The Answer to Failure is: “Do It Again!"

Training on your own and you can’t get that move right? Do it again.

In class and you fail at a technique? Ask your partner to give you their part again.

Sparring with a peer and they get around your defence? Ask them to back up and do it again.

Do it again until you fully understand the challenge. Repeat the action until you’ve found a solution. Continue to rehearse that particular movement until you’ve conditioned a new response.

In its simplest form, practice is about identifying challenges, understanding them, solving them, and training through them. And once you've cleared a particular hurdle, starting the cycle over.

If you’re not failing, do it again, and this time: up the challenge, increase the personal risk, expand the probability of your doing it wrong and let yourself be vulnerable to that. Then, repeat the steps above.

Some tips on Doing it Again

To improve at something, you need to purposefully focus on problem areas. “Doing it again” means revisiting a particular challenge so you can get in as many effective repetitions as you can in as short a time as possible.

Practice Challenge Reconnaissance
Most issues will not be resolved within a single session of training. Use your time to best diagnose and understand the dimensions of the challenge. Then you can build a training plan that targets the solution long-term.

Set Aside Your Ego
Performing an action you’re not good at over and over again means failing at it lots and lots. Someone who is prepared to step into frequent failure, and doggedly work to get better, is a far more admirable practitioner than someone who limits themselves only to working on what they already know how to do.

Do It Slower
To both understand a problem as well as work on solutions, try slowing down the action. In a solo exercise, cut the speed in half so you can focus on each nuance of the movement. Draw your attention to your fingers and hands, the alignment of your joints, the placement of your weight, and your connection to the ground.

With a partner, have them reduce the speed as they perform their part so you can best see and feel it. Work cooperatively to identify the question being asked by the play, and then, the answer.

Once solved, gradually bring the speed back without losing the precision of the solution.

Use Your Partners Effectively
Build a strong reciprocal relationship with your training partners. Make sure that you contribute equally to their training (over time) and they will gladly “do it again” for you over and over. Most people in a class or at a sparring session are not only there to learn and get better themselves but also wish to help others advance as well. There is so much to learn from assisting others; and, the more that your training partners improve, the more the overall skill of your group will rise (yours included). So don’t be bashful about getting help and staying active in offering your own.

Good training, everyone!

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.
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