Interview with Brad Scornavacco Part 3



Paul Trout:  This is Paul Trout with Systema Colorado. Welcome back. Today we are going to talk about one of the larger mystiques in Systema, striking. This engenders quotes from training boxers such as “I have never been hit so hard in my entire life” and “I was at a seminar and this six‑foot guy just dropped.” In my experience it’s composed of senses composed of moving, relaxation, generating power from the body rather than the extremities, has a steeper learning curve than some of the other fundamental skills.

But the allure of the power is one of the things that attracts people to Systema and it’s very common to have people enter the school and say “I just want to do the hitting. I want to learn how you guys hit and take that back to my martial art” or “I was in a seminar and one of my friends said I should check you guys out and maybe I needed to be hit by you.”

So with all the talk and methodology I thought we’d chat about that this evening. So just jumping in, why is it inappropriate to work on strikes in class?

Brad:  Why is it inappropriate? [laughter]

Paul:  Inappropriate.

Brad:  That’s a good question because a lot of people I know ‑‑ it’s funny because, some Systema instructors come in, people come in with an ego and, like you said, they want to prove themselves and so the easiest thing to do in Systema is hit them. And you get an instant reaction. It usually happens. Systema surely knows to train you how to hit hard and deep so you get a complete ‑‑ the proof’s in the pudding. It’s in the hitting. But when is it inappropriate? This is a question that really is ‑‑ it’s hard to answer because you really have to be attuned to the people that you’re hitting and that’s going to be one of the overarching kind of themes with striking. If you see somebody coming in who is really afraid, if you just start working with strikes with them and you have the attitude of “Whoa, you look like you’re afraid so we’re just going to hit you,” it can make it worse.

Ideally it would be wonderful to be able to say “Well, this is really good for you and it will help and so we’ll hit you and you’ll be this different person.” But if the person isn’t ready to handle it, it can make it worse. Not only will it will make it worse for them; where it just ‑‑ it could just make them more fearful and they’ll also resent you.

That’s kind of one of the things that you can say that that’s an issue that they have to work on. You can say “Well yeah, you just have to work on that. It’s not me hitting you.” Well, you’re the one hitting them, right? So if you’re ever going to work on strikes, you have to take responsibility for the fact that you hit the person.

It’s very difficult to say “Well, I’ll just deal with it” or “Don’t be proud of yourself” or “Don’t feel sorry for yourself” and say “Wait a minute. I’m standing here with my hands on. You hit me as hard as you could or fairly hard.” So I think if you’re going to hit somebody especially if you’re in a teaching mode, you have to take that responsibility for what you did to a student because they come to you in trust.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  So what I tried to do with people is explain all that beforehand kind of like we’re doing now so that they will understand it going in and it might not clear the air completely but it helps mitigate the fact that when you do work on striking, it brings up a lot of stuff. Psychologically more so than just physically getting hit because by the time you’re done with the striking with anybody physically and for the most part they’re OK. It’s, maybe they got some bruises and at certain times obviously there’s ‑‑ people do get hurt in training but it’s just part of the course. But a lot of the ‑‑ being hit brings up a lot of bad memories, bad experiences, things like that that people have to deal with.

So that’s a good and bad thing.

If you bring that out of somebody and you’re not ready to handle it yourself, if you have no, I guess, psychological background or understanding of people about how to help them with that, then personally I think that kind of thing is irresponsible.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  So being inappropriate times of ‑‑ sometimes you have to build the person up before they’re ready to be struck and then get stronger so that kind of again there’s a kind of that baseline you’re working with. You have to look at them and say “If I hit this person, they’re going to crumble and they’re going to leave.” If you’re doing that to prove that Systema works, then it’s the wrong reason. So if you get somebody who is ‑‑ a lot of times what will happen is people will come up and ask. That’s a good sign for the most part. If I go, OK, now they’re kind of ready. They want to try it ‑‑ and of course, you shouldn’t just haul off and him them as hard as you can which I’ve seen people do. So when you do that, you have a person who might be a little bit more psychologically ready to deal it and handle it.

I will give you some of my own horror stories. I taught a seminar and I had a guy volunteer to do strikes and the guy was ‑‑ he was a whole head taller than I was and wider than I was. I can walk in the guy’s shadow and no one would see me. So he had had a larger Systema instructor hit him and he thought ‑‑ he told him. He’s like, “Well, of course you could hit hard because you’re very large. I want to know someone smaller.” So they had me work with strikes on him. I’m fairly slender and I don’t look like a gorilla.

