Ground Work Seminar: What I Learned By Teaching

GroundWorkWe completed a Ground Work Seminar this past Saturday at Sarasota Systema, taught by yours truly. I thoroughly enjoyed the big, enthusiastic group of skilled Systema practitioners and am grateful to everyone who came to this event. I could not have asked for a better crowd!

Teaching a seminar is an interesting experience. On the one hand, I feel honored to have the opportunity not only to pass along movements or skills from the world of Systema, but also for the opportunity to say something or do something that just may help or inspire another person. Maybe they are suffering in silence, and a kind word or pat on the back is the push that sends them back into the world of brightness. One thing I have learned from doing martial arts for nearly 30 years now, is that you just never know. You never know what difference  a kind smile or gesture can make.

I can think of my own experience as a classic example. Senior Instructor Marc Bresee from Sarasota, years ago went out of his way to do a small seminar for me. It was supposed to be  3 hours, and it ended up going nearly 4 and a half. I am sure Marc had better things to do than put on a seminar for someone he never even met before. That day, a gigantic fire was lit and I have been deeply involved in Systema since (not to mention forever thankful to Marc). Like I said, you just never know.

We covered a great deal of ground work, from arm bars to knee locks to counters to counters-to-the-counter, and barely scratched the surface at that.  During a particular segment, one person expressed their frustration about the movements; that is, they were both struggling learning it and questioning its effectiveness, given their size. Both valid concerns and  great questions arose from this.

At that point, I switched gears and did something a little more simple. My reaction was “this seems to be too complex” and so, let’s go ahead and simplify. 48 hours later, if I had it to do again, I would not have made this decision.

We already know what we know. We have our “favorite” movements and often. . . . in some cases, too often. . . fall back on them. As humans, it is uncomfortable to fail. It is uncomfortable to learn something new, and not be able to do it. Especially when others around us seem to be getting it.

When we fall back on the familiar, it feels good. Or at least, it does not feel badly. But herein lies the problem — when we repeatedly repeat, we never make progress. We never expand or grow, be it in Systema or in life.

Make mistakes. Great mistakes. Glorious stumbling and bumbling, for within these mistakes lie the pure movement that will eventually come forth. It may look exactly like we imagined. Or exactly like we were taught. It may look differently than anticipated. It may look 180 degrees opposite, but it will be effective, and most importantly, it will be our movement. Our clean, powerful, effective movement evolving from our grand and glorious mistakes.

Now THAT is Systema!


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