Systema and the Misguided Art of Hacking

imagesWhen the word “hacking” first appeared, it referred exclusively to the world of computers. In short, it was a term to describe how to break into any computer illegally. Now, the term has been expanded to mean basically, how to take something that is complex and (supposedly) make it simpler. Sounds like it could be helpful? A closer look shows otherwise.

One of the “hackers” I read about talked about his experiences involving a worldwide Martial Arts Tournament. In the midst of reading the rule book, he found a “hack” or loophole that allowed him to push his opponent out of the ring and by doing so, he would be declared the winner. He proceeded to do this with all of his opponents and was declared the “winner” of said tournament.

Another “hacker” wrote about how he found a way to run a marathon without training. How? His advise included starting the race by taking 4 Advil, stopping after every mile, eating a lot of bananas and drinking water. That was the “hack.”

Dietary “hacks” are also way too frequent. Crash diets, “exercise 1 minute a week and lose 20 pounds,” and take this pill and drop a dress size in a couple of day are commonplace.

Want to learn an instrument? If you have 4 weeks, you can be the next Jimmy Page or Jeff Beck. . . . or so the infomercial goes. Sounds better then truth – hours of training, year after year until you slowly but surely hit the 10,000 hour mark. Not quite the “sizzle” of the infomercial.

We see it in Systema as well. “Video training” has become a term used to try and learn this art via YouTube instead of a qualified teacher. “Systema-nar-ists” — those who go to seminars but never train on a regular basis elsewhere – have shown their misguided efforts also. Some always look for shortcuts, while others are willing to put in the time, pay for the lessons, do the work and grind it out.

What is the great rush? Is winning the World Championship of Martial Arts in the most hollow of ways THAT important? Apparently for some people it is. It sells books and gets people noticed to a degree, at least in certain circles.

For most people, this “hacking” approach is very empty. There is no reward at the end because the reward is built upon the efforts of the journey; that is, if the journey is easy or meaningless, so too will the end “rewards.” In fact, when shortcuts are taken, there is no feeling of reward. It is viewed more like cheating then anything else. Movements without a Soul.

There is nowhere you have to reach so much so that shortcuts are the only route to take. There is no great destination,  only the path.  If you cannot enjoy the path and each step along the route, you are missing the message entirely.

There is such a great feeling crossing the finishing line at a marathon. Is it that last step, crossing over the white line? Of course not. It is the 26.2 miles, along with the hundreds of training miles when no one was around, that makes this journey worth taking.

There are equally great feelings about weekly regular Systema training. Seminars are rewards for such effort, not a replacement for them.

The disciple of coming to class. The creative, hard work put in during that time, knowing that next week, you must do it all over. All of this adds depth to our training, not just adding “more.”

Life is about the journey.

Enjoy the steps.


One Reply to “Systema and the Misguided Art of Hacking”

  1. Excellent article and one with which I can concur with. I knew exactly who you were referring to in both of those examples as I’ve read both of their materials 🙂 My personal catch phrase is “life is a journey, not a destination” which I believe came from Aerosmith back in the day. I’m a Bujinkan guy who isn’t with the Bujinkan, in fact I was taught by a former Australian SAS fellow. I was taught Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu, true combat style. Most Bujinkan schools I’ve seen as of late tend to be kata factories. It’s like Bujinkan is a hack of what was originally taught here in the western world as brought to us by Hayes, Hoban, Bud, etc. Everyone wants it quick and easy to get their black belt and teaching license. Maybe Soke Hatsumi is giving the mainstream what they want so he’s issuing a hacked up version to the masses now. This is why I’m looking into Systema to increase my knowledge..I don’t want it fast and easy. I enjoyed your post and hope to take a trip over to Orlando to train with your group at some point. Greg Cooper seems to be following the path I am…cheers!


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