So I took them through step by step. I explained everything. I did about everything you could say to somebody before striking and worked with them and talked to them, got feedback from while I was doing the whole thing. You know what the guy said? He felt great and everything else. It was wonderful and I thought it really worked and the guy didn’t came back too the seminar the next day.

He had to go ‑‑ he saw a massage therapist and he was like dealing with all this stuff. He’s crying and he’s mad at me and mad at himself and mad at everybody. Just all of these emotions just poured out of this guy and he just really, really freaked out. Oddly enough, he’s still training in Systema and other people could hit him and he’s fine but he doesn’t want to see me because I was the kind of the first one.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  So if you’re going to do that with people, that happens. Even in the case where what I did in that case was explain everything ad infinitum, ad nauseam, secure this to this to this. This is going to happen to this. How is this feeling if you’re doing this just ‑‑ ? Again, I think just emotionally is what all the stuff comes out so if you’re going to do striking, you got to be prepared for that to happen so…

Paul:  Thank you. So a little more logistically, how often should strikes be worked and should they be worked as in dedicated striking classes or just as part of ‑‑ where this is a point you should be thinking about striking somebody or the strike comes from this?

Brad:  You know this idea that pain is too much pleasure?

Paul:  [agrees].

Brad:  Physically you get sensitized to the strikes, so if you see people getting struck over time maybe they got struck the first few times and they’re OK and then all of a sudden you see the following strikes and then less of a strike is working more ‑‑

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  ‑‑ because the body is primed for that. You’re getting a physiological response to be struck every time. And so what happens is ‑‑ and then ‑‑ again you run into it if you do it too often, you can start ingraining more fear into the person instead of overcoming in. Let’s say you did a striking class. You did a couple of hours of striking and the same people come back and their bodies are all physically is still bruised and even mentally and psychologically kind of going through all that stuff and then you do it like another one back to back.

You can ingrain some more fear and then if you do it too much with the same people. So there is that kind of, also there has to be kind of a recovery time from the strikes for people to do it again. Otherwise, it can really just do more harm than good and you can just kind of take energy out of people.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  From too much so again it’s like that pain is like too much pleasure, too much of a good thing if you do it all the time. That works back into when is it appropriate and inappropriate to work with people? Let’s say you just did strike ‑‑ maybe did a striking class and the next day you come in and somebody comes in and he’s this very macho guy and he’s like, “I want to do strikes.” You think, “We just did strikes yesterday. Everybody is all sore from it. I mean [indecipherable] [0:08:36.2] strike again. Then you don’t only want to do it there and it has nothing to do with them but it’s just that the other people that can ‑‑

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Now if you’re teaching, if you’re in a situation like you’re teaching and you’re rotating the people who come to class, sure you can do one more day and give the next day for them. So again too much is a bad thing. I mean maybe once a week, I guess, like when you’re doing it dedicated the whole time for the most time you’re doing really deep strikes and then doing all of these, maybe once or maybe twice a week if that. But if you’re doing it ‑‑ you start doing it all the time, everybody is going to start leaving and you’re going to wonder where they went because they’re all sore.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  There is that thing, at least in the United States, where they’re just going to get back up and go to work. The guys are trying going to get up and saying, “I can’t bend. I can’t get up.” Practically there’s that aspect of how often to work in a class. Now if you do ‑‑ if you’re just doing Systema and you’re doing strikes here and there where it’s not a dedicated standing and get punched all the time, then you can do that and you should do that probably more often where OK, you’re doing self‑defense. I punched the guy. OK. Loosen them up and put him down. You can always intersperse that. You don’t have to do it so deep.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  The deep part of it is the part that, does everybody want to face their fear every single day and stick it in your face all the time, every day it’s geez, it’s all I see? You kind of need some time to deal with it and then overcome in and come back to things and so yeah, maybe a really good time once a week or maybe twice at the most, yeah.

Paul:  Do you think that there is a minimum amount of experience or exposure or training, familiarity with Systema that students should have before they experience their first deep heavy‑duty striking class?

Brad:  No. I don’t think so. I think again more it’s in the psyche of the student if they’re ready for that. I’ve had people come in who kind of like this guys have never done martial arts before and they’re like surfer dudes so they’re totally laid back and they’re just like “Hey dude” and they’re hanging out and their bodies relaxed and they’re kind of ‑‑ they’re just doing that and they do striking and they’re like, “Oh, it’s really cool,” and it doesn’t really affect them because kind of they ‑‑ kind of they’ll follow the kind of the BS that people get to.

