Game Of Russian Martial Arts
One of the
unique and most important training methods of Systema is the use
of a slow motion type of sparring. This sparring game is perhaps
the primary physical training device that leads us to combat proficiency,
as it allows us to integrate our individual skills, while learning
to utilize them in coordination with an opponent. It is an incredibly
useful and powerful training tool, but like any other training
device, drill or practice, it must be done correctly, in order
to instill the desired skills and abilities. Though the aforementioned
game is practiced in slow motion, it has several aspects that
can be difficult for beginners to deal with. The majority of difficulties
stem not from an inability to play the game itself, but from a
misunderstanding of its principles and goals. This article will
clarify those issues and discuss the primary keys to making correct
use of the slow sparring game.
premise of the Slow Sparring Game (SSG) is to create an environment
where all technical aspects of hand to hand combat can be explored
in relative safety, while providing the body a chance to execute
and cultivate true spontaneity. To facilitate this, the SSG must
be viewed as a slow motion representation of combat.
One must forget
that they are in slow motion, movements and reactions must be
made as though the participants were moving at full speed. This
requires a certain amount of "play acting" on the participants
parts. It is important however to realize that this acting, in
contrast with the common association with the word, creates more
reality, rather than less. When moving at a slow speed, movement
and balance will manifest differently than they would at full
speed. This should be readily apparent to anyone who has ever
driven a car. A sharp corner that can be navigated safely at 30
MPH would surely flip the car at 80 MPH. As it is with cars, it
is with humans. When playing the SSG, we must always keep that
in mind, and commit to moving "as if" we were going full speed.
All movements should be made as if you were on videotape at full
speed, but played back in slow motion.
any training game, whether it be at full or slow speed, it is
vital to keep it as real as possible, while still abiding by the
rules of the game. You must commit the "attack" as if it were
completely real. You must act with an intent to really hit your
partner. You must follow through trying to put power into the
blow. You must make all the same physical and mental actions that
you would if you were really determined hurt your opponent.
There is an
innate tendency to want to try to help your training partner.
This is in itself good, but unfortunately it can lead to several
behaviors that are a hindrance to training. In an effort to subconsciously
help their partner it is common for people to punch off center,
or not follow through with their strike. While this may indeed
help one's partner avoid being hit in training, it will not teach
him about defending himself. All attacks must be made accurately,
with intent, and full follow through. If safety is a concern,
then the speed can always be lowered so as to create a higher
to the subconscious need to help your partner, there is a complementary
tendency and inner desire to thwart him as well. You should be
on guard for this in yourself. Remember, the attacker's role is
to play the part of an opponent who wants to hurt the defender.
The intent to attack, and the intent to foil, are two very different
things. Each of those intentions creates its own set of movements
and relationships. Make sure to give your opponent the appropriate
intent for the training exercise you are doing.
Physics Cheat 1
the speed of an attack is a common cheat, which people sub-consciously
resort too. It can seemingly wreak havoc on the defender, giving
an illusion of the attackers success. Of course he has not really
succeeded in anything but fooling himself, and undermining his
cannot speed up anymore than they can go at their fastest speed.
So when participating in training exercises at lowered speeds,
one must maintain the same general velocity they begin their movement
with. If the attacker were moving at full speed, he could not
have suddenly increased the speed of his attack. The tactic is
not existent at real speed, and must therefore be avoided in slow
moving quickly and then suddenly slowing down, is less than realistic
and should be avoided. It generally causes the same problems in
the SSG, and only serves to retard progress.
be noted that in real speed combat there are ways of changing
the speed of your attack, but these are specific skills that are
different from merely taking advantage of the slowed pace. At
a more advanced level it is expected that partners will make use
of pace changes, but they must always be in accord with the laws
of physics as applied to full speed movement.
Physics Cheat 2
to simple changes of velocity, another frequently made mistake
is unrealistic changes in trajectory. Remember that our rule is
"anything that happens in slow motion, has to be indicative of
reality." Therefore, any change in the attack line a participant
makes, must be possible for that person when moving at full speed.
in slow motion, it is theoretically possible for me to start my
motion on one plane along a specific trajectory and then radically
and abruptly change direction, approximating a "zigzag" effect.
