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Sunday, 12 September 2010

Leicester Camp 2010

Last weekend saw the first weekend camp organised by the Leicester Systema group. For me it was a nice change - in the past I've organised camps myself  whereas this time I was guesting, which meant I was also able to observe the drills and participants a lot of the time.  I'll run through the format of the camp first then offer some thoughts and observations

Friday afternoon saw everyone arriving and pitching camp. We had use of a farm on the outskirts of Leicester, far enough out of town to be rural but close enough to be accesible. Most the of the participants were local, but some came from as far afield as Kent, Herts and Notts. First job was to get tents pitched (these ranged from a simple tarp against a fence to large efforts complete with double bed and shower!)
Then fire pits were dug and wood gathered. While everyone enojyed a brew (why does it always taste better from a camp fire?) Rory and Ed took everyone through the plan for the weekend and orientation of the site. The main theme for the training was to be psychological work. Participants were told they would be put through various types of pressure over the camp and the ground rules were laid out to ensure productive and safe training for all

It was just starting top get dark so we began the first session. As the emphasis was on the psyche after a warm-up I took the group through the basics of using the breath to help control fear and tension. I then explained how the brain operates under stress and  how we can move between three states - the logical, the emotional and the survival. The role of each in training and in real life was explored through some further drills before taking the group into some deep striking methods in order to prepare them for the work ahead.

Time for another brew and a quick bite to eat and we were off for the first major exercise. This was to be in an urban setting, so it was a quick drive into town. The group was split into two teams and the role and aims of each explained. One group was basic operating as surveillance on the other, each with specific tasks to accomplish. The exercise took place in and around a large park and adjacent industrial area, which led to some interesting interactions! Myself, Ed and  acted as observers and it was interesting to see the two groups at work sometimes unaware of the other (and us!). On conclusion of the exercise a few hours later it was back to camp for a nightcap and beans before bed

Saturday morning - glorious weather and after breakfast and a warm-up it was time for my next session. This time I took the group through body structure, in particular the use of the straight line and circle / sphere in hand-to-hand work.  Also, keeping with the psychological theme I emphasised once again the "three brain" theory and how it relates to practice and real-life application

Following lunch break the group was divided into four teams for the next exercise. Three of the groups were to work on the "firing range"  - with air rifle, bows, etc - while the other group were takne up to the deserted farmhouse for the main exercise. This took the form of an intense psychological test - I won't reveal any more details as some of you may wish to try it in the future and in any event the test is about the experience rather than reading about it. Each of the groups was rotated up to the old farm in turn and also got the chance to experience the exercise from different angles

By now it was late afternoon so while the food was prepared the group was prepped for the night exercises ahead. This involved another short drive to a different site and a cross country trek to an old abandoned railway line deep in the woods. Ed took the group through a PT session, making full use of the surroundings, and then teams were again formed for the next set of drills. These again were mostly psychological-based, though with a healthy dose of physical interaction! Again I won't go into full detail for the benefit of those who wish to try them in the future. We finished up after mindnight, then it was back to camp to feast on the chicken, lamb and beef that had been roasting in the embers!

Sunday morning - time to clear the site and also, as a favour to the farm owners who so kindly allowed us use of their land, to help with some ragweed clearing and general tidying-up. Following this the group was driven to a local sports centre for the last session and a post-camp "de-brief".  Each of the participants was also presented with a certificate and so the weekend ended!

It was interesting for me this time to be more "in the shadows" this time rather than teaching and organising all the sessions. First off I was extremely impressed with how the camp was run and structured. Ed and Rory had obviously put a huge amount of work into creating  the various drills together and were ably assisted by their team - including Ash, Gaz, the two army lads Chris and Mike, Michelle and Leanne the farm owner. This meant participants were given some unique experiences outside of the normal realm of what we can practice in class.

In most cases the drills were unknown to me too and were in turn funny, exciting and interesting to watch. The different strategies employed by the participants, their inventiveness in dealing with or creating situations and their determination to keep on going (particularly Tracy) were inspiring to watch and a tribute to their training. The one unplanned incident in itself revealed the participants at their best - how people can pull together as a team, help someone out and then carry on with things as normal. That was very interesting for me as all of a sudden it wasn't training any more, it was real life - and everyone shone.

I hope to get some footage up on Youtube in the next day or so, though as most of the exercises were at night there is not a lot of footage to choose from! Some people also asked for more info on the "brain work" we were discussing, so I will get some relevant links posted up too

Overall - an outstanding camp. As everything went well I'm sure we will have use of the site in future which gives us scope for so many different types of training in the future - so watch this space. Thanks again to Rory and Ed and to everyone who took part, it was a great experience all round!

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