They still have that about them. Sometimes you can do it with people like that and they’re totally fine with it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to have a lot of experience but if they don’t have any striking experience on hitting in, you got to make sure that they know how to strike properly and they’re forming their fists correctly and they’re not going to hurt themselves and things like that. So mechanically you’re going to teach all those stuff to those guys.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  But as far as the ability to take the strikes and breathe with it, it’s all stuff you can teach in them class and a lot of striking you see in Systema, it’s not all OK, we’re doing striking. Class starts. OK, everybody start punching each other as hard as you can. There is a lot of placing fists, massaging, pressing, pushing. There’s a whole progression to the striking that you can do that isn’t necessarily OK, we’re hitting each other ‑‑

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  ‑‑hard and repeatedly. You can build off the skills to do it and if you can push correctly, you can do a correct strike. That connection between those two allows you to be able to do work with your fists a lot more than just work around the deepest of the hitting. You can definitely do that [indecipherable] [0:12:16.7] yourself. I don’t think there’s necessarily a ‑‑ somebody comes in. You don’t think you want to teach them how to hit somebody if don’t thing they’re quite right in the head. Maybe hold off on it but… [laughter]

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Right? You know what I mean?

Paul:  Yes, your judgment is about it, is this the right thing to do today that’s ‑‑ yeah.

Brad:  Some people ‑‑ some teachers are indiscriminate. If you come in OK, I’ll teach you because it will make you better but I’m not kind of not like that. I’m kind of more ‑‑ do I really want to teach you this? Do I really want to have the [indecipherable] [0:12:46.5] Police come in and say this ‑‑ we found this guy in a bar fight and who’s teaching him how to punch and knock people out? Geez. So I do ‑‑ I do have a sense of responsibility on that about who I’m teaching how to hit. Those are some of the factors you might consider if you’re teaching striking.

Paul:  Are there any specific issues you’ve encountered with striking classes with the mixed sex class, women striking women, men striking women, women striking men that ‑‑ ? Is there anything that you’ve noticed that is kind of like a common theme for people starting out?

Brad:  Yeah, there are. One of them is don’t have couples punching each other [chuckles] .

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  That’s one of those big ones of ‑‑ I ran into a guy on the coast and he was a Systema ‑‑ it was a new Systema shortcut at the time. He had done a couple of seminars. First time they were going to see Vlad and he was with his girlfriend. We were doing ‑‑ striking that day and I went up to him. I kind of met him and said, “You guys shouldn’t be hitting each other.” They kind of like, “Yeah, we kind of thought maybe we shouldn’t,” because they’re so much emotion laden with the strikes. I mean your wife changed you and you know that you guys don’t hit each other.

When you do that with them ‑‑ if you’re really close to somebody, it’s almost like you have a relationship, you have contact and this emotion that comes out in strikes so I’m kind of like, “You didn’t do the dishes last night.” Wham, and you hit each other and it can get worse. That kind of thing I definitely avoid with anybody who’s in a relationship.

With men hitting women, there are ‑‑ well, I guess there are a couple of clients. First you get the guys who really like hitting women and you probably want to talk to them and keep them away from the women [laughter] .

They might like hitting women a little bit too much and you need to ‑‑ you need to work on them and then ‑‑ for the most part it’s the guys who are just uncomfortable hitting women and to a degree I would hope that it’s more natural than the other guy where you feel uncomfortable like, “Hey what? My dad told me never to hit a lady,” things like that growing up with.

Sometimes you just have to overcome with the men. Then the third kind think that they don’t want to hit women because they think that the women are too fragile.

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  So they don’t train honestly saying, ” I don’t want to hit her hard” and they wind up being kind of condescending where the women have to tell them “Hey what? You can hit me. Go ahead.” That happens fairly often where people just ‑‑ they just don’t know what to do and the easiest thing is to ask them, also the women and the women that I train, no, they can take it. OK, you can do this. Do this. This was that. That was OK so as long as you have the lines of communication open, for the most part they can do that.

You have an instance of a woman saying, “Yes, that was my breast and you should hit higher here and go over here and you can work with that.” For the most part a woman who is doing Systema, she’s been doing it, understands enough to say that. It really goes who can read the partner.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  If a woman who has had some experience a little bit more like I ‑‑ what’s going on? Yeah, you could hit me here. Don’t hit me there. They can ‑‑ they can work with that. You can say on one hand, “Well, you might get hit in the breast anyway so you better get used to it.” There is ‑‑ there is OK if some guy attacked me and he hit me once. Fine, I’m dealing with it. Do I want to deal with it as a woman in class every single day? Maybe not. You need to be able to work with that. On the other ‑‑ the flipside, again you have the women who love ‑‑ want to come in and hit the man. [laughter] So like, “Give me my ex‑husband,” and they’re hitting as hard as they can. They usually hit pretty deep too.

