Cirque Du Systema

Systema is a martial art that can be practiced safely throughout the entire span of your life.  I know many people who are well-past the age of “cage fighting” who are exceptional at Systema.  The breathing, relaxation, mobility and strength training keep our bodies going for as long as possible.  Within the scope of Systema training is a subset of exercises that I call Cirque Du Systema, after Cirque Du Soleil the acrobat troupe.

Fellow instructor Scott Meredith first put words to what I was thinking when I started seeing exercises that, at first were challenging, then becoming increasingly improbable for the average person to perform.  While impressive, some exercises started to remind me of the circus and got me thinking, “what does this have to do with self-defense” and “do people have to be able to do this to learn Systema”?

Within every art there becomes a point wherein the art becomes more “art” and divorced from outside reality.  Examples of memorizing counters-to-counters-to counters to attacks that are low on the probability scale abound in martial arts.  While of course Systema does none of this there are some head-scratching exercises that leave people wondering how this will help them disarm a knife at their throat.

I once saw a Tae Kwon Do demonstration in which the spry, young performers exhibited jumping, spinning kicks landing in the splits.  “Wow!,” the person next to me commented, “that is amazing…but I could never do that.”  He then moved on.  That is called over-impressing.

Likewise, standing vertically on your shoulders and walking around, hanging from your chin on a pull-up bar, one-arm bridging, etc. definitely are things you see in the Cirque.  Admittedly, these tricks are fun to try, but with limited training time it is more productive to focus on the core exercises that emphasize motions a normal body would go through during natural daily movement.  There are other disciplines, like the aforementioned circus, yoga, parkour enthusiasts, gymnasts and break-dancers that will always exceed Systema on these acrobatic terms.  Where Systema excels is combat and the majority of training should serve these ends.

The good thing about Cirque Du Systema is that it keeps you humble and shows you that there is always some new challenge to overcome if you put your mind and body to it.

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