Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Open Letter and Apology to the Academie Duello Community

I’m writing this because I’ve lost control of my anger over the last few months during my training. Because that loss of control has made a number of people unsafe, and feel unsafe in the space.

I’m writing this because I’m accountable for my actions.  I’m not just accountable to Devon as my director, I’m not just accountable to Clint as the head instructor, I think that I’m accountable to the school at large; to the greater community.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely a part of that community.

It’s my belief that the best way to move forward is with honesty and transparency.


TL;DR - Aaron has issues with anger management. Those issues have been affecting students that he trains with and teaches. Aaron seeks to atone for his actions.  Talk to Aaron, Devon, or Clinton to learn more.


At various points in my life, I’ve come close to hitting the bottom.  And I’ve always been lucky enough to have people to talk to, and a place to go.  After moving to Vancouver a number of years ago, Duello has become that place I go.

A few people have asked me about Duello and what it means to me, and I tell them that it is my temple.  It is where I go to feel good about myself; where I go to find people with similar ideas about what it means to be a good person.

Recently, my actions have led it to be less than safe.  There are people who aren’t safe and comfortable in the space because of my actions.  Who aren’t safe and comfortable training with me or being taught by me.

It tears me apart that this is where my training and failure to manage my anger has led me.  It saddens me beyond words that I’ve caused people to stop walking this path that has led me to so much growth, happiness, and peace.

So how do I fix it?


Bruce Lee said that mastery of martial arts is really just mastery of self.

And reflection has led me to see that I’ve stopped trying to pursue this mastery. That through my own thoughtless action, I’ve been letting my anger manage me, and not the other way around.

My own path forward begins with this:

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t actively put the safety and experience of my fellow students at the fore of my practice.  I’m sorry that I’ve acted in a way that communicates a lack of control and safety.

But talk is cheap.  So what can I promise?

I can promise that I’m answerable to Academie Duello’s administrative team, and that they are taking active steps to address this. If you are interested in those steps, you can contact Devon or Clint and they will answer those questions for you.

I can promise that I’m setting up my own personal accountability structures. And that I'm actively practicing my own anger management exercises and working through an anger management workbook from a well regarded local anger management counselor, Alistair Moes.  If you’re interested in what I’m doing, or feel a desire to help in some small way, you can contact me and ask such questions as you feel are necessary.

Lastly, and this is something that I’ve been worried about within the school for some time: If you see things, people, or practices that make you uncomfortable or that you think are a concern, no issue is too large or small.  There’s a lot that I don’t see as part of my own inward reflection, and things that the senior instructors may not have eyes on. We as staff and instructors are here to facilitate swordplay, martial practice, and personal growth, and that can’t be done if the space feels unsafe.


I’d like to close out by offering a very sincere thanks to the wonderful people and staff of Duello. I’ve been told that there are people who have asked “How can I help Aaron with this?” after I’ve had an outburst.  I’ve had people who have also offered to help me with my own personal accountability structures.

It’s enormously humbling that I have so many people who care about me, and are good enough people to try and help me with a demon that I’ve struggled with for my whole life.

I’m going to do better.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Glittering Eyes and Nylon Swords

Two weeks between posts.  I'm getting better.  It's not a year long affair.

One of my main sources of billable hours within Duello is teaching birthday parties.  Kids aged 8-14 come in, they get an hour lesson in longsword (usually), we salute out, get pictures, and then the hosts sugar up a dozen children and loose them upon their parents.

People ask me "How do you teach kids?  It must be nightmarish."  Not at all.  When I'm teaching kids, there is a social contract in place where if the kids want to learn from me, they are keenly aware that I'm allowed to say "You.  You're being a jerk.  Stop being a jerk and gimme ten push-ups."  More than that, THEY DO THE PUSH-UPS.  When I realized I had push-up authority over my students, my job became infinitely easy.  

Well, the parts of my job related to keeping order in my class.  Seriously, I don't know how my homeroom teachers did it in elementary school.  A friend once asked me to babysit his son while he took the wife out for dinner and a show, and I jumped to accept because they're good people.  But on the way over, I thought to myself Oh no, I probably can't give this kid push-ups if he's gonna be disagreeable.  Now, to my great surprise, the boy was a delight, but I was definitely sweating on the way there.  

But I digress.

I love teaching these parties.  This is exactly what I would have wanted when I was a kid.  I tell the people I train with about them, and about knight camp and usually hear "Man, I wish I had something like that when I was a kid."  I know all about it.  I love seeing the unfiltered joy that comes across some of those little faces when they pick their swords up for the first time.  A select few ask about getting to hold the sharp museum swords, and if their folks are okay with it, they all get the chance.  The look on a kid's face when the gravity of holding a real sharp sword after they've been taught to respect it is wondrous.

Not much more to it then that.  I get to be part of a kid's special day a few times each month.  Life is good.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Instructor Intensive

I had the distinct pleasure of taking part in Academie Duello's first Instructor Intensive last week from October 26-30.  In brief, it was fantastic, and I can't recommend it strongly enough.  Seriously, it gave me material for my own fencing, and a great deal to think about as an instructor.

Where to begin, though?  Perhaps with the structure.

