June Instructor Intensive, and Some More Thoughts on Mastery

Before I get into more conversations about mastery, and what this means when I apply the term to swordplay, I want to share some information about our next instructor course, which I’m very excited about.
Registration for our next Instructor Intensive (taking place from June 20 – 24) will be opening on April 10 at 10:00 am. This is a 50-hour kickoff to an eight-month long course that will take you through the first two levels of our technical and instructor programs. If you’re excited about teaching the rapier or longsword and are interested in getting a leg-up in your practice and teaching approach, this is a great opportunity to learn from our years of experience here at Academie Duello.
The last two intensives booked up in less than a week, and the reviews have been stellar. If you’re excited about learning and teaching Historical European Martial Arts I recommend that you mark your calendar, and join us in June!

Why do we have a Master level?

Earlier I made a post where I challenged people to step onto the path of mastery. This led to a lot of interesting conversations in various corners of the Internet about what it means to be a Master and whether an art needs masters at all.
First, let’s define what we at Academie Duello mean when we talk about masters in our system:

  • Individuals who practice our arts at a high level.
  • This does not mean that they need to be the most butt-kicking, badass fighters on the planet. Simply that they should be able to practice what they preach. They should understand the art in its elegance and its complexity and be able to conduct martial conversations that are technically articulate.
  • Teachers who own the principles, not just the techniques.
  • A student learns principles from techniques. A Master creates techniques from principles. Our goal is to help practitioners own the art at a deep enough level that they can not only teach it and practice it, but also expand and innovate beyond its past.
  • Instructors who can convey the complete art.
  • To truly be a master, one must have a desire and ability to give the whole art to their students. Being a master has nothing to do with control and everything to do with building and promoting others.

I think the idea of a master, as described here, is inspiring. I don’t think we should by shy of the title, but truly it is irrelevant to the journey. Seeking mastery means approaching an art with a passion and discipline that goes above and beyond what most people strive for. It requires a level of commitment and resilience to put in the years and hours required to get there.

Mastery is not an End in Itself

Seeing it as the end the journey is limiting. If your desire is only for what you feel the title might give you, it will be difficult to keep the energy and love of the art alive long enough to realize such a shallow goal.
Imagining what is possible, pushing yourself to be greater each day – that’s the mindset required for mastery. For that, you need to recognize that pushing through the failures, knocks, and plateaus is part of the worth of an end goal. However, having a truly exciting long-term goal is often what motivates you to deeply connect with the process. It’s in the day to day practice where the real work resides and where the essential joy is. There is so much to love and savour at each step and the journey of mastery is truly without end.
If you seek to find power or recognition by virtue of a title, this may not be the best road for you. Titles only get you in the door. It’s your true worth and accomplishment that make your future. The destination is worthless without the work that goes into getting there.
If you deeply love an art, strive to be a master of it. The road in itself is worth the striving.
Keep the conversation going! Let us know your thoughts on making modern day Masters in the comments.

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Our Arts Need New Masters

The arts that fit under the umbrella of Historical European Martial Arts or Western Martial Arts are still young in their return to the world. It has really only been about 20 years that there has been earnest pursuit, and only in the last decade has there been a serious increase in practitioners. There is a growing energy behind them now.

Practice, Improvement, Hours & Greatness

As Michael Syed cites very thoroughly in his book Bounce, the number of hours you invest is important, but the quality of those hours is what actually matters when it comes to achieving mastery. To effectively push forward, you must spend the bulk of your hours working in the most challenging places, putting yourself into a space where you make mistakes and fail frequently.


  1. In almost all sports and hobbies and professions there are varying levels of competence and proficiency. Providing people in this sport a means to grow and be recognized for their commitment to learning and teaching is crucial to retention and recognition of this dedication.

  2. One of the issues is “how”. I’m interested in pursuing the role of master, but the qualifications are nebulous. Nevertheless, with the oversight of some trusted teachers I’m on a long-term path to build the kind of resume that I hope will one day allow me to be a master.

    1. With regards to Greg’s issue of “how”, to my thinking it’s more a matter of “When” and “What”.
      I sincerely believe that Devon is on the correct path of providing a venue that will clearly define the process with a pedagogy that addresses an omnicient swordplay concept. By this I mean that within his method there is a practicality that is portable in concept from unarmed wrestling to LS to Side Sword to Rapier to the classical weapons to the sportive. Opposition is just that and, despite some adaptation, there is no difference in this concept in modern Epee’. So I believe the “how” has been taken care of. It is simply leveraging this comprehensive pedagogy and a lot of hard work.
      Upon completion and any piece of paper recognizing the accomplishment, The “When” will only come when someone you admire, someone who appreciates the ordeal, calls you by the title.
      The “What” is the good you then do with it and only that should be the reason for the journey. Anything else is self gratification.
      I’ve been recognized by two Maitre d’Armes, one French and one Austrian, as a Prevot d’Armes at their Salles. With these titles and $2.00 USD they’ll let me in the subway. However, there is no value that can be placed upon the pride in the trust that they put in me to pass on their pedagogy.