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gene smithson



Joined: 17 Oct 2005
Posts: 352

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 12:03 am    Post subject: WORK Reply with quote

When I began Systema I heard the term work used a lot, doing the work, etc...I assumed it was a euphemism...kinder than beating someone up or something. I heard the saying...butter the toast...again ...I assumed that at a certain level of skill it takes no more energy or thought than buttering toast. And maybe because of the language translation it comes across as meaning something a little different.

I figured no problem, I know how to work hard, Im really good at martial arts and at fighting as well. I'll do more pushups, train more hours and pray more constantly.

I think Ive realized something different. All along this Systema path Ive seen little evidences that my nervous system is changing, who I am is changing a little bit you know.
At spring training we did a couple of drills, one of which I had done before, and for some reason something sort of clicked.
Vlad said that the time has come in the developmental process of Systema for us to go deeper and I think I have a different idea about that now.

The two drills are simple. One is where you hold your arms out in front of you and trace digits in the air...its designed to get your limbs capable of independent movement and was introduced in the multiple attackers section. The other was a neat drill where you use a very normal movement to evade or deflect an attack. For example bending over to tie your shoe, or really thinking about figuring something out as you scratch your head...

These two drill are extremely challenging for me, and more, once you get a little comfortable you have to up the ante and write some sentence or word with your feet up in the air etc, I like to narrate a little story and have my actions reflect what is happening in the story while a partner tries to punch my face. Im very tired, yawn and stretch, where did I put my flash light, scratch my head, maybe it was over there and wave my arm in some direction etc.

At any rate, what occurred to me is that this is the work of rewiring my nervous system. When you are doing some natural movement, the vibe is different...its not martial arts any more and the body is set up different.
Your partner may feel a little confused , as the feedback he is getting is not what is expected. Its actually extremely revelatory, for me at least.

When you are doing movemetns such as writing four separate numbers with arms and legs waving around, you are actually changing the meat that is your brain. All the times we do the tense and release exercises we are connecting our bodies and gaining control of our bodies.

This type of practice is not sexy or gratifying. In fact it can be extraordinarily frustrating and tedious, but it is changing something very fundamental in the meat of our body.

I believe that this is one tiny aspect of going deeper into Systema, understanding it as something much much different than a martial art.
The idea that there is no fighting, seriously, not even super duper sensitive taiji fighting, just being human...that is something different to me than being really good at fighting...its being really good at being a human body and mind. It goes much deeper I am certain of that. When the breath becomes a prayer, well, I am incapable of speaking about that.

There are many other avenues that leap to mind as well, but the breath work, the nervous system work...these are things that are radically different than what I had thought they were before. These are things that change our very organism.

The faith aspect of our training is another place where the changes are so different than what I had assumed.

This post is a bit long winded and perhaps confusing. I apologize. I think it is important for me to write it down and put it out there. Hope it makes sense and please if you have thoughts maybe it will help, perhaps someone can articulate these things better than I.

much Love and peace to all who train hard and my deepest gratitude to our teacher Vlad and to Sergei O, for a seminar that meant so much to me,
gene
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RobPoyton



Joined: 08 Dec 2003
Posts: 128
Location: bedford, uk

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think your articulated it perfectly Gene. Great observation and very true I think. Also a source of frustration for people who come to Systema looking for a "martial art"?

cheers

Rob
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Bradley Scheel



Joined: 10 Dec 2003
Posts: 1346
Location: CYBERIA//Absurdistan/Wisconsin

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the enigma wraped in a mystery....
I think you are begining to see that if one defends oneself with a "natural movement" it takes the attacker out of his frame of reference. You give him no opportunity to respond to his fixated intent. Doing such a "natural movement", like tying ones shoe etc, also allows you not to lock into the game of counter attack or attacking at all. It allows for a softer existence, though remember, softer is not necessiarly "weaker".

My new friend from Oregon was shown the punch by Vlad. With the last punch he was instructed to say "Lord, have mercy". I am not sure where the punch went, but by the look on his face during impact, it went somewhere other than to pain. You can't fake this kind of stuff. Faith. Breath. Prayer.
So, I wonder, if we praise God with every breath and we use each breath to do the work, do we not do God's work? Not like puppets on a string for some kind of divine comedy, rather as a partner? A communion?
During Service, I said a few words to the Icon in the foyer of the church on Henry st. I felt an energy come to me I don't feel often. I began to tear up and turned to walk outside for awhile. Maybe another chunk of armor fell off. Vlad tells us often: "One step at a time"... "Don't be greedy." I'd like the revelation to be like a lightening bolt, but will settle for the light growing a bit brighter now and again.