For the woman hitting the man there is that structurally or just as far as their fists sometimes if they work on ‑‑ just like new guys too if their wrists aren’t strong enough you’ll see him striking harder than their fist and their wrist can handle so they wind up hurting themselves. So if you’re teaching, it’s something to watch out for, if they’re hitting and always breaking their wrists and they hurt themselves. Sometimes that happens with women hitting.

The other thing with women hitting again is the opposite of the woman who do not want to hit anybody because they don’t want to be seen as unladylike. That’s just one of those cultural things that you don’t do this. You don’t hit people.

You’re nice and they ‑‑ sometimes women will bring that into it, of “Well, I don’t want to him to hate me because I hit him or be mad at me or so those kind of that approval stuff kind of happens and they do not want to hit there. For the most part a lot of the women in Systema that I know they have problems, they’re gone.

So you have that, men striking women, women striking men, women striking other women. Normally they’re pretty good with that. You can still run into the… if there are enough together that somebody doesn’t like anybody then you get the emotion back like there are jealousies in class and ‑‑ that’s a whole sociology of that. A few women and your whole group of men and they’re kind of who wants to be the ‑‑ get all the attention.

I’ve seen that happen and when they work together or they don’t want to work with each other, they want to be completely away so ‑‑ I mean you can’t get around that if you’re teaching. You have to know that those things are going on.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Be able to kind of smooth it over for anybody. Those are some of the things that come up with not just striking but just every aspect of training with ‑‑

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  ‑‑ men and women.

Paul:  So what do you think is the most common mistake people teaching make when they’re teaching strikes?

Brad:  Most common mistake people teaching strikes make?

Paul:  Yeah.

Brad:  I think it might be that responsibility part.

Paul:  OK.

Brad:  Because ‑‑ that really attitudinal. It’s that I see people sometimes when they work on striking. Again, they have that radical, well, it wasn’t me that hit you. It was the strike. If the person is getting upset with you or if you crack their sternum and they say, “That guy punched me, I was trying to learn how to hit and so he cracked my sternum,” you’re responsible for that. I don’t care what your metaphysics are. You’re responsible for that. I think with that part there sometimes there is a sense of ‑‑ you got to think about it. You’re standing there letting someone punch you. There is ‑‑ there is a lot of trust involved in standing there and letting someone punch you.

Paul:  There’s a huge amount of trust involved.

Brad:  There is a sense of “I will show you how hard I can hit you because I’m the teacher.” So you get in to that or people can get into that. It’s a trap of “I’m going to show you how good I am because you’re going to stand there with your hands on. I am going to punch you as hard as I can.” With me, I am very conscious of that and Vlad said once something he wrote on his form once a couple of years ago which was like something to the effect that you should get punched 10 times more than you punch your students or something when you’re working on this because it flips that because the students are the ones punching you instead of you walking into a room scaring everybody in the room because you’re going to hit them so hard and then everybody is already primed to be afraid.

I think that’s the kind of hard to [indecipherable] [0:20:19.6] for the student. That’s good if you’re running ‑‑ you want to keep everybody in line and you just want to rule by fear. I don’t like to do that but people ‑‑ some people do that. They get caught up into that in the same way other martial artist gets caught up into the “I’m the black belt. You’re yellow belt and I’m going to show you how it goes.”

That is a danger that can happen when you’re teaching striking and so in that sense you’ve got to understand. You got to understand that if you put your fist in someone’s body and they freak out, can you handle it?

Or you’re just going to walk away from them saying: “Well, you know what? That’s really just something that’s inside of you that you have to deal with and once you can do that, you can come back and talk to us.” You have to help them. They would not have that response had your fist not hit their body.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  You can say all you want, “Well, they needed it and I was there to heal them and help them that really is all there was.” Yeah, you can say that and maybe it is true and maybe it’s true to a degree but again you’re still responsible for the effects in your class. It’s just like anything else. I teach kids all that. I’m out there. I’m responsible for those kids and adults are just big kids [laughter] in some ways so you’re responsible for what happens in class. If those people leave, OK. Some people might disagree with that [inaudible] [0:21:42.7] . I would say that that’s one of the big mistakes I see.

Paul:  OK. You mentioned briefly that ‑‑ so we jump into why do Systemas talk about strikes and healing so much together? Is it trying to avoid responsibility or is there some connection there?

