A Student’s Perspective of Systema: Paul Trout

Click on the audio player to hear an informative interview with Systema Colorado student Paul Trout:

Brad Scornavacco:  Hi everybody, this is Brad Scornavacco, head of school at Systema Colorado. And I’m here today with a special guest and I’ll let him introduce himself. Just tell everybody your name and…

Paul Trout:  Paul Trout. I’ve been studying Systema here for four years in July.

Brad:  What kind of martial arts background did you have before you started training here?

Paul:  Primarily wrestling. Greco‑Roman and freestyle. And judo. I did a couple of classes here and there of other things, but judo and wrestling are the primary.

Brad:  You’re also an avid shooter, right?

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  So just combat pistol? Rifle? What is your…?

Paul:  Combat pistol primarily. I used to compete in that. I’ve taken classes on combat rifle, tactical rifle, and shotgun. I’ve participated in longer‑range rifle shooting events, but nothing major.

Brad:  So how did you find Systema?

Paul:  I work with computers so I have a sedentary occupation. After doing that for 20 years, I got diagnosed with high blood pressure and had to increase my activity. Amazingly enough, simply walking or doing elliptical for 40‑45 minutes a day, for three or four days a week, five days a week, or even six days a week doesn’t do much to take weight off and lower blood pressure. It just doesn’t provide enough. So I started looking for a wrestling club because the best shape I had ever been in was when I wrestled when I was much younger. I couldn’t find one and, by happenstance, I did a search for Systema and Systema Colorado popped up. It had been here, but I had basically been driving by  for 10 years.

Brad:  Oops.

Paul:  Yeah.

Brad:  OK. What were your impressions of it when you started it?

Paul:  I was kind of different. I actually read  Vlad’s guidebook, not really knowing who he was at the time or how that would play in. I had never seen anything on YouTube, I had never watched any videos, I had never looked for any of it. It was just, “That’s a martial arts school. I’m going to go check it out.” I dropped an email, Michelle scheduled me for a meeting with you. I showed up and I found out that was an actual class, which was good.

Brad:  You were one of the lucky ones because you didn’t see it firsthand. Or beforehand.

Paul:  Yeah. So I get out on the mat and you go, “OK, everyone, do push‑ups.” And we all dropped to do push‑ups. And you said, “Well, you three” ‑‑ the three of us who were brand new ‑‑ “you obviously don’t know how to do a push‑up.” And we went from push‑ups, to squats, to sit ups. And then we did some rolling. And then it was, “OK, everybody grab a knife. Now stab your partner.” And you’d lay on the ground and this guy would stab down at you and you had to move. This was entirely different from anything I had ever done before and it just made so much sense. Not to mention the whole, “I have no idea how or why this works,” that I had to do it. I signed up that day.

Brad:  How does it relate to the grappling, the wrestling, the different things you had done before? Where does it fit in with these other martial arts?

Paul:  That’s an interesting question and I’ve been thinking about that a lot in the last year. Especially as new people come into the school having done other things. When I started there were things that I kept reverting to because that is what I knew. It wasn’t that I was trying to ignore what we were doing, but that was a reflex that I had developed. Somebody grabs onto me and I grab their head for a clinch or something like that. What I’ve realized is that I have a greater understanding of why those things work and a much finer understanding of when they are appropriate to be used. Rather than it just being a reflex that I do this whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. I have choices on whether someone grabs me and I grab back or I move differently.

It hasn’t really replaced any of those skills. In fact, in some ways, I’m a much better wrestler than I ever was. The way wrestling is taught, particularly in the high school and junior college level in America, it’s very much you learn these techniques, it’s very physically demanding, and it’s all strength and stamina, and there’s not a lot of the mechanics. And Systema, particularly the way you teach it, has a lot of the mechanics and the analysis of do this, you should see these things, you should train to see these things. That I think is the biggest difference.

Brad:  Some people come to Systema for cross training. They don’t want to give up whatever they learned. But, for whatever reason, they come to Systema and think, “Maybe I can add to it or help it.” From what you’ve seen, where does that fit in with somebody trying to continue to do the martial art they’ve learned and then training Systema and then bringing it back?

