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Graham Butcher

Graham Butcher – Stav Teacher

Ten Thousand Times

There is a Martial Arts related joke which goes something like: 'How many self defence instructors does it take to change a light bulb? At least 50, 1 to change the light bulb, 49 to say that it will never light up on the street.'

The big issue in the past decade or so of Martial Arts training has been whether a training system is 'traditional' or 'reality based'. Traditional implies that a training system is done that way regardless of whether or not it works 'on the street'. Reality based training has been developed by someone with 'real' combat experience and those who train under him or her will be 'invincible street warriors' or something like that.

My personal take on the subject is that the key is not in your training system so much as your willingness to sacrifice for what you want. We live in a very risk averse culture where there is a strong desire for guarantees and a certainty of outcomes. I am all in favour of people keeping their word and delivering what they promise as far as it is within their power to do so. When it comes to combat and self-defence there are absolutely no guarantees. Anyone who tells you that training in their system will ensure that you will never come off worse in a violent confrontation is talking nonsense. To be fair I don't think anyone does make such a guarantee very often, too risky for obvious reasons. Yet some people are surprisingly willing to state with great authority that a particular training system will definitely not work 'on the street' and you would be much better training in a method they do approve of (and possibly teach).

The issue is not what you know but what you were prepared to do to learn what you know. How much effort, how much commitment, how many times have you practised the basics of your system? Geoff Thompson is fond of saying that there is no need to fear the person who knows 10,000 techniques. Rather fear the person who has practised one technique 10,000 times. Does it matter what that technique is? Yes, and no. Obviously some 'moves' appear to be more effective than others so punching a heavy bag with a right cross 100 times a day is going to be more use than, say slapping your hand on the surface of a bucket of water the same number of times. Hitting a punch bag is a bit like fighting and slapping water is, well, pointless right? Again, it depends. What really matters is what you learn from the practise itself. Learning how to do a particular thing is not usually all that difficult in a technical and intellectual sense. The act of long term repetition, eg 100 times a day for 100 days (about 3 months) makes 10,000 reps, will bring about certain changes in the body and certainly in the mind. The greatest effect comes from the commitment to do and keep doing, the actual thing done is secondary. The mind develops focus, the spirit or will develops commitment and the body both relaxes and becomes more supple while developing strength and stamina. This combination of focus, will and relaxed strength will increase your effectiveness in doing whatever it is you need to do.

The first Karate kid film made in the early 1980s has the famous 'wax on, wax off' sequences where the 'Kid', Daniel is instructed by his teacher Mr Miyagi to polish the cars, sand the deck and paint the fence.

Eventually Daniel protests. 'When am I going to learn Karate?' To which Mr Miyagi replies. 'You learn plenty.' and indeed he has done.

Yes, the movements he has been using do translate into karate moves. The much more important point is that the repetitive discipline of doing the work has changed the young man into someone who can actually train and benefit from what he has learned. That and Mr Miyagi has got his cars clean, deck sanded and his fence and house painted. That is okay too, everything has a price.

That protest 'When am I going to learn ...' and the reply is one we have all heard and probably voiced ourselves. 'What good it this doing me?' 'This is boring.' and 'No pain, no gain.' Are common responses to any long term training that is both easy to do and yet, hard to commit to. We learn and develop on many different levels. Some levels are obvious and easy to see or feel, especially if we are getting physically tired and working up a sweat. Some levels of learning and development are more like planting seeds deep in the earth and then having to wait weeks for the shoots to appear.

Simple and repetitive training is rather like waiting for a seed to germinate. It can be many months later that you actually realise what has changed. When I started doing Stav I found certain drills, especially the Trel drill with the axe very difficult. Then I had a long period training by myself. Most of my practice consisted of daily stances and a couple of basic axe cuts 100 times per day. Then, a year of so later I found that I could do the Trel drill correctly, I could 'see' and feel the lines I needed. It wasn't that Ivar had not taught me correctly. Rather that the seed had been planted but it was up to me to enable it to germinate by simply continuing my practice.

If you are serious about learning a discipline such as Stav remember that although a teacher is important all that an instructor can really do is plant seeds of knowledge. That knowledge only develops into genuine skill and ability if you are prepared to put in the real work of daily practice.

If anyone wants to see how I teach these ideas please check out my teaching calendar or opt into my email list below.

Of course there is no substitute for face to face and hands on training. So, for those willing to get stuck in, I am teaching two three day seminars this year where I will be demonstrating how the principles listed above can be manifested in practical training. There will one seminar in the USA in May and another in the UK in June, For my full programme see the calendar page.

However the first thing to do is get a free PDF copy of Peacock Kung Fu by opting in below. The four principles described in Peacock Kung Fu are all most people ever need to know about self defence. Even if you are a martial arts expert this booklet will get you to focus on what is actually important in the study of self protection. So get your copy right away.

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