February 6, 2014


How and why we do things in Stretch Therapy the way we do

We have a completely open system in Stretch Therapy. By ‘open’ I mean it that we set no boundaries around our work and we encourage our students and our teachers to study with whomever they wish, and to teach our material to whomever they wish. All we ask is that any new techniques they learn that might be able to be pressed into the service of Stretch Therapy be brought back into our system. As most of you know we have 100 videos now up on YouTube where we give away many of our ‘innermost secrets’! ‘Innermost secrets’ in inverted commas here to signify ironic use: the fact is that we do not have any inner secrets. We want our little bit of knowledge to get out there, and get traction on real-world problems, as soon as it can. Personally I do not enjoy YouTube clips that are 100% commercial promotions for the business being advertised. We try to include useful information in all of our clips, including our promotional ones.

I want to talk for a moment about why we have completely porous boundaries around our work. A very famous philosopher called Lakatos once coined the phrase “degenerating paradigms”. What he was talking about is what happens when the creator of any system tries to protect the content of that system too vigorously. The result is that the system becomes protective and inward looking and, most importantly, defensive. The deep problem in adopting this stance is that it pretty much kills the originator’s creativity. But that’s not all. By adopting a protective stance one is inward looking, rather than outward looking, by necessity. This is the antithesis of the Stretch Therapy philosophy.

We are outward looking—we are trying to find new ways and new techniques of doing what we already do. We will share our information with anyone who is interested. Anyone who wants to teach our system will be given all possible support. For example, anyone who repeats one of our workshops does it for 50% of the cost of the original one, and if they wish to repeat again it drops to 25% and so on. What we have found is that anyone who repeats our workshop eventually contributes more than what they take away the second and third times around. And in fact, on the figures that Olivia keeps, a huge percentage of people do repeat workshops, some a large number of times. We love this and they become friends too.

We don’t control the teaching approach of someone who teaches our system. In saying this I mean we have assembled a body of knowledge and we do wish that body of knowledge to be taught as effectively and as accurately as possible, but we never specify to our teachers how they are to teach that material. The results of this is that each teacher interprets and presents the material in their own way and in the process their own personality is uniquely reflected. They develop a unique voice. This is our principle of embodiment: making the work your own. In the process of embodiment, new and interesting details are learned; and we benefit. And many new techniques have been created in the embodiment process.

In the process of not controlling the dissemination of knowledge a wonderful teaching atmosphere is created. It might surprise readers to know that some of the best exercises that we teach were taught to us by students in beginner’s classes. When the teaching atmosphere is open and free the creativity flows brilliantly. And because each of our classes is a mini-workshop of its own all students feel free to contribute anything that they feel might be useful in the moment—this is where some of our best techniques have come from. If your students simply follow orders you’re missing out on this incredibly fertile source of new ideas.

One of the reasons why people want to control the teaching process is they feel it’s too easy for them to lose control if the class or the workshop becomes a free-for-all. Of course this is true but it’s a very simple matter to limit that aspect and bring the focus back to the larger task at hand. Many times I’ve been asked a number of questions by an attendee on a workshop and I always indulge the first few, but if I feel that the dialogue is becoming too much about them as an individual I’ll simply say, ‘let us talk about that later’, or ‘I’ll come back to that’ once we do whatever it is that we are about to do. This aspect of control is simply a function of the skill and experience of the presenter or teacher.

As for trying to control the copyright of one’s material, that is trying to put the genie back into the bottle. Because of the internet, the genie is already out of the bottle. So the best you can do I feel is to encourage the accurate sharing of what the genie has to offer and stay far enough ahead of the rest of the pack so that people want to work with you personally in the workshop situation. As well, if you are a leader in your field, people will want to buy your products and read your books and talk about the work that you do. This of course is not why you do it, but it is simply the outcome of always doing the best you can and trying to nurture the incredible group of people who always assemble themselves around individuals who are trying to do something well.

If you are following our YouTube channel you may have noticed that we always use a Creative Commons license system which only requires an attribution of the source of any idea. In Australia copyright comes into existence as soon as any new idea comes into form, be it a YouTube clip or a book or an audio recording. The situation is different in other countries we understand. One of the reasons I put many of our new techniques up on YouTube free is to help associate these new ideas with the brand Stretch Therapy and to show the world ST’s capacity to innovate. Now, time will tell, but so far the putting up of information which in other systems you would have to pay for has meant that our workshops are always full.

In the first draft of this post, I had written “I don’t want to be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week; Olivia and I simply want a lifestyle that is an enjoyable one and where we make enough money to pay the bills!” This assessment is not accurate, and I am grateful to Dave for pointing this out. We are living our lives; this is not a phase. Philosophers do gedanken (this is a German term meaning ‘thought experiments’; these are free, quick and often remarkably revealing), so let’s do one now: if we won the lottery, and had more money than Croesus, what would change? We both think that we’d fly first class instead of economy, but would not change much else. We would program in real sabbaticals, and would make them a priority in the annual schedule. We would hire more people to help us (for example, I need a red-hot FCPX editor, and soon). This way, only the scope and magnitude of what we are trying to do would change; and change in such a way as to assist the basic project, which is to get the information out there.

Also in terms of trying to protect copyright I made a decision a long time ago that I did not want to spend my life being a policeman. I am an ex-academic and plagiarism is pretty much the only crime in academia. As a result I have the habit of acknowledging all of my sources and I’m delighted to do that and I have the same approach to all of the teachers that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. There have been a few examples of people taking my work and incorporating it into a book and marketing it as their own work and there’s nothing I can do about that. Of course I could take them to court on the basis of breach of copyright, and I have the documentary evidence to support that, but the point is that that approach is antithetical to the larger project which is about creating and being as open as possible.

Finally, in terms of being concerned about protecting ideas or protecting copyright, or any other ‘problem’ or ‘dilemma’, or anything I think is important or worrisome, I apply what I call “the 50 year test” to determine its true nature. The test is this: ‘Who will give a fuck in 50 years?‘ So far, no apparent dilemma or ‘important’ decision that I’ve been presented with has actually passed this test.

And, as a dear friend said only yesterday, ‘Any experienced resistance is, and can only ever be, the mind’. Once that is recognised, I fall back on the ‘second order’ decision process which is to come up with a solution that is the best for all concerned. My sense is that the direction we are on in this life will have wheels for some years to come.

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