Paul:  To me, this would be similar to a linguist who has mid‑level or high‑level experience in one or more Romance languages and they decide, “I want to augment this. I’m going to go to learn Latin.” It’s a foundational type thing. If they’re coming in looking for specific techniques, “I have trouble doing this thing and I want to tune that one thing,” they’re probably not going to be satisfied with it. But if they look at it in terms of, “I have this existing skill set. And if I can set that to the side, not to be replaced, but if I can set that to the side so that I can concentrate on what is going on here that is different from what I’ve done,” then they enjoy themselves more, they tend to think that it’s more useful, more appropriate. When they start executing their prior art or their concurrent art, they are much more fluid and much more powerful when that happens.

Brad:  So I haven’t been here for a while and seen a lot of people who come to Systema with previous martial arts background. Do you notice any patterns surrounding them or that they follow when they come in?

Paul:  The majority, probably 70‑80%, tend to come in with, “I know these other things,” and they appear to be hesitant to either replace them or not follow them. I need to be careful here because, if you spent years training something, then you have these reflexes. The training was there for a purpose and you have these things. We all have them. But, at the same time, there seems to be, in these cases, where they’re afraid to revert back to beginner status. They don’t play as much. They don’t just experiment. When we’re doing things like, “Watch how the body moves when you push here,” and then you push, and push, and push, and then people fall down, or you start walking, they tend to get impatient. Myself, I call this “I’m tired of dancing.” OK, this is all well and good, but now I’m going to pick somebody up and slam them on the ground. Or, I’m just going to start jabbing and crossing.

Brad:  It sounds like it’s more like they have a sense of pride in what they’ve accomplished and they want to try to use it all the time in class.

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  Versus saying, “Well, I have this stuff and let me see what they’re doing…

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  …to maybe get to a different level of training even.”

Paul:  Right. Or, “Let me see this diverge for a little bit and then I can take it back in meld it together.” But you have to give it enough time, so that you see what’s different about Systema and the way we train as opposed to the curriculum.

Brad:  There’s a lot more to do.

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  Contrast that to somebody who comes in, and you’ve seen a bunch of people with no previous martial arts background, what is it like for them?

Paul:  The people with martial arts background, they might have a little bit of a problem setting that aside and reverting to beginner. But the people with no martial arts background, they either have experience with physical training more or, in some cases, they don’t have that much experience with physical training. In either case, the biggest step they have to make is (A) getting used to people being close to them and doing these things to them and (B) is being willing to do those things to their partner in order to get better.

Brad:  And they don’t want to hurt anyone.

Paul:  They don’t want to hurt anyone, they have no concept of what an attack is. You say, “Here’s a knife, stab them,” and they literally put the point of the knife on the surface of your skin. There is no forward pressure, there’s no sliding back and forth, there’s no concept of slash. It’s just that I’m going to put this on you.

Brad:  Right. They have no intention of actually attacking you.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Interesting. A lot of people come to Systema because they grew up in the military, reality‑based arts versus kind of a sporting thing. So it just gets kind of lumped in with all these arts, with people in camouflage. How do you rate its effectiveness for the idea of self‑defense? In more than just one narrow category, in general.

Paul:  Having surveyed, in my life, having surveyed quite a few martial arts and having attended a fair number of introductory classes at different schools, the things that I learned in the first two weeks of Systema were much more immediately applicable to an actual confrontation, based on my experience with confrontation, than a lot of the things that I had learned in, say, my introductory taekwondo thing or the white belt curriculum at a judo school. Prior to starting Systema, the most immediately effective techniques that I’ve ever seen were the knife and gun disarms that I had been shown from Krav Maga. I was at an edged weapons class at….

Brad:  Was that Lynn Thompson?

Paul:  Yeah, the edged weapons work was based on Lynn Thompson’s stuff, but the armed against a knife and the unarmed against the gun were based on Krav Maga. Those were very eminently practical, very trainable. We had soccer moms, we had police officers who were all in one class. We had two hours and they were effective. They were. Whether they would work if there was another person there who wasn’t pointing a gun at you while you were attacking this person who’s pointing a gun at you. His partner can be beating you, or running, or jumping on you.

