Eyes of the Neophyte

I am most happy that we are consistently getting new students. Despite the challenges every school (and business) is facing, we are growing at a steady  pace.

One of the enjoyable things I get to see as this process unfolds is the look that new people have when they see what Systema is all about. For those who have some type of background in a martial art, it is a “pause and go” experience; that is, they see the movement, attempt to do the movement based on their history, pause and realize they are not in Kansas anymore. . . and proceed to do something new. It is in that slight pause, those few seconds of confusion that true learning occurs.

You cannot learn unless you first empty and that is one of the greatest lessons a person learns when training. If they are thinking karate or aikido and attempt a movement in Systema, inevitably they will lock up, get frustrated or create a movement that looks like a fish that has just been caught on a fishing line, flopping around on the surface. It is not a pretty sight to say the least. And yes, we have all been there. (Many times, we still are.)

For those with a martial background, more often, the battle is not with the opponent but rather with themselves. The simple notion of “letting go” and a willingness to look like an amateur is a challenging concept for most of us. Eventually we come to that cross road point and ask the needed question, “Will I hold on or am I willing to let go of ‘good’ so that I may eventually experience ‘great.'” Along the way, we have to pass through “foolish” but it is worth it in the end.

Then there are the new people. They are fresh and energetic and have a grand total of zero experience in the world of martial arts. The neophyte. They come with the greatest skill needed for martial arts — openness. Some are very athletic and skilled. Others have limited abilities. It matters not. Virtually every teacher will tell you — the greater the openness, the greater the opportunity to excel.

Here is a famous Zen quote which reads: “A monk asked Master Haryo, ‘What is the way?’ Haryo san replied, ‘An open eyed man falling into the well.'”

Master Haryo truly understood Systema.

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