Explaining or Training?

One of my fondest Systema memories is the first day of the first training trip I took to Russia.  There was a small group of us with a scholarly translator who never dealt with the military or martial arts.  I didn’t speak Russian and none of the Russians spoke English very well either.  Yet we training for 9 hours that day and my body moved better than it ever had since I was a child.  Because we could not stand there and explain every movement and idea into the ground we spent our time smiling at each other with lots of being knocked down and getting up.  This day was a breakthrough, not only for my Systema, but also for the idea that training trumps explaining most of the time.
Fast forward several years.  Yesterday in class I had several beginners who didn’t know how to roll.  This was a large class and I didn’t want to kill time teaching beginners all the fine points of rolling.  So, we began with the rolling drill wherein two people hold hands and roll together.  Literally within moments the new people were doing “textbook” rolls with their partners.  One student, Debbie, said she had been practicing all week and this few minutes got her moving correctly-with no explanation other than to roll slowly as well as a demonstration.
Continuing with class, we did many movement drills–evasion and counterattacks to move into free-sparring.  I performed a demonstration with Joe who kept breaking his own structure allowing me to easily put him down.  As we continued–without explanation–it clicked for Joe and he kept his Form.  It instantly became much more challenging for me to put him down.  This small demo brought me back to my own realizations on that first training day in Russia.
Explanations, and Joe’s own processing and understanding of what he learned, only came later at the end of class.  Had all the explanations came first he would have been looking for the principles instead of experiencing them.  This insight is exactly what Paul, Debbie’s husband, said occurred to him in class.  He said when he stopped trying to do what I showed or said then he moved much more naturally and effectively.
What transpired in this one class, or any one Systema class, could fill volumes with explanations, break-downs, principles and fine details.  Instead, we leave that class behind and move on to the next unique training session.

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