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.