Saturday, 13 August 2011

Survive Vs Prevail

During my time here in Canada I had the privilege to meet and receive instruction from Sonny Puzikas. Sonny is a Systema Instructor and former member of Russian Spetsnaz. A very skilled practitioner and amazing teacher he was kind enough to explain a very interesting thing to me.

When learning Systema, we are often told that we are not training to win, but to survive. Often people tend to construe this in a manner which results in them adopting a more defensive mindset in training. For example, excessively waiting for the persons' attack before countering with your own. This particularly becomes a problem when people do this in two or more separate movements rather than one minimal, efficient and continuous movement where escape and attack occur as one. Keep in mind 'we die in the gaps'.

Now here's the interesting thing. The word 'Survive' as it exists in the English language has no direct counterpart in the Russian language. In other words, there is no word for 'Survive' in the Russian language. When Russian Instructors teach Systema in their native tongue, a different word is used. As I am completely inept in matters of the Russian language, I cannot recall, or pronounce this word. However, when directly translated into the English language the expression you will get is to: 'Stay Alive.' A more appropriate word that captures the meaning of the sentiment in English is to 'Prevail'.

In the study of Systema we don't train to win. We also don't simply train just to Survive. You can survive a knife attack and end up complete disfigured, psychologically traumatised, and with your mobility impaired due to damage to the nerves in your spine. Your life will never be the same again. Only surviving is not enough. In Systema train to 'Prevail' meaning to do whatever is required to ensure that you stay alive in every sense of the word. Train in such a way to ensure that before, during and after a confrontation you have the best chances of remaining psychologically, physically, and emotionally intact. Keep your life, including your quality of life, and ensure you are able to return to your loved ones intact. Be willing to do whatever this takes. No more and no less.

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

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