Always Four Alternatives

Published: Wed, 02/21/24

People say some silly things, worse still, people repeat them. It used to be said that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton. This idea suggested that public school sports provided a training for physical fitness, teamwork, and leadership which translated directly into military prowess on the battlefield. The only deficiency in the argument being that organised team sports as we know them today, especially football, whether played as the rugby or association games, only date back to the 1850s and the battle of Waterloo took place in 1815, so it is unlikely that anyone who fired a musket or participated in a cavalry charge against Napoleon’s forces ever kicked, or ran, with a leather ball.
By the early 20th century team sports , along with their rules, rituals, uniforms, and mass participation were a major part of popular culture in Western societies. Along with the obsession with team games came the insidious notion that war really was just a ‘game of two halves’. The first world war was really just a contest between two teams being played out over the border of Belgium and France. World war two was just a rematch. It has been a while since I heard anyone quip that the result of both wars was Britain 1 - German 0. Maybe the actual nature of war has gradually seeped into our consciousness as we see the reality of Vietnam, both Iraq wars, Bosnia, Ukraine, and Gaza.
Carl von Clausewitz, the Prussian author of the seminal text ‘On War’ stated that, rather than being a game, war was ‘politics by other means’. Politics may include democracy, leadership, negotiation, and compromise in order that people can live together and alongside each other in relative peace and harmony. And sometimes force is needed too, either to prevent an act of aggression, or to demonstrate to an oppressive regime that their tyranny is intolerable. Violence must also be tempered with diplomacy and negotiation, since, short of genocide, there will always come a point where people simply need to accommodate each other and find a way to get along.
My belief is that all conflicts are created and resolved according to the same fundamental principles. There is no essential difference between a dispute between neighbours or within a family and a large scale conflict between nations. Most conflicts, large and small in scale, are managed, and eventually resolved without violence or too much unpleasantness. However, it is all too easy to develop fixed ideas of how conflicts should be settled, whether involving, emotional, social, legal, financial leverage, or even violence. When people do end up being hurt it is often because no one is stepping back and looking at more appropriate ways of resolving the conflict.
One of the reasons that Stav appealed to me from the beginning was the concept of the five principles. There are a great many ways of understanding the five ‘castes’ of traditional European society. However, training with these concepts in martial arts is a very good way of using and testing each level of awareness. If one approach to resolving a conflict isn’t going to work, then that is okay, there are always four alternatives, each with a different cost and benefit.
There are two seminars coming up in the next months in which I will look at using Stav principles for Self-defence. We will look at how to train each principle in a martial arts context, which will be both fun and instructive. Then we will look at how each principle is applied in the real world. My attitude to violence, particularly at a time of life when actually getting into a fight would be rather undignified, can be summed up as: If you actually need to hit someone to sort out a problem then something has gone seriously wrong. Each principle, properly understood, should enable you to manage situations without physical force. However, if you do have to go physical you had better have a plan and know why you are taking your course of action.
Each seminar will go right through from simply not being there on a Trel level to considering what is actually worth dying for in the Konge role.
Please check out the courses coming up soon
Salisbury on the 9th of March
Tickton on the 6th of April
Graham Butcher
21 Beaver Road
Beverley East Yorkshire HU17 0QN

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