Brad:  Well, I once heard somebody say, “Well, you’re healing him even if you’re killing him.” Well, OK, if that echoes into the next life and you kill them and you can say you’ve healed them for all eternity, then great but while they’re in this life, if you punch somebody and you break their sternum, I don’t believe that his sternum needed to be broken to teach him a lesson.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  I don’t believe in that personally. If you were a goof and you break the guys ribs because you punched him, then you broke his ribs. I don’t think that you necessarily have to look at it as well, every strike is healing because they’re not. But like I said, if you define it, it’s such that no matter what you do is healing, then it’s an opportunity for healing maybe but that aside, if you get a percussive massage, if you get a Swedish massage, you get a deep tissue massage, if you’re rolfed, sometimes there is pain involved in that, you know, just working of the muscles, the connective tissue, your organs. There is a lot of that that goes on in different healing parts.

It can be painful and people come out of it and they’re thinking, “Wow; I feel much better. Something had loosened up.” Those same types of dynamics happen in Systema striking. Not even just striking, even if you’re doing push‑ups on somebody and you’re working on and you’re giving them pressure and then deep pressure that’s working everything around, when you’re done with that, you feel better.

There is a couple of different levels when we talk about the healing but just on the mechanical level kind of that’s what you’re looking for. Interestingly enough, when somebody has a chronic pain, there is a certain inter‑neuron that when the pain receptors go off and fire you feel pain, it’s designed to shut it off. If you got an acute pain, you would get hurt. Everything would jack up. You feel the pain and there’s another mechanism in the body that says I’ll turn it off.

Basically kind of that’s what happens. It’s pain and the part of the body says I’ll turn the pain off. When people suffer from chronic pain what happens is that message to turn it off somehow or another gets lost and it doesn’t so the pain continues on and on and on.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  And there’s a really interesting way to get that then to fire again which is to give that person more acute pain. I mean it’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  So if get this inter‑neuron and it’s not firing or it ceased to fire and you give the person an acute pain, that’s another signal for it to try to fire again. So if you ‑‑ if you have an itch and you start scratching it, that’s giving that skin more acute pain. Those interneurons fire again to tell you that the pain receptors are shut off and all of a sudden you’re like, “Well, I just better.” You don’t feel any pain anymore. So there are times when people have a chronic pain that factor takes it a way, can take it away. So actually getting hit and get that percussion can actually get the nervous system into firing and tell you to shut off the pain and voila [laughter] hey, it doesn’t hurt anymore, right? That’s one aspect of how it can heal on just ‑‑ on a physical level.

Other levels when you’re just talking about the bodies own, the endocannabinoids like all of your, like the man‑made opiates in the body that happen when, you know, endorphins and everything like that, that when you hit somebody, you can release all that because the body is trying to deaden itself to all of that. And that lasts for a period of time before it levels off and you think, “Wow, it woke me up. Right? You do that until the body goes on alert.

Basically it’s kind of a low‑level stress response and it goes on alert. All that stuff happens and when you’re under stress it’s one of the things that happens. If you want the body to deaden itself to the pain and so if you do that, that happens. I don’t know if we talked about this in another interview but there was on one of the channels, The Discovery Channel or whatever, the woman who ‑‑ she put the hooks in their back and through her skin and hung her around and so ‑‑ she said it felt like ecstasy.

She just was in bliss and so wonderful and she was hanging from these hooks like the Native Americans, did all that. They show her flying on the room and they said, “After about 10 minutes if they don’t let the hooks out, it becomes one of the most extreme pain she can imagine.” They said that that was basically after all those endocannabinoids. Everything went ‑‑ they basically ran their course.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Then the fact that like, OK, I’m hanging by my skin. OK. Now again, it’s exquisitely painful. When I saw that, I thought, “Hey, that’s sounds a lot like striking. You strike for a while and you feel better but then if you keep on striking like.

Paul:  It’s the first strike…

Brad:  Oh, this just hurts more. Oh no, it hurts more. By the time the person even feints toward hitting you, you’re just like ‑‑ you’re folding up. I don’t want to get hit again. Those kinds of mechanisms happen. That kind of thing happens with it. Some of those things physiologically you kind of wonder what’s going on. On another level, the way with healing is that again, when you get hit in the solar plexus, you want to think about all of the nerves that are inside the intestines giving you that signal basically to ‑‑ the limbic system, all that fight or flight stuff and so you get this signal straight through that. When you get struck and you feel it, the body wants to curl.

It wants to magnify that pain and so you have that response which just kind of makes it worse. What you’re doing physiologically by not folding and by staying straight, breathing it out, you’re teaching the body to have a different response. So you don’t have your body position.

You don’t have again that whole pain response that kicks off so you’re actually making it by controlling the way your posture is and your breathing, it prevents you from going to that position in the same way that they say like if you smile long enough you’ll eventually start to have happy thoughts. If you frown long enough, eventually you’ll eventually going to start to feel that. It’s exactly kind of the same thing.

