dimensions of the
‘slight edge’, the second half is more exercise and practical
implementation focused.The ‘slight edge’ of which he speaks is essentially the divide between:1. Making small, easy to do, positive actions, consistently over time, and
2. Not making those actions (also easy to do) or making other small
negative actions, consistently over time.

Each day, you are making choices to do things that take you toward
positive outcomes or not. A simple example would be flossing your
teeth. It’s easy to floss your teeth, it’s also easy to not floss your
teeth. Neither choice over the short-term will have any notable
impact, however over the long-term the impact could be drastic,
positively or negatively depending on which side of the slight edge
you find yourself on.

Though a bit pedantic at times the book has largely rung true with me.
I have built most of my own successes through a similar philosophy.
I generally practice resilience and persistence. I tend to get back on
the horse when I fall off and I have always felt a positive outlook is
the best way to serve my long-term ends. Everyday I work to make the
best contribution I can toward my goals, always taking small steps
forward. Through consistent movement forward and practicing simple
personal disciplines I have built a successful fencing academy, corrected my posture, written most of a book (60% through draft 2!), built
physical strength and fencing skill through the discipline of practicing at least 5 minutes a day, and many more successes
large and small. None of my success has come in a bolt of lightning
nor through one particular stroke of luck.

Reading the Slight Edge has been valuable for giving me confirmation
of this philosophy as successful beyond my little bubble, and has
given me some further tools and ideas for operating on the right side
of the slight edge. The most important lesson the book offers for
mastering the art of fencing is to 1. Build a simple daily discipline
toward practicing the art (and toward general health) that is easy to
enact, and 2. Be patient.

If you can embrace this philosophy: “small consistent action over time
leads to success in my goals” then it is easier to be patient. Time
is on your side. The more time that goes by the better at fencing you
will be, the healthier you will be, the more successful you will be.
The reason that so few people achieve mastery of a sophisticated skill
like swordplay is because they expect results too quickly. After
practicing daily for one month nothing dramatic has happened! So they
give up. Or after practicing daily for a year, they don’t take a
moment to reflect on how much they truly have gained when genuinely
compares to a year before.

So as we come up to New Year’s Resolutions, my challenge to you is:

1. Read the Slight Edge — though a bit repetitive and perhaps a bit
predictable at times, there are some genuinely good ideas in there.
2. Set some fencing goals for yourself (and some life goals too!),
then devise some simple daily disciplines and commit to them.
3. Be Consistent. Be Patient.

At Duello, Roland has pioneered the weekly homework project: each
week, instructors write optional homework assignments for each cord
level up on a board at the school. Few of these homework assignments
take more than 5 minutes a day to complete, and can give you some
direction and variety for a daily swordplay discipline.

Don’t start with too great a challenge, commit to something you can
easily do every day, if you succeed at it for a couple weeks, then up
the difficulty, then repeat.

If you have any stories to share on how you’ve reached your personal
swordplay goals, or goals of any kind for that matter, post them up in
the comments.

Happy New Year, and Happy Resolution Making!

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.