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When permission is given
Systema, Russian Martial Art Forum Index -> Systema Training and Practice


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serge gerlach

Joined: 23 Jan 2004
Posts: 53
Location: san francisco

PostPosted: Tue Sep 28, 2004 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post here Scott,

In my tenure so far, I keep forgetting to ask a ranking systemist wether there is any sparring in the course of a class. It's a testament to the system that someone (me) from a sparring friendly background (wrestling, sambo,BJJ) is so absorbed and challenged by the material that I never remember to ask about it.

The greatest challenge in sparring is to know that it is an exercise as much as any other but the ego factor can be even more of a hurdle than in drills/exercises. Owing to the combative nature of systema, "when permission is given" has a serious meaning and the point is always to train safely enough to be able to come back next time.

Anyhow, I'm rambling, I'll await your answer. BTW, is 'superbia' Canadian-English?
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Lloyd Robrecht

Joined: 15 Jan 2004
Posts: 35
Location: Roanoke VA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 8:15 am    Post subject: When permission is given Reply with quote


Thanks for a very nice post. I know that I need to be reminded of the points you made quite often. I had been thinking about this very thing recently, but your words really helped me clarify my own thoughts. Just what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Are you doing that Systema mind reading stuff on me again? Laughing

I will be in Toronto Oct. 10-16. I hope you will be in town, look forward to seeing you and training.

Best regards

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Scott Meredith

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely fantastic teaching for all of us Scott, we thank you much for that.
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Clive Jefferies

Joined: 09 Dec 2003
Posts: 334
Location: UK

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 10:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The ego has a lot to answer for....
Poznai sebia :: Photos :: Videos
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JP Roman

Joined: 02 Apr 2004
Posts: 11
Location: Leicester UK

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Scott you make an excellent point. I find however it tends to depend on whom you're working with as much as just the freedome to hit some one
without reprisal.

When I have practiced with the toronto group, I found that certain people tend to bring ego (both mine and theirs) into it more. Usually I have found, the newer people have the least ego, because they're trying to absorb the most; and those who are at a high enough level understand that ego doesn't need to play into it.

Usually if I find my ego is getting a bit lofty, I try to let my partner go second. That way, if I'm misbehaving, it can quickly be curbed when it's my turn to take a few punches

cheers from halifax
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Scott Connor

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 9:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

is any sparring in the course of a class.

Sparring was very much a part of the program when I first started training here. Seemed like after almost every drill I would hear the word "spar!". We did less of it for a while . The apple is quite large it seems. We've been doing more sparring in between drills lately. Smile
Sometimes I try limiting myself by only working on the specific examples of that day when 'given permission' to work/spar to focus less on 'winning'. See if you revert to 'fighting' or old/bad habits or if you're even somewhat successful in applying the idea[s] of that particular day's training during sparring. It's a challenge.
When I have practiced with the toronto group, I found that certain people tend to bring ego (both mine and theirs) into it more.
This is not comfortable for many of us to hear, and some won't agree, but [and this applies to all] I don't think we should look outside ourselves first when judging where the ego comes from when training. We all bring something to the table. NQQbs, vets, and everyone in between is/are susceptible and I know this from experience. There's a definite benefit to be found in checking ourselves regularly in regards to this. Some of us just have more difficulty with this than others for different reasons [I'd guess fear* is one]. It's hard to let [e]go. So very hard. Wink
Look around next time you're in class and check out the different facial expressions. Sometimes I see more than a couple that are too serious.
Relax. Smile. It's just easier and better all round and, ironically, you'll actually hit harder/faster and get hurt/injured less. We often stop working properly when 'given permission' to spar, work freely, etc., so it's necessary to be able to reset so you can spar with/in a clean*[er] presence, mind, slate, state, etc. Go back a step or two and resume from there if need be.

Usually if I find my ego is getting a bit lofty, I try to let my partner go second. That way, if I'm misbehaving, it can quickly be curbed when it's my turn to take a few punches

He he. Maybe, in your case JRoman, try going 'one after the other' once in a while. Might sharpen the curve a little for ya. Wink Laughing

Are you doing that Systema mind reading stuff on me again

No, and we don't do energy fireballs either.

is 'superbia' Canadian-English?