Tedious work:
Ug, I was suffering lung congestion (having asthma doesn't help things) the week before the seminar and by the time I left, I picked something else up. During the three hour drive home from the airport and all the next day, I could not stop coughing, on the bright side, this kept me awake. Under normal conditions this isn't too bad, with asthma you can breath in, not out. Sort of the KGB rule:
free to enter, two rubles to leave.
Awoken from what little sleep I was getting, the exhale was not working, the cough was forcing it out, the congestion was stopping it. I heard the voice in the pre-dawn hour: do what you can, let the cough work, shallow breathe so you don't agitate things, ride it out....no panic, no tension, calm, and relaxation returned. Not glamorus work, but work all the same.

I pale to think about going deeper into Systema. Seeing how the Trinity serves us well. The push up, squat, leg raise/sit up as combat applications astounds me. That there are deeper levels I have no doubt. I only hope I may serve them with honor.

To Mikhail, Vladimir, Valarie, and all who share their guidence in Systema,
to those who share the training, I give thanks.

To God I give praise.
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Last edited by Bradley Scheel on Fri May 22, 2009 10:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
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gene smithson



Joined: 17 Oct 2005
Posts: 352

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 5:56 pm    Post subject: semantics Reply with quote

I dunno Rob, its all still a big stew in my head Sad but thanks for the encouragement.
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gene smithson


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Bradley Scheel



Joined: 10 Dec 2003
Posts: 1346
Location: CYBERIA//Absurdistan/Wisconsin

PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2009 10:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, there wouldn't really be a need to "tie ones shoes" if they weren't untied.... Wink

I too am going to have to chew on this a bit more. What is defending the self? There being no difference between offense and defense....uh oh... Shocked

Why should there be movement in the first place?

See, I told you this is fun.
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gene smithson



Joined: 17 Oct 2005
Posts: 352

PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 2:21 am    Post subject: need? Reply with quote

deleted
because I am not qualified to debate this subject and I dont want to either Smile
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gene smithson


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Bradley Scheel



Joined: 10 Dec 2003
Posts: 1346
Location: CYBERIA//Absurdistan/Wisconsin

PostPosted: Sat May 23, 2009 11:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gene:
seems like it's apples and oranges.

Quote:
The other was a neat drill where you use a very normal movement to evade or deflect an attack.


Tying ones shoes during an attack takes the attacker out of his loop, giving him little or no reference point to respond to. It also gives you a better option to be neutral in the matter, and an opportunity to deescalate the "fight". That movement seems predicated upon the movement of your attacker, wheather it's natural or not. You wouldn't jump down to tie your shoes if they weren't untied otherwise, would you?

Jumping for the sheer joy of it, IMHO, is an alltogether different matter. Cool
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Vinnie Moscaritolo



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
Posts: 103
Location: State of Jefferson.

PostPosted: Sun May 24, 2009 11:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bradley Scheel wrote:

My new friend from Oregon was shown the punch by Vlad. With the last punch he was instructed to say "Lord, have mercy". I am not sure where the punch went, but by the look on his face during impact, it went somewhere other than to pain. You can't fake this kind of stuff. Faith. Breath. Prayer.


I did it a bunch of times, with different folks, and it seems to do something for me. Way more here than I know. but every strike and breath seems to wake me up and listen a bit more to God. I am so grateful to my friends for waking me up inside and helping me to listen.

My best to you my new friend..
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Bradley Scheel



Joined: 10 Dec 2003
Posts: 1346
Location: CYBERIA//Absurdistan/Wisconsin

PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vinnie:
can you describe a little more of what goes on with that?
It seems silly to me to petition the lord with prayer with such a request at such a time as "taking a heet".

Thoughts?
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Vinnie Moscaritolo



Joined: 16 Nov 2006
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Location: State of Jefferson.

PostPosted: Mon May 25, 2009 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beats me.. Laughing

I don't really know. I am sure some of it has to do with breath, and some has to do with the lack of fear that I have when protected by the Lord.

But I am aware at least that I am relaxed when my mind is not on how much it's going to hurt..
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Stéphane Beaudin



Joined: 06 May 2005
Posts: 449
Location: Montréal

PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 12:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Even for someone culturally predisposed to be leery of manifestations of Christianity, like myself, "Lord have mercy" is pretty effective. I find that "Namaste", saluting that which is divine in the punch, to have a similar effect (not identical, though, not less effective, just different), for those with similar cultural biases and who cannot bring themselves to experiment past them.
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Brian King



Joined: 06 Dec 2003
Posts: 395
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA. USA

PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gene Smithson wrote:
Quote:
“When I began Systema I heard the term work used a lot, doing the work, etc...I assumed it was a euphemism...kinder than beating someone up or something. I heard the saying...butter the toast...again ...I assumed that at a certain level of skill it takes no more energy or thought than buttering toast. And maybe because of the language translation it comes across as meaning something a little different.

