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Old 03-16-2007, 08:32 AM   #9
George S. Ledyard
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Dojo: Aikido Eastside
Location: Bellevue, WA
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 2,670
Re: Systema Workshop, Charlotte, NC area, April 14th

Robert John wrote: View Post
Just some food for thought that, even if you train under someone like Vlad, but you don't think for yourself, you can still end up like "#$t
I had a technical issue and my whole post didn't come through the first time...

I think what you should say is, "If you train under someone like Vlad, don't be too full yourself and make sure you listen to your teachers." I see Vlad's students all the time since we have a Systema school right next door. This guy's description doesn't square at all with the reality i have seen. It doesn't even square with what i have seen from students out in the hinterlands who are training seriously but only see Vlad occasionally. These are folks of tremendous ability... It's absolutely true that many of Vlad's seniors have a broad background in martial arts. They do progress faster than the folks who don't. But isn't that true in Aikido as well?

The idea that everyone's out of shape... that's pretty funny as the guys I've trained with are some of the best conditioned people I've trained with. These guys do constant pushups, situps, and squats as part of virtually every class. They do them slowly using them to develop their breath control as well. These guys are hard as rocks. Yet they are amongst the most flexible folks you'll encounter. The control over distinct body areas they have looks like what you'd see with some of the folks at the Cirque de Soliel.

The striking system they have uses energetic principles that are unlike anything I have seen. I have no doubt whatever that one of the senior guys could kill you with a strike that would look like nothing. Is it possible to have the best training in the world and still not get it? This guy is living proof.

Anyway, Systema is really a health system for mental and physical well being. The fighting capability is just a byproduct of proper training. From this guy's post it is clear that he didn't even get that.

Lastly, I would like to address the "cult" issue. One of the absolute danger signs of cult behavior is isolationism. Cults try to keep their members under control, try to keep them isolated from the outside, keep them away from ideas that interfere with the cult beliefs. The Systema guys are amongst the most open groups I have encountered, far more than most Aikido groups, in truth. Many of their guys do other martial arts. They like nothing better than to have visitors from outside come and play with them as long as they do so in the right spirit. There are a number of funny stories about folks who showed up who didn't have the right spirit... This is no cult... They do love their teacher. He is incredible and he's a super nice guy. I can see why they are so enthusiastic. They also love their art and like many enthusiastic Aikido folks, will tell you about it at length if asked. But no way it's "cult like" in the least.

In any art, I tend to judge the art as much by the people I see doing it as I do the technical aspects. The Systema guys are one the classiest group of people I have met. I haven't yet met one of Vlad's seniors who isn't an amazing person as well as a top notch martial artist. Of course, I am sure that if I went to Vlad's own school there would be folks who weren't stellar. I've only been interacting with his top guys. Most of them have their own schools now.

Anyway, I hate it when stuff like this comes out because it creates a bias that can keep people from checking things out for themselves. My former students are now Systema instructors (meaning they have the ok from Vlad to run a program, not that they have "mastered" anything). I have watched the changes over the few years that they have been training and it's miraculous. What is most impressive is how they have changed as people. Aikido is supposed to be a practice that results in personal transformation. We could learn something from the Systema program.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
Aikido Eastside
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