This was a special year, one filled with much depth; that is, we did less “stuff” but covered movements in considerably more detail. The timing was right as we have quite a number of students who have been around for a while now and were both ready and eager. It certainly paid off.
In addition, Central Florida Systema had a number of successes:
- By far, the best was the addition of 12 new students. Each one has brought not only talent, but a wonderfully open attitude toward learning and contributing to our Circle. We are stronger because of you – Chris, Marina, Tim, Viktor, Ashleigh, Joseph, Sifu Jeff, Michael, Heidi, James, Pete and Andres. It is an honor to work with you and I look forward to many years and many classes.
- Next up with the addition of our Second School in Clermont. It is a perfect blend to our flagship school in Winter Garden. Cozy, perfectly situated, Clermont was truly a surprise and a gift. I am deeply grateful to Sifu Jeff for his openness, friendship and this great opportunity to teach the art of Systema.
- One of the best things we did during the spring and summer months was our bonus class on Thursdays. I could only describe it as pure magic. We used this time to experiment, take risks and explore new ways of movement and breathing – things you can only do in a group. Blending acupuncture points and meridians, applied kinesiology, Hsing I, Taoist sounds, Bagua and a host of others from studying with David and Rick Merrell as well as information from Vlad and Michael. Some of the best times ever!
- We also had some major focus on breathing, including some unique methods. Each proved rather valuable.
- Of course, the great seminars this year added tremendously to our Circle. Vlad was the best of course. I deeply appreciated the opportunities to work with him one-on-one. Manny was also one of my favorites. Too many to list.
- Our own seminars were huge hits. Thanks to Bob Elder Sensei for allowing us the use of his space and to Alex Popeskou for the same. Seminars including groundwork, kick and knife defense and gun defense. We had our biggest crowds of all time for the groundwork and gun seminar. So looking forward to re-starting these in February.
- While on the subject of amazing seminars, Guru Eddie Quinn and Peter Carbone Sensei once again, provided us with some of the most brilliant martial arts ever seen. It was an honor to be a part of these sessions.
- A few of us also had the opportunity to work with an expert, Guru Andrew, covering some of the most creative and devastating leg work and takedowns from the world of Silat. Blended beautifully with our art.
- Drum roll please. . . . . . . BIG congratulations to Gary Parody. Gary became an Instructor-in-Training at CFL Systema. We are absolutely thrilled for Gary. Well deserved honor, as Gary (along with Neal Hamner) has served as Dojo Cho for several years now. (Also, with our many, many projects for 2014, it is great to know I have a skilled, trustworthy person I can rely on.)
- Lastly. . . . . on a much different note, Team Systema completed the “Everest Challenge” and will be taking on the “2014 Disney Marathon” in 24 days, 6 hours and 14 minutes. . . . not that I am counting or anything.
On a personal note, I was humbled and thrilled to hear Vladimir’s comments to me about my students and the path we have been taking. When the Master speaks so highly (and kindly), we know we are on the right path. It was unexpected and a wonderful early Christmas present of sorts.
I have also taken on a lot of training in Inner Energy/Internal Arts work and have slowly begun to integrate it into our Systema. I had to smile when about a month after I made this commitment, Michael Ryabo offered a 5 day training in. . . . . you guessed it. . . Internal Arts training. (Thanks to Sifu Jeff, Dan Harden and Master Chia for their brilliant information in this area.)
Each class this year, I would assess the overall energy and based upon what I noted, focus on a given internal organ in addition to the theme. For example, if people were angry or frustrated, we would strike major liver points or what is referred to as “alarm points” while working on knife defense. It was very rewarding to hear people state how much better they felt over the course of the year — less anger, frustration, depression etc. Building health is as much a part of martial arts as kick defense or anything else.
My work with David and Rick Merrell continues to evolve. This upcoming year’s focus will be on soft work which we started in November. I am not crazy about the trend that I see in Systema — how hard and how many times can I strike. To me, this is more kenpo than Systema. I want to get back to the original roots of this incredible art. (As always, deep appreciation for my 2 teachers and friends. My life is so much better because of you.)
Overall, 2013 was a spectacular year for Central Florida Systema.
2014 is already proving to be even bigger!