Systema - does previous experience help?

Discussion in 'Russian Martial Arts' started by MickeyC, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. MickeyC

    MickeyC White Belt

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    Hi

    My first post here, so go easy on me, I don't think this will ruffle any feathers, although I do have a tendency to go on a bit! :)

    I've very recently discovered systema, and after looking at everything I could find on the internet and reading a couple of MA forums, and wondering the usual things that people who haven't tried it wonder, like does the stuff in that video work, I answered the question for myself by going along to a class and trying it.

    I've been to 3 or 4 sessions now and it's been an eye-opener for me - I'm thoroughly enjoying it and can already see great value in the approach. I still have one or two things I wonder about which I thought I'd raise here with people I haven't seen train and who haven't seen me - I don't have a problem asking at my class and I probably will when I next get the opportunity, but this just occurred to me and I'd be interested to hear opinions which won't be influenced by knowing me.

    I have quite a lot of previous MA experience, primarily in karate, although I've had a couple of years or so of taiji and dabbled and crosstrained in a few other arts. I try quite hard to suppress my trained reactions when my teacher asks me to react naturally, with a varying amount of success, but my previous experience can't help but inform what I do to some extent - my natural reaction to being attacked is generally a martial arts technique.

    For example, I haven't yet practised punching or striking systema style, but we have done some in the course of other work - or at least it's been suggested that we might punch if we want to. I watched carefully how the instructor punched, and without trying to directly imitate him (because I've read all this stuff about not having specific techniques) I attempted to emulate the relaxed and apparently casual way in which he did it, and I relied on natural movement and arm strength rather than any kind of body weight transference or hip or waist work to produce the punch, I did it from a natural stance and it seemed to go ok - I probably got it all wrong, but hey, I'm a beginner, I'll learn!

    But that led me to this thought. How much of an advantage to me in learning systema is my previous training, and how much of a hindrance is it? Clearly, I have the advantage over somebody who has never tried any martial arts that I'm familiar with the concept of being hit, locked, thrown and choked in the course of a session - I think systema might be a bit of a shock if I wasn't - and I'm comfortable hitting, locking, throwing and choking my training partners, but perhaps I have the disadvantage of trying to suppress my pre-conceived ideas that have been drummed into me over many years - pre-conceived ideas, I might say, that I have found effective. Would being a 'clean slate' make it easier or harder to pick up the principles without technique that are taught in a systema class?

    It seems to me superficially (and I could be entirely wrong about this, it's just the feeling I get from reading the forum - feel free to shoot me down in flames if I'm wrong) that many of the more advanced, if I may use that term, systemists here had previous experience of some martial art before learning systema - often a good deal of previous experience. It also occurs to me that I found systema through a martial arts forum - if this is a common experience, then it is likely that the majority of new students would at least have a prior interest in the martial arts - if you were just surfing for something to try out there are many more high-profile arts that might catch your eye first.

    I'd be interested to hear people's views on this - and I'd also be fascinated to hear from anybody for whom systema was their first, and perhaps only experience of a martial art.
     
  2. jellyman

    jellyman Green Belt

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    A help and a hinderance, imo

    A help because experience is the best knowledge

    A hinderance because it will be a little harder to accept systema on its own terms, and some of it may run counter to what you were taught.

    I guess it evens out in the end.

    If you have experience in many things, you will know how to empty your cup.

    No experience, the cup is already empty, but you may have to learn how to drink.

    apologies for tortured metaphors
     
  3. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Tortured metaphors = great comparisons!

    Brother John...I hope you dont mind if I use that comparison sometime in the future.

    And hope all is well with you and yours. Miss ya'all so much.
     
  4. Jonathan Randall

    Jonathan Randall Senior Master

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    When I first viewed the Systema tapes, my Tai Chi experience helped me understand better what they were getting at. My linear karate experience was a hindrance - at first.
     
  5. Mark Jakabcsin

    Mark Jakabcsin Green Belt

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    Mickey,
    The above question seems to be the main point of your long post so here is a thought.....or a couple of questions to consider.

    If you determine your previous martial arts experience is a hinderance what could you do? Erase all of your previous experience? Not likely.

    If you determine your previous martial arts experience is a help would such a determination in and of itself be a help or merely an ego boost? Your training will progress as it will whether you choose to recognize your past or not.

    In the end, the answer to your question is irrelevant since you can't change your past and dwelling on past success can only hinders the present.

    I believe a large part of Systema is learning to accept and live in the now.

    John E. (not to be confused with Johnnie) probably gave you the answer you were looking for, hopefully I gave you something to ponder. Take care and happy training.

    Mark J.

    PS. We don't use arm strength when punching.
     
  6. Furtry

    Furtry Green Belt

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    It's not what you do, it is how you do it.
     
  7. MickeyC

    MickeyC White Belt

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    So, people seem to be in general agreement - the answer to the question of whether experience help is yes it does, and at the same time, no it doesn't, and what does it matter anyway? Which is more useful than it sounds, the way you all said it gives me food for thought. Thanks.

    And thanks for the pointer on punching, Mark - like I said I've only been to 4 classes and it's not been covered at all yet so I was just going off watching a couple. I'll watch more closely next time and take another look at some vids, but no doubt things will become clearer when we do some work in the area. So much to learn, which is very cool, but I must be patient! :)
     
  8. kenpoworks

    kenpoworks Purple Belt

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    Hi Furty
    I usually say "it's not what you know or think you know but what you do that counts"....I may change that to "and how you do it that counts".
    Rich
     
  9. jellyman

    jellyman Green Belt

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    Sure you can. I look forward to the next time we meet. You make even drinking coffee an entertaining experience!
     
