This year until now, has been the most challenging for me at CFL Systema. Unexpected and anticipated change has brought so much stress and tension, it is somewhat of a miracle I did not explode, implode or erupt into a mushroom-like cloud of smoke. (I have mainly my wife to thank for this. . . along with Christy, Carlos, Chris, Marina and RJ).
At times like this, I occasionally look back at some of the teachers that I have truly respected and admired (in other arts I trained in prior to Systema). Sifu Jeff (Academy of Chinese Martial Arts, Clermont) comes to mind as a recent example. Dennis Hooker Sensei always comes to mind when I go back further along the timeline.
Hooker Sensei, to me, was the epitome of a martial artist and martial arts instructor. At least during the time period I trained with him, he struggled with illness and injury. Despite this, when he took the mat to start class, there was a clarity, purpose and powerful energy. You knew who was in charge from second one. Cool. calm and consistent.
I am sure he struggled with various life issues like we all do but I never saw him bring it on the mats with him. Once class began, it was pure training. I truly admired this, and many other characteristics about this man.
During the course of this year, I have handled situations well. At other times, it was a complete disaster. Still others, I would not have handled them more poorly if I tried. Unlike my former teachers above, I was all over the map.
One thing about Systema, if you are serious about it to any degree, the art will cause you to hold a mirror in front of your face. Sometimes, the reflection is not a pleasant sight.
At moments like these, you know you have a great Systema teacher when you hear them speak and they are nowhere around. In my head, I could hear my Instructor David, saying the words he has repeated oh so often: “You have not learned to give up yet.”
It is a phrase that has bothered, frustrated and confused me since he said it about 8 years ago. The thought of “giving up” was foreign. You grind it out, suck it up and finish. That was the life-long message and now, someone who I have the utmost respect and admiration for, is telling me to “quit?” To give up??
As usual, he was right. Always is. The “giving up” part is the acceptance of what is. The refusal to engage in battles, be they with another or internal. It is not “giving up” as in quitting; rather, it not participating in the fight. In any fight.
Aristotle is quoted as saying: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” I have been training, learning and working out.
Now sounds like the time to start educating my mind. This. . . . . . I now accept. In fact, I give up.