I am grateful to all that took the time to write a few words about the classes that I teach. All the testimonials are by real people, who actually turn up and train.
I asked- how would you describe what we do in class?
[19/06/2019, 08:23:11] Stan E, a chef, a gentleman, and a Cockney hard man:
I would have to say that Systema gives me a set of tools which enable me to deal with stressful and terrifying situations keeping a clear head as well as increasing my understanding of how mine and other peoples body works and an ability to protect myself without needing to be the strongest fittest man out there.
Quite simply it is a game changer
[19/06/2019, 08:31:44] John O, Barrister:
When I am asked about what we do, I sometimes think it’s easier to start by saying what we don’t do. No repetitive drills, no rote learning, no following/copying over and over.
Instead, we start from a process of getting to know yourself and your body. We start with simple things, warming up by practicing breathing and movement. Focusing on how our bodies move, how we can control them and listen to them.
For the bulk of the class we will then focus on an idea. Generally, systema is about (it seems to me) solving a problem and the classes are either based around the solutions (strikes, manipulating the line of attack… ) or problems (knives, multiple opponents…). On these things, we work in pairs, taking an idea and riffing with it. Normally we start with the sensitivity of what we are trying to do. Slowly working out what change in forces you want to effect, practicing how you can control your opponent. As partners you try to teach each other, and help by giving honest feedback – both in what you say, and how you react.
We will then ramp things up. Building skills and confidence not by drilling but by finding new variations of solving the same problem that are right for you. Again, this is why working with partners is so important – what works on a guy five inches taller and 25kg heavier, will be different from how you deal with someone shorter and lighter than you.
We work at different speeds, depending on what is comfortable, culminating in work that is close to a combat situation if you want to go that far. You will apply everything you have tried that class (and previously) to the problem.
In terms of restoring balance, that runs through everything we do. You soon learn that if you are too tense you will get dumped on your arse. If you are too hurried, you will make mistakes. If you are not humble, you will not learn. As you become more involved in systema, you will learn that you are most effective when you are calm, listen to your surroundings and solve problems as they come at you. If you can carry that over to your life, that is where the real benefit of this comes.
[19/06/2019, 10:41:05] Laurent, Marine Insurance CEO
Love this question and answers!
I would tell that Systema is based on priciples that permit our mind to support our body and our body to support our mind to remain stable so it helps dealing with unstable environment.
That applies to anything within ourselves or toward the outside world.
Like surf, “more than a sport, a way of living”
[19/06/2019, 12:28:04] Ali Y, Graphic Designer:
My feeling is that the principles of balance are the same for all three areas of your life. The exercises we do help us become aware of a misbalance in ourselves and others, then to restore it. Although in class we work mostly with the physical, we start to see how the restorative principles work for the mental and emotional parts too.
[19/06/2019, 12:53:22] Fahad A, IT Security Consultant:
Great answers from all.
My view to add to the great contributions by all is to emphasize how we can in a relatively safe learning environment like class strip away lots of emotional and personal clutter through physical exercises that build up gradually to show how we fall on fears, ego and unguided instincts sometimes to solve stressful situations. The practice of systema seeks to enhance and evolve such responses to make us more calm and clear about the situation and aware of risks to ourselves and partners. This of course can carry over to outside of class to bring the benefit to other areas of our lives besides the narrow definition of self-defense and into being present and aware … maybe even conscious and perceptive with some more practice
Monday and Thursday classes build on each other and there’s other simple work to incorporate the 4 principles of systema that can be practiced every day and everywhere like. Systena is not limited to drills in class but movement and stimulus-response in every day life.
Much more difficult to sell the amazing benefits of systema while much easier to experience them for oneself if the person asking is willing to invest some time and attend classes to feel for himself/herself.
[19/06/2019, 14:34:17]Mr CP, Project manager, Cabinet Office, HMG, and a Wing Chun instructor:
At their highest levels, I think most martial arts and their associated philosophies ultimately arrive at the same handful of key underlying principles when it comes to combat. The stuff that is most important and works. Beyond combat, the very best exponents of each art arrive at or discover ‘the way’ or how to live and act effectively. Systema starts off with this wisdom by teaching great principles. Having practiced other martial arts, some in great detail over many years, I can see that Systema embodies the principles that are truly effective when studied properly with a good teacher. Things like breathing, balance, state of mind, state of body, attitude, perception, solving the problem. And importantly a wider perspective on things like health, compassion for the opponent, the warrior mentality and benefit to society.
There’s plenty to learn in class for the inquiring mind, even if the exercises appear simple. Systema has a simplicity in many aspects that seems highly evolved – makes sense as it’s lasted nearly a thousand years.
It’s easy to understand and get into but you can see how progress is endless. It’s a ‘whole of the person’ activity and not just about combat or self defence. I wish I had started many years ago.
