The secret of becoming a master of martial arts

Published: Sun, 02/12/23

A good friend shared the secret of becoming a master of martial arts with me. Turn up, train, do some practice. That is it, all you need to know. This secret or principle also makes it clear why so few people ever really do get anywhere with martial arts, or any other activity for that matter. Although I would still regard Stav as my primary body, mind, spirit/martial arts discipline, I have also been graded to black belt in Lee Style Kung Fu recently. Today I should be grading to the second level in Tai Chi and I haven’t even attended any classes, my instructor has just been showing me the form during Kung Fu training as he is keen that I should now progess in Tai Chi as well.
I have been resisting involvement in Tai Chi for a long time, partly because I just have too much else on my mind, and mainly because I think the ‘gentle art’ is for old people and I am only... Wait a minute, 64 next month! So, maybe I am old enough for Tai Chi after all. I have been practicing the first 12 moves of the form so far. I may well have a black belt in another Chinese art well before I am 70, I guess one should never resist the Tao/Orlog as it works through one’s life.
As well as the Stav and the Chinese arts I have also developed a secret and esoteric training system of my own which I seem to be calling Principles Based Martial Arts (PBMA for short). I don’t want it to be secret. However, not very many people know about it, so, for the moment it is a fairly secret art. Esoteric? The word just means looking into a system and seeing below the surface appearances of things. Chinese martial arts seem to be very much about forms and drills that have to be performed in a very specific way. Stav has the stances and exercises to work with the lines and principles. To really understand something you also need to see below the surface of the form and appreciate the principles with which we are working.
Last week I wrote a definition of PBM in my notebook. I seems a little pretentious reading it now but I am still going to share what I was thinking at the time:
‘A systematic approach to understanding the principles of conflict, approaches to resolution of violence, and the restoration of harmony. The same principles of conflict apply to the turmoil within the human heart as they do to the great wars which seem to engulf the world.’
The strange thing about PBMA is that when I am teaching very basic self-defense I use the simplest principles of the system as it has developed for me. Starting with awareness, then judgment of, and management of, distance. Then deciding upon intention in dealing with a confrontation. The choice of intention simply depends upon our role and responsibility within a situation. Using PBMA it should be possible to teach the real essentials of self-protection in a couple of hours.
At the other extreme, very powerful forces seem to dominate our world using great military organisations. Intelligence networks subvert governments. Huge corporations profit from arms sales and use the money to lobby for political influence. The media is willing to disseminate uncritical propaganda which creates and maintains consent for war and all the associated suffering and destruction.
What can ordinary people do about war and conflict which is fomented by the rich and powerful? It often seems that we have little power and influence. Even democracy seems irrelevant when you realise that the leaders of the parties which might make up a government all have exactly the same view and policy on the really important issues such as war. As the expression goes: ‘It doesn’t matter who you vote for, the government always gets in.’ Try finding a politician with any influence who will publicly state that making peace in Ukraine would be better than supplying weapons in order that the conflict can continue?
As I have stated before, principles are simple, universal, and fractal. If you can understand how conflict can arise and be resolved in your own life, you can understand conflict, and its potential resolution, on any scale.
Violence exists in the world because greed, a lust for power, unresolved anger, frustration, despair, and fear drive the believes and actions of too many human beings. Preventing violence with yet more control is rarely the answer if the emotions and drives which lead to war are simply suppressed.
Training in martial arts should be empowering, not so much because anyone learns how to fight, a karate punch has little effect on a tank, but because one has taken responsibility for training the body, focusing the mind, and submitting to the discipline of turning up, training, and practicing. Through martial arts we become aware of the reality of violence and then take responsibility for healing the forces and wounds that may cause violence within ourselves. It is then possible to spread peace and harmony to those around us rather than stirring up the storms of violence and conflict. Of course it is possible to be an agent of peace and harmony without doing martial arts, but martial training is a path to awareness, self-discipline, and eventually, personal transformation. If you are prepared to let the process happen.
If we can transform ourselves we can transform the world. However, this work of transformation depends upon us doing the work through some kind of practice which we take full responsibility for. The actual transformation actually depends upon the degree of responsibility that we take rather than the practice we adopt. Hence the need for both a structured practice and understanding of principles.
Perhaps the simplest expression of what PBMA is about is that the real value of martial arts comes from learning from what you practice and use, not just learning to practice.
PBMA will be one of the themes we will explore in Salisbury on the 25th of February. Please see here for full details
PS This theme will also be explored at the Stav Camp in July, details here

Graham Butcher
21 Beaver Road
Beverley East Yorkshire HU17 0QN

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