What Systema Can Learn From Kyudo and Others

I do not practice Kyudo -Japanese archery – but my wife does. In fact, she has crossed over and become one of the die-hards of this art. A torchbearer. A Lifer.

What I know of Kyudo I could fit into a paragraph. A short one. What I have noted is the honorable manner in which she is treated and have seen the powerful lessons from this. Perhaps the biggest lesson I have seen is deep respect for others. In fact, this indirect experiences and other powerful lessons have favorably impacted my arts and my life.

What is the lesson? Simple courtesy and respect matters.

Here is a classic example. If a school or student in a given area wishes to host a seminar, they contact a Kyudo Instructor. The very first thing the Instructor does is make sure there are no other Instructors (regardless of rank)  in the area, so as to avoid any potential conflicts or ill feelings.  Aside from that, it is an example of simple common courtesy.

If none exist, all is well. If one (or more) are in the area, the first thing the Instructor will do is call him or her and explain the situation. Together, a common ground is found and the typical end result is positive and favorable. A simple call and much potential animosity is avoided.

I have both seen and experienced the opposite in Systema and other arts, and the ensuing fall-out from it. The irony of course is that martial arts preaches respect and holds it in the highest esteem. I wonder if today, this still holds true, the way it has for centuries.

With the advent of social networks, iPhones and other communication devices, the fact is communication and social skills have deteriorated. The more “connected” we are, the more disconnected we have become. Somewhere along the lines, the skills of respect and courtesy have fallen behind. . . at least in some arts. I have actually had someone, a martial artist no less,  refer to respect as “blather.”

Fortunately, there is another side to this. What I have seen my wife’s experience in the world of Kyudo has certainly reinforced the notion that respect and courtesy is not dead. There are those who live by the Code. Old School is still around and in some cases, the only game in town.

I have recently experienced the positive side as well. Individuals at the Berkoot Protection Agency (Systema), lead by Alex Popeskou, welcomed me with open arms despite not knowing me at all. Kindness was as much a part of the recent seminar as was knife defense. A number of others students and Instructors alike responded in a similar manner. They live by the Code. They live with Honor and Respect.

They live the way Ralph Waldo Emerson stated, “Men are respectable, only as they respect.”