  10. kage110

    kage110 Guest

    Mickey,

    I was having this very discussion with my friend and training partner in the pub last night. Not being a Systemaist my experiences may be different but the points you raised are all too common. I came to RMA from a background in Japanese jujutsu type arts so had some knowledge of how and where to apply strikes and locks. Without a doubt I feel that my previous knowledge has helped me accelerate my training in RMA (to a point) as I am able to apply what I already knew with a Russian 'flavour'. On the other hand I am finding it hard to let go of my previous training and therefore picking up some aspects of training are that much harder.

    My training partner, on the other hand, came to training with very little martial arts background (though a bit of boxing and muay thai) and he was remarking that he feels that he is struggling to pick up how to apply the RMA we do in a practical sense. But at the same time I feel he is picking up certain aspects of the movement and sensitivity far better than I am. So it is a case of 'six of one, half a dozen of the other' I am afraid. The comments that have already been written all reflect this reality so you shouldn't worry about it too much.

    The only bit of advice I can offer is do your best to keep your mind open and try not to do things the way you used to until you are confident you understand the Systema way of doing it, and then you can choose whatever method of movement suits you best. But one lesson that RMA teaches better than most is that you are what you are, you have the limitations that you have and there is no point worrying about whether it would have been better to have done something else in the past. Start from where you are rather than where you think you want to be and move with freedom.

    All the best,

    Hugh
     
  11. MickeyC

    MickeyC White Belt

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    Thanks Hugh,

    I'm not really worried about where I am, or how I got here, there's nothing I can do about that, it's more a question of curiosity about how people perceived the effects of previous training on their progress and understanding. It's interesting reading people's take on this, and I'm looking forward to reaching a better understanding myself.

    Ultimately, I know that a better understanding comes through training and practice. In that sense previous experience is invaluable - I know that by continuing to train and practise, things that seem difficult to comprehend, let alone do, can suddenly become clear weeks or months or years down the line.

    We all walk our own path. A good teacher makes a fine guide, but reading the experiences of those who have passed that way before also helps, as well as being encouraging.
     
  12. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Hugh -- like many above - gave good perspective. BUT - seems your on a good path, MickeyC.
    Good attitude.
    Often - so hard to find in a student. Systema will be around for a very long time to come..and you will, if you desire; find it - for yourself.
    *****
    On a side note, it is very pleasing to find kage110 here!
    Not to make ya blush, Hugh -- but you are a major player in 'all of this' stuff.
    Please, remember that.
    *****
    Second side note:
    Due to some recent life demands, I am not always finding the time to place in a long post on the forums I am a part of. BUT - I am always reading posts here and at Vlads site....my homes on the cyber.

    I am patient in my concept of 'time'...and for those that PM me...I ask that you be also.
    *****

    MickeyC -- I am certain your open mind and heart will lead you to some great experiences in life -- it did so for ALL posters above..myself included.
    ******
    Keep at it, I encourage you.
     
  13. Arthur

    Arthur Blue Belt

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    At the risk of repeating what's already been said.... there are good and bad points to previous experience. As long as you are willing to let go of you experience .... it will ultimately help you.

    Arthur
    PS I concur... its nice to have an appearance of Kage110
     
  14. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    And nice to see 'Arthur' appear also!
    Very nice!
    *****
    Hey dude! Ya got mail!
     
  15. kage110

    kage110 Guest

    Arthur, Rob,

    Thanks for the warm rewelcomes guys. Sorry I have been absent for a while but it wasn't anything anyone said! Life ebbs and flows...

    Hugh
     
  16. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Hey thats cool!
    'We' are in 'this' for the long haul....hai?...da?...yes!

    BTW - I am sure that 'no one' could ever say anything that can keep ya apart from the home base. NO ONE! Bar none!

    I might be an orphan...but I KNOW that I am very lucky! I GOT TO CHOOSE MY FAMILY! Even my Brothers and Sisters from Boston, NJ, Toronto, Seattle, LA or the left coast or any-frickin-where on the globe.

    Hugh..you held your hand out in real friendship first. Open..no demands...no requirements than to just meet ya half way...just like Arthur did...just like Jack did...or Jellyman...or Furtry or NSC or Jesse or Brad or Scotty or Taz or Rachel K. or the man from japan or (fill in 'too many to name', here) ....so few (but still so many) did. I got to CHOOSE my family!

    You held out your hand..and somehow I knew that it was gonna be a good thing..and it has been..and I am certain it will continue to be...for (hopefully) the rest of my time on this mortal coil.

    Namaste....dude!
    RobG
    NYC
     
  17. erich

    erich Yellow Belt

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    at the risk of carrying this on too long... It's good to hear from Arthur!

    lots of good old familiar names popping up here.
    cheers,
    Eric
     
  18. Pervaz

    Pervaz Orange Belt

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    All experience is neutral - its how you use it determines if its good or bad ..

    Why would you want to forget something that has taken you years of sweat ?

    What makes you think Systema (or any MA) is for you ?


    - Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
    - Do not believe simply because it has been handed down for many generations.
    - Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    - Do not believe in anything simply because it is written in Holy Scriptures.
    - Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of Teachers, elders or wise men.

    Believe only after careful observation and analysis, when you find that it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all. Then accept it and live up to it.
     
  19. Arthur

    Arthur Blue Belt

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    And a Big Shout Out to you guys too!

    Arthur (Reengage Cloaking device:) )123
     

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