The reason I never trained in Krav Maga is I went to a school, there is a very well‑known one in Bloomfield, and I didn’t want to go to any training. There was a lot of yelling. You have to yell, you have to. I don’t really like doing that.

But the approach Systema of starting from the worst case possibility, you are starting with someone sitting on top of you or holding a knife to your throat, and working backwards. The biggest thing I find for that is that it takes the fear, you don’t have to worry, “Oh my God! What’s going to happen, if this guy gets on top of me?” because you have done that.

That doesn’t mean you like it, that doesn’t mean it’s good, but you have some experience doing that and you have some experience getting out or moving and having success with that. I think that, in terms of overcoming that initial you have to build a set of skills in order to be safe, I think that’s what brings it out more than anything else.

Brad:  You mentioned that you saw something that you liked, you went to a school, and you have to make an informed decision, basically. You went in and said, “Nah. I don’t like the way they train.” With Systema, a lot of people see it, which you didn’t, and they tend to make a judgment about what’s going on in class based on an informative clip. What would you tell those people?

Paul:  I would tell them they have to experience it. And, to a certain degree, I kind of didn’t follow this advice when I went to the Krav Maga school. I didn’t get on their mat. Part of that is they wanted me to sign up before…

Brad:  Before you’ve even tried it?

Paul:  Before I tried it. But the other part is, I was familiar with the techniques and I have done research, but I had it done to me. So I knew with that kind of felt like. But with Systema, more than most, in a lot of cases what is happening is there is not a lot of external cues. A lot of the introductory level work is people very close to you. And you are working on affecting their body. Unless you feel it, it doesn’t really make sense. And the difference between doing it well and doing incorrectly, or ineffectively and effectively, is not something that you can see. For example, standing there taking your hand and running it along their body, you are curving into the body and actually applying pressure to move them. But that is very difficult to see unless it is staged and there is someone talking and explaining it: “See how I am contouring to the body, and see how this moves in at this point.” So you can just run it right along the surface of the person that stands there, and they don’t fall down.

It looks, particularly when things are being demonstrated, and you have people that have done it for a little bit of time. It starts to look contrived.

Brad:  Gotcha. So how about this question. Seeing it maybe from a point before you really understood what was going on, and how does that compare to now, at the level you are at and having trained for a while, now from the level that you are at, now seeing some high level Systema stuff? Because obviously your ability and your experience level has changed. So what is the difference there?

Paul:  I remember, I had been doing it just under a month, and I came to you and I said, “I want to see more.” So I got the Systema hand‑to‑hand DVD. It’s kind of the basic, watched it three or four times, trying to figure it out. About six months later I went back, after training a minimum of two days a week. I went back, I watched it again, and I could see more things because I had a better idea of what was going on. Because I had a frame of reference, and I had physical experience trying to do these things. And now, when I watch it, it’s like, “Oh, yeah.” And what I like watching is high level Systemas, the different high‑level level Systemas, and how they move differently. Vlad has very distinct Vlad‑like movements. Michael has very distinct Michael‑like movements. It’s their backgrounds, it is their physical being, their size, their physical abilities, their strength.

And then watching the Americans who have all of this other different experience. You know, Al with the Filipino, Martin with the Kempo and Judo, you with Kempo and Tai Chi. You can see that this is a layered thing, but this kind of sits atop all of the layers and makes it more potent.

But I think it is a lot more educational and informative to watch the videos after you have actually been participating in class. And then go back and review them periodically, because you will see things that you haven’t seen before or didn’t understand to look for before.

Brad:  Right, and it is like anything people try to learn from a tape. It is not going to work too well without access to somebody who can tweak them and get them to understand what is actually supposed to be taught. Do you think there is an ideal Systema personality type? And if so, what is it?

