2012, 2014, and then 2016. Last years camp was my third Camp at Systema HQ Toronto. It was the best one yet.
Vladimir did nearly all of the teaching himself (except for the early morning sessions from 7 to 8.30 done by the hugely talented Systema Twins) and this gave the camp a total consistency of thought and training that flowed from beginning to end.
Verging on 60 hours of training with practically no repetition of drills or teaching.
I had three main takeaways from the Core Mastery Camp.
- Before you move a muscle: Catch the thought.
Many martial arts work on blocking or evading, then countering. Slightly more advanced is to block or evade and counter at the same time. An even higher level is to strike as they make the decision to strike you. Before they even move.
This theme ran through the camp. Vladimir said that physical skill is fine and important, but limited. If you can sense and feel the opponents’ intent to strike, to see their thought before it becomes visible in their body, then you won’t be late. We did several drills specifically designed to develop this concept.
Many great martial artists and warriors from history, have been attributed with this highly developed skill, Musashi, Ueshiba, Napoleon (on a larger scale). I had never seen or felt it in action.
Vladimir called me up for a demonstration. I held a knife and he held my wrist. It was my job to attack randomly.
It was night, in a small clearing in the woods. Every time I thought to attack, he moved my hand. Before I had moved a muscle. It is a very strange feeling. I played with the timing. He didn’t get it wrong once. I must have thought to attack 10 or more times. He caught my thought every time.
- Minimize preparation: Just move.
Before we move, we prepare our body for movement. For example, if we stand up from a chair, we move our hands to the arm rest, plant our feet, sit up straight, etc. Vladimir watched me do a sit up and just shook his head and smiled. ‘Not there yet, Matt.’ Watching Vladimir sit up off the ground is beautiful. It was leonine. There was no preparation in the normal places such as shoulders, adductors, feet, etc. before the movement. He just moved. This sounds simple, but just try it. Lie flat on the floor and try to raise your torso without doing any peripheral movement first. This is mastery of movement. Simple yet profound. When applied to combat, it allows you to move smoothly, with minimal warning, almost unseen.
… Continued in the next newsletter.
I am running a 4 day woodland Systema Camp in Wiltshire this year. There are still a few spaces left. Click here for more details