Enjoy a renowned ballet dancer or matador and you will soon realize that beyond their near perfect technique is a quality that transcends pure physical prowess.

An aggressive leap with a grace that seems to defy gravity, or the coquette spin from a charging bull and precision placed blade bringing the powerful beast to its knees can only be achieved by giving oneself to an exact position.

From day one a student of Systema is immersed in the corner stones of the art; breathing, relaxing, having good form and moving. And even though each one of these is a compendium of study limited only by a life span it is the seamless integration of these elements that produce the singular condition of ‘working’. 

Watching Vladimir or Mikhail work I realize that just the integration of those factors is not enough. As they float untroubled through a sea of attackers I am again struck by the imagery of the ballet dancer and the matador. The effortless movement, the precision, the absolute devastation only a touch away. The individual coming at them, no matter their physical size, representing a ‘bull’ of living information; fluently read and in return offered exactly what they have asked for. The literal poise that each man holds can disarm as unmistakably and in some cases with even more effectiveness than the memorable strikes.

During a training session with Vladimir he once stopped me in the midst of it and pointed out that my head was dipping forward. Not just in fighting, but in life. And indeed it was (and still does unless I work at it). My mind immediately sprang to tackle the implications- visibility and awareness issues, the inevitable tension in my back and hips to accommodate the weight..etc… and as my thoughts flew he continued… It means you have too many thoughts here; pointing at the back of my neck. Stand up straight. The thoughts will fall away.

As I did, still trying to fathom what he was saying, I found that in a poised attitude the thoughts did quite literally fall away down my back as if they had no ledge left to hold on to. With my mind clear I discovered I was closer to being, well, just ‘being’.

But unfortunately, as far as I can tell, poise is more than just remaining calm and unencumbered by pointless thoughts, or even attempting good posture.

©2024 Martin Wheeler Systema

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