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If we are to improve both our learning and teaching of Systema it is good to review from time to time our methods of both receiving and giving information. Just recently we put together a download giving suggestions on how to structure sparring drills for best results. One thing that come out of that was the idea of “bite size” teaching.
How many times have you seen comments on Systema clips along the lines of “that doesn’t look real” and similar? Most often this is because people are watching tutorial or demonstration drills rather than some staged recreation of a “real” fight. The fact that some people’s idea of a real fight has more to do with movies than life is another subject! Instead, what they are seeing is a “bite size” chunk of that fight situation.
This is by no means new or unusual. I can think of no other activity – sporting, musical, technical – where subjects are not broken down into “bite size” chunks in order to learn. All martial arts do it, hence forms, kata, techniques and so on.
Systema does the same, often with layers of breathing /posture work added in. Indeed as well as “bite size” or “width” we can also think of “layers” or depth. Systema training should be in 4D! So often we may take a single second or two from a fight process – for example the attacker’s initial movement toward us. We loop this movement over and over in order to develop various responses to it. Another example may be to initiate some sort of contact, be it a grab or a punch deflection, and carry out the same procedure.
We may add a few chunks together, move-strike-grab, throw in some psychology perhaps, or any of the other myriad factors that go into any situation. In this way we begin to learn coping mechanisms (physical and psychological) to these factors in a safe but focussed way. We also keep things fresh and creative rather than choreographed or set – there should always be an element of free play in every drill.
Now of course there is a danger, in that we begin to get confident at the “bite size” drill and over-emphasise it. We must always remember these drills are signposts, not the destination. So we at some point move into “testing mode” - one example is to run scenarios or more intense drills. Run the drill, analyse and assess, go back into “bite size” for any areas that need work. Simple – but effective!