Why We Practice Systema (or Any Martial Art)

IMG_0005Why are you practicing your art? What drives you to train day after day, for years, knowing full well this is a trip that does not end?

For some, it is externally focused. They want the black belt or trophies. For others, it is more of a personal journey, perhaps overcoming perceived limitations or obstacles they have encountered along the path. Ask 101 martial artists and you may get 101 unique responses.

For those who choose to focus internally, the idea behind Systema (or your martial art) is to create an encounter with our Self. When we lay it on the line with full focus and energy, we awaken to the space(s) inside of us that are not living in the moment. The places that dwell in the past. The spots that live in the future.  These are the areas inside that are the obstacles we are striving to overcome. . . . to bring into the Now. These are the “gap” that the Master Teachers or our opponents see.


“For those who choose to focus internally, the idea behind Systema (or any martial art) is to create an encounter with our Self.”


By focusing on our Systema with our entire Being, we bring clarity and insight to our entire life. Somewhere along the martial path, we discover these “parts” which are lagging behind, holding us back. It is the moment when we are taking strikes or defending against a kick, that our entire Being must be present. If not, we risk injury to self or others, an unacceptable result.

When we do practice focusing with our entire Being, movement flows and technique spontaneously occurs. We drop the baggage of memorized, often forced technique for the beauty of flowing in the Now. Effortlessness and spontaneity are often the end reward.

In the beginning, great energy is needed to be totally present. With enough time and practice, it becomes natural. Those who practice long enough with focus, understand the indescribable feeling that comes with spontaneity. Those who fail to exert the needed energy never know the ease that comes to those who are one with the Now.

In Chinese calligraphy, there is a famous saying which reads: “Meditate on the bamboo for 10 years. Be the bamboo. Then paint yourself.”  

Perhaps in Systema, we might say: “Breathe the movements for 10 years. Be the breathe. Then breathe yourself.”

Whatever words you may choose, being present and focused, allows us to face our Self and in the encounter, find who we really are in the moment.