The Pursuit of Learning Should Not Be Partisan

It is easy to fall into the idea that there are right approaches and wrong approaches, true paths and false paths. If your group does things one way, if you've invested your time in one path, it can be difficult to allow that those who practice a different system, approach, or have invested in a different strategy, may also be doing something right.

Partisan statements often sound like this:

"I practice the true tradition."

"This approach to the art is the only authentic one."

"[Tournament/cage/sport] fighters don't practice real martial arts."

"You're only good if you can make it work in a tournament."

"Modern sport science is way beyond the knowledge of the middle ages and renaissance."

"Only people who truly lived and died by the sword have something to offer."

"People who only practice the art as a form never really know the art."

"Sparring is reckless and dangerous."

One of the surest ways you can reduce your potential and slow your progress in learning is to hold definitive ideas about sources of knowledge. Especially definitive ideas that are tied into image or association i.e. I believe X because I am Y. Or, in my group we do X, so that's the best way.

A mentor of mine used to say "Knowing is a pathological state of believing."

To address just a few of the above statements

Certainly, fighting in a tournament is different than being in an earnest encounter with sharp blades and to think otherwise could be fatal. Yet, tournaments are excellent testing grounds for strategy, physicality, and psychology even if you never care about winning them. Though they are also not the only one.

Modern sport science has advanced beyond that of the middle ages, but historical sources connect us with the tradition and the synthesis of theory, practicality, and the beauty of the art.

A great fighter can inspire you to what is possible. A great teacher can make possible what inspires you.

The presence of value in one place does not require you be closed to the value of another.

Be discerning but not closed minded

I'm not saying that you shouldn't be discerning about who you learn from and from where you learn. You really should. Not every source is reputable and not all supposed teachers have good intentions. What I am saying is that skepticism and openness are not opposites.

Inspiration and learning can come from so many sources. Don't dismiss someone just because they pursue the art differently than you do. Even if you never adopt their values, there is usually something they can give you that is relevant to your own path.

Tournaments don't excite me at this point in my career — I love connecting with the martial aspects of the art that aren't expressed well in sporting contexts. But what I learned from years of tournament competition serves me still.

Some of my most inspiring teachers couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag, but they could help me see what bag I was in.

I have learned about timing and distance from dancing, and wrestling has helped me do some pretty cool dance moves.

Be thoughtful in your learning and stay open to all the places it may come from.

June rapier & longsword intensive

Registration for the June 12th to 16th Rapier & Longsword Instructor Intensive will open on April 1st. This is a 50 hour, week-long immersive learning experience for aspiring teachers and those who want to be excellent practitioners. The goal is to deliver a high level of technical knowledge while giving you effective modern strategies for learning, retention, and bringing skills into their applied settings.

The program will set you on the path to:

  • Being an excellent and knowledgeable practitioner and teacher.
  • Getting the best results out of yourself and others.
  • Creating an engaging, safe, professional, and effective learning environment.
  • Maximizing learning, retention, and applied practice (from drill to combat).
  • Mastering a martial system based in historical sources and developed over the past 20 years by myself and the testing of more than 10,000 students at Academie Duello.
  • Certifying as a Level 1 Academie Duello instructor, which qualifies you to run an official study group and receive ongoing support and mentorship.

We only allow 12 participants in each intake. Courses fill up quick. Registration opens on April 1st at 10am. Look for the registration link and more information on our Instructor Program Page.

If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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.