(written by a long time Systema student and experienced Ontario police officer)
There are no answers, only questions. That statement might be a little facetious in nature, but the longer I train in Systema the more questions I have. One question that continues to pop into my mind over and over again in the last 11 years of knowing Vlad is “why do I train?” The second question would be “how the heck does he do that?”
How often will most of us ever be in a situation where we will need to defend ourselves from an attacker with a knife, or multiple opponents, or maneuver our way through an angry mob? Although these things are happening, more and more these days, I pray that none of us will ever have to face challenges like these. Maybe the most important aspect of training is knowing how to avoid ever putting yourself in that kind of situation.
I often think that without Systema I wouldn’t be the person I am today. The times when I did not train were the times I had the most difficulty dealing with the everyday stresses of life; big or small. And then when I did train, I was able to handle those stresses with greater ease and objectivity. So I often ask myself, what is really happening when I am learning how to relax and breathe while training against a 6’3”, 240 lb monster of a training partner at class. There is a big difference. Your tension and fear allows him to throw you around like a rag doll. While if you relax through breathing, you can move, work against him and survive.
For most of us in everyday life that hulk of a training partner may be equated to your boss, the guy who cut you off while driving to work, your kids throwing a fit on a sugar high, or your wife’s honey do list. When I learn to relax and breathe in these situations it is similar to my experience working against the hulk in class. Training in Systema has continuously allowed me to discover who I am in all areas of life, to deeper understand my psyche and my own limitations. The only time I struggle is when I do not apply the lessons learned on the mat to situations beyond the gym.
So I leave you with the thought; what really goes on when we train in class is a lot more profound than we realize.