That is how our first class of 2014 began at Central FL Systema – with a question. What was a somewhat large, loud group became very silent, very quickly. The looks ranged from “Are you serious?” to “I think he said a million, but that can’t be right. . . .” Basically, it was not met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
“Yes, I am serious. What about us as a group, taking on the challenge of doing 1 million movements from now until the end of the year?” One by one, each person decided to go for it. Some found it a challenge and some decided to go with the flow of the group. Positive peer pressure.
Over the course of nearly a year, people would come to class early and do the “big 3” movements. We would get together in sweltering heat and humidity of the summer. Early morning, watching TV or late nights of insomnia were transformed into a continual drive toward a million.
During the course of the year, we lost some members who moved to other states or got new jobs. We had new members come in the middle and toward the end, but overall the core group remained and on November 6th at 7:15pm EST, we put our left arm on the ground and our right arm around the person next to us and did movement number one million. . . as a group.
Just the way we started.
There were times when this looked impossible. We are only a group of about 24, but the more we plugged forward, numbers which seemed impossible became inevitable. Numbers slowly and steadily grew. We celebrated milestones and offered suggestions to help each other along.
Much was experienced and many benefits received.
Oddly enough, the physical benefits were the least noted. Yes, there was an overall improvement in endurance and strength, but these seemed less significant compared to the other benefits. It was as if the body was the vehicle to reach the Spirit.
We became much closer . A group of unique personalities became truly a School, underscoring the value of working toward a goal. People started asking better questions. “I did not think I could do this, but now that I have, I wonder what else could improve or change?” A wave of unspoken confidence was noted and spilled over to Systema training. People would take more risks, not afraid to make mistakes. Fear in general, became easier to manage. Strikes were taken and delivered with great confidence and relaxation. At times, you could actually hear everyone breathing in unison.
Overall the experience was taxing, difficult and one of the best undertakings we have ever done. It not only created a great unity within the school, but within the community. The Orlando newspaper wrote an article about our challenge. Systema Instructors from other school emailed and offered kind support, as did students. It became something greater than just our school.
Each person of course, had their unique experience about the challenge. The more effort and numbers that were completed, the more reward was experienced. Some described it as a “the springboard for improving their overall health.” Other student said it was the catalyst for getting out of a job they did not like and into a better one. When you take a risk in one area of life, it can improve all areas.
On a personal level, this challenge brought a lot of happiness into my life. I was thrilled to see how close we became as a school. It was touching to watch how everyone was so willing to help and encourage each other.
I also found a new appreciation for things I sometimes take for granted — pure, cold water after doing 1000 push ups on a 98 degree day, support of my wife, students and friends , my health which allowed me to do this, the great Systema teachers I have had (such as David and Rick Merrell), Vladimir for bringing this art to America and so much more.
I look at Systema as a way of improving my life (as well as the best martial art and this challenge was a classic example.It seemed impossible at first, but as Alexander the Great once said, there is nothing impossible to those who will try. Now, I look at my Systema training and my life as a whole, and wonder what else is “impossible.” What self-imposed limitations can be addressed?
Systema changes lives for the better. This year, our school reflected this and everyone, without exception, is very grateful for it.