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i had a dream last night of attending an interstate aikido seminar/gasshuku and then half-way through the dream, i went into a change room and changed into a systema t-shirt and camo pants (closest thing to their uniform). hmm, i wonder what a psychoanalyst would make of it...
so it's been a year and a few months since i started cross-training in systema approximately once a week (give or take) along side my regular aikido classes, and it's been great. there was an initial period of time where i got quite infatuated with it to the point of contemplating giving up aikido to focus on systema, but i stuck it out past the honeymoon phase, and i'm now in a more or less comfortable, polyamorous relationship with the two.
i hope it doesn't come to a point where i have to choose between one or the either down the track, but at the moment, they seem fairly complementary - although there is a natural tendency for me to pop up stuff from one when i'm practicing the other.
has my aikido improved since doing systema? hmm, i suppose it's impossible to isolate completely the variance of my continued training in aikido, but i can safely say yes to a few particular things as they have been absent or at least not emphasised in my regular aikido training in the last year or so. these almost exclusive benefits that i've gained from my systema cross-training include:
ability to take hits, and subsequently reduced fear when being attacked (especially when doing irimi);
reduced inhibition in delivering proper atemi (but my fellow aikidoka might not be as enthusiastic in classifying this an advantage...);
expanded my view on 'real' jiyu-waza/randori... (i.e. not 'freedom' to use prescribed aikido techniques, but freedom to do ANY thing that works);
my ability to deal with multiple attackers have improved quite significantly.
on the flip-side, my experience from aikido has also greatly sped up my systema training i believe. there are of course 'bad habits' that i carry over as well, but compared to other practitioners who have no other martial background, or indeed some other martial background (e.g. 'hard' karate, kickboxing), i think aikido principles has significant overlaps with systema principles, such as blending, tai-sabaki, ukemi and so forth. of course, their usual maai is completely different... and well, some other things are also very different... but that's beyond the scope of this post i think.
for the last year or so, i've felt that my aikido has stagnated, whilst the stuff i've been learning from systema has been exponential - but with no objective measurement it could be completely skewed due to the perceived newness of it all as i've been training in aikido much longer than in systema. it'd be interesting to see how things go in another year or so, and if i still feel the same way.