I’m someone who likes to understand how to practice as much as what to practice. In our club we are fortunate enough to have not just one good instructor, but two.
The real bonus is that they do their Systema in slightly different ways – both of which are valid forms of Systema. What that means in terms of my learning is that I can work out the differences, look for the common factors, see the specifics and understand the different options available.
This has helped me look for patterns.
Something I focus on is Tai Sabaki (Japanese for body management). Over the years I have come to understand that what you see is not what you get. Which means that all the people that purely learn by rote are learning the end effect rather than the deeper skill – which may eventually present itself over time – but often doesn’t seem to. A faster way to learn is to understand the moves better.
Every hitting move has three elements to it:
– the hitty bit – the hand or fist
– the transmission part; and
– the power source.
What can look like arm/ shoulder muscle based strikes (and pulls) are in reality very different.
– the purpose of the hand is to deliver the power into the opponent – and this is best achieved by being “at one” with the opponent when power is transmitted i.e. connected. In a boxing type punch a lot of the transmitted energy is lost in the bounce and rebound.
– the purpose of structure is to deliver power down the channels that can deliver it – bones, joints and tendons, and significantly not muscle. Muscle absorbs energy – one of the needs for relaxed muscles in Systema is so that the other structures have priority.
– once you have those two elements, power can come from any number of different sources. Momentum, aka movement is one of those sources.
A Systema strike that superficially looks like it is an arm powered strike can actually use the much more powerful and less detectable forces of momentum from movement.
What this means in practice is that the fist doesn’t have to move much, but the body does and there are some wonderfully elegant ways of doing just that!
Interestingly that covers-off three of the core principles in Systema:
And the fourth is Breathing properly.
Try some Systema you’ll learn something new about yourself!