Paul:  I don’t know if there is an ideal Systema personality type, but I think there are some ideal traits. The traits seem to be fairly common. We have a lot of different personality types coming in on a fairly regular basis. But the biggest one is everybody is curious about it, and everybody who does it regularly, or has been doing it for a period of time and stuck with it. Everybody has a level of patience, they understand that there are some things that you have to really work at. Since it doesn’t have the set technique‑based [unintelligible 19:14] , it’s not like you have to be able to execute a front snap kick that is this high off the ground three times in a row.

They understand that it is a little more nebulous, it is a little more of, “I have to be able to evaluate. I have to train more honestly, and I have to be able to understand that that may have worked.” But you have to have a lot more control over your own training. You have to be responsible of taking charge over your training and doing a lot more self‑assessment while you are on the mat in order to get that.

That is pretty common as far as we have people who are very confident and very self‑assured and extroverted. We have people who are introverted, we have people who are in incredible physical shape, we have people who are incredibly flexible. We have people who sit behind a desk eight or nine hours a day.

Brad:  Is there a kind of mind set that you see that learns faster or takes them longer because of how they think about it?

Paul:  The ones I have noticed who seem to take a little longer are the ones who want to constantly break down and analyze every little thing while they are on the mat. The ones who want to step through while they are analyzing, it tends to take them a lot longer to develop the skills. And the ones who, for a lack of a better word, surrender to the training and then think about it afterwards… I find people who will do something on, say, Tuesday night, and they come in Wednesday or Thursday and they go, “You know, I was thinking about this.” And they’ll start off asking questions, and will work with some of those questions, and then will just get right back into it. I find they tend to pick it up and get through it.

The ones who want to over analyze, because they are doing rather than developing the rep… Because a lot of these things, you just have to get the reps in. It is like anything else, you have to get the physical reps in, working with your body and your opponent. They either figure out that they need to put that on hold, or they won’t come back. They stop moving.

Brad:  How would you describe the overall Systema class experience to somebody?

Paul:  I have actually tried to do this with varying degrees of success, and it hasn’t really gotten more or less successful the longer I have been doing it. A little more familiarity with the topic though helps. Basically I start explaining: “This is what Systema is, and this is what you are not going to see. You are not going to see us lining up. It is not going to look like your jujitsu class, your karate class, your tai class. We are going to do warm ups, the warm ups are going to seem a little different because we do them slower or we concentrate on the form or the breathing while we are doing these. You will see some exercises that you have never seen, but that is not uncommon at a martial arts school.

Then you are going to jump right in with whatever the topic. Brad may go, ‘So what do you want to work on?’ He may ask you, he may have asked you ahead of time, he may ask you, ‘What are you afraid of?” You have constructed entire segments of class based on someone coming in and saying, “Well, I am afraid of someone jumping, grabbing me and throwing me down, and grabbing my neck.”

“And we are going to spend a lot of time moving, and we are going to spend a lot of time working with the body. We are not going to spend a lot of time on, ‘Your hand specifically goes here, and you are looking for step by step sequences.'”

Brad:  You mentioned it a little bit, but I mean how do you see the topic of fear and training and dealing with fear in Systema? One, how in class, does Systema differ from other forms of training?

Paul:  This was something, the joke is you come into Systema and you find you don’t know how to do pushups, and you don’t know how to breathe and you don’t know how to sit up. But what I discovered was, I didn’t understand what fear was. As a wrestler, you learn to guard against headlocks and chokes. And going to boarding school you learn to guard against people coming up and choking you. So I had these built in reflexes and as people would get their hands in around my neck or my kids my hands would go up and tense up. And to me that was just, I am a little bit sensitive of that. I wasn’t trying to avoid anything. And when I started taking Systema. This was six months to a year into it, I realized that this was actually a fear‑based reaction. And so to me the frank admission and definition, and working with it is what completely sets it apart. It is like wrestlers are afraid of being pinned.

Brad:  And that doesn’t mean that they are cowards.

