First, thank you for your support concerning Buttercup. The outpouring of emotions for her has been unexpected and overwhelming–in a good way. Buttercup’s happy to be home and doesn’t seem to be getting worse, although she doesn’t seem to be improving either. We will know more tomorrow when we take her to the vet. Cross your fingers.
WELL…there are supposed to be pictures below…they may or may not show up.
The Halloween Party was a HUGE HIT and we made it without delivering a baby in the middle of it. So many people pitched in to make it run like clockwork. Thank you so much.
We had contests!
Winner of the Pumpkin-Carving Contest was Jordan Trout for her “3 Pumpkin-High” Skeleton.
2nd Place went to the giant Jack Skellington (who did this?)
3rd Place went to Erin Jensen for her female vampire.
Winner of the Costume Contest was Rebecca Hyde for her Eskimo.
2nd Place went to Clarke Whitehead for his fighter pilot.
3rd Place went to the Roberts Family for their Matrix costumes.
Winner of the Chili Cook-Off was #10, Laura Kierstein with just the right blend of spice, heat and flavor.
2nd Place went to #5, Annette Smith for her green chili (yum!)
3rd Place was a tie between deliciously hot #3 and Folsom Prison Red #4.
It was a pleasure to judge ALL of the 12 entrants.
Friday night I read Siena the book Snowmen at Night, about what snowmen do when you are sleeping and not around.
What, just one guy?
Vern Bevan commented after class that he’d never been in or seen a fight that was against just one guy. Many of us concurred that altercations we’ve been in or been witness to have been with multiple belligerents.
Well, we’ve been doing a good deal of innovative multiple/mass attack work in class lately in DIRECT DIFIANCE to the “Conventional Wisdom/Drinking the Kool-Aid” dogma that “you can’t beat more than one of you, so why try” that is so prevalent in the Jiu-Jitsu/MMA world.
So…in even a relatively small group such as our school people say mass fighting is the norm…But “don’t train to survive it” is the martial art zeitgeist?
That’s plain stupid.
“Sorry, Mr. Home Invaders, I can only fight one at a time. Please wait your turn.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Arrest Suspects, I can only get one of you under control at a time. Would you wait so I can arrest you later?”
“Boys, Gang-Rapists, I can only fend off one person at a time while I’m on the ground. So don’t all jump me at once.”
I don’t think so.
If defending yourself from multiple attackers means that you will be seriously hurt, then your training should AT LEAST help you to become LESS-seriously hurt, if not just getting out alive or escaping to safety.
Given that mass/multiple attackers is a reality, training for anything less is irresponsible.
by Martin Wheeler
Over the recent years I have read with interest on the internet back and forth as to the validity of training in Systema by observers who have only viewed experts in the art on YouTube or video. Usually a comparison is made to the most visual of fighting arts, mixed martial arts. The same types of questions are posted over and over again, “Why do they train slowly? Why does this look way too easy? Why did that guy fall over and seem unable to get back up?”
And I read with equal interest the various ways in which the art is defended by practitioners of Systema. Not that they are not valid questions, they definitely are, it is just I rarely hear these same questions from anyone in seminars, classes, or in sparring sessions, no matter what their background or what speed they work at.
Just for the sake of balance, I began in the martial arts at a tender age and have studied in many full contact environments from boxing systems to grappling systems, to clever weapons based and ‘street-fighting’ arts, and have enjoyed sparring, fighting and training for the last thirty years with anyone who’s paths I have crossed from beginners to world-class full contact fighters. I was a bouncer for ten years and I am currently contracted to share my views on close-quarter-combatives with professionals from elite security services around the world, as-well-as MMA fighters, Systema practitioners, traditional martial artists and civilians.
So why, if I have studied all these other full contact systems with relative success, would I choose Systema?
For me that is easy to answer. It’s because I have tried it. I am just one of many who brought whatever I had in my little bag of tricks to test Vladimir Vasiliev, or heaven forbid, Mikhail Ryabko, when I first met them. And I have yet to see anyone who did not come out the other end of the experience the same as I did, that is to say, confused, in pain but with a profound insight into the fact that something fundamental had changed.
To put it mildly, there is a lot more going on with Systema than meets the eye. And if there were not, if you could really just see what was happening by watching it on YouTube, then it would not be very good Systema.
Mixed martial arts are dramatic, fast and superbly visual. The best method for two pugilistic grapplers to go at it since the gladiators of old Rome. You can see what is happening and the results are self evident. It hosts some of the best conditioned and most versatile athletes.
I love to watch it, I love to train in it and always enjoy working with anyone from that world. And in my opinion, anyone who trains in MMA who is even half decent, a man or woman, is to be taken very seriously.
So I hear you ask: Well, if Systema is so good why isn’t it in the UFC? And I think that is an excellent question.
But I might ask: Well, if the UFC was any good why don’t they throw a knife in the cage?
As unrealistic as that is, maybe you get my point? The dynamic of a fight would change immediately if a knife were indeed tossed into the cage. You would see two highly trained fighters having to immediately adapt to a completely new set of rules or die almost instantaneously.
I think anyone would agree that eating jabs from a skilled fighter, possibly the least lethal of MMA striking attacks, sucks, but by comparison is quite pleasant compared to a single knife wound.
When I first trained with Vladimir he stopped me in the middle of a sparring session and said in his own inimitable way, ‘Martin, I know men that you would take to pieces in the ring’. Of course, stupidly beaming with pride I thought he was complimenting me, until he turned away to attend another student and added flatly… ‘But they would kill you.’
