What Do You Want to Pass Along in Systema?

round-1305172_640About 27 years ago, fresh out of graduate school, I worked as a counselor for a brief period of time. One of the unique experiences I had was with a person whom I will call J.

J. had come to me because his son had committed suicide. If you think that was bad enough, it gets worse. And stranger.

J. had been struggling for a long time with both work and his relationship. The levels of stress were off the charts and his coping skills were poor. Many times, J. thought of ending his life and even had a specific suicide plan which he kept to himself, never uttering a word of this to anyone. He thought about it a lot but would never tell anyone, nor act on it. It was reserved for the deepest, darkest part of his psyche.

On the outside, J. did his best to keep up a favorable appearance knowing he still had a family to take care of.

On that fateful day, J’s son shocking took his own life. . . in the identical way J. had been thinking. Stunning, odd even bizarre were the words that came to mind.

I talked this over with my supervisor who handed me a recent study on the subject. The crux of the paper was this: Such situations are horrifyingly common. Unspoken thoughts of the parent(s) are often acted out by the children. This was stunning and shook me up for some time.

When I was in practice, I treated 1000s of patients over the years and unfortunately, noticed this pattern (though not to the extreme cited above). Parents who were angry a lot had children who had eye problems, as anger negatively affects the liver which governs the eyes. Parents who struggled with grief issues had children with lung problems such as asthma or allergies, as grief is the emotion of the lungs. Parents who acted in a cowardly or fearful fashion had children with hearing or skeletal issues. Why? Fear weakens the kidneys which affect hearing and bones/skeletal system. The list goes on.

(Breathe. Take a break here. The story gets much better.)

I take a look at parents in my class and cannot help but have a Cheshire cat’s smile. Why? The opposite is also true (from the above examples). When a parent is happy and joyous, the children’s’ hearts are strong. When a parent acts in a courageous way, the kids have strong bones and teeth, etc.

I see people like Chris. He comes to class on a regular basis but at times, misses because his daughter(s) have a game or need to be somewhere else. This is what being a father means – putting the needs of others before his. I would bet the house that in 10 or 20 years from now when his kids are adults, their hearts will be strong, both physically and metaphorically; that is they will be able to run like a horse yet have the kindness of a monk, thanks to the examples he is setting now.

RJ is another who comes to mind. A number of times, he brought his son to class and put his boy’s training ahead of his own. I see this type of exemplary behavior and it would be akin to putting money in the bank. Now, it may not be worth a ton but in a decade, it will be worth a great deal. Very impressive.

Sifu Jeff did something that was equally impressive. As everyone knows, social media is the rage, particularly with kids. A lot of it is pure trash and inappropriate period, especially for kids. He decided the family would get off all social media. I would bet it was not the most popular decision he ever made, given peer pressure and the like, but it was something a strong parent would do. Again, look in the “crystal ball” in 10 years and the results will undoubtedly be most impressive. It is not a prediction. It is an inevitability.

We learn to become a better person and intentionally or otherwise, pass it along to those around us. Kids included.

Systema and other martial arts are often viewed as aggressive, tough,  harsh and just used for fighting. True martial artists see the above and know that the “great secret” is that it is the ultimate tool for self-development. We learn to become a better person and intentionally or otherwise, pass it along to those around us. Kids included.

If you think what you are doing does not matter to anyone, think again. You never know the impact you are having. You may never see the end result of that impact but rest assured, you are having one. Make it the one you want to pass along to someone else.