Paul:  No, that’s the thing. It has nothing to do with that. But what the fear does, it brings the tension and it brings the, “I can’t figure out what to do, and I have stopped breathing and I am running out of air.” Working with it ‑‑ I hesitate to use controlling because that has a whole different set of connotations ‑‑ but working with that fear and understanding it and being able to see it, feel it coming on. And it is not so much controlling as it is going, “OK. This is what’s happening and I can work within that. I can defer the fear completely taking over until it’s alright for me to.” And once again working from the worst possible scenario. You are going to come into class and we’ve got 12 people, and, “Oh. You are going to lay down with 12 people on top of you, your hands are going to be at your sides, and you are going to move out of that.” That is a very, very terrifying thing for just about everybody.

Brad:  Once you learn to master your fear response, and to deal with that, what is on the other side of that?

Paul:  For me it is kind of acceptance, it is kind of freedom, freedom’s probably closest, but working with it is going, “OK. I can still…” It is sort of helplessness. People tell you, there is always something you can do, there’s always something you can do. But this is a physiological tool that enables me to find something else to do. The joke is the test pilot who’s going, “I’m not  but if the plane goes in, I am going to try the next thing on the list.” That is kind of the way I look at it. I am going to be figuring out. I will be able to work within the situation.

There are things that, you know, when the systems that run your company are down and you’re losing X number of thousands or hundreds of thousands  dollars an hour . That’s a fear‑generating event. The physiological response comes on and the ability to just go, “OK. I see this, this is solvable,” being able to work within that rather than just freezing up, that’s huge, that is so unstressful. And it affects the people around you. That person who is calm, cool and collected, that’s…

Brad:  Well, you know, a lot of people get angry because of their fear and even violent because of their own fear. Again, what kind of experience have you seen with that? Or just insights with once you can actually deal with that fear response, these other things either coming out, being less and not coming out or…

Paul:  That’s a good one. Two jobs ago I worked at a company, that the founder was [unintelligible 28:22] at very high‑stress level. Office was in conflict: screaming, fights and stupid little games where the two founders will get in the fight and they will try and bring people in on either side of the argument. “You have to be on my side or you’re against me,” and that kind of thing. And that’s a very stressful thing that brings on those responses. I found myself not being able to respond [unintelligible 28:46] , not being able to think with that. To me this was a violent situation and a violent reaction was rising up. You’re standing up, and you’re pounding on the table and you’re yelling back at them. That doesn’t get anywhere and it certainly didn’t help. And the ability to go, “Oh, wait a minute,” to recognize I can always see what will happen afterwards, the ability to recognize that gave the ability to go, “We’re not doing this,” and walk out. And just completely defused, from my standpoint, the situation.

Paul:  Right, which is the same thing if you’re in a bar and you get into that. You can say, “I’m leaving,” and not deal with it.

Brad:  Right, exactly. So, breathing, obviously, is really central to Systema and excelling at it, so I guess a good place to start would be with the breathing and the fear connection kind of what you’ve seen helping with that.

Paul:  This was a something that I thought wasn’t… When I started, I didn’t pick up this connection. I don’t know if I missed the obvious clues or there’s a lot of this that isn’t explained properly or what.

Brad:  Yeah, I’m just not saying it every day.

Paul:  [laughs] But everybody who describes it seems to describe it a little differently. Eventually, I think I was in class and going, “So what does everybody do? You get surprised, you inhale and you stop because you’re wired to do that.” Then, when you breathe out, you automatically have to breathe back in because that’s another automatic wired thing. That was what got me into the breathing and movement is connected. Then, not long after that, we were doing the “when you’re breathing, you are moving.” Some part of your body is moving and that I was going, “OK.”

So then that made it possible for me to, when we were doing the drills, you turn around and there’s a knife in your face or a gun in your face or somebody just standing really close, but that initial evaluation and the assessment and coupling the “I need to move” from the situation with how fast you’re breathing and how forcefully and how deeply. That started to make the connection.

Then there’s this ancillary part: the endurance. When you’re really, really tired and you focus on “I’m going to breathe. As long as I’m moving, I’m going to breathe.” The first time you stop breathing ‑‑ we were doing groundwork with three or four other people ‑‑ the first time you stop breathing, you never ‑‑ well, in my case ‑‑ I can never get back to where it is. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten to the point where I can prolong how long it’s going to be, but I’m never going to get my breath caught back up.

