Marathons and the Risk of Systema

road-908176_1280Marathon running reminds me a great deal of Systema.

For the outsider, the most important line in a marathon is the finish line. It is not. The finish line is the reward, the bonus you get for the hundreds of miles of training in the heat, the cold and rain. It is the gift you open for getting up at 4:30am on Saturdays and logging long training miles when no one else is around. The finish line is the gift for once you cross the line and open it, you will never be the same.

The most important line in a marathon is the start line. Why? Most people do not get to it. They talk themselves out of it with inner dialogue characterized by “Well I cannot do that. . . . ” or “My knees are . . . . .” or some other invented fable. Is it true? Maybe. Maybe not. They never give themselves a chance to answer the question. That is how powerful the starting line is. It can end dreams and create rationalization without even moving.

On the flip side, the starting line also holds the power of completion. Once you get to the start line and cross it, it is most likely that you will find the grit and determination to make it to the end.

In many, many ways Systema is quite similar. Make it to class and maybe that is the day you learn something that changes your life dramatically.

Make it to the 6-month mark and you will probably make it a full year.

Make it to the 3 year mark and you will probably make it 5. And the cycle continues. Unlike the marathon, there is no finish line, only brief stops along the way to experience appreciation and gratitude to those who got you started and have assisted you in your quest forward.

The unique and challenging feature of Systema is that it is very much inner driven. Since there are no kyu or dan ranks or belts, the motivation must come from inside the individual. The question we need to continually answer is “Which voice do we listen to?”

Do we listen to the voice that wants to maintain the status quo or the voice that wants us to expand? Do we listen to the voice that talks to us about the illusion of safety or the adventure of courage? Do we want more, or simply more of the same?

Do we want more, or simply more of the same?

There are no “right” or “wrong” answers to these questions. There are simply results. 

As an Acupuncture Physician, I have treated 1000s of people over the years. Many of my patients (particularly in S. Florida) were in the winter of their lives. To hear them speak and share their life experiences was truly a gift. The major theme was this – My biggest regret in life was not taking risks. 

Systema affords us the opportunity to practice taking risks. We risk getting hit and looking foolish. We risk becoming great in this art. We risk helping our fellow brothers and sisters becoming a better version of themselves. We risk falling and having to get up yet again. We risk standing tall. We risk being humble. We risk finding previously unknown skills and gifts that were locked inside of us. 

You know, some risks are really worth taking.