Doing it right, or just doing it

Mark Wilkie and Keith Farrell
Mark Wilkie and Keith Farrell fencing on the banks of Loch Lomond. Photo by Daria Izdebska, 2012.

This article was originally posted on Encased in Steel on the 1st of January 2016. It has been modified a little for reposting here.

One of the ideas that causes problems for a lot of people across the world is the idea that whatever you want to do has to be right, or perfect, before you begin.

People delay opening a business until the “perfect” moment, and then never quite manage to open up. People keep planning their novel, adding more and more detail to their world, but never quite end up writing the story. People decide that they don’t want to put themselves forward as an instructor of HEMA until they understand it properly – and so clubs never quite take off.

It is important to realise that if you have a good idea, if you know that you want to do something, then it is all for nothing unless you actually do it. If you want to open a HEMA club, then you have to bite the bullet and open the club, advertise for members, and start running things. Waiting for the perfect moment is a strategy for failure, because the perfect moment will rarely, if ever, materialise.

Waiting until you understand enough to be able to teach is also a strategy for failure, because even the international level instructors who have been working on their material for the last eight, ten, twelve years are still learning and improving their knowledge. However, they achieved their international recognition by putting themselves forward to teach at events, even if they didn’t feel quite ready for it, and they managed to provide enough value that they received further invitations to teach. They could not have become household names without deciding to put themselves forward and take the plunge.

Waiting until you have a perfect interpretation or implementation of a system before enrolling yourself in a tournament is also a strategy for failure. No matter how good your interpretation is, if you cannot handle the stress and pressure of a competitive situation, everything will go wrong. Therefore, it is important to develop some skills, dip your toes in the competitive water to find out what you need to learn in order to manage that stress, and gradually increase your ability to perform your interpretation under pressure.

It is critically important to the development of the HEMA community worldwide that if you want to start training, then you should start training! By yourself if needs be, or find a single partner and train together. Open a club and bring others into the group as soon as possible. Many groups with over 70 members, or over 100 members, started out with just a handful of people who were interested in playing with swords. The reason that they have become so successful is that their founders didn’t hang about waiting for the right moment, they just dove in and started doing it, and the club grew as a result of their activities.

Make yourself a resolution for 2018: if you want to start doing something related to your practice or study of HEMA, just start doing it. Don’t wait around, because you will be harming your own chances of success as well as lowering the chances of anyone else being able to benefit from your work, your ideas, your experience of giving it a go. If you want to do something, take the plunge, and see what you can learn in the process.

Keith Farrell

Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers.

I have authored Scottish Broadsword and British Singlestick and the award-winning AHA German Longsword Study Guide, and maintain a blog at www.keithfarrell.net where I post regularly.