Once you lose the breath, I can either breathe fast enough to get the air or I can’t move that fast at that point. Or, I can move that fast, but I can’t breathe at this point. It’s going to fall off the end. So the breathing and response to the fear, and the fear causing the physical tension, and then using the breathing to get over the physical tension. To me, those are the big, big connections that I needed to make.

Once that happened, then a lot of the more subtle aspects like breathe faster or dealing with the fear or dealing with the tension of being locked up and grabbed or unfamiliar, that started to become a lot easier to work with mentally. And then the physical part is just working.

Brad:  Again, another aspect of Systema people kind of are incredulous about, again dealing with fear and breathing, is the striking aspect of the art. Maybe you can explain a little bit about your experience with the punching and maybe how they help you, how it’s not just destructive, why it’s something that, eventually, people come up and ask for.

Paul:  The striking is really interesting. First of all, without the competitive mindset ‑‑ we’re not training people to go into a ring and box, we’re not training people to step into a cage and fight ‑‑ that takes a lot of the mano‑a‑mano thing out of it. That puts it more on the training where we all want to learn it. But even when people have learned it, they won’t necessarily like, personally… There’s not necessarily that aggression. There’s more of a curiosity and that helps a lot when you’re getting hit. This is a potentially damaging, physically and mentally, type of thing. The other part is with the breathing, and explaining it as dissipating the energy. And this I was really fortunate on because I remember this explanation from the very first time I did the striking class: “You’re not taking the punch. The punch is hitting you, but you’re not standing there trying to be a wall and have that bounce back or stay within you.”

It’s a little hard to explain; it’s much easier to actually demonstrate that. That’s one. This is where people who have never done any kind of martial arts tend to pick this part up faster than the ones who have, because the ones ‑‑ particularly the people who have been hit ‑‑ they want to tense up.

Brad:  So they’re ingraining that fear response.

Paul:  They’re ingrained with the fear response or they’re ingrained with “lock the muscles to protect my head from getting whipped back or internal damage to my organs.” But the thing is, when you get it and you’re being hit, and you’re with people you trust with trust built up, it works so well and you come out feeling so energized. You feel relaxed. And, to be perfectly honest, you don’t have that many bruises. You have bruises from, “I moved my arm at the wrong time and I caught your knuckle on the elbow. Bone got in the way.” But you don’t have these deep, purple…

Brad:  That the people are tensing up all the time.

Paul:  You’re not seeing contusions that stick around for weeks or even months.

Brad:  What’s the feeling like after it’s all done? Your ability to… This is a self‑defense martial arts.

Paul:  This is a self‑defense martial art and I just stood in a room and had three senior instructors punch me, and I didn’t collapse. I didn’t fall down. These are hard strikes, and you can feel the energy moving through your body and I could deal with that. So that means, if I get in a situation and I get hit ‑‑ whether I get hit because something falls on me, whether I get hit because I trip and fall onto something, or whether someone punches me and I don’t see it or move ‑‑ I know that I can protect myself. I can move with that, I can go and I can judge whether that was painful or whether I was hurt or whether I am seriously injured.

Brad:  If you were attacked by somebody with that knowledge, how would that help dictate your response? Let’s say you’re out and somebody gets a little bit too aggressive and finally they wind up doing something stupid.

Paul:  Right. I know what it’s like to be hit. My glasses get knocked off on the mat. Sometimes I take them off, so I’m not as concerned… I used to be very concerned about not being able to see my opponent. Part of that was because I would get hit. I’d get in a fight when I was high school and my glasses get knocked off, and then I have to grab the guy. Once you grab on to someone, I can control them, but, occasionally, somebody else would be there. In the real world, as it were, usually things don’t happen one‑on‑one. So that’s one less thing that increases my fear. That’s one more ‑‑ I know that I’ll be able to see things in my periphery, so I may get tagged in the head ‑‑ there are many more things that I can sort out as these are not things I have to be worried about.

