Remember the FeelingOctober 18, 2011 by Joao Carlos Furia
My country, Brazil, is internationally acclaimed for some good things. One of them is our fighters’ quality. We have excellent fighters, coaches, teachers, gyms and if you follow sport fighting, you can name some Brazilian fellows.
Before I found ystema, I’d trained sportive and traditional martial arts for about 15 years and proudly served Brazilian Marine Corps for another 4 years. I thought I had seen a lot of interesting things... So, what would bring me to an 8000 km trip to study a Russian Martial Art in Toronto, Canada? What have I learned that I couldn’t find here? What great teaching have I brought with me in my bag? Secret techniques? Super-human skills? Severe training methods?
I have brought a phrase. “Remember the feeling”. A short phrase. It looks simple. It looks vague. But personally, this is what I have been carrying so I can understand Russian Martial Art and this is what allows me to study continuously. It is a big journey but at the moment, this phrase keeps me growing to explore and achieve my whole potential.
Vladimir Vasiliev has a stunning virtue. When you meet him in person, he looks deep through your eyes and instantly you feel like he already knows a lot about who you are. Then, at the right moment, he communicates to you exactly what you need. That might be a punch right to the face, an advice, or even a joke. This power of precision, conciseness and sincere support is unforgettable. If you are humble, generous and have heart and mind open enough to really listen to him, you can learn great things. And sometimes, we have to listen to his fists... But it is the short phrases, simple orientations and words that he always repeats, shared along every class, which could be easily unnoticed, that I remember the most. The more I remember, the more I see the depth and matter, over and over. Also, I cannot forget Maxim Franz’s help not only by his orientations but what one can learn just observing his attitude.
“Systema at Full Range Seminar - from Soft to Devastating” was held in Toronto this past June. During that seminar, we explored the concepts that can be considered as basics as well as the more complicated ones. However, it was at the very first moment and the most “basic” drill that I understood how deeply we can reconsider every subject. To explore the whole potential in every step and stage of our study, and it doesn’t matter how simple or easy we think that subject is. Each theme can be studied deeply and that only depends upon us.
Vlad started the seminar with breathing exercises... The pace, his orientation, his tone of voice, everything makes you relax completely. Air starts to flow through your body smoothly. You look for tension in your body and get rid of everything that is unnecessary. The cleanness you feel inside is so strong that you can feel your pulse, temperature changes, it is almost like your body is made of air. We have only our skin to separate us from outside world and we feel a strong integration with the environment. It’s a fullness feeling and it’s very good. So here is the key: remember this feeling! Keep it. Know it. Grasp and acquire it. You’ll want to remember it from now on.
Once this reference is established, each new drill is challenging and puts us in a tense situation. Then we should go back to that state of relaxation, free of tension. “Remember the feeling”, Vlad said. “Find the tension in yourself!” That would be the purpose of a simple squat or someone stabbing you: to always find tension in yourselves and then get rid of it until you find the relaxed state achieved previously, or the closest you can get to that. When we meet this comfortable feeling, this is where we want to be. We want to go back there. Having such as a goal keeps us extremely focused on ourselves. Instead of worrying about what has to be done with your opponent, we turn our attention to our own condition. When trying to achieve that feeling that we’ve already met, almost automatically our body starts to Relax, Breathe, Move and search for a Natural Position (or some combination of those principles at different degrees). We look for comfort, and it’s amazing what we can achieve when we find ourselves comfortable!
When can we “remember the feeling”? When we find physical and mental comfort, we eventually find a good tactical positioning, we don’t easily show our actions and we apply a proper measure of control - without aggression. We have freedom of movement and with freedom, we have choices. We don’t think only about escaping, defending or counter-attacking... We look for comfort first of all and then, if possible, we try to make our opponent uncomfortable. This is how we explore the full range of each and every task that we do.
You can apply this concept in the simplest way: tell somebody to stand by your side. Then just position yourself in a way that you feel comfortable, while at the same time your partner feels uncomfortable. Continue to think and position yourself this way throughout every drill and you’ll notice the difference in how much control you have gained. This is the very first step in controlling the aggressions that surround you. It might look easy and simple but actually is pretty hard.
To have focus at the Present is a central key to survive with fullness. Worrying about “how was that move I learned anyway?” or “I’m going to look bad if I fall!” is typical reasoning that holds us in the Past or in the Future. Paradoxically, “remember the feeling” is at our individual Past, however when we look for it, we get very aware of our individual Present. While searching for that comfort feeling, we keep the focus on ourselves, to the moment, to the Present, until we get that feeling again. We keep scanning our tension, inch-by-inch,
second-by-second, at current situation. Inner focus and inner awareness. And yet something very interesting happens: exactly the reverse! When feeling uncomfortable, allowing the tension to grow and dominate, we leave the Present and hold to references of our Past through negative feelings we already know. Emotions arise. And a spiral of tension might escalate...
An example of this situation happens at breath hold exercises. I heard about a student who experienced despair holding his breath because it made him re-live his childhood asthma attacks. Another person remembered a drowning experience. And I, when looking for my limit, had flashback images from the rigorous military training. Other examples might happen during different drills: such as being crushed to the ground by an aggressive and heavy attacker might awake old humiliation feelings. Being grabbed and held by several people, unable to move, might arise emotions from tough times in someone’s life, like losing a loved one to an incurable disease. If Systema training leads us to tense situations, it also teaches us how to handle them. We learn how to deal with previous traumas. We discover our fears. We face them. And get over them. Soon, we begin to apply the same tension-removal methods in our day-to-day lives. Everything we do, we try to search for comfort, find the tension and then get rid of it. Daily, we begin to relax, breathe, move and find a natural posture. Not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Systema eventually turns into the way one deals with his or her being and we see Systema principles in everything we consider to be good.
I believe Brazil and Brazilians have something of Systema too. Our fighters’ outstanding performances, for instance, or our soccer, our carnival, and other things... result from (among other causes) a constant incentive to creativity, to adaptability, to collaboration, to playfulness yet keeping seriousness, which are equal to the way we train here, at RMA Systema Headquarters. In my humble opinion, I think a lot of factors that make the excellence of Russian Martial Art do exist right here in my country in different ways. I am very happy to find in Systema something that can be so suitable for the Brazilian characteristics. I’ve travelled far away to see that. I’ve travelled away to find... myself!
About the Author:
Joao Carlos Furia has been studying Systema since 2009 and was recently certified by Vladimir Vasiliev to teach Systema in San Paulo, Brazil.