Embrace the Suck - The Importance of Accepting Failure

At the beginning of your first lesson with the Sons you will hear the rules…..

  1. Don’t hit anybody.

  2. Don’t hit anybody.

  3. Don’t hit anybody.

  4. What do you think rule number 4 is?

  5. You suck! Why?

As soon as you say this, something interesting happens. More often than not a flash of emotion will shoot across the student’s face. Outrage; “How dare you tell me I suck!” Confusion; “How can I suck if i haven’t touched a saber yet?”. And the one that breaks my heart, when you see pain or acceptance. Those students need a bit of extra TLC. Why are we so nasty in the first lessons? It’s one of the most important life skills that we teach. Failure is the most important teacher. If you don’t suck, you don’t learn!

I first noticed it when I was teaching English to kids on the Spectrum, with many of my students having a low threshold for learning. What I mean by this is that if they didn’t pick up a skill or concept quickly it was too hard and they would stop learning, period. For some it was a fear of failure; if i give up, i can’t fail. For others it was an inability to function outside of their comfort zones. There was even a smattering of laziness as well! But across the board I found a lack of the resilience needed to overcome failure, to get up and fail again. Malcolm Gladwell stated that it takes 10 000 hours to master something, which is a little more than one attempt! By telling a student they suck, it gives them permission to fail. And once they lose the fear of failure, true learning can begin. Not just in theatre combat but in their wider life.

People are often ready to wave the “its the fault of them play-boxes” flag for our kids failure to cope. Interestingly, I’ve found similar behaviours in the Neurotypical community as well. Our students cover a wide range of ages (currently 9 to 56) and they are people who grew up in the non-digital age and should have learnt the importance of failure. Yet the lack of resilience is displayed across the board. Maybe it is the result of the culture of immediacy the internet provides us; you can have anything you desire delivered to your door in days from anywhere in the world with a minimal wait. That’s my guess anyway.

The reason I choose to teach theatre combat at the Academy is that is a great way to suck. Not many people have had experience with theatre combat before, therefore everyone sucks equally. It is a great way to see actual skill development. At the beginning of the lesson the student has no idea how to do a spin or a piece of choreography; by the end they can see the reward for their hard work. Yet next week you will suck again as we are staring something new. Life is a series of failures, growth comes when we learn from them and move forward.

Sucking is one the greatest thing in life. It shows us where we need to improve, it allows us to see growth and it builds character! Make sucking at something part of your every day life! The day you stop learning is the day you die!

Our New Style - Balintawak Arnis

Hey guys, I thought you would be interested in learning a little about Balintawak Arnis, the new style we are teaching this year.

In my younger years I had the amazing opportunity to train with John Russell, a Central Coast native who has trained around the world in a variety of martial arts including a long stint in the Philippines learning under the masters! He is a master of the Visayan Martial Arts School.

What is Balintawak?

Balintawak is one of the lesser know schools coming out of the Filipino Martial Arts Systems, of which the best know of these styles is Arnis/Escrima/Kali. Most people would know Kali as Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do system popularised this style in the 1980s under Don Inosanto. Kali is closely related to a number of styles from other schools around the Pacific Islands such as Silat from Indonesia ( this is becoming a popular style used in movies such as The Bourne Identity).

Whist these styles use two sticks, Balintawak uses one stick with the open hand used to assist in blocking and controlling your opponents weapon. The other beauty of the Filipino systems, and especially Balintawak, is that it is a great style to move into hand to hand combat. If you lose your weapon, you can use exactly the same moves as punches!

Why Balintawak and what does it have to do with Star Wars?

Why not? Everyone uses long sword as the basis for their combat, why can’t there be other weapons and fighting styles in the Star Wars universe? I’ve been wanting to use styles and weapons that not only make us stick out from others in the Star Wars combat but to challenge our students! The beauty of Balintawak is that the shorter weapons bring the students closer together meaning that the fights will be quicker, more dynamic and it will also allow the students to become comfortable with basic hand to hand moves!