I found this source in an English online-dictionary based on a Princeton University edition but no, we don't use big words like that up here. Nu doot aboot it!

* Speaking of cleaning, Vlad offered a simple 'method' to help clean myself of the fear of taking strikes a la the solar plexus. Since I don't pray [one method], he said to write, in no orderly fashion [rant style], all that I thought about this problem on a piece of paper [don't know if the keyboard works here]. Then destroy the paper. I burned mine [keyboard is definitely out here]. It helped.
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Joined: 05 Dec 2003
Posts: 976
Location: NYC

PostPosted: Wed Sep 29, 2004 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good stuff, Scotty-me-boyo!
Very much of 'you' here -- makes me miss ya all the more!
(As if I needed another reason to get back to Toronto!)

The 'taking turns' when doing the punching and going back and forth, for awhile - is an excellent suggestion....have seen this 'work' to be very productive -- and revealing as well, as the guy who has to assess the groups work and for the participants as well.

Free flow yer thoughts anytime -- Scoooohht!
Rob Green
"OK - so, whats the speed of 'dark'"?
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Hugh Wallace

Joined: 27 Jan 2004
Posts: 134
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland

PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2004 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post Scott!

Thanks bud.

Hugh Wallace
kage110 on other forums
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emmanuel manolakakis

Joined: 21 Jan 2004
Posts: 48
Location: Toronto, Ontario

PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2004 5:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post Scott.

Much needed, and not just for the newbies.

In reading your post I can see the 'maturity' and the 'responsibility' shinning through.


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Joined: 12 Dec 2003
Posts: 857
Location: New York City

PostPosted: Thu Sep 30, 2004 1:23 pm    Post subject: when permission is given Reply with quote

