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Close Quarter Combat Seminar

Strategic Thinking, Tactical Action, and the Operational Art in Everyday Life

Saturday 7th of Decemember 2019, 10am to 1pm, Beverley, East Yorkshire

A talk on Strategy, Tactics and Method, recorded at the Salisbury Seminar on the 16th of November 2019

My Lesson in Strategic Thinking

The last time I got into a punchup in the street was a long time ago, but even then I should have known better. I lived in a village and a couple of the teenage lads who also lived there could be trouble makers from time to time. One summer evening I walked round to the village shop to get something. Some of the local teenagers were sitting drinking on a bench and as I walked past I managed to get into an argument with one of the local trouble makers, I am not sure why or how. He had been drinking but I was not in a good place emotionally or energetically at that time either, so it is rather pointless trying to work out whose fault it was. Nothing worse than an exchange of words happened at that stage and I got whatever it was I needed from the shop.

I then had a simple choice of routes home. Back the way I came, which meant passing the angry youth again who was still sitting with his friends. Or taking the shortcut across the field and avoiding a second encounter. For some reason I went back the way I came, this time the youth decided to pick a fight with me which I had to deal with. I was able to pin my attacker to the floor with an arm lock but not before I had been hit several times and damaged my little finger which is crooked to this day. I instructed his friends to take control of him I would seriously damage him. The friends did take charge of him at that stage but there was more unpleasantness later involving the boy’s older brother and even the police got involved.

In one sense I was lucky that I had the confidence and ability to deal with the situation I found myself in. However, the real lesson was that such problems are much better dealt with strategically than tactically. Leaving aside for a moment the importance of a clear and relaxed emotional state, the reason I found myself involved in a violent encounter was that I made a strategic choice. I remember thinking that the sensible thing to do was just to go home the other way and let any bad feeling blow over. Instead I made a decision that I was not going to be scared off walking down the main street whenever I wanted to and thus risked exactly the situation which arose. Indeed I did have the right to walk down that street whenever I wanted to. On the other hand I had allowed myself to get into a completely pointless argument and this had created anger and resentment which did not need to be further stirred up. Once actually involved in the encounter I used appropriate tactics to control the situation. In retrospect a much better tactic would have been to simply take the alternative route home.

It is often complained that martial arts do not actually work in real world violent confrontations. This is because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what martial arts training actually is. All that anyone usually learns from martial arts is tactical skills. Any tactical skill will work in exactly the right context. Some tactical skills can be adapted to a variety of contexts but there will always be a limit to the effectiveness of any particular technique or fighting method. Strategy is to do with the intention to achieve some particular goal. In a Stav context we think of the five principles as ways of defining strategies according to the five characters described in the story from the Elder Edda known as the Lay of Rig. The Trel strategy is intended to ensure personal survival as the main priority. The Karl protects space and property. The Herse defends society against those who would prey on the weak and vulnerable. The Jarl keeps an overview of a situation and deals with violence without direct engagement. The Konge is willing to risk his own life if there is just cause.

In order to deal with a violent situation we need to decide which strategic intention is appropriate to our solving our problem and then adopt the best tactical option to fulfill that intention. The skill of matching tactics to strategies is known as the operational art or method. In the situation I have recounted I think it is clear that I wasn’t really thinking strategically. If I had been I would have probably have decided that the best strategy was to avoid unnecessary risk of violence (a Trel approach) and the best tactic was simply to take the alternative route. As it was I found myself forced to use effective tactical skills but not in the service of any meaningful strategy.

Of course sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where we do not have the tactical options to fulfill a particular strategy, that is okay, we just need a different strategy which we do have the capacity to deliver. There are broadly five options after all, one of them is going to work.

So, my seminar on the 7th of December will explore the relationship between strategic intention, tactical options and the operational art of matching tactics to strategy. There are many ways of working with the five strategic principles of Stav both with weapons and without. As well as learning tactical skills it is essential that we can think strategically. Over many years I have discovered that one of the best ways of teaching the principles and learning how to match tactics to strategy is using a method I call Five Principles Knife Defence and this will be the basis of the seminar. There will be physical training in valuable tactical skills but more importantly we will lay the foundations for strategic thinking.

Your martial arts training does provide you with essential tactical skills. However such abilities can be worse than useless unless used in the appropriate strategic context. If you have a genuine understanding of strategy, tactics and method then martial arts can become genuinely useful.

Do you want to learn More?

Come to the CQC Seminar

Beverley, East Yorkshire on Saturday 7th of December 2019, 10am until 1pm

Instructor, Graham Butcher

Maximum 6 people training

Cost: £20, Ice and Fire Stav members £15

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