Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updates and expectations

Later this month I will be conducting a seminar in Belgium, and then another one four weeks later in Spain. It's been a while since I have done seminars abroad, so there are several things I look forward to.

First, seeing some old friends and making new ones. Honestly, at this point of my "career" in martial arts, it is probably the main good thing about going to seminars. Of course, learning something new is always exciting (btw, there is a LOT to learn from teaching such events, if you pay attention), as is seeing new places and trying new cuisines and stuff, but it is the specific energy of the gathering that distinguishes these get-togethers from other communal instances. I guess it is due to the shared passion for something that not too many "ordinary" people understand...

Next,  over the years I have adapted and changed (hopefully grown) as a an instructor, and presenting a seminar is always a nice testing ground for your technical skills and teaching "chops". Getting away from the comfort zone of one's own training group/club provides the new and different energy to work with and plethora of valuable insights. Teaching in a condensed block fashion also requires a different kind of focus and communication approach, so again - fresh perspective on my own understanding of the material. Not to mention the questions coming from the participants...

All in all - I expect have a blast, and promise to share the impressions and some footage with my faithful readers :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Systema mittology (and lack thereof)

In most martial art circles nowadays, Russian Systema is considered to be from the category of modern systems, although they will sometimes claim centuries old historical roots. Still, even so, the majority of systema schools around the world will also advertise themselves as modern, science-based etc.

Having that in mind, there is one striking feature in the training process in the grand majority of most “classical” schools, and is the conspicuous absence of training equipment involved. Some of the will occasionally reach for some boxing gloves and/or headgear for (rather rare) occurrences of pressure testing (with a few honorable exceptions that make it a regular feature of their programs), but that is pretty much it.

There is a piece of training equipment that is very versatile in it possible applications, that I really fail to fathom how come it is not in common use – a good old-fashioned focus mitt! Sure, striking practice with a live, breathing partner is indispensable, but it does lack in some areas, such as hitting the head, groin area and hard kicks to legs from certain angles for example.

Shapes, colors, sizes...
Another point is, even with punches to the body, one’s progress in developing the power in punches and testing it is more or less limited by their partners’ ability to take those same hits, especially in dynamic circumstances and drilling on the move. Again, some sort of striking target offers a quick remedy for those impediments.

Ok, in this clip we see the trainees working punching combos on focus mitts. The catch is that they are working from a kneeling position on the ground, as it forces them to really work the mechanics of punching that relate primarily to the upper body, since they cannot “dig in” hard and push from the feet. Also, it aims to open their mind in view of all the options of WHEN to strike, i.e. not missing the opportunity to hit a good target just because you’re not in your most comfortable zone.

It kinda lays the foundation (well, at least one aspect of it) for the next type of drill.

Here, the trainee is instructed to hit the target as often as possible in a more chaotic situation. Namely, the third participant works on his or her structure breaking options and takedowns, while the striker does not oppose it. Instead, they have to go with the flow, engage the ground as subtly as possible and get up again immediately, while striking the mitt at all times and from any position.

This one would be much harder to do safely with targeting people, especially if also trying to hit with some tangible force. Again, while it is necessary to be hitting people (and get used to being hit as well), there is nothing wrong with making things more “fun” with the simple introduction of some simple equipment.

The prevailing majority of guys in the videos are beginner with 1-3 months of training experience, so don’t be too harsh in judging their performance ;-)