Saturday, 23 August 2014

SYSTEMA Russian Martial Art: an appreciation. I mean a HUGE one.. - 24 August 2014

It's been happy days for me these last few days ever since I've received the news that my training within the Russian Martial Art Systema has been recently reviewed and evaluated by Vladimir VASILIEV from Systema HQ Toronto and I have been certified as an Instructor-in-training. I've kept a smile on my face ever since alongside a hugely increased motivation to train more in this beautiful art. So far I haven't written much about Systema and my training in it, other than a recent seminar review, so I would like to share a few words and my appreciation of Systema and a few people in it on this occasion. 

I had been observing Systema from afar with ever growing interest for quite a while and a few years ago made contact to the local group to inquire about training, but it took another year from that first contact until I finally made it to my first session. I have been hooked ever since and for a number of reasons...

I discovered Systema online, like many others today I suppose, but what was meaningful to me was that I discovered it at a time when my ideas and training in the martial arts was changing quite fundamentally. Amongst these changes, to name just two big ones, were an increasing exploration and desire to move more and more freely and without the restrictions given by techniques, styles, schools, etc., and secondly, to better understand and put into practice the principles that underpin and enable free, spontaneous, intuitive and effective movement in a martial context. I found precisely that and a lot more in Systema. With its emphasis on breathing, relaxation, continuous movement and form - its fundamental principles - Systema provides simple yet incredibly rich tools for the development of an ever greater freedom of movement that can be put to use both in, but also well beyond the martial context. This focus and direction continue to be the perfect match and influence for the direction that I felt my training going, whilst at the same time consolidating some core elements that can be found across a variety of arts and that thus point to something much more fundamental, something simply human or earthly, than the boundaries of style-based thinking wants to make us believe.

There is a lot more to be said about Systema and what I enjoy about it, but it would be futile to try to cover it all at once and there will be plenty more time on the other occasions. The one thing that does need mentioning right away though is the many great people I have met in Systema and that contribute greatly to my continuing appreciation of the art. Everyone I have met in Systema so far, from the total newbie to the experienced senior instructor has been outstanding and has presented an outstanding attitude towards training and training partners, and this is a truly special thing. It is fairly rare to see so many people, at times quite considerably beat the snot out of each other, laugh and smile at the same time and exchange hugs and thank you's afterwards. This accompany with lots of humility, openness and eagerness to train makes for the perfect atmosphere during every session and every drill. 

Loren Clements at work..
There are a few people that I would like to mention and thank specifically: First of all there is Loren Clements and the entire crew from Systema Auckland. If it wasn't for all of them, I most likely still wouldn't have done much training in Systema and wouldn't enjoy going back to training as regularly, everyone there is in one word - awesome. If you live in Auckland, I highly recommend joining in to one of Loren's classes as he is both an extremely talented martial artist, as well as a great instructor. Regardless of whether you can make it just once in a while or regularly, the way Loren structures and delivers his classes, I can assure you that you will always take something away that you will be able to practice, explore and use in your own training and even daily life. 

Outside of Auckland, the Systema New Zealand community is slowly but surely growing with groups in Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, and a growing number of interested people in many other places. I would also specifically like to mention both Dan Miles and Les Hayes, the instructors of Systema Waikato in Hamilton. I have met both Dan and Les at seminars and workshops up here in Auckland and have really enjoyed getting friends with, and training and learning from them ever since. I cannot say enough how talented I think they both are and it is always great to see and be part of their excitement and passion for Systema. The group in Waikato is certainly in the best of hands under their instruction and I look forward to visiting them there soon. Dan and Les have recently taught a fantastic 1day Systema workshop at Jikishin Dojo Auckland and will conduct a series of these in the next few months. The next Systema workshop with them will be on the 19 October 2014 here at Jikishin Dojo Auckland, so if you are in Auckland, be sure to save the date and come along! 

Throughout my time in Systema, I have also been fortunate enough to attend a number of seminars and workshops with some outstanding teachers from outside of NZ. Each and everyone of these instructors has greatly contributed to my understanding of the art and enriched my practice: Vali Majd of Roots Dojo - School of Warrior Arts on Denman Island, BC, Canada, who gave an outstanding seminar in Auckland in 2013 and will be returning here in January next year - one not to miss I assure you!; Martin Wheeler, whose Masterclass I recently attended in Melbourne, AUS and who needs little introduction given his skill and wide acclaim; Adam Vounoridis from Melbourne Systema has visited and taught here in Auckland a few times already; and Igor Davidov from Systema HQ Toronto who gave an outstanding workshop at Systema Auckland earlier this year. I cannot even say how much I look forward to future opportunities to learn from all of them again, as well as so many others of the knowledgeable instructors out there! 

To clarify, for me at this stage, being a certified Instructor-in-training does not mean that I will suddenly switch to teaching instead of studying Systema. Despite the generous evaluation, feedback and acknowledgement of Vladimir Vasiliev, I do not personally consider this certification as a representation of my skill, but much rather, it stands for an overt commitment to Systema, my fellow students and all the instructors out there, to train more and dive deeper into the practice of this fantastic art called Systema. Having said that, almost from the very start, elements from Systema have flown into my training and teaching at Jikishin Dojo. In this sense, the concept of 'Budo Kenshu - the Study of the Martial Way' functions as an umbrella term for me, in that it stands for a more limitless exploration in my training and teaching that reaches across everything I study and practice, and is expressed in my training and teaching of general classes and seminars alike. And with a smile on my face, I can say that the certification also points out how much more training and learning I have ahead of me. It is the increase and continuation of training and study that I look forward to the most, so without further ado, let's get to it!

Thank you all so much!