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Friday, 30 December 2011


I hope you are all having a happy holiday time and enjoying the festivities! It's been a quiet Christmas here, apart from playing a few gigs - including one in a barn (not a nice  barn conversion, a barn! First time I've played with my coat on!)

2011 has been a good year for training - I was just looking at some of the group photos and clips from this time last year and it's pleasing to see all the same old faces are still around - plus a few new ones too!  This is where depth in training comes from - regular graft with a group of good people. From a teaching point of view it is much more satisfying and challenging. It can be quite easy to teach purely out of seminars.  It can be the case that people who go to seminars are looking for a couple of new tricks, or to collect a new form / kata, or to be entertained by some war stories, or maybe to have a point of view reinforced rather than challenged

Of course this isn't always the case, it's good where you can work with people who train in specific skills, such as the lads at Danny's workshop earlier this year

The real meat of training is in the regular work though, where you have the time and luxury to not only cover lots of different subjects, but also to go in depth and really work on the core essentials of body mechanics, breathing, psychology and so on.

The beauty of Systema is that we do both simultaneously. Whatever work you are doing, be it hard sparring, learning to read people and their intentions, practicing some ground work, or whatever, you are always working on the core principle - yourself

This is where some training methods fall down, in my view, it's about fitting you into a style-box. In a world that is box-shaped that may make sense. If doing something purely for the pleasure of it, that may make sense. But if we are talking about truly exploring our potential and opening up new ideas, new concepts and growth then training should only be restricted by safety concerns and practicalities.

Another danger in training is that people over-specialize. They get good at something and that becomes the sole focus of training. Anything that goes on in class becomes skewed around the teachers pet subject / skill - so now we have a box within a box! You have to take care as an instructor that you don't just teach people what you enjoy, you have to show them what you don't enjoy too!

There is another aspect of modern martial arts  - the internet expert. It's telling though how often there is a considerable gap between a person's words and their video footage. I say video footage too because, also very often, you never get to meet these people. So I think one resolution for the New Year is to spend less time on people I will never meet or get to experience their fantastic knowledge and more on people who actually train. I think it's a good sign that the main Systema forums are fairly quiet compared to some. While it's good to share knowledge, and the internet can be a great tool for that,  I think most of us prefer to do it in person in training rather than  in extensive and often non-productive forum ramblings, arguments and counter-arguments. The music forums have their own ups and downs but for the most part if you come in with a strong point of view you better have a clip of yourself playing well! No-one cares who your music teacher was, if you can describe in minute detail the workings of piano, how the way everyone else lifts a finger to play a note is wrong, or whether or not you would win  X-Factor.

 So for 2012?  Both Vladimir and Martin are in the UK next year, that's two great opportunities for anyone to experience Systema at its best.  As far as regular training goes - more of the same, but different! We will be getting into some psychological testing work (the Leicester crew are finalising some challenging cold water training) . Hopefully we will get another Summer Camp organised this year. Plus we will be continuing all the regular training, covering whatever we can and bringing in outside knowledge for things we can't. Once again if anyone has any specifics they would like covered, in regular class or in workshops, just let me know.

Thanks again to everyone who has made training so enjoyable and challenging this year. The message for 2012? Ignore the false fear, live your life, stay safe, stay healthy and above all stay true to yourself

Happy New Year!

God bless


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