This was written shortly after the Mastering Systema Seminar Series at Systema Headquarters Toronto with Vladimir Vasiliev in August of 2013
The following is my observation of one of the many lessons that I took from the tremendously informative course. When starting down the path of Systema, some people are unsure of their bodies. They see that they cannot move freely and they may give up or get frustrated. In most martial arts, students will watch their instructor and imitate his movements to the letter. Hand and foot placements are carefully scrutinized. Katas are practiced for years to perfection. And in the end what you have are facsimiles of the instructor. For some people, that is a very easy and dogmatic route to follow. Learning by rote.
One of the first things I will tell new students starting Systema is to not get frustrated and find their voice. My meaning is that everyone is different. Old, young, short, tall, fat, skinny, athletic or couch potato. No two people are the same and we all have strengths and weaknesses. But in order to begin to develop The System in themselves, they must find their own way of doing it. They must discover their own Systema voice.
No one I have ever met in my life moves like Vladimir Vasiliev. That is because Vladimir moves like Vladimir. He does not mimic others. It is his own voice that he speaks with. It is his own Systema and no one else’s. Trying to imitate Vladimir might not work when we watch in amazement of his skill, but do not realize that what we are seeing is one man’s expression of an entire system of life.
Everyone has Systema in them. It is there from infancy. Over time we mask or forget the God given ability to breathe fully and to move freely. Pride, ego and misinformation will smother the traits that Systema exalts!
During the course of the Mastering Systema seminar, Vladimir demonstrated a wealth of different movements and exercise. But never once did he say that we should do it like he did. He instead simply told us to breathe and relax. From that we will find our own movements, escapes, offenses and defenses. But we first must find it in ourselves through breath and absence of tension.
During the first three days of the seminar, Vladimir prepared each participant through profound breathwork. From there he released us to do our own individual work. Our base was strong as long as we followed our breathing. It was the foundation of everything else that occurred. No one cared what they looked like or how they were perceived to be. The breath led the way and they worked from that. And no one would care because everyone had their own voice. My thanks to all my fellow instructors, participants and friends who took the journey to Mastering Systema with me. I also want to thank Maxim Franz and Adam and Brendon Zettler for assisting and giving personal attention to anyone the required assistance. But finally thanks to Vladimir and Valerie Vasiliev for presenting, coordinating and executing a most profound training experience.
About the Author: Joe Mayberry has been intensively training and teaching Systema since 2008. He is a USMC Veteran and Detective with the St. Louis Police Dept. Joe has extensive martial arts experience and currently teaches Police, Military and Security personnel. Joe’s school has recently been awarded the best Self Defense Program in St. Louis. www.stlcombatinstitute.com
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