Screenwriting is a complex art. It has demanding rules, and success is rare. Like swordplay, it takes focused study of the art to master the basics. It has variations from medium to medium…feature films have a different format than sitcoms, pacing changes from webseries to short films, and so on…and the standard changes constantly, so you have to keep up to date on the latest trends. When you start, you immerse yourself in screenplays. Hundreds of them have to be read before you get a real proficiency for the form.

But you can’t ever just read screenplays, or write screenplays. You have to be a writer first and foremost, which always implies being a reader. If you want to learn to write dialogue well, most writers recommend reading Elmore Leonard. As a writer, I don’t see any problem reading mystery novels in order to improve my screenplays, even though they are vastly different media. I know I can pluck value from Leonard’s work. It’s valuable to me technically. And every writer finds inspiration in the work of other writers. If you read enough, you find intricate webs of stolen characters and scenes woven into the work of many different writers…the constant homage to the gardens that nurtured us.

But suggest to a rapier fighter that they might find value in learning longsword?  Or vice versa? A longsword fighter might see the value in learning wrestling, but not boxing. It’s the opposite with a rapier fighter. Your own style and weapon starts to build a romantic mystique, a subtle majesty that can’t possibly be understood by people who practice other styles. Or more realistically, everything else just seems kinda boring. Why would I want to do rapier? Take the basic guard, stick it in the other guy, maybe wave it around a bit first. Boring. No depth to that. Without the clash, the winden, where is the subtlety, the art? It seems so shallow.

You need to get deep into your art to master it, but deepness can have a trap to it. Any real learning has branches, choices of speciality you can choose to pursue. Some techniques might seem fun to practice, but you can never pull them off in a bout, so you start to put heavy work into mastering them. Your tactical focus narrows, and you risk becoming predictable…or worse, bored. Frustrated.

The old rule of what it meant to be a martial artist was not a discussion about sport or fantastical realism…it was the knack of constantly walking the fine line between being a technical specialist and being a generalist. A true Martial Artist was a person who had amassed a ton of specialist experience and had successfully amalgamated all of that knowledge into becoming a truly deep generalist, capable of expressing specialist talent in a number of areas. My faulty memory says that Solzhenitsyn wrote that if you could master two trades, you could pretty much perform any trade. It’s a truth that mastery of a martial art takes at least ten years of dedicated study. To be martial artist would then be the work of a lifetime. Twenty years at a minimum.

And for most, it takes training in more than one art, or with more than one teacher. To be a martial artist is a path that starts with technical mastery of one art. That’s the easy part.  It’s not a path for everyone, but it’s something to keep in mind when you consider working with other weapons. It’s easy to dismiss someone as a longsword guy or a rapier guy, but that’s just blinding yourself. The art of the sword has a lot to teach, and there is more in common between a rapier, a longsword, or even a spear than you might expect. It’s worth taking the time to read or listen to what someone has to say without dismissing them out of hand. You can learn from boxers, wrestlers, Taiji masters, or even SCA heavy fighters. It might take a little work to translate what they’re saying, and it sure takes no work to ignore them…but only work rewards in this game.