The days started at 08:00 with warm up and grappling for 30 minutes, and rapier for three (yes, holy shit, three (3)) hours.  A half hour break comes at 11:30, and then class resumes at noon with another half hour of grappling, and an afternoon of longsword training for another three hours.  Following yet another half hour break, there was a two hour methodology section where we learned about the nuts and bolts aspects of teaching, training, philosophy, and knowledge retention.

It was an infinitely wonderful experience for me, because I've spent this year away from training.  In large part, due to my job as a security professional.  Ten hours a day is a holy-mother-of-god lot of training, but it has been immensely useful for me.

First, for my own training, it gave me a deep and thourough examination of all of my basics.  It's not enough to know the shape of the guard, but also it's utility and context.  What are the core movements?  Why are you making them?  That shape is wrong, here's not only the specific fix, but how to make it stick, and how to recognise it.  Want a good reason to do the thing beyond "the Maestro said so"?  Here's several corroborating sources from a variety of manuscripts, all combining to form a single cohesive set of martial principles.  Got it?

Holy cats, I get it now.

I have a much deeper understanding of my core mechanics now.  My findings were too big, and I lost my gainings all the time.  I didn't just see my mistake, I finally had a full contextual  understanding of why it was wrong.  Now, I find my opponent's weapon a palmo down the blade (as Capofero advocates) and gain at the point of my crossing (as Fabris advocates) and HEY IT ALL WORKS RELIABLY AND WELL NOW.  That was probably my biggest fencing lightbulb for the week, but rest assured, there are many others.

I don't want to give away any of the knowledge without Devon's express permission, so I'll just have to say that the methodology section was singularly enlightening for how I plan to structure my lessons.

The instruction from the teachers is top notch, Devon and Clint deliver their content cleanly, effectively, and most importantly, animatedly at all times.  Their engagement with the material and the students is superb, and I recommend the course to anyone that's looking to deepen their understanding of fencing at all of it's levels.

I'm inspired as hell, and I'm just now realising how desperately hungry I am to get back to my training.  It's been a long year, and now the story can pick back up again.

Thanks for reading, and stick em with the pointy end.

A Happy Ending; A New Beginning

I am returned after a very long hiatus.  Content to come once a week at a minimum; perhaps more.  Stay tuned for more excitement.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


This is a post that was supposed to go live a few months ago, but was forgotten in the rush of my return from the trip.

I'm in Kamloops for NCCP training as I write this.  The day was long.  So long that it started not on Saturday morning, but on Friday night.  I caught a nap before going into work, busted my hump on the job, got home, showered, and then I was in the car picking up one of the youngest apprentices of the bunch.  At 3:30 in the goddamn morning.

The drive was uneventful; the roads were clear, and traffic was minimal.  We made good time to Kamloops.

Holy god, Kamloops.

What a gorgeous city.

This city is 9 parts in ten gorgeous vistas and hills that say "Explore meeeeeeee".  The other part is inexplicably difficult to navigate.  This town is laid out at least as confusingly as Thompson, Manitoba.  There are streets on a grid in the small downtown, which occupies about 5% of the city.  The rest?  WINDY TWISTY ROADS THAT LEND THEMSELVES POORLY TO MAP READING WHEN YOU HAVE BEEN UP FOR 16 HOURS ALREADY WORKING AND DRIVING.  My abilities at puzzling out a map on a minimum of sleep aside, I have nothing but nice things to say about the city.  Specifically about the vistas.  They are stunning.  This city just begs and pleads for you to go on Sunday drives.

Anyways, to business.

Sterling and I were the first to arrive at the clinic.  A brief introduction to Ron and we were set to work immediately by placing tables around the room's lonely projector screen.  After some coffee and doughnuts, we took our seats, and I personally learned nothing about coaching and the mechanics of shooting, but more about ethical decision making and the ethical and legal ramifications of my decisions as a coach.  All told- ultra dry material.

But it's another step on the road to legitimacy, if not mastery.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

VISS Thoughts: Workshops and Self Abuse

Things that I apparently do: write posts and forget to hit "publish"

It's the day after the Vancouver International Swordplay Symposium.  My body aches, my mind is wiped, and I, lacking the sense that God gave a goose, went to another class that was chock full of high intensity training and then shuffled out to meet a friend for drinks after.  Before VISS, I spent three days training hard in preparation for my blue cord exam.  And during VISS I fenced and stretched my mind all day, worked all night for two nights, and on the last day, spent all of my energy in grand fashion during the after party and free fencing.

What I lack in sense, I make up for with my hunger for knowledge.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

1 for 30

Devon has been running an event this month called the 30 for 30 swordplay challenge. The premise is simple, do 30 minutes a day reach day in June. Have I been doing it? A little. Have I kept track of it? Not even a little bit.
No tone like the present though, right?
Days 1-4 (actually day 17)
-two hours with Randy working on overall fitness and le canne
Days 5-10 (actually day 18)
-1 hour spent learning the introduction to Marozzo's first assault
-2 hours in class working on wrestling, rapier drills, and learning part one of the first assault
Days 11-18 (actually day 19)
-30 minutes practicing the introduction and part one of the forest assault; learning part 2
- 1 hour in sidesword focus class
- 2.5 hours in class covering general fitness, wrestling, line drills, refining the first assault, and longsword slow work/playing with shiny new toys
It's unreal how easily and quickly I have found myself caught up. A little sore, but still hungry. 10,000 hours seems smaller and smaller when I remember how much damned fun the art holds.