I’ve been thinking about a very serious question, rather a series of questions, about Systema lately, questions I think you should also take some time to address for yourself.
I’ll give you my answers which may help you as well.
To recap here is the main question:
“Why Systema instead of other very effective martial arts or MMA?”
A mixed martial arts fight is about who is the biggest, best, toughest person around; it is direct “alpha-male” type of behavior. The idea is to prove who is at the top of the food chain.
However, wars are not won always by the strongest side. History is replete with stories of smaller armies defeating larger more dangerous ones. Those who were smaller needed different tactics and strategies to defeat those who are larger.
If you are close to alpha male status, you are the biggest strongest fighter, then it may make sense to focus all your energy on this type of event.
Someone huge like Brock Lesnar, well of course he would want to go head-to-head with anyone in an ego-contest.
The problem with alpha-male thinking is just that, there is only one, like the Highlander.
What about the rest of us?
I am 5’10” tall and 165 pounds. I fully understand that most people are bigger, heavier and stronger than I am. I can’t even think about going head-to-head with such people.
As a smaller person, I am fully aware that the problem for me to solve is how to defeat such bigger, stronger people.
What would I have to do to survive being attacked by someone like this?
The wrong question for me to ask is how would I defeat the person in direct combat.
Smaller people can be more dangerous because the stakes are higher, just as the smallest scorpion has the deadliest sting due to its venom.
Smaller people cannot afford to make mistakes or to underestimate their opponents.
This is why I got into the martial arts in the 1st place, I was a small person in a large world.
I needed an edge, trying to be the toughest guy in the room wasn’t it.
I needed the kind of training a martial art like Systema offers.
BJJ offered (and still does in many cases) smaller people like me an advantage over larger, stronger opponents. But with the rise of MMA, it has lost some of its effectiveness because Americans are great at adapting and have created strategies for dealing with it.
No doubt, I’m a fan of BJJ/Sambo but as I said last time, it is context-limited. Plus, it still relies on too much struggling and force for my needs (that’s why it is called grappling).
While this context is important to be comfortable with, the nature of Systema training gives me other advantages.
For one, the pain management work in Systema is unparalleled in these martial arts.
The breath-work Systema teaches how to deal with the pain of being joint-locked makes it much easier to escape locks.
The joint-strengthening and mobility work make it easier to avoid getting into locks in the first place.
The emphasis on breaking vs. locking makes it easier to NOT struggle or grapple.
The nature of Systema striking is vastly different from the boxing paradigm which makes it easier for me to debilitate a larger attacker without trying to box toe-to-toe.
The major principles of mastering tension and relaxation to use an attacker’s force against him without using much force myself has been the MAJOR reason I continue to perfect this part of the art (it also takes the “jiu” in Jiu-Jitsu to unparalleled heights).
Speed, strength, endurance all decline with age but the major principles of Systema improve with age and experience and are particularly effective for smaller people like me.
There you have it, a second answer to “Why Systema instead of other very effective martial arts?”
P.S. More answers to this question next time…there’s a whole bunch more to say on this topic for sure.