A real treasure for anyone in the area

“I found my way to Brad’s class from Canada when I was in Denver for a conference. I’m sorry to say that up to this point my experience with Systema has been limited and wanting, compared to what I see in Vladimir’s DVDs. I don’t think anyone who’s met Brad needs to be convinced, but judging from the hour and a half I was there, I saw the Systema that I had hoped was out there. I left feeling bruised but buoyant.

This class focused on kick defense. We began with some pushups, squats, and stretching with partners to loosen up. The demonstrations and drills progressed from avoiding kicks from a group to partner/small group work defending kicks with legs, arms, and takedowns and strikes.

Brad taught with a light touch — sometimes directions to the class when we got tense (look at the person, not the legs!) and walked around with specific instructions or suggestions (he’ll go down with pressure to the inside of knee) and I thought it was just right.

The drills were simple and focused with a definite goal.  As a beginner, I had this sense that I was only catching some of the obvious aspects but there were deeper layers if I was ready for it. Simple, but I was enjoying them so much I didn’t want to stop. I appreciated that Brad made sure we worked with a mix of partners and skill levels.

I think it says a lot about Brad that I was most impressed by his students. I like to think Brad sets the tone and they all get it.

There was a refreshing spirit of camaraderie. Everyone I worked with seemed to know what I could handle and I felt totally safe. These guys were encouraging, helpful with feedback and did the work relaxedly and honestly (which I struggle with). I learned from everyone.

The relaxed atmosphere made my own tension really stand out — I could see for myself where I needed to breathe (when kicking, when falling… everywhere) and what I needed to work on. It put me in a place where I could see myself more clearly.

I don’t like to be negative, but to contrast, I’ve been in other classes where:

  • I stopped because I didn’t trust my partner
  • partners told me how to do it like aikido/boxing/etc.
  • partnered with other beginners the whole time and drills felt futile
  • the drills seemed boring or pointless, too vague or too difficult
  • partners scared to hit or to be hit

So with my disappointing track record, I found training with Brad and students to be the opposite — an uplifting, beneficial, very positive experience. He is a real treasure for anyone in the area (I’m jealous) and I would go back in a heartbeat. My time was brief but these are guys I would choose to spend my time with and it was a gift to be welcomed there.”


James Underwood