Cross training other arts for students of Systema
Cross training is a method that some martial artists use to plug perceived gaps in the martial arts they study and for others it is a method of gaining a better understanding of the style they already do.
In this article I will discuss what training other martial arts and related information has brought to my own study of systema.
What does Systema lack?
Many people within the Systema community may feel insulted that Systema has anything to learn from other combat systems, but if we look at things from a non-emotional perspective it can be seen that there are certain topics that are not covered in any depth. One of these is the subject of grappling on the floor.
Though Systema can encourage student’s mobility on the floor, resistance to claustrophobia and general bodily awareness, it lacks the necessary tactics and techniques needed to survive basic grappling attacks. Should the usual focus on escape, relaxation and movement fail to keep the attacker at bay a well thought out strategy and techniques need to be available if we hope to escape a grappler in a dominant position.
In fact without some very basic knowledge the Systema student could get themselves in very real danger by making simple mistakes. It is also worth noting that without a little basic knowledge a non-grappler can believe they are in danger when the situation was not as serious as would first assume.
It is not by chance that the Systema Wrestling DVD features two very skillful grapplers and not students completely new to the discipline.
Watching this DVD you can get a very real feel for how adding Systema’s focus on breath work, relaxation and movement can offer a skilled grappler a method of looking at a topic they already understand in a different light. However with out the two students in the video being skilled grapplers they would not know how to apply locks and escape various positions leaving them simply rolling around on each other practicing linking breath to movement.
Part of the reason for the lack of grappling training may be due to the majority of Systema’s lead figures already having some experience of Sambo through high school education, military service.
Some of the senior figures in modern systema have also been involved in Systema through the ROSS organization of Alexander Retuinskih, who teaches a form of renovated Sambo to his students.
I have been told by one of the students of Vladimir Vasiliev's early classes that he used to teach his students Sambo as well as his interpretation of the martial art Systema. This is probably due to him studying with one of Retuinskih's students before he moved to Canada.
My own Cross training history
Not having much of a background with grappling on the floor I have decided to add some would be prudent and it is for that reason I started to study Brazilian Juijitsu.
The funny thing is I have found that though there is a very big difference in training BJJ for sport and Systema for self protection, there is lots of similarities when it comes to the movement patterns they use. After all an efficient movement on the floor is going to be the same no matter where it comes from because there are only so many ways for a human body to move efficiently in that environment.
Another thing I have learnt more about is being relaxed on the floor when I am in a position of disadvantage. Through a mixture of drilling techniques and sparring BJJ has given me to learn how to relax when an opponent is full resisting and has me in a very uncomfortable and restricted position.
Another area of cross training I have explored is in the area of conditioning. Through studying a variety of conditioning methods and nutrition I have corrected postural and muscle imbalances, made my body less prone to injury or ailments and massively improved my quality of life. All these goals are at the heart of why most people train Systema and yet they do not make the most of the information available to them.
I now have a very extensive library of books on these topics that cost very little to put together. By checking out Ebay it is amazing how many cheap books of exercise and nutrition you can pick up second hand.
Also do not think that cross training has to be outside the sphere of Russian Martial Arts. There are many different strands of systema being studied in Russia. These include schools with full contact testing and others with a heavy amount of academic study of the scientific principles that Systema is formed from.
All these have something to offer when it comes to looking at what we do because they come from a different view point yet look at the same subject. So far I have managed to study with a couple of these schools, but in the near future I will be adding to the list of sources I have visited in an effort to understand better what I already do.