Excellent post, Scott, thank you for sparking this thread, and for offering those tips, very helpful advice to all of us, I am sure.
Iíve found that thereís no use bemoaning the fact that some people aren't co-operative, don't want to learn, have too much aggression, etc. None of those things should affect me, or my own work, while training. There are no "excuses," no such thing as ďhe made me do it!Ē These people will change when they are ready to, or they won't change at all, it will be their own decision either way. I try to approach the situation from fresh perspective each time. Rather than thinking, "Oh no, I have to work with so-and-so again!" which sets a negative tone, I imagine that we will both learn something through our interaction, so that it will be a positive experience.
I don't believe aggressive or competitive classmates are unique to Vlad's club, I think it's just that wherever a lot of people are assembled, that's when you see the diverse array of human interaction. A small training group of regulars might experience this less than a large school with different faces in every class. This is just my theory, I haven't had the pleasure of visiting other Systema schools, but whenever I take a vacation, I check this site to see if there is a school within driving distance of my location, so, one day, I hope to put some faces to the names of the people on this forum who have been so generous with their advice.
It isnít easy for me to work with aggressive partners, because of my own temperament; it can be quite a challenge. There are some people with whom I just don't want to work, I can't pretend that I am good at working with everyone, as much as I would like to be that way, occasionally, though rarely, I have refused to work with some people. In time, it may become easier for me, as I have noticed that the more advanced the practitioner, the more easily they seem to work with a variety of partners.
Some of my past posts to this forum describe my problems training with competitive partners who, from my initial perspective, are hell-bent on hurting me to prove something, but looking at the situation objectively (always a good idea, to adopt a "professional" attitude), I can see that their reactions are as much from fear as from aggression, not fear of me specifically, but perhaps of some other, more personal kinds of fear, and I try not to take it "personally." I have to ask myself, who will decide how I feel today, during Systema class (my favorite time of the day!): me, or my partner?
And as Scott points out, smiling is a good idea--for both parties. We all respond positively to smiles, even tiny babies recognize and respond to smiling faces. But just as smiling helps both parties relax, I find that I sometimes respond to aggression from my partner with my own aggression. For example, if my partner is uncooperative, I find myself less willing to co-operate, and I have to be mindful of that. At times, I'm frightened by the way I feel working with aggressive partners, for example, I might take someone down, kick him, and think "he really deserved that, the way heís been acting!" or even worse thoughts, such as "I'd like nothing better than to beat the crap out of this guy!" These thoughts are nothing new to me, sometimes I even think these things about other New Yorkers, if theyíve been rude or pushy on the street or in the subway, and I have to be conscious of these thoughts, I canít let them slip in there with my other thoughts as if they are at home there. For me, itís better to be kind, itís just a better way to live, I feel happier, and I believe it is my true nature. So when I find myself acting this way in class, I try to remember why I am training in Systema, or sometimes I'll ask my teacher a few questions, just to collect myself (though admittedly, I have also handled these occasions by fleeing to the ladies' room)
I want to provide a specific example of the varying temperaments within Systema class. There is an exercise, one of my favorites, where three or more people kick one person in the middle, either standing, or on the floor. If I'm in the middle and I'm surrounded by people who enjoy slow-sparring, I find it helpful for movement and relaxation. But not everyone has the same interpretation of this exercise. For other people, it's not about helping the other person learn how to move or avoid. It's about taking down the person in the middle, closing in tightly, kicking as hard and fast as possible, tripping them up, or doing whatever it takes to get them to the floor. The more the person in the middle avoids, the harder and faster they will kick, trip, etc. The challenge for me, in the middle, is to remember that it's not a multiple-attacker sparring exercise; it's an avoidance exercise. I find it extremely difficult not to react to their interpretation of the exercise, I very much want to "fight back," to take them down if I go down, to kick them, I find myself thinking, why should I do nothing while three people attack me? And I am tempted to change the exercise from avoidance to sparring, but "permission" hasn't been given. Likewise, when someone else is in the middle, I am disturbed by what I interpret as undue aggression, for some reason, the sight of one person, especially if they are on the ground, being kicked as hard and fast as possible by three or more others, it bothers me.
If you are thinking, those people should be sparring more slowly, actually, no, their interpretation is not necessarily wrong. Of course, I sometimes think, "This isn't fair! They're taking me down, why can't I take them down, too?" But Systema is about survival, not about whatís ďfairĒ. Not being able to fight back, even though you are physically capable and unrestrained, is excellent preparation for real scenarios. It's not about just overcoming a fear of being kicked or attacked by a posse. It's also preparation for circumstances that will be psychologically challenging. There's no guarantee that an actual physical conflict will be "fair" and I can think of several scenarios where fighting back will only further endanger you or someone else.
Please don't mis-interpret this as a criticism of classmates who become aggressive during such exercises; I am actually grateful to them for challenging me in this way. Aggressive classmates can provide excellent opportunity to better understand myself, although, as I mentioned above and in other posts, if things are really going awry between us, I do think it's best to seek advice from my teacher.
Thanks again, Scott and all who replied, there's a lot of valuable information in this thread. There are so many great threads on this forum lately, I hardly know what to read first. What a special place this is, many thanks to all who make it possible.
*Vsego nailuchshego* (best wishes),

edit: I'm adding this because I'm afraid my original post may not have been fair to my classmates, whom I like and respect. I prefer to work slowly, but learning to adapt is also part of my training. A few months ago we were doing this exercise in class, and my classmates were a little too, ah, enthusiastic about kicking me, and I resented for them it. I ended up just standing there while they closed in tightly, forgetting to move, because I was altogether pre-occupied with why some people act the way they do. But recently in class we were doing this exercise and my classmates were also a little too enthusiastic about kicking, but by allowing myself to be moved, rather than dwelling on why the circumstances weren't more to my liking, I found that I was able to avoid much more easily. For me, this is a significant improvement! But mainly I just wanted to come back and add to this post to make sure I have been fair to my classmates, who aren't mean-spirited bullies, just a diverse group of personalities and temperaments, and this diversity enhances rather than detracts from my training.
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