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.