How to Make Your 2013 Systema Training the Best . . . or Worst. . . .Ever

With Christmas and the New Year approaching quickly, we only have a couple of classes remaining. Undoubtedly, our “Core 12” people will show up and continue to train, the way they have for the greater part of this year. Perhaps a couple of others will join us. We will most likely get a new person or 2 who wants to check out what we have to offer.

We then have 2 weeks off per usual. During this time, many of us will enjoy Christmas with our family and friends, and ponder and plan how we wish to create our lives for 2013 (assuming the Mayans are not correct. {Please note this is an attempt at humor. Life will go on beyond 12/21/12.})

This will be my 28th year in martial arts and I have had the great fortune of training with some of the best in the world, from Vlad to Billy Blanks, Don “the Dragon” Wilson to world champion Jeff Smith, and lesser known/equally or greater talented in between. During this time, I have learned much about various arts. At the top of the list, I have learned how to make it a great year for training and how to make it a terrible year.


When I trained in the art of aikido, I had the honor of dining with Hiroshi Ikeda sensei. Ikeda sensei was/is one of the highest ranking aikidoka and I volunteer to pick him up at the airport and take him to lunch for one major reason — I wanted to learn the secrets. Not the stuff he would be showing during the next 3 days of training, the “real secrets” of aikido that he and perhaps a handful of others knew. To say I was excited does not even come close to describing what I was experiencing.

During lunch, I found the perfect moment and asked the question, “Sensei, you are truly a master of this art. How did you become so incredibly skilled? In other words, what are the real secrets?” I waited with baited breath, anticipating some deep, little known, rarely spoken mystery. A cipher. A cryptic training method. The secrets. (I may have watched too much “Kung Fu Theatre” in my youth.)

Ikeda sensei looked at me and said, “Train like I have, almost daily, for 30 years. Then you too can have the skills that I do.” He provided an answer. Not the one I wanted. Just the one I needed.

You want to make 2013 your greatest Systema year? Show up to class. Too tired? Too sore? Too busy? Not enough money? So what.

Just show up.

If you do, 2013 will be your greatest year of Systema . . . . so far. If you don’t, nothing will change, regardless of the handful of seminars you take, the clips you watch, the mental rehearsals you perform etc. Drop excuses and show up.


There are many ways to accomplish this, but 3 major ones stand above all others.

1. Pretend that you do not have the money for classes.

You are reading this which means you have a computer, Internet access and/or a smart phone. Look around your house or apartment and check out all of the “stuff” that you purchased. Some of it you are actually using. Don’t say you do not have the money. You do. Systema is one of the least expensive martial arts. There is the modest monthly fee, a t-shirt or 2 and a training knife (though these are usually provided). You don’t have to pay hundreds a year for testing fees. You don’t have to pay $80-$120 for a gi or hakama or 2 or 3. You don’t have to spend thousands on a sword or other weapon.

You also don’t have to pretend you do not have the money.

2. Pretend that you do not have the time. 

You have time to tweet or mess around on Facebook. You watch TV for how many hours? Go to a bar with friends how many times this month? The amount of time people waste is staggering. I do it at times. You do it at times.

There is enough time. You just have to prioritize and commit. Why did Vlad become great? Because it was a priority. Why did Michael become a master of this art? Because it was a priority for him.

Yes, work is a handful. Family is 2 hands full. If Systema is important, you will find the time.

3. “I already know that.”

A neophyte can enter our school and I learn from him/her. Then,  I train with David Merrell and realize how much I don’t know. Listening to David talk about Vlad, it is as if David has never taken a Systema class. Listen to Vlad talk about Michael and the same thing.

If you are just going to seminars without regular training, you are wasting your money. If you are trying to learn just with DVDs or YouTube, you are wasting your time. It is the daily or weekly training – the grind – that polishes the stone. It is not the one or 2 days I worked at it for 8 hours. That is exhausting. Fun? Yes, but rather useless without consistency.

Masters always learn. Wanna-be already know.

There you have it. A 100% rock solid way to make 2013 your best (or worst) Systema training year.

Which will you choose? Don’t tell me. Your actions will speak for themselves.