Dave Merrell gave a Systema Seminar at John Stretch Park in Clewiston FL on March 12, 2016. I went up with my training buddies from Systema Boca.
One guy came from Chicago and another guy came from Georgia to train with Dave. It was great meeting both of them and I expect to see them at other seminars.
It was an incredible day of training. I especially like training outdoors in nature. It reminds me of my old Army days. Something about training outdoors that makes me feel alive and real.
Dave went over tons of stuff but I am only going to blog about two things; 1. movement, and 2. circle exercise.
Movement is everything. Systema movement is relaxed and encompassing. What I mean is that the movement mimics your opponent so that you are like fly paper he can’t get rid of.
You move in response to what’s being thrown at you. And in Systema, that could be anything because there is only one rule: live to fight another day.
Dave was teaching that in movement you have to minimize the distance between you and your attacker while maximizing your safety against the attack. You need to have small movements such that the force of the attack keeps its momentum yet you are just out of the way enough so there is minimal damage to you.
As far as exercises to understand this concept, we did the circle exercise. This was a few different exercises done in a circle.
The first was to have all the trainees stand in a tight circle, shoulder to shoulder, with a trainee in the middle of the circle. The trainee in the middle was told to relax and just go with the movement as we pushed him around from person to person. It was like being a human pinball at the mercy of chaos. And how can chaos be merciful?
I know from my experience, from doing this exercise, the more I let myself go and became part of the movement, the easier I moved and the less pain I felt.
It was hard to let myself go too. The group was forcefully shoving, pushing, cajoling me to get off of them and out of their personal zone. But I think that through this pounding I became softer. I liken it to kneading dough.
It’s difficult not to react to someone pushing you. I guess that’s the ephemeral lesson; to let yourself go and become one with the movement.
Believe me, we were not being gentle to the monkey in the middle. Systema trainees are a rough group of guys who like to advance their knowledge of pain. Both in inflicting it and taking it.
There was another circle exercise we did that was a bit more subtle. In this one, we stood in a circle, arms length apart from each other. Big circle.
While standing there, one guy at a time would break out and traverse each other trainee in the circle. He would weave in and out between each guy. As he came back around to his beginning spot, the next man would go.
It started with just weaving in and out while working on your breath pattern. Step, breath in. Step, breath out.
Dave then had us escalate it so that the second time around, you would weave in and out while the guys in the circle would move to hit you.
The weaver was charged with moving such that he would not get hit. He wasn’t allowed to block the punch or kick or to move far outside the hit. He could only move in order not to connect with the attack. Not easy when you instinctively want to react and protect yourself.
So we continued this circle weaving exercise and each time we went around, Dave added something new onto it. It got to the point that at the end, the weaver had to move with the attack and then take down the attacker. But it had to be done while maintaining the closeness to the attack. You weren’t allowed to make big sweeping movements around the attacks in order to avoid it.
It was a great seminar with great guys.