This can create quite an intimidating fake or feint. However,
a movement such as this is not consistent with reality and the
laws governing fast motion. It must therefore be removed from
At full speed,
one would have to make use of elliptical paths to change the trajectory
of a strike. For our game to be of benefit, this same limitation
must be inserted into the slowed movements. In other words, we
must "act" as if it is impossible to move in a zigzag manner.
When training in slow motion, everything has to be reflective
of that which you can do in reality. Otherwise it's a false training
habit. It's false for you, and it's false for your partner.
Physics Cheat 3
The last common
"physics cheat" that frequently occurs is when the defender moves
faster than the attacker. When participating in SSG, it is very
easy to simply move faster than your attacker. After all, he is
moving in slow motion. However, doing this, is of course taking
advantage of the artificial part of the game, and thus renders
the game invalid. The reality is that many real life attackers
may and probably will be faster than you. Building your technique
around the idea of being faster than the opponent will only serve
to decrease your chances of using your art in a real confrontation.
We must always train to beat the superior opponent, and thus train
in a way that assumes our opponent has better attributes and abilities
than we do.
if one partner is defending, and the attacker initiates at turtle
speed, then the defender must react at turtle speed, or even slower.
When he's moving full speed, I'll be moving full speed, and I
can't rely on speeding myself up even more so as to deal with
his attack. Remember, you "cannot move faster than you can already
your "technique" must not be based upon speed, but angle, sensitivity
and an understanding of the opponent's capabilities. If I can
defend against him no matter how fast he is going, and I can move
slowly, while he's doing that, then I'll be able to defend myself
no matter how fast my opponent is.
As A Training Aid
one of the primary things that we want to do is move at a speed
where we can learn. In the process of trying to improve, we want
learn new things and develop new skills. We don't want to just
regurgitate old things that we already know. This is especially
important to those who have previous martial arts experience,
before coming to The System.
in any type of freeform training, it is all too easy to revert
back to that which we already know. If that happens when you come
to Systema class, all your doing is practicing your old art. Systema
class is of course, for leaning, and practicing Systema. So we
need to make sure that is what comes out.
This is done
by moving slowly enough, that your stress response does not engage.
You need to train only as fast as you can, while still eliciting
Systema responses. Once non-Systema responses come out, you are
moving too fast to make further progress. At that point you are
no longer learning, and are thus, no longer training. It is imperative
that you recognize that point and immediately slow down to a level
where you are once again truly training.
we want to achieve what has popularly become known as "the state
of flow." The state of flow is a zone in which optimal mental
and emotional experience takes place. When in "the flow," learning
increases, performance increases and joy from the activity is
experienced. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the father
of "Flow Theory," to achieve a state of "flow," the task must
be easy enough to be accomplished correctly, but sufficiently
difficult to require concentration and effort. The smaller the
window between these two criteria, the more pure and powerful
the flow experience will be. This narrow window is where optimal
training takes place, and is therefore the state you wish to aim
for in playing the SSG.
As Vision Enhancement
to training at a pace where Systema responses come out, you should
train at a speed where you elicit new Systema responses. If you
find yourself repeatedly doing the same movement in response to
a given attack, you need to once again slow down. If you find
yourself reverting to the same type of movement repeatedly, you
are no longer being creative and spontaneous; you are resorting
to "technique" and are thus, not practicing Systema.
It is important
that you train in a way that allows you to constantly see new
opportunities. Learning to see opportunities is one of the things
that will allow you to constantly improvise and adapt, making
it possible to deal with whatever an opponent might throw at you.
a punch comes in work slowly enough that you can see how your
partner is off-balance, how he can resist, what he can attack
with next. Allow yourself the opportunity to see what you can
do to make him fall down, or what you can do to hit him where
he cannot defend himself. By working in this manner, you will
gain and see improvement. You will get better, and gain new skills.
If you work
any faster than that, at best all you will accomplish is to cement
in the skills, reactions and possibly fears that you already have.
In the worst case scenario, you will make yourself less effective.
Don't let your training lead to regression, rather than progression.
2000 Arthur Sennott, All rights Reserved