Monday, January 24, 2011

Vladimir Zaikovsky – Systema Japan Special Class – 15th January 2011

Vladimir Zaikovsky was supposed to teach a 2 hour lesson but by the time we’d finished, we’d been practicing for 3 and half hours. We were all very lucky in deed. In this class, Vladimir took us through some drills to get us used to moving naturally against a knife. The principles that he taught us in this lesson would what we would working on for the rest of the week but applied to different situations. These drills really enabled us to develop a higher sensitivity of the movement of our partner, the knife and, of course, ourselves.

I will write down the notes which I took during the class. Due to the amount of information that was given out, please forgive me for any mistakes that I might make about what he exactly said.

1)   We walked breathing in for one step and out for one step. We did this up to 6 steps/ 1 in-breath and 6 steps/ 1 out-breath. From 7 steps, we started running, gradually running faster and faster until we got to about 15 steps for one breath. From there, we went back down to one in the same way.

2)   In pairs, Partner 1 (P1) held the knife lightly on the back of Partner (P2) as they both walked around. It was important not touch the partner with your hand but only the knife. The person holding the knife had to follow the movement of the person walking. You had to get in time with how the person walked so that you would not create tension in the person or as Vladimir said “you must follow their movement.” We were told not to push heavily on the knife but hold it on so that it felt like it was about to fall off. P2 was supposed to only feel the knife on the back, not any tension given by their partner. Vladimir said that your opponent “should feel nothing” and that “his feeling should remain the same.”  Vladimir pointed out that if the person holding the knife gets tense they will drop the knife easily so it is important to relax. We did one circle and then changed. We did this for a very long time in order to build up our sensitivity and relaxation.

3)   We next did the same drill but instead of placing our palm on the knife we placed one finger on it. Of course, this was much harder but due to doing this we were really able learn that we don’t need to put that much pressure on the knife in order to maintain the position. Vladimir said to do it as lightly as possible and to step “lightly and delicately.” He said that it was important “ to use your legs” to keep the connection with the partner through the knife rather than using force. After doing this, we went back to using the palm. It was much easier after doing it with one finger.

4)    We then moved on to pointing the kinife directly into the body using the palms of hands to keep the position. Vladimir said again to “be as soft as possible.” We also did this while keeping the connection of the knife from leg to leg while moving, which was very difficult, and by using the forearm and other parts of the body to keep the knife in the position. This was very interesting work which really helped you to get used to connecting to the movement of your partner in a soft and light way.

Vladimir told us that we are not doing these drills with a knife to learn directly about how to deal with a knife in a real way but because “the knife is a good tool for understanding movement.” He said that “it’s all about movement” and that “we need to understand what movement is and how it feels in order to teach our body to move naturally and without force.” Another point he made was “that the idea is not to feel anything.” For me, this was an important lesson and one that will stay with me throughout my training.

5)    We next practised receiving and disarming the knife. The above principles, which were worked on in the preceding drills, really came to the fore in this drill. Vladimir said to feel “the movement that is approaching you” and that you should “work with the movement as soft as you can.” He said to imagine that you are being offered “some very precious thing.” Vladimir made it clear that the knife itself isn’t bad but the movement is dangerous.

Vladimir taught us that the “idea is to stay with the movement, remain relaxed, calm” and in the “same state as the previous exercise.” He also said that “the contact is only enough to feel in control and feel the movement.” Vladimir gave us so many of these golden nuggets of information that it’s very difficult to write them all down. However, in time, I will write down the statements which he said as they are very important. Vladimir is an excellent teacher who can really pass over the essentials in a simple way that go deep into your psyche.

I was lucky to have the chance to work with Vladimir for an extended period of time during this drill and all I can say is that I couldn’t really feel anything. I would make a stabbing motion and before I knew it, Vladimir would have the knife. At no point did I feel like the knife was being taken away from me. It just felt like the knife was running through its proper course but somehow finishing in Vladimir’s hand. It was amazing to feel and it gave me a direct insight into how to work in the future. Vladimir, as he said, just took the movement as a “gift” in a soft and gentle way using natural movement. He said that it’s like “your body doesn’t exist” and that the “work continues.” At no point did I feel like I could cut him with the knife because he was always moving and connected to my movement.  Another point he made was that “it’s not hand work but about the body” and with this he started stabbing me. Due to fear, I brought out my hands as an automatic response or when I did move my body, I would move into a state of tension, which was then easily cut on the second stab. Vladimir was able to move his body quickly but in such a way that he wouldn’t move with tension and therefore not get cut.

We all did this drill for the remainder of the lesson. It was a great way to start off the week and to get us used to the principles that he would be focusing on.

Some of these were:

l  Taking the movement as you would something precious
l  Keeping a connection with your partner’s movement.
l  Making it so your partner feels nothing.
l  Being as light, soft and gentle as possible.

The next day, on Sunday the 16th of January, would be about ground wrestling and wrestling.

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