Systema Testing The Possible To Find What Is Probable
I believe strongly and tell my students that we need to distill the possible and end up at the probable in our Systema training, but what does this mean and how have I come to this decision?
Much of what is practiced in most Systema classes can be best described as experimentation with the possibilities that the human body provides for us. The other important part of using this process is preparation of the body and development of attributes.
Take the drill where an opponent stabs and slashes slowly with a knife while their partner flows from one escape to another without counter attacking in any way. This clearly is not the reality of a fight, but it does develop very useful qualities of timing, distancing and avoidance. However if we were to do that in a real fight we would quickly come unstuck with anything other than what we had trained to use these movements against.
Speed is not the only issue. Consider working against punches as an example. Most Systema demonstrations start with the attackers at an almost ridiculous distance from their attacker. The distance we need to work at is one where the attacker can hit us with minimum movement. Skilled opponents simply do not throw punches if it has no chance of hitting and that goes for sportsmen or experienced thugs used to attacking victims with little warning and from very close range.
Through slow practice and the application of a variety of principles possibilities are created for any situation we want to prepare for. Wether it be dealing with a knife wielding attacker or how to fall safely on stairs there has to be a point when we take the safe slow movements of the Systema class and see if under the lenses of fast aggressive movements is it possible to move in the same manner safely.
About 4 years ago I started to test various aspects of what I had learnt. I did this by putting pads on students who new how to box and Thai box to see what would happen. To put it bluntly it was not pretty and was very disheartening. Certain ideas I held dear disappeared with the bitter pill of reality. You could say that the possibilities that I thought I had were not likely to work under real speed with a skilled attacker.
However some things were not so doom and gloom. When I changed the situation by making it start from a very close range and conversational stance some of the material that had not worked in sparring worked well. That is why testing is so important because what is probable in one situation is not probable in another.
I still travel the world to get more information about the Russian Martial Art Systema. Each instructor I train with brings something new to the table, but I test what I have been shown to see how it functions. Whatever they bring it has to be explored fully and honestly. This means some form of sparring or pressure testing. If I am told a certain movement keeps me safe from a certain angle of attack I test it.
Sports coaches know that even at the early stages of training it pays to have a student work at a real pace as it develops correct timing and movement. The challenge is to do this and keep it both safe and fun so that the students continue to learn.
In this video you will see some of our latest work on using the components of the figure eight and other evasive Systema movements to escape the line of attack, some Systema weapons defense and fighting from the ground against kicks. As you can see we use a variety of training aids in our Systema sparring to make the speed more real whilst keeping the practice safe including foam covered bats, gloves and head guards.