I just finished watching a short clip by Robert De Niro. He was speaking to the 2015 graduating class of New York University’s Art Department. It was both entertaining and enlightening.
“Now that you have just graduated – you artists, dancers, actors, film directors etc., – I am here to tell you this. Firstly, congratulations. Secondly, you are now F#$@ed.”
This, of course, drew huge laughter, partly because it was hysterical and partly because there was some inherent truth. Nurses will get jobs anywhere. Lawyers will get jobs everywhere. Accountants have a list of places to work as long as your arm. But Actors? Choreographers? Fine Artists? Not so easy.
It reminded me of those of us in the wonderful art of Systema. If we were trained in Tae Kwon Do, we could open a McDojo anywhere. Karate, a little tougher, but still, people know what it is. Even Kung Fu. . . . you know, that “Bruce Lee” stuff. . . . is recognized, if not understood. But Systema? Never heard of it.
De Niro also went on to say something very powerful and poignant. Is accounting really a passion for you? Or did you fall into the trap of security and the illusion of safety. Does your heart live in the world of writing or poetry, yet you sold out for a Business Manager? These are the questions few are willing to ask, as the answers are too painful. As Jim Morrison once said, it is “trading your hours for a handful of dimes. . . . “
The list of those who quit Systema is dramatically longer than the list of those of us who have stuck with it. It is physically demanding. There is no end in sight. There are no rewards like belts or kyu ranks. You already know these and can add about a dozen more. But you continue anyway.
Knowing all this. Knowing that you will be sore and bruised the next day, and frustrated and disillusioned at times. Knowing you will want to stop but do not. You see your Arnis friends and aikido acquaintances soaring through the ranks and wonder about your own art. Why continue then?! There are easier ways. Much, much, much easier.
The answer is quite simple. It is whispered by that little voice inside who constantly reminds us:
Systema is not our first choice. It is our only choice