When you don’t put the body in that same position of curling which it’s used to doing when you’re in pain, you start to actually to retrain that response. So that pain response, that fear, tends to dissipate and so there is something that happens on that level.

There is a cognitive level. You’re thinking, “This big guy just hit me as hard as he could. And yeah, I felt it and yeah, it hurt. But I am OK.” And the confidence of that, of saying, “You know what? If somebody ‑‑ I walk into a bar or something or the park and somebody hits me, I’m going to be all right. I’m going to be able to take it and be able to handle it, deal with it, dissipate it and be able to defend myself. That’s a really cool feeling, that confidence of that.

So you got all of these factors working together to do that, to get that out. Again ‑‑ on that kind of psychological level, that psychophysical level of how would you heal things. It does bring things up. If you get hit, those fears, when your fear response is firing, obviously could bring up other things that are related to the fear because your brain is trying to say, “What are all the things that have made you really afraid?” A lot of the things are unconsciously forgotten.

That’s why some people come up and they get hit and start crying like geez, I don’t know what’s going on with me. I just really was afraid of something and all of those other negative emotions start to come up because of activating that fear response in such a deep way.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  A lot of that comes up and the ability to again have that come up and look at it and kind of analyze it again ‑‑ sometimes, you think, “Hey, you know what? I was afraid of that but I was only a five‑year‑old kid then. Now I’m an adult and it’s OK. All of a sudden ‑‑ then you again by not having the rest of the experience that goes around that you can kind of dissipate it and deal with it. There are good cognitive effects of doing it. There’s a lot to the healing and it’s very real and it’s not mystical. There are ‑‑ there are very maybe not simple but there are things you could point to, mechanisms going on of why does this stuff works which is something that I’ve always wanted to be able to explain to people myself, instead of just saying, “Oh, well it heals you.” Then people look at me like “What do you mean?”

Being able to give them some reasoning for what is going on in their body and their brain for why that’s been happening ‑‑ people tend to accept it and be able to work with it. Oh yeah, I got that. Oh yeah, it was ‑‑ something happened and it kind of came up and I was thinking with it. I’m glad now that I can deal with it.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  That’s a healing of dealing with those negative emotions that are sticking out. I guess that’s kind of like that there’s a sliver of the whole thing, of healing on that.

Paul:  Excellent. Thank you. How has your approach to striking changed over the years? This is not just teaching which is just. At this point you’ve been doing ‑‑

Brad:  Like they’re using them?

Paul:  Using them, teaching them, being with hit, you’ve got 30 years of martial arts experience and 12, 13 in Systema so it’s a pretty broad ‑‑

Brad:  I had one of my friends who is a black belt in another martial arts when I started. I was talking about Systema,s striking. This was ‑‑ that was seven years ago or something. I was telling him, “Oh, I can hit so much harder and deeper and it’s amazing how my strikes can do this.” He looked at me and said, “Because you broke my rib at least once, you can hit hard before you get Systema.” So I thought, “Yeah, but no, you don’t understand but now I can hit really [laughter] I can do these other things with it.” I have to remember that. I had a degree of being able kind of to do that.

For me what expanded was being able to do it more relaxed. I was fairly relaxed doing it but now to understand kind of my shoulder is holding me back in certain strikes ‑‑ the circular strikes are easier because the martial art I did before had a lot of circular movements in it so it was easier to relax my shoulders, move it circularly. But linearly there was still a little bit more of tension.

There are a lot of other different angles that Systema hits with that I’ve really taken into, just these odd angles and odd positions. The strikes come from out of nowhere. I really like that aspect of it and not being able to set up to do it so they’re much more invisible. Just that sense of striking without an intention so that the person doesn’t see it, that was something that I didn’t really have before. It’s like if I was going to hit you, I really want to hit you.

You could really feel that it was going to come and that’s what Systema, being able to hit without the person being alerted to, is really, really cool and just a much deeper understanding of the power of it, different targeting and hitting certain targets that I didn’t think that I could work with. Another one was just when I did other martial arts I just wanted to hit him, hit him, hit him and hope he falls down completely.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  Where in Systema just ‑‑ I call it structural striking. So you hit the person and you don’t have to strike to knock him out. The follow through of the strike would be at such an angle that they would fall down which I thought ‑‑ I’ve seen Michael do that all the time and it’s really, really cool.

