Reflections on the annual Systema Camp 2018

We have just finished the Annual Systema Fundamentals Camp. Five days living in the woods, sleeping under the stars, training as a group.

There were nearly 50 of us this time. A big group, lots of scope for things to go wrong.

For 5 days people didn’t go into a building, drive a car, sit on a chair, look at their own reflection or turn on a light switch. Did they survive? No.

They thrived.

That is not to say that all of it was easy. In the training, in mixing with others, and in adapting to the loss of routine and creature comforts people struggled. Demons came up and some internal battles were fought.

I remember being told when I was small that if you want to get to know someone, go camping with them for a couple of nights. Then you will see the real them.

I would take this further, if you want to know yourself, go sleep in the woods for a couple of days. It strips away the veneer.

One of the great things about the camp is that it puts Martial Arts in their proper place. Nothing special, no more important than cooking, eating and communing. Equally it is not something to be hidden or shied away from either. Wholesome physical contact and a playful approach, without ego, is so important for a healthy person.

People are coming for these skills of course, and a lot of time is spent on them. But they see them as part of a whole lifestyle approach, and this is a healthy perspective.

At the end of the camp we sit and just reflect on the experience. There were some emotions, it can’t help but touch you deeply. Everyone felt more relaxed and at ease.

In this way I asked the participants to try to use the camp as a touchstone. They have a new benchmark for the feeling of being relaxed and at ease. The challenge now is to notice when they are pulled out of this feeling and then try to inhale, exhale and drop back into it.

It was hard at times, but though that shared adversity they have a new treasure in your their box of contingencies.
An old Sgt Major of mine at Sandhurst, used to ask us if we knew why training is so hard. He said that it is so that when we come up against hard times in the future, we can look inside to our box of contingencies and know that we have been through tougher stuff, and take confidence from that, from our ability to dig deep.

How do you think that you would do? I always say that everyone should spend at least one night alone in a wood once in thier life. To be alone as a wood gets dark. Everyone is a little afraid of this. Then get a fire going. As the flames grow your fears recede. You will only know then, what comfort a camp fire can give you. What fire really means to a human being.

My very best wishes as always for your training and good health,

Matt.