Monday, 30 July 2012

David Quaile's Systema Seminar in Sydney, July of 2012

On the 14 and 15 July 2012 we were lucky enough to have a truly amazing Systema Instructor come to Sydney and share with us his understanding and love of Systema. David Quaile from Bundaburg Queensland. A former Australian Military Operative and a highly skilled teacher of Systema, David has always acted as a pioneer of the System in Australia and New Zealand.

It was an interesting weekend with many different types of people coming together to train and learn. We spent those 2 days together studying;
  • Systema Fundamentals,
  • Effective Moving and Breathing in Combat,
  • and Mastering the Psyche during Violent Confrontation.
The tone of the weekend was set by Dave's lovely wife Bronwyn, who gave a thorough introduction about Dave and his history with Systema, but one thing she said stuck out in my mind. She explained that although we would be covering the above mentioned topics during the seminar, they would not be studied independently of each other. These topics were to be learned not as separate components, but to be experienced as part of an integrative whole. These things are so inextricably linked that to try to separate them them from each other would not do them justice. As both Dave and Bronwyn were kind enough to remind all of us, Systema must be experienced as a whole, integrated and complete. Training must be wholistic.

It's one thing to see Vladimir, Mikhail and many other amazing Senior Systema Instructors who possess such a high level of knowledge and skill operate. However to see an elderly gentleman from a small country town in Queensland work with such awareness, sensitivity and control, and wield these attributes with such lethal precision.... And all with an Australian Accent, and a calm yet friendly demeanour... It inspires a combination of respect, humility, amusement and at other times terror. 

There was nothing very complicated about the work. It just required our attention, patience and honesty. One of the great things about Dave is his ability to take simple things, but go into them incredibly deeply, and from this develop an understanding that enables the simplest of things to have amazing ramifications to how you understand yourself and how you use your body in a manner which results in the preservation of your being and the “Handling” of your opponent. Through a series of simple exercises such as breathing with awareness, moving around on the ground with each other, walking, use of the knife, moving each others limbs and pushing to free the body, an amazing 2 days of Systema unfolded for us. As David is fond of saying “The System is you,” and it is yourself that you must understand, overcome, accept and continue to develop. Everything else occurs as a by product of this. With this focus and using these simple things, we taught our bodies to work, to respond to stimulus spontaneously and to protect ourselves.

The following is a list of things which stood our for me from the seminar. Simple things that we've all heard a million times, but are still very important:
  • Find Freedom. Freedom of the physical body, of the psyche, and the spirit. All movement comes from the body, and body moves for itself with minimal interference from your mind. The body must be able to move for you. The body must do this in response to stimulus. This can only happen when your very being is free of excess fear, tension, or preconceived ideas
  • The mind and body must be able to work independently of each other. The body must know how to, and be able to protect you whilst the mind is free to think about other matters (i.e. other opponents, your surroundings). This takes time, awareness, consistent hard work and honesty with yourself.
  • Study how fear begins to enter your body creating excess tension and inhibits this freedom.
  • Remember, a bit of fear will keep you alive, but too much fear will kill you.
  • Allow your body to explore.
  • Be aware of how a person or situation affects your being (i.e. breathing, tension, posture, thoughts amongst other things...) even before physical conflict commences. In doing this and learning how to keep fear from affecting your being, by way of breathing, you study how to be professional...Not emotionally involved.
  • Do not allow your adversary inside your head. This often occurs sooner than we realise.
  • Be mindful of the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, how it connects your breath to your body and helps to keep you calm.
  • Use breathing to ensure that your body is soft and relaxed (not floppy), and free to move as required. In studying to do this whilst under stress you are already starting to work on your psyche.
  • Study Movement. Your own movement and that of your partner.
  • Never stay in the same place. Utilise continuous movement. But move with purpose. Eliminate superfluous and unnecessary movement. To the best of your ability allow your work to occur in one movement, defence and attack are simultaneous.
  • Again, allow your body to explore.
  • Sensitivity and awareness of your self, your partner and how you both interact is incredibly important. Rely on these things as opposed to brute force.
  • Sensitivity is more than just learning to work with constant contact (although this is part of it). Learn to feel something or someone before they reach you, or to feel something before it happens.
  • Do not give support to your opponent, whilst at the same time work from the support your opponent gives you (Sensitivity and Awareness).
  • Work with Intent. Whatever speed your work with, use committed intent. Otherwise the training is incomplete.
  • Remember: Slow is fast, fast is slow.
  • The study of combat needs to be simple. Complications in this process will get you killed.
  • Understand the way of the Soldier vs the way of the King.
  • Study the principles. Although they may at times be referred to in isolation, no one principle can function on it's own. In application they all work together and occur simultaneously as required depending on circumstance or situation. Remember Systema must be wholistic.
  • You can have many drills of value, or you can have many drills of no value. How valuable a drill is depends on you.
  • Utilise the Floating (Flying) Centre of Gravity.
  • When working remember to study how to attack points of pain and vulnerable areas of the body. It makes things much easier.
  • You are not there to play sport. You are not even necessarily there to fight. “Close and Finish”. There is no need to draw things out. But keep in mind “Finish” does not necessarily mean destroy. It may simply mean control.

Above all use what you learn to live well. During one of our lengthy discussions Dave pointed me towards this gem:

Many thanks again to Dave, Bron, and everyone who accompanied us that weekend and contributed to an amazing learning experience for us all. And a special thanks to our guests from New Zealand and Queensland. Thanks for coming all the way to Sydney to share the love guys.

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

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