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  Because then you could control it. You could not hurt him. It hurt a little bit or ‑‑ but you’d still have an advantage over a larger person because you’re always putting him off balance with the strikes. There are a lot of those aspects of the strikes as well as different body parts which watching Vladimir hit from every single body part from his little toe to the top of his head and having it work with something that was. I just ‑‑ I knew the concepts and I was like, “Oh, I can practice all the stuff now and I work out all these different things. I really liked that and also getting more of a body wave going in the strikes and to strike just do a short striking, to be able to strike from places where somebody was attacking, bear hugs and even using the striking motion to escape holds and things like that even if it wasn’t a debilitating strike, the same body movement which kind of pervades all of the movement was really cool.

Striking and taking strikes, that was one of the things that took me a long time to be able to get. I don’t know. When I started, no one told us to not bend over.

Paul:  Really?

Brad:  Yeah. So there wasn’t the ‑‑ then all of a sudden I came back from one of the trips to Russia and all of a sudden everybody was like, “OK, tell him not to bend over.” I’m like, “Why? Nobody told me not to bend over.” It was like Michael just kept punching the stomach and the chin and they were punching the stomach. He’d bend over. They’re punching the chin. He’s standing stand back up. [laughter] And that was the don’t bend over, right? That was the don’t bend over lesson. It’s so much easier. It was like “Hey, don’t bend over.” It doesn’t hurt so much. He was great. That was one of the things that has changed, I guess.

I have stopped trying to prove to people that I can hit hard or deep. There was a time where I went through that. I guess everybody does where you’re thinking, “Am I really hitting this person hard? Well, I better show him that you can hit hard. It’s pretty much ‑ ‑ personally you kind of dealt with that like, OK, fine. I could hit somebody and I could do this and I don’t need to show them.

If somebody wants it and asks for it, yes, I can but I don’t necessarily kind of get off on OK, I’m just going to take someone in, try to drop them, show everybody that. I just ‑‑ that could just be a general martial art thing of going through it. It’s just something that I just don’t need, I don’t feel the need to have to show that to somebody. Maybe this is just wrong again not to have ‑‑ I also ‑‑ I kind of almost feel like the striking is the easier part to do.

That could be my old background because I’ve just done it for so long but I’m thinking, “Well no, this is easy stuff. The hard part is that real soft work, subtle all things get together, all those things that are really, really refined. But I have to remember that most people don’t think that way.

But I do. I get and effect. If I see ‑‑ if I hit somebody and I see him start to tear up or like really I’m very concerned about that where other people they could care less and say, “OK. So what?” Those kind of aren’t people I would trust to have my back, I guess. I wanted people to be more concerned about that but ‑‑ I love it. It’s great. I just think it’s wonderful and like when I teach I would say that.

For me the striking is always something I have in reserve. I can hit them anytime. Oh, I want to strike this so I want to work on all these other subtler aspects of Systema, timing and working with the enemy, those things and if that doesn’t hurt, OK, hit him, because I know that works.

A good solid strike, you could do that and so if you’re working on just trying to move the guy, manipulate him, get him, work his tension against him anything like that, I think, do that stuff, get control of him if you need to and in case they’re really strong and really aggressive, things like that, you can always pull off the strikes. It’s kind of how it has changed.

Before it was always OK, somebody comes up, I’m hitting. It allows me and, I guess, anybody else who has gone through it a much broader arsenal of what you can do in a situation.

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  You can choose your response a little bit better. Being able to hit really hard allows you to do the other stuff because you always have it.

Paul:  It’s like walking around with a gun.

Brad:  Exactly.

Paul:  You always have the option of trying and shooting.

Brad:  Right. And now you can choose a different response.

Paul:  Right. So the last one. What is the most bizarre or weird reaction to a strike that you’ve ever seen?

Brad:  What is the bizarre or weird reaction to a strike I have ever seen? One of my strikes or somebody else’s? [laughter]

Paul:  Either one, both.

Brad:  I think first for me, I think it would be and I’ve done this on several occasions and I’ve thought about why, but I’ve actually hit people and made them cry and laugh at the same time. I’ve seen other people strikers hit people and they cry. I don’t know anybody I’ve seen had them laugh and cry at the same time. It kind of, I can show you the video of Vlad punch somebody on the floor and the guy is just ‑‑ he said, he’s just giggling up the stomach, you know; I’ve seen people laugh and I’ve seen people cry. I’ve never seen them laugh and cry at the same time.

Paul:  I’ve been a person who has been struck and laughing.

Brad:  Yeah.

Paul:  Yeah.