[19/06/2019, 17:19:43] Dr Helen K, Quant, major US bank:
I totally agree with all the comments above, these are worth a few pages of the Introduction chapter, if anyone ever to write a book on Systema in London. A comment to add from me: ‘I am very grateful to the course provider for establishing an exceptionally friendly and constructive environment where martial arts group lesson turns into a positive and respectful interaction between those who came to learn the technique, a great experience!’
[19/06/2019, 20:04:30] Katia McL, Physio, Movement therapist, Pilates teacher:
Historically clans or tribes would survive and evolve working and living and growing as a community. From sowing and harvesting crops to teaching children, raising animals, exchanging services, healing and part of this would have included training for a defence system in the event of Invaders. There would have been those more suited or experienced in these fighting arts but everybody in the community would have needed to have fighting skills, even the women and children. Efficiency of these tribes was paramount and so daily task and movements could be utilised within the Martial aspects of the art of life. Sensitivity, understanding, appreciation of your environment from the trees, rain, family, friends, animals, earth, medicines, healing gifts, to ‘God’ was a life journey mentored by elders. Living with the earth, ‘feeling’ those around you, nurtured people who were sensitive. People who could’ve sensed differences, changes, dangers and who could action accordingly with efficiency and love.
So here we find ourselves in the reverse parallel universe unable to feel anything, having little to no community or tribe. We live in a world being destroyed and manipulated by those who care little for anything or anyone. People kill for no apparent reason with little punishment. And we have little to no community to guide and protect us. Our elders are lost and we are blind to the wisdom of others. So many of us have journeyed from martial arts that have lost touch of their roots. This does not belittle that journey and within them there are still those that hold the magic of the art but we were offered only part of what we naturally seek. Systema- if you find the right teachers and you approach with an open heart and mind can bring you something more than a martial art. It has the potential to cultivate magic in everyone, bestowing gifts that can be shared in all aspects of your life. And ultimately it gives you a tribe.
[19/06/2019, 20:06:38] Dr Helen K: Wow! Sounds like a poem!
[19/06/2019, 20:09:37] Katia McL: I have a good teacher
[20/06/2019, 09:38:16] Alex, Freight trader:
With the fantastic number of responses I feel obliged to give you something to put on your student review/testimonial part of the web page. I know I’m the new guy so I hope this is ok!
A beginner’s view: I am the novice of the group, having completed around three months of training. My story may be common for people of my age: life is generally very good but nonetheless there is a little frustration with certain aspects of work and life, I find it hard to incorporate movement and exercise into daily life, perhaps becoming a little fearful of escaping the rut and trying new things and becoming close-minded, and having growing sense of being disconnected from much of what goes on in the world. After a lot of research and procrastination I tried systema as I thought it offered the most breadth of any “martial art” that I had heard of. Now having tried it I can only say how lucky I feel to have stumbled across David and this group. The students I have met are patient and supportive, with no ego and just a positive attitude. My mind is constantly broadened by the variety of drills that we practice. The sensitivity and depth imparted by the instructors is fantastic – you will find your comfort zones pushed to the limits but never in an aggressive manner and always within your own personal limits. And apart from all the physical aspects that you would expect, if you are open minded and choose to go deeper into the true life system that ‘Systema’ is really about, you will find that this is an entire philosophy that will alter the way you view yourself, your spirituality and the way you interact with the world around you.
And finally, sent separately at about the same time, from Gene P, a portfolio manager:
I joined Sistema just over two years ago as a private student of David and have attended as many of the group classes and seminars as I could.
What I initially wanted from Sistema was to raise my chances of survival in a situation like the London Bridge massacre. And at the age of 50 I didn’t think it was wise to engage in a very physically demanding martial art or boxing; though I had been exercising regularly for quite a few years to remain in shape.
Very soon after starting classes I realized that Sistema is as much about your state of mind as it is about your physical strength – rather than just knowing the techniques and tricks. I discovered the importance of breathing, which was especially valuable for me as an acquired asthma sufferer. It is impossible to «learn» Sistema during a fixed period of time as there are no limits to what you can achieve with the right attitude. Like most of the truly valuable things in life, the benefits of Sistema are attained through hard work and a willingness to give 100% effort and commitment to the process.
After a one year, I noticed my level of self-confidence had definitely increased as had my self-awareness in conflict or potentially dangerous situations. I have also rediscovered my physical self becoming less pain sensitive and much more flexible. As one of the Sistema maxims puts it: “less tension, more power”!
Having trained with the two other Sistema instructors in London I’ve really come to appreciate David and how much he has given me. The depth and complex nature of his teaching agenda has ensured the training process is both easy and extensive at the same time. To this day he continues to show me different materials and techniques every time we meet, which I find truly amazing.
Finally, I also enjoyed working with other Sistema students I would meet at an occasional class or a seminar. Most of them are truly willing to help you master the subject and are great to hang out with!