If I turn around and someone punches in the ribs or punches me over the liver or in the kidneys, I know (A) when I feel it ‑‑ at the very least when the contact is made ‑‑ I will move. I will move away from that somehow. I will dissipate. I’m not going to stand there. It’s not going to blast entirely on my body and drop me there.

There are always the things: I have to make sure there isn’t somebody behind me with a pipe. But the training that we do enables me to go, “This is not great and I shouldn’t be complacent, and definitely not complacent, but at the same time, it’s not completely brand new. This is not a script I’ve never seen in any way, shape or form.”

Brad:  Now, for the tough questions. What are your thoughts about Systema Colorado?

Paul:  My thoughts about Systema Colorado are I’m very, very fortunate to have found it, just point blank. Having never looked at a Systema school and having not looked at a martial arts school in five or six years in any way, shape or form, to have found Systema Colorado, which, yes, you teach Systema, you teach kempo, but I was very fortunate to find a school that fits me and also my family. Could I learn Systema from other people? Yes. I’ve been to seminars. But would I train with them on an extended basis? Maybe yes, maybe no. I got very, very lucky in terms of I didn’t go on a six‑month hunt for a school. I lucked into one.

Brad:  What would your advice be to someone who is interested in training in Systema?

Paul:  Don’t worry about what you see on YouTube. Don’t worry about videos. If you’re going to watch a class, come in and watch one class with the expectation in yourself that you are going to, then, take the next class and, to be perfectly honest, there’s no reason not to get on the mat. The other thing is to give it at least four weeks, coming twice a week ‑‑ at least eight classes and preferably 16 or even 24 ‑‑ before you really make the commitment or decide this really isn’t for me. Because, like most things, it may be that Systema isn’t quite right for you, but I honestly believe you’re one of the best martial arts instructors I’ve seen and you’re definitely one of the best I’ve ever experienced. That, in and of itself, it may be that that helps somebody quantify what does and doesn’t work and maybe that causes them to look for something else that you teach. I think that should not be undervalued or understated.

Brad:  One last question. This is fairly common when people do anything to a high level ‑‑ martial arts, dancing, anything they do ‑‑ they get to a point where it extends beyond their realm of training. It goes outside the gymnasium, it goes outside the martial arts school, it goes outside the music studio, whatever it is, into the rest of their lives. Whether or not that’s kind of a religious, spiritual way or if it’s just a secular way where it helps with family or anything like that. What have you noticed, if anything, that this stuff ‑‑ we’re talking about fear and breathing and all of these things ‑‑ how does that permeate and pervade the rest of your life? What have you noticed?

Paul:  What I have noticed particularly over the last two years is it’s very easy for me to go, “Whoa, wait a minute. This isn’t worth this level of emotional investment.” That’s huge. That makes it possible… You know what it’s like being a parent and having a disagreement with your kid. It’s a difference of view point. It’s very serious to them and you can’t just say, “That’s wrong,” but, at the same time, their response to that is annoying or it’s infuriating. You’re just like, “I don’t need to engage with this. I’m fine with this. I’ll be here.”

That has helped me tremendously in dealing with Jordan and Duncan. That same ability, just understanding the fear response, just understanding that physiological response and going, “This is fear. The fact that I’m feeling it is no… This is what is happening and if I don’t do something about it, this is the end result. If I don’t want that end result, these are things that I can do, whether it’s walking away or whether it’s breathing, or whether it’s doing a mental exercise ‘how bad can this get?'”

To a certain degree, there’s a “how bad can this get?” when last night I had [laughs] people on every limb and somebody sitting on my chest and punching me. [laughs] They’re trying to punch me in the mouth. It has widened my perspective and I really like the feeling of “this really isn’t worth that level of emotional investment.” We’re not going to fight about this. The fight’s not going to be around this knife or the fight’s not going to be around this idea, or the fight’s not going to be around this semantic definition that we can’t come to an agreement on.

Brad:  Right. I think I’m out of questions, so I’ll say thank you. [laughs]

Paul:  Thanks.

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