Brad:  Right? But those at the same time were strictly bizarre because you’re like, funny, not funny, you knoww, what’s going on? OK, what is this? That worked for me and, like I said, I’ve done them more one time. I think part of that is there are tears from the pain but I tried to really make sure that the person realizes that it’s not that ‑‑ I am not doing it to hurt them and it’s in a lighthearted fashion. So it’s almost just like it hurts so bad but then I’m looking at them kind of smiling and laughing at them and they know me here because I’m not the most serious person in the world. They do that and they’re kind of laughing but then they’re crying because it hurts. They don’t ‑‑ and so the confusion of the body and it’s kind of funny to see. That for me personally doing something, I think, the most bizarre reaction I’ve seen.

As far as seeing other people hit people, I’ve seen Michael hit people and they’re spinning around and rolling around the room and just what the heck are you ‑‑ it was kind of a bizarre ‑‑ I’m like, “OK, I saw him punch you and then you’re ‑‑ I don’t know what you’re doing. You’re pirouetting. You’re rolling and you’re standing up. You’re stretching. What are these people doing?”

Then I have people tell me that “Well, that’s how they’re trying to move their body try to get the pain out of it. Not so bizarre later on…

Paul:  Right.

Brad:  But at first ‑‑ and that’s something. If you see that on YouTube, you’re like, “What are these people doing?”

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  People just do not understand it. I saw that and then Vlad hit me once and then I tried to emulate him. No, you’re not doing it and I was really just faking what I had seen. It’s what I was doing. He’s like, “Well, that guy was really just trying to do it be he had to do it. I was just trying to like, “Well, he did this and maybe it made him feel little better. So here I am trying to do the same thing.” It didn’t work at all and Vlad just [inaudible] [0:40:32.6] [laughter] but that‑‑ just that ‑‑ because everybody’s bodies also moved differently with what they want to do. People jump up and down. They’re swatting themselves. They’re hitting themselves. They do not know what to do. People are looking around and they’re ‑‑ I’ve seen people get hit and just get so angry and don’t know what to do where they were just want to like strangle somebody. I’ve seen a lot of bizarre reactions to strikes.

Once Vlad punched me and it was on camera and so you see him hit me and see me drop just like, my feet flat to the camera. I laid down flat because again I learned in Russia they’re like, OK, if you have to, just lie down flat because ‑‑ and again the reason behind that was to straighten your body out again but as far as funny and goofy of just seeing my own body fall and see my own feet just kind of go up under the strain, when you see these feet sticking up into the camera, it’s kind of funny.

I had a guy who ‑‑ a lot of times, not sometimes but fairly often people check out.

Paul:  Yes.

Brad:  They just ‑‑ the pain puts them in their own world and they’re just ‑ ‑ everything vanishes. The whole world vanishes and they’re stuck within themselves and the pain and they just and I know you’ve seen this. Vlad the way he says it, it was ‑‑ they just go away. You have to kind of bring them back down to earth because they just ‑‑ they disassociate. It’s so hard they just ‑‑ they’re off in a different place and you kind of bring them back to reality so that’s a bizarre one. It’s not so bizarre in the sense that I am not used to seeing it. Yeah, it’s a fascinating topic and then there’s a lot of strangeness about it especially if you’ve never done Systema but you get enough people going through it. They had all the same reactions so to a degree they’re all human in some way or another so.

I don’t think one is better than the other but it’s just how each person kind of reacts to it. So yeah, fun to explore.

Paul:  Do you have any closing comments because I’m out of questions?

Brad:  Yeah, definitely if you’re interested in it, you should see it a bit. You should talk to people about it and you should start slowly. It’s definitely something that everybody should experience because in the right hands, in the right fists, it’s very healing. It’s really good. We do have a joke that it always feels better when it stops hurting. You’re going to go through the pain and you just have to say hey, I go through this and you know you’re going to come out OK in the end. If it’s too much, just tell everybody it’s too much. I mean just say it. It’s enough for ‑‑ and you’ll see, people come up and will come up to whoever is doing the teaching and say that that’s enough. I got it. And that’s good enough. I will tell you one mistake I made a long time ago in striking. I had a guy who was a black belt come in and I was trying to teach him some Systema. This guy was as rigid as it takes. I was very new on Systema and I thought oh, punching good for you.

So I said punched him. I hit him in his solar plexus and the guy backs up and I’m like ‑‑ so I kind of creep over to him and punched him again. He kind of backs up. I basically chased the guy into the wall and I am punching him. Hindsight is 20/20.

I should have realized that I was doing more harm than good at the time so again ingraining more fear into the guy than help him overcome it and so just be careful about that on both ends of it just to make sure that in the end it becomes a healthy thing and not ‑‑ it could be healing or destroying. That’s kind of the point of it so I guess that’s what I would have to say.

Paul:  OK. Well, thank you very much and we’ll see you next time.

Brad:  See you next time.


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