Fighting…With Sticks

It’s been too long since fellow Senior Systema Instructor Martin Wheeler has visited Colorado, but fortunately Hollywood didn’t keep him away this weekend.  You know I’m not one for meticulously writing a review explaining every little drill Martin taught.  That would be a particularly “un-Systema-like” review.  Rather, I’ll recap what Martin was trying to teach this weekend.  What I can say is that everyone had short sticks in their hands the entire weekend.  One day on the ground, the next standing.

Martin taught what he excels at, moving with an attacker and creating off the movement.  The stick was just another tool he used to get the point across.  Of course there are specific things to know about working with or against a short stick and students learned this as well.  The stick is a good teacher, it is unfeeling and unforgiving, forcing everyone to move correctly or get dinged.  After all this time in Systema it still amazes me how this simple concept of moving, then finding a way to effective diffuse an attack works so well that even a student with zero martial art experience, Todd Winkler, could come to the seminar and be putting guys on the ground in a matter of a few minutes training and exploring.

One key principle Martin stressed with the stick, or any object, was that it is a tool and you are the weapon.  People have a tendency to put their psyche into a weapon, in this case the stick, and completely forget that they have other tools and ways of fighting.  In an instant the stick may be disarmed, change possession or be rendered momentarily ineffectual.  “It’s not fighting with sticks, it’s fighting…with sticks.” That pause makes all the difference in how you use a stick.

As for Martin’s work.  I said it at the beginning of the weekend, “he gets better every time I see him.” This proved true once again and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.  His work was smooth, graceful and totally in control.  Mirror neurons are an amazing piece of evolution–I could feel myself improving just watching him.   Everyone appreciated Martin’s hands-on work with them because it is such a direct way to understand and learn Systema.  That was a huge benefit of being there.

The seminar was well-attended.  Instructor Lance Rewerts made the flight out from Iowa just to be here (Martin will be teaching at Lance’s in May, btw,  We also had some high-level, open-minded and friendly Aikido instructors attend.  Systema Colorado students…you guys rock!  Thanks for coming out and sweating it out this weekend.  Martin asked me to tell you that everyone worked hard–that this was a grueling weekend–everyone moved very well and he was impressed that everyone is improving.  He had more kind words for you, I just can’t remember them word for word.  All in all, excellent.  I’m proud everyone put on a good showing for one of the top instructors in our art.

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