Is Social Media Ruining Martial Arts?

“Systema is garbage. It doesn’t work and it is just this ________ martial art”

If you have taught for longer than 2 weeks, you have undoubtedly come across these types of sophomoric, crass comments. 

As I have said many times, with the advent of Anti-Social Media anyone and everyone is a critic. Credibility and experience matter not.  People who would never speak to you in this fashion will eagerly post ignorant as they hide behind a keyboard.

Last week, a person who I will call Justy decided to post this comment. . . and here is the nice touch. . . . an hour before my sold-out seminar.  The ugly green monster rearing its head. . . .

Mind you, Justy never trained with me, yet alone Vlad. Or Michael. Or Valentin. Or anyone in System for that matter. But he saw “THE” video and now has magically become an expert on the topic of Systema. Apparently, watching “THE” clip allows one to miraculously be infused with limitless wealth and skill via the world of Systema. 

Much to our surprise, Michael, Vlad, Valentin, Martin, and others did not immediately abandon Systema teaching after reading his comments. Spetznas is still using Systema too. I know. I too was shocked to hear this. (Be sure to read this paragraph in your most sarcastic tone to fully appreciate it.)

If only it were that easy.

For a reasonable person, the journey to Systema skill building (I won’t even get into mastery at this point) is filled with long, tedious, often-frustrating, mistake filled hours and hours and hours of training.  Some of us drive 3 hours, train for 4 and drive back the same 3 hours on a monthly basis.  Where is “THE” magic video when you need it?!!

Systema, like many arts including by not limited to Aikido, Bagua, Hsing I, Judo and others share movements in common. Look at a Chin Na practitioner and you will see quite a few similarities to Systema. Of course, as Systema practitioners, we also see the significant differences that are not seen to those who have never trained in our art, and here in lies the errors of YouTube and other anti-social media participants. You can only see a small portion of what is happening and then interpret what you think you see based on your history. It is not accurate. It is a fabricated story created based upon a person’s limited known.

Running a marathon and watching a clip of someone running a marathon are 2 different worlds. The former is somewhere between challenging and agonizing, depending upon which mile you are referring to and the latter is entertainment. To treat the 2 as equal is a game played only by a fool.

Systema has such a huge catalog of areas of training from the “usual” kick and punch defense to knife work, to the less common topics of defense in a crowd, using clothing as weapons and training in water or in a car. I am not very familiar with an art like Chin Na but I do not recall any such training. Nearly 10 years of Aikido and I can say with certainty that we never covered these topics. Systema is an art unique to its self, provided you have the courage to experience it.

The only way to learn an art is in fact,  to actually experience it several times. To read about, hear about or even see “THE” clip is, at best, supplemental to hands on training.

Take a few classes and if you still do not like it, at least you can speak with some degree of reason. Like every single other art, it is not for everyone. If you do draw such a conclusion, you can rest assured that it is based on experience, not a fairy tale you created.

Either way, at least take the time to taste the cake before you decide it is not good. I bet it is better than even “THE” video of it!