Just Do Systema

MartinAbout 20 years ago, I trained for the first time in Tai Chi. To be honest, I had no interest in it, but it was a requirement for my Oriental Medicine degree.

The adage, “The teacher makes all the difference” is certainly accurate and was so in this instance. I had a fantastic instructor named Sifu Ted who helped me understand and appreciate this valuable art.

One day, Ted walked up to me and struck a conversation. I was having a tough go on things and I guess it was externally visible. He asked me what was wrong and  I went into my story.

Ted was also a psychologist and Taoist priest as well as a Tai Chi master, so my hopes for an enlightened answer were quite high.

His reply?

I understand. Just go do the (Tai Chi) form some more.”

My first reaction was “THAT is your answer?! Seriously? If you did not want to partake in this conversation, why did you come over and start it?!”  They were spoken in more colorful words as you may imagine. Of course, I wisely kept this to myself while outwardly offering a cursory nod of acknowledgment.

Despite what I assumed was simply a memorized “blow-off” answer, Ted’s reply stuck with me, like that insect that seems to constantly hover about. I replayed the conversation in my head and something struck a chord. Maybe he was right.

So I diligently worked the form, time and again for a few days. I would even wake up in the middle of the night and go down to the beach and do the form.

The strangest thing happened. I started feeling better. A lot better. Not only that, my outward world started improving dramatically. School was again, becoming interesting. People were unusually kind and thoughtful toward me, even offering unexpected gifts. Extra jobs were offered which helped with my expenses. Free classes came my way. A trip to San Francisco’s Japan-Town, a place I wanted to visit for a long time, came to fruition and much more.

I thought a great deal about Sifu Ted’s suggest and ensuing results. My main conclusions are:

  1. Move the energy and good, very good or great things begin to happen.
  2. Focus your attention on something enjoyable (and away from the unpleasant scenarios in your life)
  3. Martial arts will also be a part of my life, of my being.

Fast forward to the present and I have never seen such a level of hatred, anger, hypocrisy, nastiness, harshness and mean-spiritedness in my entire life, in word and in action. Never anything close.

Even my wife, who is both the most gentle soul and the most upbeat person I have ever met, has struggled mightily with this current environment.

I am one single person, living in my small section of a gigantic world. I hold no political power, nor have any aspirations. I have no relatives with last names like Kennedy or Gates. 80% of my neighborhood does not know my name.

What to do? WHAT???!!!

In a moment off quietude and stillness, the answer became clear.

Firstly, breath. Then,  go do more Systema.

For a few hours during Systema training, I can make a difference with self and others. I can help create an atmosphere of fun and laughter, with a valuable life lesson as the overlay. We can all practice cooperation, responsibility, respect and hard work. For a few hours, we can create our own world and live and love every second of it — from pushups on our fists to avoiding a right hook. We can be the best version of human kind.

Where this energy goes or how far it can spread, I do not know. I only know I want to be a part of it, with greater and greater frequency.

Somewhere out there, Sifu Ted is smiling!