Just Like Vlad

By cflsystemabagua

On the surface, it sounds like the most extraordinary compliment one could receive in Systema. You move “just like Vlad.” To move just like the master is admirable, if not impossible.

It is also a trap. Giant one at that.

My wife sang professionally for 20 years from small venues to 18K at a Miami Heat game. If she has not seen or heard it all, she has seen or heard most of it. During one of our many conversations on the topic, she said something that really got my attention. “You know what the kiss of death is in music? ‘You sound just like so-and-so.'” 

Initially, I found that an odd statement until the explanation followed. You will never be as good as the person you sound like. Additionally, there already is one. We do not need another.

Same holds true for Systema. If you are not carving out your own niche using your own style and own personality, you are just parroting another. A cheap imitation of a master.

My teacher, from day one, constantly pushed the idea that you are unique and in order to be “successful” in this art, you have to make it your own.

Truer words have never been spoken.

When It All Comes Together

By cflsystemabagua

As anyone who has a school knows, teaching adults is a challenge. Between work schedules and family responsibility (and 101 other factors), getting people to come to class on regular basis is not always possible.

Then. . . . there are the nights when the stars align, the kids are away and the boss shuts down early and is off having a beer. . . and everyone shows up. It is moments like this when I just want to hit the pause button and soak it all in. It is such a good feeling.

Last night was close. With the exception of only a couple, we had a nice big group, complete with “returnees;” that is, people who I have not seen in a bit were finally back in action. And it was a pure treat.

Systema is a circular art, not just in many of the movements but in the way it is a structured. I spent decades in Japanese arts and they are so linear and pyramidal. There is the person on top of the pyramid and the trickle effect goes on down from there. Black belt to the lowly white belt.

While there is never any doubt who the leader(s) of System are, we still form a circle at the end of class or seminar. The unique thing about a circle is that there is no beginning or end, nor any degree of hierarchical levels. Each of us is just a piece in a beautiful ring.

Bows are replaced by hugs. Titles are absence but respect is not. The whole puzzle matters as much as the pieces.

It is nights like last night that remind me of what an incredible image the circle is and how great it is to be a part of this particular one.


Birth of the Dragon Review

By cflsystemabagua

I went to see “Birth of the Dragon.” It was a little “risky” as the reviews were rather harsh. After seeing the movie, in my opinion, it was one of the very best I have ever seen.

The story is about the famous fight between a young Bruce Lee and Wong Jack Man. Most martial artists are aware of this famous fight, one shrouded in mystery. The mysteries involve the winner, the number of witnesses, overall purpose of other details.

The movie (director) does a great job of building the story and the suspense. It is not exactly a stretch to say portions are undoubtedly exaggerated or invented but overall, it is excellent.

A caveat here: Bruce Lee die-hard fans will probably hate it. Throughout most of the film, he is not exactly portrayed in the best light. He is seen as an enormously talented but immature fighter. It is only after the great fight with Wong did he take a quantum leap forward.

Again, I thought it was excellent. The messages were powerful and applicable to all who saw or will see the film. The fight choreography was entertaining and creative.

Even for us Systema loyalists, it is worth the viewing.

Dealing With Anger

By cflsystemabagua

Some people simply cannot deal with their anger. Or more precisely, the way they attempt to deal with it borders on self-destruction.

Talk to them and you feel you need a shield. Read their (anti-) social media posts and your eyes start to burn. It sad and very unfortunate that they are willing to throw away the one finite thing – time –  to feel this way.

The sequence goes like this: They are angry about an external event, collect “evidence” to support their anger, fabricate stories which “will certainly happen,”  gather friends to stoke the fire and proceed to make it as bad as possible. In the process, they take away the things that they love to do as a last stand. In other words, “If I punish myself enough, things will get better.” Of course, this never happens.

There is an antidote to all of this.

Happiness and training.

Happiness is found inside each of us and is our natural state. It cannot be harmed by outside events without our consent. Some may not be enamored by world events, neighborhood events or things happening in their home but when you recognize that you are the Systema Warrior, you know that the outside cannot dictate feeling.

This is one of the great benefits of training in Systema. We learn to focus on what we are experiencing and not what our partner is doing. We cannot control the actions of our partner so why get bent out of shape about it. If we take care of ourselves, it matters not what our partner is doing. We will always have the answer for it.

If we can take this identical principle and apply it to all aspects of our lives, that anger would transform into the Dragon of Creativity. Anger is a by-product of liver energy. When directed in one way, it creates depression, frustration and yes, anger. When directed in another way, it serves as the fuel for Creativity. The Dragon is allowed to fly and we begin to experience waves of brilliant ideas, unique thoughts, potential projects and businesses. The Artist in us come to the surface and we express this energy in the form of painting, writing, music, teaching, shodo and best of all, movements in Systema.

If things on the outside are going your way, you are fine. If they are not, you are not fine. This is how children respond but as adults, we certainly have the greater capacity to do much better. We slip at times for sure but if we trust our (Systema) training and continue to just show up, we find greater skills come to the forefront. With greater skills comes greater results until we finally recognize that we have the ultimate gift anyone could receive – we are alive.

By recognizing we already have the greatest gift that can be received, the events of the outside world become significantly less important. The ultimate irony is that when we take this approach, the outside events have a way of dramatically improving in the process.