Training for life, by Vincent Kurmaer

I have recently realized something that is now really helping me in my training and I figured it could be of interest to other Systema practitioners out there too.

I guess, I shall start with the commentary often heard in seminars and classes (I think the first time I heard it was from Konstantin Komarov). It was “SYSTEMA BREAKS YOUR WORLD OF ILLUSION”. How?

When a newcomer enters Systema class, he has some sort of a preconceived idea regardless of his previous martial background. As a matter of fact, he might actually have many more pre-conceived ideas if he has had experience. These ideas are based on his physical abilities, his ability to move with another human being, control stress and pain and (let’s not even mention fighting). Well, soon enough all these ideas that constituted his form of reality – collapse. He quickly realizes that he cannot breathe, handle stress, wrestle those who seemed to be much weaker opponents, perform simple drills like staying on his fists in a push-up position for more than 2 minutes, put his legs behind his head and let’s not even start with breath holds!

In short, if the newcomer does not run away or resort to violence (two typical human reactions when facing fear), he will soon realize that what he knew about martial art can no longer be accepted as “real” and that there is much more to it. This is a great opportunity to learn the right way but it is also scary. It is even more frightening when one realizes that “THIS APPLIES TO EVERYTHING WE DO”. And this is something that I particularly love about Systema. Systema principles, whether they concern a certain exercise, a form of training or fighting in general, they apply to all parts of life. Anyway, let’s continue… To venture out of one’s world of illusions is not something most people would dare to do. A golden cage is a very comfortable thing and the first step is to realize that one is in a prison. This is harder than we think because most of us have been raised on fear and lies. To break out and step into the unknown means leaving a lot of what we knew behind and admitting we were wrong in many ways. Freedom is gained at that price...

Now the above may sound a bit too abstract to some of the readers. So what is the real value? In my opinion, the best application would be to look at our weaknesses honestly while training and not postpone them to a future imaginary world. Let me explain…

Let’s say you are wrestling or doing some grab/escape with a partner or doing some knife work. Imagine that, for whatever reasons, you cannot get much done and you are constantly overpowered with better skills or experience. A natural reaction that I was personally falling for (for years actually) was to tell myself “oh yes, he is stronger here in training but in real life I would do this or that and I would get him” …Unfortunately and sorry to say but this is a lie. In real life, things will only get worse. So whatever you think you’ll do in real life, why don’t you try it in training? I mean TO A REASONABLE DEGREE, don’t go stab a friend in the eye just to prove something (this would not be a learning experience and life brings enough drama anyway). Don’t try to go faster either because that would be a lie too. Enough has been said about slow work in Systema but I can always expand on that next time for the interested readers. Simply try to move with this idea of reality and see how the other person reacts.

If it is not going anywhere close to where you want it to go, do something else, bring it to the ground, keep moving ALWAYS OBSERVING WHAT GOES ON INSIDE OF YOU; check yourself!

It might be hard to face your weaknesses and fears by looking at them honestly and accepting them but it is the only chance we have to work on them. Most of us have the luxury to live in a time of relative peace so we have a great opportunity to take our time, train truthfully and not be lazy. To state that we have all the time we want is of course relative, we will all die at some point. I read something that fits well here “use your time in constant pursuit of education and self-improvement. Time is limited but to recognize this urgency is a positive thing, for a warrior turns it into an advantage to clear his mind and focus his attention towards his objectives whatever they may be, day in and day out…”

We should train like we’d fight and live like we train, otherwise what would be the point… Honestly, we train for life here… it is as simple as that.

newsletter 02.11.12  from Systema headquater, Toronto