Strategies Applied --- A Position Strategy

By Mark Brosten
Published on Feb 16th, 2014

Training in the art for me has been, and continues to be, a rewarding experience. As I train there is a greater emphasis on understanding and applying principles. There is always the next progression of each martial arts lesson. The most common experience, which many of us share, is further improvement of the physical movement. When we have accumulated enough vocabulary of motion in our art, ideas like grafting and formulation become available to us, allowing us to blend one Idea or principle into another. While there’s always a greater stage of refinement for our movements, many of us stop with the physical; never truly internalizing the idea or taking it into other aspects of our lives. In this article, I’d like to share my experience of how a physical lesson can evolve into a “life strategy”.

The Idea or lesson is about controlling positions. During my 30 years of study, I’ve had much experience and coaching on controlling positions as a tournament competitor. One of my instructors explained and trained this idea so well; I suggested he write a book! He could easily have written a whole chapter dedicated to controlling positions in the ring.

I personally have used this principle many times as a college student. Conflict between me and some of the professors was inevitable. Perhaps it’s just my personality. In some cases our conflict was philosophical, in others it was logical, but in each case controlling positions as a strategy worked for me. Professors are notoriously busy especially when they know that you want to confront them about an issue. In one case, I knew the professor’s schedule which allowed me to control the place and day of our meeting. I allowed him the perception of choosing the time. I made sure that the only time available was just before lunch. Controlling this position meant that the sooner the professor was done with me the sooner that professor could eat!

The conflict was able to be resolved on my terms and when I was ready to resolve it.

Another example was using Controlling Positions as an argument strategy. The goal was:

I want the professor to admit she is using a double standard when evaluating the class project.

. The example went as follows:

Me: Is this the action you took?

Professor: Yes, Mark you were wrong.

Me: Was there any other action you could have taken?

Professor: No, that was the only action possible

(got ya!!!). I needed her in a position where she believed she was justified in her action and even though there are always other possibilities she felt she was the one in charge. Of course, the whole time we were discussing this issue, I had a file containing examples from other students that contradicted her statement that she took “the only action possible”.

Another example of using position as a psychological strategy can be employed simply by moving from one side of a table or desk to the other. By removing a barrier between the people discussing the issue and closing some distance the perspective of equality is reinforced. This simple adjustment can remove your “opponent’s” air of superiority. (For more on this topic, see Dennis Lawson’s article --- Proxemics published on November 15th, 2012 in this newsletter)

I have been blessed with opportunities with assisting others in using this strategy. A good friend of mine who is a union representative was able to use controlling positions to settle disputes and solve conflicts between labor and management. Others' have reported using it in different environments; but the most impressive and diverse use of this strategy I have seen was by a student in California. She was able to use it to solve a family conflict with her sister, then at her job with an abusive boss, and finally, with her professors while earning a degree at college.

There are many books that touch on this principle in their own subject areas. Admittedly, other people understand controlling positions for teaching, business, counseling, etc., but, I believe, the martial arts offer a unique approach to this principle.

As my understanding evolves and the lessons continue to come from unlikely places, I eagerly await the next evolution of the idea.

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: Mark Brosten

Mark Brosten began his Martial Arts teaching career as an associate instructor in Missoula, Montana. After Serving with the Military Police in Kuwait and Iraq during the first Gulf War, he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to continue his training. Mark was promoted to 1st Degree Black Belt by a Board of Examiners for the International Kenpo Karate Association. While in New Orleans, Mr. Brosten continued teaching, working with a diverse group of students from artists and architects to law enforcement and military personnel. Mark also developed a summer program for children, ages 4 to 5, for the Isadore Newman School in New Orleans.

An exceptional athlete, Mark is committed to training and competition. He competes in Martial Arts events throughout the United States and has placed within the top three, each time he's competed internationally. Since his return to Montana, Mark regularly teaches seminars at various martial art studios. Mr. Brosten successfully tested for advanced Black Belt rank in October of 2007. In 2008, Mark taught his first international seminar at The World Kenpo Karate Championships in Jersey, Channel Islands U.K. His practical experience and no nonsense approach to Kenpo have served him as a student, competitor, and teacher for nearly 25 years.

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