Thursday, November 19, 2009

2009-11-19 – A snatch session

The weather here is cold, wet and miserable; totally different from our normally hot Novembers. I just couldn’t get myself to go out again after I got home this evening so no Systema class for me tonight. Instead I worked through a snatch based session that looked like this:

Warm up: Intu-Flow level 1

16kg Snatch: 150 reps

Systema core exercises

Cool down: Intu-Flow level 1

I am steering away from 24kg Snatches for now because my shoulders have been taking a bit of strain lately due to old injuries that pop around for the occasional visit. The snatches went well and felt smooth. The extra Intu-Flow session as a cool down also seems to be a good idea because it leaves me feeling a lot looser and more relaxed than I normally feel after a session. I should probably make this a regular part of my sessions. Tomorrow I’ll probably do some more kettlebell work and next week I’ll be back (hopefully) to three days with the bells and two days at Systema class. Now, if this awful weather would just go away!

Monday, November 16, 2009

2009-11-16 – Jerks and Swings

My session today focused on one arm jerks and swings followed by some Systema basics. Here is the result:

Warm-up: Intu-Flow level 1

24kg OAJ: 100 reps / 2 minute rest periods

24kg Swings: 100 reps / 1 minute rest periods

Systema core work and breathing practice

The jerks and swings felt smooth and easy. I am definitely becoming more comfortable with the new technique and the relaxed Systema breathing is also having a positive impact.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

2009-11-12 – Knives and the psyche

Our Systema class tonight placed the focus on the neutralization of bladed weapons. From the outset it was apparent that defending yourself against an assailant with a knife brings up completely different issues from what you are likely to experience when just going head to head with no weapons. Even though the knives we used are made out of wood and cannot inflict real harm my nervous system went into overdrive and brought up all the old fears associated with any kind of weapon. The drills during the class were expertly planned to make not only your body but more importantly your psyche comfortable with the idea of going up against an armed assailant. At the end of the class I had a chat with Vadim and he told me that even the Russian special operations soldiers consider a knife to be a pretty special weapon. The knife just seems so up close and personal and I guess we all have some pretty primal responses to being cut. They key thing that made an impact on me tonight is that all attacks are just attack…don’t let yourself get too involved with the knife, the gun or, for that matter, the punch…just maintain a state of relaxed attention and you will notice many options for breaking down the structural integrity of the opponent. In the meantime…don’t be cut…too much!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009-11-11 – Taking it easy

After the intense Systema class last night my body needed an easier day. As the day progressed my good old friend DOMS set in, in places I forgot that I had. My easier session today went like this:

16kg Snatch ladder: 138 reps / 90 seconds rest between sets

Systema core exercises

Systema breathing and tension / relaxation drills

The new snatch technique is coming along nicely and is starting to feel much smoother than when I used it last week. I am also placing a lot more emphasis on applying Systema breathing and relaxation principles during the kettlebell work, which really seems to make everything easier.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

2009-11-10 – A pretty intense Systema class

My third Systema class tonight has been the most intense since my recent return to the Russian martial arts. Vadim started us off with the usual warm up drills such as jogging, hopping on one leg etc. This time around he extended the warm up phase and also included various drills with a partner. Some of these included squatting back to back and then jumping around the class sideways in a squat position, rolling sideways with your partner on top of you in push up position, and doing various forms of wheelbarrow pushups, hops and walking on the knuckles. At this point, about thirty minutes into the class most of us were ready to go home but the fun was only just about to start!

The rest of the class focused on neutralizing attacks via first “riding” the incoming energy and then giving it back via a take-down. Initially this was done slowly and smoothly. In the latter parts of the class we had a rare opportunity to work at full speed. This part was really interesting. A lot of non-Systema practitioners criticize the system for the heavy emphasis on slow work and assume that the methods are therefore not practical. I can say in all honesty that the slow work that preceded the full speed work actually made the speed work seem easier. The intent of the Russian system is to teach the body and psyche basic movement patterns via slow and efficient work. Once this has been accomplished the full speed work actually seems almost effortless. I think that a key difference is the fact that a full pace attack brings so much energy to the party that the defender needs to do very little to re-direct the attack or neutralize the opponent.

It was also great to notice that my body is already starting to remember some of the skills I developed during my previous exposure to Systema.

Monday, November 9, 2009

2009-11-09 - Kettlebells and Systema breathing

My session today consisted of:

Warm up: Systema breathing and jogging

24kg OAJ ladders: 108 reps / 2 minutes rest between sets

24kg Swing: 15/15

Systema basic exercises

The focus during the session was on incorporating the basic Systema principles and breathing methods into everything. One of the key principles of Systema is proper breathing. In fact, everything in the Russian System flows from proper breathing. Another important aspect of Systema is proper structure (or body posture). The idea is to keep the breath flowing freely and easily no matter what you do and to keep your posture as relaxed and natural as possible. During my Jerk sets today I tried to keep my posture as natural as possible and also focused mainly on breathing rather than the mechanics of the movement. What was interesting about this approach was that the actual jerks became almost a side issue. Focusing on breathing allowed the movement to happen almost without any effort. I also noticed that my posture was far less exaggerated than usual. I used hardly any knee dips and the movements felt easy and fluid. I think this approach will help me to discover my own most efficient style of kettlebell lifting. Being naturally lazy this style will probably revolve around minimalism, but the weeks ahead will tell exactly how this will turn out.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

2009-11-5 – Another great RMA class

We started class tonight with the familiar warm up section consisting of light jogging, bouncing on one leg, rolls, etc. All of these exercises place the emphasis on breathing and relaxation…conditioning is a by-product.

This was followed by the Systema core exercises (push ups, sit ups, leg lifts and squats). Again the emphasis was on form, relaxation and primarily breathing.

The theme of the drills tonight was on dealing with punches. The first drill was based on the idea of actually receiving a punch (which is sort of inevitable at some point in a real life confrontation) and then allowing your body to find a way of letting the punch dissipate. In other words, rather than blocking, simply let your body deal with the punch in such a way that it doesn’t find a real sticking point, which is where all the damage will come from. The next drill expanded on this concept by also including subtle stepping, which will either totally deflect the punch or at least not provide it with any real penetrating ability.

I was again amazed at the simplicity, subtlety and economy of the Russian System. Some of the drills may not always look beautiful and expansive like the methods found in other arts but I assure you that there is a deep beauty in the simplicity of it all. More to come next week.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2009-11-03 – First Systema class in over 2 years

I should have done this a long time ago! After an absence of more than two years I finally listened to my inner urgings and to Jocelyn’s gentle prods (she knows I’m happiest when I do martial arts) and went to class tonight. After an hour and forty five minutes worth of training I can’t believe I’ve waited so long to return.

The class started as usual with gentle jogging (while focusing on breathing in a relaxed manner) followed by some rolls, duck walks and other mobility drills. This was followed by some of the Systema core exercises such as push-ups, abdominal work and squats. All of these are seen as breathing exercises rather than strength work.

Our instructor Vadim Dobrin followed this with one of his favorite drills; lying down and getting up again as efficiently as possible. This one exercise if done for long enough can be a thorough workout all by itself.

The rest of the class was based on some basic Systema movement drills. The idea was to receive an attack and then evade it with as little drama and movement as possible. One of the key concepts covered was the idea that minimal and natural movement often neutralizes a conflict whereas big and aggressive movements tend to increase conflict.

I thoroughly enjoyed the class and from now on I’ll be blogging my experiences with the System regularly. That’s all for now.