Andy Cefai , Head Instructor of Systema Japan, taught a great lesson yesterday. The class concentrated on the importance of movement to enable you to escape from a variety of attacks. In order to initiate movement, we spent the lesson on the ground ranging from being on our knees, to duck walking and laying down. We learned that the movement is exactly the same when you are being pushed, struck, stabbed and hit with a whip. It was vital to have the ability to move the hips while in this position position because this area stores a lot of tension thus making it more difficult to move and making it an obvious area to direct force at. Of course, breath drove the movement. If we didn't breath, we would've run out of energy and become a more static target. I think most people, myself included, really saw how effective the whip is at generating movement. The whip, with a little help from the partner, has a very special talent in that with the slightest touch it can give pain and there's nothing better to help people move than the apprehension and feeling of pain. Everybody learned that with breathing, relaxation and movement, you can evade a whip but if you did get whipped, breathing would let you recover while still moving and surviving.
The following shows the lesson progression:
1) We went through the body rotating and moving the joints in a variety of ways. We inhaled to increase tension in the area and exhaled to relax the joint and mucles while still in the rotated position.
2) We duck walked but instead of using small steps, we extended the leg therefore creating a stretch and we turned our leading foot over in a variety of ways. For example, we turned our foot inwards and outwards. This then lead us to shifting our weight over to the leading leg while still trying to keep our front foot in it's turned over position. This was done to promote tendon strength and increase our range of movement while in this extreme position. Andy said that the inspiration for this drill and the following drill was attributed to Kwan Lee's "Strength and Flexibility" DVD.
3) We next did the same drill but this time when we extended our leg into the stretched position, we inhaled, creating tension, and exhaled, relaxing the tense area, and then shifted our weight over to the front foot. We moved as we were exhlaling and relaxing. This made it much easier to move.
4) We repeated the following routine three times. Emphasis was placed on doing it as slowly as possible and transitioning smoothly from one exercise to the next. This was certainly a test in patience, especially during the breath hold exercises. Andy emphasised the importance of doing "the last five as slowly as you needed to be recovered by the time you finished" instead of doing "as many of the middle cycle as possible and as many as the last cycle as was required to recover".
1) Pushups x 5 - inhaling (going down) and exhaling (going up)
2) Pushups x 5 - holding our breath on the out breath
3) Push Ups x5 - Burst Breathing
4) Squats x 5 - inhaling (going down) and exhaling (going up)
5) Squats x 5 - holding our breath on the out breath
6) Squats x5 - Burst Breathing
7) Leg Raises x 5 - inhaling (going down) and exhaling (going up)
8) Leg Raises x 5 - holding our breath on the out breath
9) Leg Raises x5 - Burst Breathing
5) In pairs, while in the duck walking position and on our knees, our partner pushed us and we responded to their push with movement. It was important to keep connected to the partner and to really feel the direction of the force they were giving you.
6) Same exercise but with the knife. The knife really makes you move and it's easier to feel the direction of the stab.
7) We then did the same work but this time we interchanged between pushing and the knife.
8) Same work but pushing with the fist. This progression of drills showed us that same movement can be used with many kind of attacks.
9) We returned to using the knife. In pairs, one partner lay down as the other slowly stabbed them. The person receiving had to feel the direction of the knife, move their body with the movement of the knife and escape. Patience was important in this drill. You had to wait until you were able to feel the correct path of the knife. It was necessary for person pushing with the knife to actually push it into the body so their partner could really feel the direction.
10) In the same pairs, lying down and moving on the ground, we did one for one disarming. Your partner would stab you and you had to move, escape, disarm them and return the stab. It was not always necessary to actually disarm them. If you could take hold of their knife while they were still holding it, and return it to them with the direction they gave you, this was more beneficial because the attacker still felt like they were in control because of the fact they had hold of knife. It was important to to hold the knife in a correct and subtle way. This was very interesting work.
11) Now came the fun part, the whip! The whip was used to get everybody moving more instead of moving, stopping and then moving. This also taught you to not leave your limbs behind and to move your body as a whole. Breathing was very important in this drill because the rate of movement was quicker and due to the pain induced by the whip. The whipper didn't go crazy, they did it slowly and made enough contact to help the person understand that it was better to move than to wait. The full length of the whip wasn't used, it was folded in half.
12) Now everybody was moving much better, we returned to being on our knees and duck walking. This time our partner struck us and we, again, had to move and escape remembering to breath and keep good posture. Posture became extremely important when receiving strikes because if you got caught while your form was bad, the strike went much deeper. Breathing helped us to receive and recover from the strikes. The striker, didn't just have to strike but had to be precise and hit places of tension or towards areas of tension, such as the hips and spine. You didn't actually hit the spine but you directed it towards the spine.
13) Next, in pairs, we did one for one pushing. Your partner would push you, you would feel their movement, escape, while still maintaining a connection with them, and then you would return the push. Hands and legs were used. This was all done on our knees and on the ground in one seamless and constantly changing movement.
14) Next was free work using strikes on the ground. Importance was put on learning rather than competition. People had to pay attnetion to themselves so they wouldn't become too excited and lose themselves.
15) 40 second (20second in each direction) Push Up. This was done to help us calm down, decrease our heart rate and restore our breathing.
16) Circle Up