I figured no problem, I know how to work hard, Im really good at martial arts and at fighting as well. I'll do more pushups, train more hours and pray more constantly.

I think Ive realized something different. All along this Systema path Ive seen little evidences that my nervous system is changing, who I am is changing a little bit you know.
At spring training we did a couple of drills, one of which I had done before, and for some reason something sort of clicked.
Vlad said that the time has come in the developmental process of Systema for us to go deeper and I think I have a different idea about that now.

The two drills are simple. One is where you hold your arms out in front of you and trace digits in the air...its designed to get your limbs capable of independent movement and was introduced in the multiple attackers section. The other was a neat drill where you use a very normal movement to evade or deflect an attack. For example bending over to tie your shoe, or really thinking about figuring something out as you scratch your head...

These two drill are extremely challenging for me, and more, once you get a little comfortable you have to up the ante and write some sentence or word with your feet up in the air etc, I like to narrate a little story and have my actions reflect what is happening in the story while a partner tries to punch my face. Im very tired, yawn and stretch, where did I put my flash light, scratch my head, maybe it was over there and wave my arm in some direction etc.

At any rate, what occurred to me is that this is the work of rewiring my nervous system. When you are doing some natural movement, the vibe is different...its not martial arts any more and the body is set up different.
Your partner may feel a little confused , as the feedback he is getting is not what is expected. Its actually extremely revelatory, for me at least.

When you are doing movemetns such as writing four separate numbers with arms and legs waving around, you are actually changing the meat that is your brain. All the times we do the tense and release exercises we are connecting our bodies and gaining control of our bodies.

This type of practice is not sexy or gratifying. In fact it can be extraordinarily frustrating and tedious, but it is changing something very fundamental in the meat of our body.

I believe that this is one tiny aspect of going deeper into Systema, understanding it as something much much different than a martial art.
The idea that there is no fighting, seriously, not even super duper sensitive taiji fighting, just being human...that is something different to me than being really good at fighting...its being really good at being a human body and mind. It goes much deeper I am certain of that. When the breath becomes a prayer, well, I am incapable of speaking about that.

There are many other avenues that leap to mind as well, but the breath work, the nervous system work...these are things that are radically different than what I had thought they were before. These are things that change our very organism.

The faith aspect of our training is another place where the changes are so different than what I had assumed.

This post is a bit long winded and perhaps confusing. I apologize. I think it is important for me to write it down and put it out there. Hope it makes sense and please if you have thoughts maybe it will help, perhaps someone can articulate these things better than I.

much Love and peace to all who train hard and my deepest gratitude to our teacher Vlad and to Sergei O, for a seminar that meant so much to me,
gene”


Gene,
Thanks for taking the time to write some of your thoughts down and doing so with the willingness to share them with others. This type of work that helps one learn is as nearly important in my opinion as doing the physical work itself.

Every drill that we do, every exercise is designed to help us learn and to train us on many different levels, even if we are unwilling or unconscious of the training while doing the drills/exercises. As our knowledge awareness and sensitivity grows we eventually start to see the changes in us and we start to see how different our world really is. It is funny but our children and friends and family often notice the changes before we ourselves do.

I think you are on the right path sir even if the path seems forlorn and unsure. It can be an exciting one full of adventure and challenges. There is one danger that I can perhaps warn you (not you personally Gene but others that might also be on this path and come across his thread) of. This is just work (hehehe). No more advanced than physically learning how to break a nose with cupped hand. It is not a higher level of work but merely a different kind of work. There is a danger of becoming lazy and disinterested in doing the other types of training. A danger of feeding the ego and pride if the work is believed to be more than the work others are doing. Watch our teachers as they teach and do their work. They are not confined by doing things one certain way even though they have the expertise, they range their work and do many different types of work, especially during the demos. Sometimes working from breathing sometimes from the nerves, sometimes using the bones and structure sometimes y=using muscle all during the same demo and often without explaining or pointing out the differences. People see them doing many variations and think that they are giving many physical options to a problem so that people can find one or two that works for them and that they can practice. That is true, but they are also doing the work on many different levels only some of which can we start to see as we are exposed and become more familiar with the different types of work available to explore. There is a danger of getting stuck in any one type of work and thinking that is the end of learning or the answer for every situation.

Have you ever seen that bodies exhibition that travels around the US. They have one display of a human body sliced crosswise into little thin slices (think potato chips) This display really showed me how many different levels our bodies really have, kind of like tree growth rings but the rings of different textures sizes and colors. There is the skin then the fascia muscle and bone. Mixed in are the tendons and the nerves and veins. But if you look closer even the skin has layers as does the muscle tendons veins nerves and bones. All these different layers are opportunities to increase our awareness and sensitivity as we learn to work from each. It is fascinating.

