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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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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Scholar Benjamin Davis and Free Aaron Lomontagne partners

The Unlimited Catalog of Partners

There are many types of partners you could end up sparring with. For example, if you had a sparring partner who always, consistently, threw cuts right as you stepped into their measure and stopped when you stepped out, then you could know that you could always go to them to practice your parries. Or, if…

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Practice Pinpointing Your Coaching Corrections

Years ago, I had the pleasure of riding in a boat with Canada’s Olympic rowing coach while he coached members of our Olympic team and some more casual rowers like me. One of the most compelling things about this experience was how little he gave to each of his students yet how impactful some of…

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Proficiency by counting strikes on a blackboard

Lots of Practice, Not Perfect Practice

There is an interesting phrase pair I have been hearing from a lot of instructors recently. I hear: “Practice makes perfect.” Then an admonishment: “No. Practice makes permanent. So make sure you don’t practice poorly!” The first is a message of hope and resilience. If you practice and stay the course, you can find mastery.…

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The 5 Minutes Per Day Practice Regimen

In light of our upcoming Online Collaborative Longsword Course, I thought it would be a good occasion to revisit this post on the five minutes per day practice regimen. Rhythm is the most important thing to cultivate on the path to mastery. Whether you leverage this course or simply get started with your own practice…

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Exposure is the Key to Deeper Learning

In his Jogo do Pau training seminar in Vancouver in 2016, instructor Luis Preto demonstrated a basic fact of learning. To get good at catching a ball, there’s little utility in rehearsing the catching action in isolation; you need to have a ball thrown at you. The mind is an incredible problem-solving machine. It can…

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Why Is the Rapier Part of Our System?

Recently, I began a blog series answering, in broad form, why we teach the rapier and longsword as part of one system at Academie Duello. I started in the first post by looking at the historical precedent for multi-weapon study that spans many original fighting manuals from both the medieval period and the Renaissance, as…

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SKIL: A model for learning martial forms

Many martial traditions, including ours, use martial forms (series of attacks and defences for solo or partnered practice) to help train martial precision, flow, and fitness. Having a form that you can practice without a training partner provides structure for improving and maintaining your martial ability when you don’t have the option of training with…

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Notes from a Fencing Student, circa 1657

In the 1650s, a German speaking student attended the knight academy at Sorø in Eastern Denmark. There he studied under fencing master Wilhelm Schöffer von Dietz, a known student of fencing master Salvator Fabris (whose manual is a core source for rapier instruction at Academie Duello and to the Italian tradition in general). In his…

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Getting Started in HEMA, Wherever You Are

Historical European Martial Arts are one of the most rapidly growing parts of the Martial Arts world with new groups, sites, and schools opening up all the time in both the West and East. Yet for a new practitioner, even with all this choice, it can be hard to know where or how to start.…

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The Pedestal: What We Expect From Our Teachers

I have come to wonder if placing our teachers on pedestals is about elevating them, or if it’s really about lowering and restricting ourselves?  Elevating our teachers to a realm beyond what is humanly achievable can be a strategy for minimizing our own expectations, and thus our disappointments. If the goal is unachievable there are…

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Reading & Writing Strategies for In-Class Learning

If you feel that you learn best by reading or writing, you are not alone. For many, these are the learning skills that they’ve had the most practice with since our school system focuses so much on them. This in itself is an important note. It may not be that you are “wired this way”,…

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

What Have You Failed At Today?

“What have you failed at today?” This question is one that a friend’s father used to ask her and her brother every day at dinner. I found the story inspiring. This question, as well as her father’s warm approach in how he asked it, contained so many positive questions and affirmations: What did you try today?…

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

Restarting from Zero

I have gone from being able to do 100 push-ups in a set to not being able to do one and back again. I spent years developing myself as a fencer only to have to tear down what I’d built and start from scratch. Years ago I could touch my toes without bending my legs, sometime in…

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Learning swordplay is different for everyone.

Taking Charge of Your Learning Environment

This past week during my polearms class one of my students, who is hard of hearing, asked me to put on a wireless microphone (worn as a necklace). This microphone connects to a receiver in his hearing aids that allows him to hear me more clearly regardless of where I am in class, which way…

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