If you practice Systema for any length of time you will invariably run into the “Would that work against someone who resists?” question or its variant pronouncement, “that wouldn’t work against someone who resists!”
Here’s a quick explanation to keep you from foaming at the mouth while wanting to scream, “It does too, and even better.”
A core Systema principle is to relax while under attack, both mentally and physically, so you can respond most effectively and efficiently (minimum force, maximum effect).Â Students practice an entire battery of drills and exercises to learn how to use only the necessary and sufficient amount of tension to dispatch attackers.Â One misunderstanding is that people think these drill represent self-defense.Â The reality is that they only constitute one part of self-defense training.
One common, detrimental side-effect of this “over-relaxed, flaccid,” training is that students forget to resist when they are the attacker in training.Â This type of asymmetrical training–where the attacker throws one attack, then lets the defender successfully do whatever he wants–gives rise to the reasonable objection,”would that work if I resisted (kept attacking and countering)?”
Sadly, I’ve seen the answer to this question all too many times…and the answer was NO.Â Don’t let this be you.
Systema is not alone in facing this criticism.Â Any martial art that lacks continuous, free-form exchange between combatants is open to this argument.Â Other arts like Kali, Judo and Jiu-jitsu, boxing, wrestling that use their techniques in dynamic free-form sparring situations are better-equipped to deal with the uncertainty andÂ “all plans change upon contact” nature of fighting.
The fact is Systema does contain free-form elements, at least it should.Â Training at Systema Colorado includes a ton of this training.Â The problem is students and instructors forget that just becoming a noodle is not the point of self-defense, it is a means of only using sufficient tension.Â Being able to work against a persistent, intelligent, resistant and resistive attacker is the ultimate skill to master, not working against someone who’ll just take a dive no matter what you do.
To be fair, the best Systemists have trained for and against intelligent attackers and they STILL make it look easy.Â I watch closely when someone want to go at it with Mikhail.Â I watch for their follow-up attacks and adjustments to his movements.Â Mikhail is responding to all of their moves and counters at an almost imperceptible level and subduing them with ease.Â I can see the back and forth happening where someone new to Systema would totally overlook it.
Yet, watch the older tapes of him and you will see him using a bit more tension because he was not yet the consummate master he is now after years of this type of training.
The short answer to the resistance question is highly-skilled Systemists, like highly-skilled grapplers, continuously use the attacker’s tension and movement against him through high-level sensitivity and endless repetitions of the scenarios.
5 Simple Steps To Train Against Resistance
How do you get to this point other than practice? Well, it’s HOW you practice.
1)Â Once you hit the milestone of being able to relax while under attack,
2)Â Your next goal is to use minimum necessary force in your counter-attacks.
3)Â Then, you should practice learning to relax against faster and faster attacks, up to full-speed.
4)Â Now, you can work against a “dumb” resisting attacker, someone who is stiff and won’t move when you try to move his body.Â Your goal at this stage is to stay relaxed when he is tense so you don’t get frustrated, amped up and just push harder.Â This stage trips up many Systemists because they become accustomed to the other person yielding and it’s a shock when he doesn’t.Â I’ve even seen instructors stop and complain that the person is too tense because they “couldn’t work.” This is a cover-up of not being able to work against tension.
5) Finally, move on to the attacker resisting and countering your movements in a true free-form exchange–Systema sparring.Â Again, start slowly and move to full-speed.
If you can do all the above you can honestly, affirmatively answer The Resistance Question the best way–physically.