Thursday, 20 October 2011

"Using What Destroys You to Restore You" - More Exploration of this Theme in Class

Study how to use what destroys you, to restore you instead. In this way learn to keep your energy, and to use it wisely. Study to the very best of your ability to make what is your extreme begin to feel like your normal. Don't just become good at suffering.
  - From the previous post "Use what destroys you to restore 
you" on 8 August 2011

It was a fun class in North Sydney this evening. The above theme or concept is ever present in Systema training. Whatever drill or exercise that is performed keeping this idea in mind is always an interesting way to learn about yourself. Tonight I decided to play with this, with emphasis on restoring yourself whilst you are still under duress.

The Work

1. We walked with our hands in the air and our breaths held (30% remaining in the lungs or diaphram) until we could not take it any more. When we started breathing again we ran with burst breathing until we had returned to our normal state. Breathing and walking was not permitted for the purpose of this exercise. Breathing while running only. After restoring ourselves, we would then exhale all the air in our lungs until only 30% remained, put our arms up in the air and started walking again with our breaths held. This process was repeated several times.

2. We did exactly the same work as above but instead of running to recover, we used a combination of push ups, squats and sit ups. We would alternate between these core exercises when one of them got too tiring, but once again, when we had restored ourselves we would stop and begin to walk with our arms in the air and our breaths held, repeating this process several times.

3. The next drill this evening was a real treat. We would hold our breaths with 30% breath left in our lungs then do 10 push ups slowly and smoothly with no breathing. Upon commencement of breathing again, we would burst breathe to restore ourselves, whilst we went to ground and played some grab escape drill with a partner (who also did the push ups with the breath held). This essentially turned into wrestling for movement, however with the main aim being to restore ourselves to a normal state again whilst we kept wrestling without a rest. Once both partners were restored and still wrestling, we would then stop. This process was repeated again but instead of push ups with no breathing; with squats, then sit ups and then leg raisers. 

Note: Grab Escape Drill - When you and a partner try to grab each other without being grabbed yourself or locking yourselves up in the process.

One of the main aims of this particular work on this particular night was to develop the ability to restore ourselves whilst we continued to operate under duress. 

To illustrate this point, on occasion stop the work and rest. Breathe and restore yourself using burst breathing to match the heart beat, then slow the breath down to slow the heart beat down. With this particular work aim to be able to perform this same type of restoration while engaging in a task of duress, when under pressure, or when working with another person (in this case wrestling). 

Until next time,

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

First North Sydney Systema Class: Some Realisation and an Awesome Highlight

Yesterday I taught my first systema Class at the North Sydney PCYC. This isn't the first Systema class I have taught ever in my entire life. Actually prior to taking off to Canada for 6 months I had been teaching friends in the park opposite my house for approximately the last 2 years previously. However this is the first class I have taught where I actually told anyone where to find me. During that time I did just want to work with a close circle of friends and hone my skills to a certain level before I began to openly teach... However I now realise I was just shy.

Over the last 2 years I have come to realise that being a teacher of Systema isn't about being the best there is out there. It's definitely not about being a Master. If anything a better word is Steward. To be a Systema teacher is to be someone who has acquired knowledge and understanding of the System to the best of their own ability as an individual, and then to be someone willing to pass on that knowledge to the people who need it, placing their best interests first. That is all. There is no self exaltation, and if there is, then you're not doing it right.  If anything you're there to serve.

It was good first class, with just a small group of us. We played with the ideas of finding and being aware of a normal and neutral state, then keeping this while you increase the intensity of your work, however doing this through proper relaxation and use of the breath. It was wonderful watching everyone in the class work together so well, and work within the scope of the drills to find their own way of doing things. There was a lot of walking, running and breathing, movement on the ground, and some "grab escape" from standing and on the ground which organically evolved into some awesome ground work in pairs and then in a group. But through whatever physical modality,drills, that we used, the important thing was the introspection that we all went through together in that time and place.

As we discussed that day, it's easy enough to stay relaxed and comfortable when there is no stressor, but to be able to keep that feeling, and deal with the stressors of combat or any other form of pressure, even upping your level of intensity,while remaining relaxed....Well that is a truly interesting study.

However I must say that a highlight for me personally was when towards the end of the class I was approached by one of the new students. It was his first day, and he had been doing incredibly well given the chaos (controlled to a degree, I promise) that he had been exposed to. We had begun to engage into some freeplay ground work. He asked me if it would be ok if he could take it a little bit easier and focus on his breathing in order to be able to stay calm during the work. I can not tell you how overjoyed this made me that someone who had just walked in off the street into his first Systema class had made this simple yet amazing realisation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Without the breath, there is no Systema. The breath is a simple thing that is easy to ignore, however is from where everything stems. I was just very happy that this guy pretty much immediately realised the link between the breath and the ability to maintain one's state (and I'm sure many other things you can do with the breath too). As I said, that was a real highlight for me for my first class.

But watching everyone roll around breathe, move, laugh and experience Systema together that day...Needless to say I was pretty stoked :)

My thanks to my first group of students. 

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art