One thing I have learned teaching Systema for several years now, is that I cannot predict who will stay with this art, and who will not. There are simply too many variables, both in the environment and within each individual. I have, however, noticed some patterns and learned some hard lessons. Here are a few:
We live in a very difficult economic environment. It has been this way for about 6 years and there does not seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. As such, the “extra” money that was around a decade ago is now going to food, children’s education, health care costs and other life issues. Rarely do you see someone who has a family yet is only thinking of themselves and their training. In my experience, almost everyone I have met who is married and/or with children, puts their families in front of their training. As such, taking their son to baseball or daughter to soccer takes precedent over Systema class. Who can argue with this?!
Systema is a tough art, filled with details. It also has no “gauge;” that is, it is without a belt or ranking system and is hard to sell to a population that is used to rewards.
Training in Systema is in my opinion, very “circular.” Most other arts are “linear.” They move forward, learning Kata A, then B, then C and so forth. They reach a level, test, and if they pass, move forward. Systema goes in all kinds of directions — from breathing skills to multiple attackers to learning how to be calm when hit. You can go to a class for a year and never repeat something in the same way. Some people get bored or frustrated with this. There is no finish line. No tangible reward at the end. In fact, there is no end.
In the process of exploring Systema’s depth, it is about chipping away at the ego. For many of us (if not virtually everyone on the planet), this is a difficult, life-long, life lesson. Systema humbles you. In my own experiences, just when I think I am making great strides, I take a trip to W. Palm and see how little I have progressed. . . . and how much more there is to learn. It can be deflating, and this by itself, is a valuable lesson.
The Physical Nature
When you are in your teens or early 20s, you “know” you will live forever. Or at least act that way. It is part of life, and the growing up process.
When you are in your 40s, 50s or 60s, life takes on a different perspective. Some do not want to get hit, taken down or have to experience wrist locks at these ages. They do not have the desire or perhaps the physiology for it. Totally understandable.
My original 4 or 5 students from long ago Day 1 are all gone. It is an extremely disappointing feeling on so many levels. Each have their reasons and I respect them. At times, I wish I could have done things differently for maybe in the process, most may have stayed.
Maybe none of the above reasons I cited are accurate. It is not the economy or the fear of getting hit. Maybe it is me, and my shortcoming as a teacher and a person. Maybe I simply failed them, and it was time to move on. I must learn to accept this possibility and in the process, continue to improve as a teacher and a person.
Systema’s lessons are at times, brutal.
The End Result
At the end of the day, there are those that stick it out. They have every reason to quit.
They do not.
They have perfect stories, as to why they do not have the time.
They show up anyway.
They do not always feel like getting off the couch and driving to class.
They make the drive and show up.
They do not love every minute of every class. Certain things scare the hell out of them.
They do it anyway, fear be damned!
Sometimes, the details, the repetition, the details, the monotony, the details, the depth, getting hit again and again and again. . . . . . . plus the details. It gets boring. It gets “not fun.” It gets tough.
They experience all of the above and more. . . . and they get tougher.
TO EACH AND EVERY ONE of you, you have my life-long respect and support. You are truly what keeps me going. You bring honor to our art and greater honor to Yourself.