4 Types of Systema Students

There are four types of Systema students.  Which one are you?

1) The “No Previous Experience” Student
2) The “Convert” Student
3) The “Improve My Original Art” Student
4) The “Bruce Lee-Mindset” Student

1) The “No Previous Experience” Student

The “No Previous Experience” student is just that, a person who has not studied any martial art before stumbling onto Systema.

The advantage the “NPE” student has is that he hasn’t ingrained bad habits of over-tensing, improper breathing, rooting and getting locked into a specific technique.

The disadvantage the “NPE” student has is that he has no background knowledge of self-defense movements.  If Systema is the martial art you’ve forgotten…well, you have to first have something to forget! This does not apply to the NPE Student.  He needs some technique in his arsenal to then dissolve into his movements.

2) The “Convert” Student

The Convert Student does have previous martial art experience.  He has abandoned his previous training and dived whole-heartedly into Systema.  The Convert Student is the most common Systema student, particularly in places where Systema is/was totally new.

The advantage the Convert student has is that he may have months and usually years of background knowledge.  When he finally finds Systema it is easy for him to just not think about a particular technique he’s done hundreds, if not thousands of times, and “let it happen.”  Systema can supercharge his years of acquired skills!

The disadvantage the Convert student has is his previous training.  He usually has bad habits like rooting, poor footwork, bad posture, holding his breath or not breathing at all, and of course tension.

3) The “Improve My Original Art” Student

The “Improve My Original Art” Student just wants to cross-train in Systema a little bit.  He might want to pick up some cool knife disarms, handgun defense or unique escapes from holds.  His goal is to integrate these moves into his “main” martial art.

The advantage to the “Improve My Original Art” student is he can learn so many other moves, scenarios and training methods that will make ANY Art more effective.  The IMOA student usually comes to Systema for this “secret knowledge” then returns to his Original Art as a conquering hero.  The ego-inflation here is measurable and palpable.  Systema is their secret weapon to gain an advantage over their peers who are doing the same old same old.  Just a drop of Systema skyrockets their respective skill in comparison to others in their art.  The beauty is they can be fair at Systema but a “superstar” going back to their Original Art.

The disadvantage the IMOA student has is self- delusion.  He becomes a big fish in a little pond while knowing there is a much larger ocean of potential knowledge that he is not tapping into.  He goes to the ocean with a teaspoon thinking that’s all there is.

4) The “Bruce Lee-Mindset” Student

The “Bruce Lee-Mindset” student has no way as his way.  He has no loyalty to a martial system.  His goal is to absorb what is useful and to discard what is useless.

The advantage of the BLM student is he has no hang-ups, no master telling him what to do or not to do.  He is free to learn any martial art idea that will make him a better martial artist.  His loyalty is to himself, not to any art.  This is a powerful mindset but…

The disadvantage of the BLM student is the“jack of all trades, master of none” trap.  The danger of not listening to a teacher or persisting in developing key skills can keep the BLM student just average in many martial arts.

So which Student are you?  Or, which should you be?

If you are new, there is nothing you can do about that.  Get on with your Systema training.  However, you must be taught the correct martial arts attacks: locks, chokes, takedowns, knife attacks, etc.  If you are lucky enough to have a teacher who knows and can teach these skills to you then all the better.  If your teacher doesn’t, or doesn’t know himself, the danger is you may not learn how to defend against realistic attacks.

If you are a convert student–as most people are–don’t forget your old art, just stop trying to force techniques into a specific situation.  You may be much more likely to just stop thinking and allow your body to react if you have had solid, realistic training prior to Systema.

If you are the Improve My Original Art Student…well…you’re missing the point.  I have no more words for you.

As for the Bruce Lee Mindset Student, I believe that this is your eventual mindset destination.  At some point in your training, you will believe that Systema is the be-all, end-all (which it could be).  But, if you interact with enough high-level martial artists from the best systems you will come to the realization that they have much to offer.  Sometimes a little technique will elevate your skills.  For example, Filipinos are masters at short stick fighting.  Why reinvent the wheel?  Just a short time with their art, coupled with Systema will take your skill to new levels.  Likewise, BJJ/Sambo/Catch Wrestling have an entire world of training to offer you.  Why not spend a bit of time at least learning the basics, then combining it with your Systema principles?  The difference is obvious.

I’ll expound upon this next time, but remember you are NOT Vladimir or any other Systema practitioner for that matter.  Your goal should always be “what can you do to improve your skills.”  Then train based on this knowledge.

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