And there’s the rub. Almost every visible strategy, philosophy and motion that is great in an MMA sport environment is useful in the street and even on the battlefield. But only useful. Whereas everything in Systema is purposely designed for both of the later environments, is not visual, and has been proven as effective in those arenas as MMA has in the cage. Systema’s structure is intentionally designed to appear structureless, and the speed of the action although registering as slow to the eye is actually a highly developed relational timing, deceptive due to the Systema practitioner remaining calm.
Recently I was invited to introduce the concept of Systema to an overseas Special Operations Unit. While there, I was shown a video of various instructors that had been invited to train their operators and show what they had to offer. Among them was a top MMA coach from Pride. I asked what they thought of his training. ‘Excellent’ the Colonel said ‘but for us, virtually useless.’
This is in no way disparaging to the Pride coach, he was obviously excellent. But the fact remains, what is good in one arena is not necessarily good for another. Systema is not designed primarily for a sport environment or a sport mentality anymore than MMA is primarily designed for a battlefield environment or a combat mentality.
One could train for twenty years in Jujitsu, for example, and be an amazing grappler. But if you were to introduce just one more opponent into the fight you would not be doing Jujitsu anymore. It is simply not designed for fighting two opponents efficiently at the same time, even on the ground. It is primarily structured to fight one opponent at a time.
I am not saying the Jujitsu fighter would not prevail, I am merely suggesting that if he had to fight two or more possibly armed opponents at the same time on a daily basis then his training might soon start to look, at least from the outside, like Systema. And then armed with that knowledge, the way he worked against a single opponent again would also dramatically change. After ten years or so it would look as alien to another Jujitsu practitioner observing it from the outside as Systema does now after centuries of refinement.
Systema, as a martial art, in the form it exists now is primarily designed for real life application, it works for unpredictable situations (such as multiple opponents, various weapons, uneven terrains, poor lighting, confined space, etc.) for professionals in the military, law enforcement and security, for someone who’s got to fight while injured or wounded or has to protect a woman or child, for someone who is older or in a poor physical condition. Training and fighting in Systema is designed to avoid injuries, and even heal your old ones. And that requires a very different bag of tricks, look and feel to a sport fighting art.
Although, as Vladimir once remarked with that casual profound quietness ‘Systema just happens to be a martial art’. And to have any understanding of that gem, one cannot merely observe it from the outside…
About the author.
Martin Wheeler is a Senior U.S. Systema Instructor certified under Vladimir Vasiliev. Martin is teaching regular Systema classes at Los Angeles School of Russian Martial Art. He has trained in the martial arts for over thirty years ranging from Boxing, Grappling, Weapons fighting, Kenpo Karate and for 10 years in Systema. He is contracted to teach SWAT teams and Special Operations Units and is also produced Hollywood screen writer.
Chicago Seminar Recap
Whew! I just returned from teaching a whirlwind weekend martial arts seminar in Chicago with long-time friends, mentors and fellow instructors Martin Wheeler and Al McLuckie. We taught a large group of Cops, Joliet Prison Guards, MMA Fighters as well as the Civilian Self-Defense Students.
The venue was Too Cool. The workshops were held at a place called Showtime, a nightclub that also holds Fight Nights. The lighting was DIM and was actually much better than fighting with all the lights on. It made it that much harder to notice weapon work. (I need Dimmer Switches at our school).
Here are just a few highlights:
I started the weekend off with an eye toward teaching Systema Principles that the students would then apply to everything they would do for the rest of the weekend. I taught “Structure and De-Structure”(yeah, I know it’s not a word) and working in teams to take people down. All from movement.
Al fed off that to working some crazy knife-use. The nightclub people almost kicked us out because Al started using the benches and walls for some confined space work. THAT was funny! Al also worked how to effectively use distractions to set up knife attacks and counter-attacks.
Al warned students to “attack realistically with knives” so I took that idea and went on to teach how to deal with a knife attack as the attacker uses Both hands, not just a solitary knife thrust. Mainly, I showed how to avoid the knife and work against the other arm to control the attacker. Al then finished the day with some striking work.
Martin took over on Sunday, again teaching knife defense in ways that few others can. He stressed moving and using your limbs as you move, instead of first as most people are inclined to, keeping your tension down while using the attacker’s tension, how to deal with your tension as it rises in your body, among other things.
He ended the day with some Superlative ground fighting demonstrations against both one and multiple attackers–bridging “traditional grappling” to Systema. Just brilliant work!
One student, in the end circle, commented that of the 4 Main Principles (breathe, relax, form and movement) the whole weekend was about MOVEMENT. Good observation.
Paul Trout said it would be cool to see Martin, Al and me all teach the same topic to see our unique perspectives, how it all looks different but is really the same. Well Paul, we did it, it was enlightening for me too…and…you missed it.
It’s too soon for video, but keep your eyes open, I’ll post some highlights soon–mostly of Martin probably because I was manning the camera during his sessions. Who knows what other footage came out…until I sort through it.
Jeff Waldrom, host and owner of Academy of Self-Defense on the South Side, somehow squeezed in a night of MMA fights on Saturday. The ASD Team went a Stellar 4 wins, 0 loses, including Winning the Women’s Title Fight. If you are anywhere near Chicago at least Stop By Jeff’s School. They have a great group of students and teachers there. I highly recommend them.
Thanks guys for putting it all together. See you in April for Part 2.