Interesting thread Gene thanks for starting it and the dscussion it has brought forth.

Warmest regards
Brian King
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Brian King



Joined: 06 Dec 2003
Posts: 395
Location: Olympic Peninsula, WA. USA

PostPosted: Tue May 26, 2009 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The term work is interesting and often used by me. I tell the police and firefighters and other action professionals that train with us “Just because it is their emergency does not make it your emergency, it is just work” I often stop the drills and before starting the next phase ask each student in turn what they were working on during the particular drill, this focuses them on actually having a goal and focus for their training and gives them both permission and responsibility to have their individual focus on the drills/exercises and shows some of the newer students the possible range of the drills. It also allows me a chance to see if my observations were correct. We might go right back into that same drill so that they can actually practice what they said they were LOL.

I am a bit strange but I like to take the words that our teachers and students use and look them up. I let them lead me on all sorts of bunny trails and this practice has lead to a clearer understanding of what they are trying to communicate and has often radically changed my understanding and practice. Touch, work, hit, absorb and many others. I understood one meaning of the word well enough but when looked up I found many definitions that were more precise to the context and that often lead to a different understanding (sometimes subtle sometimes radical) than my preconceptions had at first allowed.

Some of the interesting definitions of the term work
5. purposeful effort: the physical or mental effort directed at doing or making something

6. function: the function of completing a process or carrying out a task

7. something done or made: something that has been done or made as part of a job or as a result of effort or activity requiring skill

8. something manufactured: something that has been or is in the process of being worked on or manufactured

9. artistic or intellectual creation: an artistic or intellectual composition, e.g. a book, treatise, painting, sculpture, film, or piece of music

10. physics means for energy transfer: the transfer of energy, measured as the product of the force applied to a body and the distance moved by that body in the direction of the force. Symbol W

Perhaps others might find this useful in their own practices

Regards
Brian King
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johnpark



Joined: 28 Apr 2009
Posts: 4

PostPosted: Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this thread and providing the wide range of definitions that define "work." Coming to understand this multifaceted word as used in systema has been one of the most productive journeys for me. One of the first instances in which the usage of this word began to transform me was the realization that a context for systema was and is that soldiers train in it for their work. To do the work necessitates placing the work ahead of oneself. This meant, for me, eliminating unnecessary movement, the agenda of proving something to myself and others, my sense of urgency to do the drill in a successful and clean manner, in other words, getting rid of the the build-up and protection of my ego.

In the blade seminar with Manny last year, we learned to use the back of the blade and also the handle. I began seeing from these drills that knife work involved more than gaining mastery over the blade by doing something "flashy" but that for carrying out various tasks, this tool contains parts that are designed to serve these specific tasks. To use this tool efficiently and effectively, I had to humble myself before the work at hand by observing what the tool was designed for. And this translated to punch work with a partner in that it wasn't about trying to throw the fastest and the strongest punch but about having clarity in direction, proper placement of the punch whether it be to the skin, muscle, or to the tendons, and with just the right amount of energy transfer that is sufficient for the work at hand. Moreover, this reflection about "work at hand" led to the need to develop hands that are intelligent about completing its tasks.

I'm constantly amazed at how much mental energy is involved in systema training. An hour of hard training is not only hard physically but also, mentally, because focusing on work outside of myself takes lots of energy. If systema training was on learning a few techniques to solve all physical confrontations, it would be less demanding of mental energy but to submit my ego to the work at hand is quite challenging for me both mentally and emotionally. But on those few days when I do work hard during training, I am rewarded with creativity in movement. Because each partner is different in body shape and size and each tool has different characteristics and design, the work becomes creative and open to possibilities.

Systema itself is a gift and one of its benefits for me is that it teaches me about this sanctity of work, if you will, both in and outside of training. But best of all is probably definition 8 above, "something that is in the process of being worked on"-understanding what it means to do the work helps me to see that I, too, am a work in progress, in the process of being worked on.
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Brian King



Joined: 06 Dec 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 02, 2009 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

johnpark wrote
-snip-
Quote:
“wasn't about trying to throw the fastest and the strongest punch but about having clarity in direction, proper placement of the punch whether it be to the skin, muscle, or to the tendons, and with just the right amount of energy transfer that is sufficient for the work at hand. Moreover, this reflection about "work at hand" led to the need to develop hands that are intelligent about completing its tasks.”


“work at hand” I like that phrase John, especially after taking a moment to look up all the many interesting definitions of the word hand. Fascinating phrase "work at hand" it has multiple layers to contemplate, work on and to explore physically.

Thanks for that and belated welcome to the Systema forum. I am looking forward to reading more of your thoughts

Warmest regards
Brian King
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