I remember once, one of my Central Florida Systema students said, “I wish I could be just like Vlad.” My knee-jerk reaction was “I wish you would be just like you!”
Normally, knee-jerk reactions typically have a negative connotation; that is, they are usually followed by the phrase, “Damn, I wish I would not have said that one. . . . ” or some variation but in this case, it was surprisingly accurate.
While I most certainly understood where he was coming from, there is a lesson that goes beyond the obvious. On the surface, yes it would be great to move, defend and strike like the Master. Just take the blue pill (or is it the red one) and now, you are the King of Systema. It is tempting.
En route to Systema Kingdom, you would miss the entire journey of Becoming. You would bypass the brilliant mistakes and incredible lessons that could dramatically improve your life for the better. Your ego would be fed but your soul would be starving.
One of my pet peeves is watching someone trying to be like Vlad or Michael. They imitate the external movements, habits and tics, yet miss the entire underlying concepts. The lesson is lost.
Your ego would be fed but your soul would be starving.
If I wanted to see Led Zeppelin, I expect Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. Not some cover band or imitators. Zeppelin found their sound by being themselves, much like Vlad became a Systema master by being himself. He does not move like Michael, though both masters maintain the same time-honored principles. It is a perfect blend of individuality and tradition.
The greatest teachers provide an environment so that the student can learn in his or her fashion, not to teach them all they know and make sure it is done “their way.” Systema provides the freedom so that each of us can learn and move in our unique fashion. That is true art.
Imitation may be flattering, but it is low-level art in the world of Systema.
Be you. Everyone else is taken.