In attendance was a wide variety of participants ranging in age from 13 to approximately 60 and varying in skill from beginner to seasoned practitioner. The seminar was entitled "Systema-Learned" and was aimed at giving each participant the basic tools necessary to get the most out of their Systema training.
Day 1 started out with some beautiful explanations concerning the "Systema of Life" as I've come to call it. Emmanuel opened up Systema and unpacked it in a way that gave everyone a taste of just how vast and all encompassing it is. There is a "Systema" or system of training, learning and growing that we can apply to every aspect of our lives including family relationships, work situations, hobbies, friendships and much more. With this in mind we were encouraged to make our training a lifestyle rather than something that we do only in a gym for a few hours a week.
As day 1 continued it was obvious that Emmanuel was challenging the group to discover the level of skill that we possessed both collectively and individually. He challenged us with breath drills, wrestling, stick and knife work, movements that required relaxation under pressure and many other difficult tasks. The common thread throughout all of it seemed to be a form of self introduction - a crucible through which we passed to make us all more aware of our own fears, doubts, restrictions and limitations, particularly in the arena of our internal state.
One particularly challenging moment for me came when we were instructed to perform a drill that was purely internal and focused heavily upon intention. The concept was simple: Partner one holds out a knife in their open hand. Partner two approaches partner one to remove the knife from their hand without "scaring" partner one or giving them any indication that they are going to take the knife. If at any time partner one feels partner two's intention to grab the knife, he should close his hand and pull the knife away.
What a profound internal study this was for me! "Faking it" and trying to feign non-intentionality simply did not work. Pretending that I didn't notice the other person did not work either. The only moments that I was successful in removing the knife came when I was able to project true care and empathy for the other person. When I put myself in that state of mind, I was no longer trying to take something from them against their will, but I was working with them toward the ultimate goal of their own safety and wellbeing. It was indeed a powerful moment of discovery.
At the end of day 1, everyone was exhausted and quite ready for some rest. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at a local restaurant that evening and then headed back to our separate dwelling places to contemplate the events of the day. What an eye opening, challenging experience that first day was.
Day 2 was quite different from Day 1. From the very first drill it was obvious that a course had been charted and Emmanuel was now taking us somewhere special. We started with breathing and health drills, including quite a bit of massage and restoration work. Once we had collectively achieved a calm and relaxed state, we began working with strikes. We spent a few hours delivering and receiving a variety of strikes, while simultaneously studying how to maintain the calm that we had achieved during the beginning part of the day. The strike training was quite thorough and thoughtful. As we continued, slowly our work evolved into takedowns and eventually into working with multiple opponents.
What was quite beautiful to me was the calm and peace that remained in the training space throughout day 2. It was almost palpable. We received a few visitors that day, all of them coming simply to watch the training out of curiosity. I received similar feedback from each of these guests concerning how calm and "clean" the space felt as we were training. Even though we were striking one another, performing take downs, working against multiple opponents, etc., the atmosphere was always pleasant and calming. To me, this is a huge achievement in and of itself. What a powerful testament to the benefits of Systema.
At the end of day 2 we spent quite a bit of time breathing and fully restoring ourselves from the events of the weekend. Even after two long days of study, it was obvious that everyone still felt great. We left with a deeper view of ourselves and a greater appreciation for the wonderful gift of Systema.
Thank you so much to Emmanuel for teaching such a great seminar and for putting so much work and thought into everything that you do. Thank you to each and every participant for your hard work and open hearts. This event would not have been possible without you. Last, and definitely not least, a huge thank you to Vladimir Vasiliev for bringing the gift of Systema into my life and connecting me with wonderful, amazing people like Emmanuel.
God bless you all. Happy training my friends.