Parallel Skills In Action

One of the articles I’m most proud of is the piece I wrote on parallel skills for issue 227 of Furniture & Cabinetmaking over five years ago. A concept I’d encountered through my martial arts training with Clive Elliott, parallel skills are something I’ve found equally useful in all my creative endeavours, including woodwork and playing musical instruments. And the deeper I’ve been drawn down the historic-woodwork rabbit hole, the more benefits I’ve found to a parallel skill approach. So imagine my delight last week when I received an email from Guy Windsor.


Clive demonstrating how to improve my dovetails through a blood choke. Remarkably, this photo was taken on my stag-do. Happy days.

Guy is a scholar of historic martial arts, with an emphasis on historic swordmanship. He’s also a woodworker, and has written a fascinating blog post on the parallels between the study of historic martial arts and traditional handwork in the woodcrafts. This feels like an even wider application of parallel skills – what can the study of other disciplines teach us? I’m looking forward to finding out, and will certainly be tuning into Guy’s blog as a regular reader. I heartily recommend that you do the same!


5 thoughts on “Parallel Skills In Action

  1. There are truths/principles (which ultimately manifest as skills) that apply to so many different areas of life. One example where I professionally (as a CPA/financial planner/consultant) and personally (as an amateur woodworker) bring principles together is in the area of design and implementation. Working with your hands, there’s little room to escape the reality of needing to have a clear vision of what you’re building, and then carefully executing it one step, one skill, at a time. As many have said, huge projects are simply an aggregation of little projects. That’s easy to lose sight of with things you can’t touch – like consulting projects – and why some consulting is sheer BS and some is truly helpful to the client. Woodworking keeps me grounded in the reality of what I’m doing professionally. Woodworking also keeps me sane – but that’s another topic.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment! I definitely find similar benefits from woodwork as you’ve mentioned, especially from combining the tangible practice of woodwork with a profession does not result in a physical “product” output.

  2. I thought this was great. Music is an obvious parallel to me, and many things (like folk music and folk furniture, or practicing an instrument and learning to pare to a line, styles changing with the ages, etc) are very similar.

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