· 1301 words · about 7 minutes

It’s been a busy spring and summer!

It started in April when a group of us flew over to Toronto to train with Vladimir and co at Systema HQ. We rented a house just off Yonge Street through AirBnB and hired an SUV to get around (thanks to Jonjo for the driving!) It’s the first time I’ve been to HQ for a rew years. In fact, the last time I went, the classes were at the old venue just down the street. So it was good to see the new school and even “gooder” to see Vladimir and Valerie and many other familiar faces. I also got to meet Igor for the first time and some of the other Instructors too.

It’s fascinating to see how the work has evolved at HQ, all testament, of course, to Vladimir’s increasing development on so many levels. That level is reflected in many of the skilled practitioners at the school. Not only that but they are all very open and willing to share. I’ve read from one or two naysayers how the work at HQ is now “all soft and slow and easy”. Those people obviously haven’t been there. The work remains challenging and varied but, most of all with added depth. Training at HQ was always wide and deep but I can’t help feeling there are now new depths to the work, or maybe I just couldn’t see them before!

Whilst there we also visited Fight Club, Manny Manolakakis’ school in Toronto. Once again, we had a great welcome from everyone and Manny is an outstanding Instructor, get to train with him if you can! For one day I was taken off an adventure, courtesy of Pete Rogers (more of him later!). With great hospitality he took me to his local shooting range, where he spent the day sharing his extensive Systema/firearms knowledge with me, followed by a tour of a local base and a slap up meal. Thank you sir! Thanks to everyone who came over on the trip and thanks, of course to Vladimir and Valerie. You can see a more details write up of my trip here

My next adventure was courtesy of Bruno Caverna, founder of Play Fight and Formless Arts. I first worked with Bruno last year at a weekend course in Berlin and he was kind enough to invite me over to teach at the 2017 Play Fight Camp in Tuscany, Italy. This turned out to be a very special event. Around 60 people from all around the world, a mix of professional dancers, performers, martial artists, body workers and movement enthusiasts, training for ten days in an absolutely stunning location. Tucked away halfway up a hill near Arezzo is an amazing facility, created by Rainer Neumann. What was an abandoned hill side farm is now a retreat / training camp, complete with inside and outdoors training areas, a large old farmhouse, camping grounds, beautiful woodlands and more.

The Camp was spread over ten full days training, so given that and such a large group it was a little intimidating to find myself travelling via Milan down through central Italy then via car (thanks ladies!) up a dusty track to the site. However any worries were quickly dissipated by Bruno and Marina, their team of highly organised and efficient assistants and all the Camp attendees. There was such open mindedness to everything being taught and a willingness to try even some of the more difficult aspects of training, that the whole event became a pleasure to be involved with. The sense of community among the group grew very strong very quickly, aided, no doubt, by the delicious food prepared and served for us every day, the gorgeous setting and weather and, not to forget, Italian wine!

It is very difficult to capture the magic and atmosphere of such an event, though you can see some video clips on the Play Fight page. Many new friendships were made, much was learnt and it was no doubt an experience that all concerned will look back on with joy. Thank you to everyone involved, especially Bruno for his continuing efforts and skill in developing something truly unique.

Just prior to the Tuscany Camp I released my second training book, this one on Systema Solo Training. I’m please to say it has had a good reception and is selling well. Feedback has been so good I am currently working on a follow up – more details soon!

So I had a few weeks back in the UK, then it was off to Helsinki, courtesy of The Kinesthetic Association of Finland. The KE is run by professional dancers Johanna Nuutinen and Jarkko Lehmus. They kindly invited me over to teach a workshop after seeing our Spiral Power download. Once again, we explored the intersection between martial arts, dance, movement, exercise and health. There was great group of people attended the weekend, once more I was struck by the openness and positive attitude of all concerned and humbled by their movement skills! It was also great to meet up with fellow Systema Instructor Jonathan Abspoel, who treated me to the largest and best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life! Add in a trip to a traditional Finnish sauna and this was another fantastic experience. Thanks guys!

Remember Pete Rogers from earlier? Well the summer was rounded off by our 2017 Training Camp. After spending time with Pete in Toronto I was keen to get him over to teach at our annual Camp, once again held in our private woods in the heart of rural Bedfordshire. Over two and a half days Pete took attendees through a range of skills, using airsoft pistols. From breathing, stance and basics we worked up to moving and firing drills and various levels of stress testing. Added in was some night time awareness training, fear control and chats around the fire!

Pete’s instruction was highly professional throughout, reflecting his many years experience, all tempered with humour and the kind of down to earth approach that you find amongst the best Systema instructors. We also got a chance to run an evening session with Pete before he went, where he ran through some in-depth breathing and awareness work, the kind of work that looks low key but is, in fact, extremely profound. Actually that was something that struck me about Pete’s approach throughout. Some might expect a military style trainer to be beasting students, shouting and teaching "combat rolls". Pete’s approach emphasised the professional method, however, above the Hollywood or “all sizzle but no steak” method of some. Time and again he spoke about the importance of small things, of refining skills into centimetre and millimetres – this is where the true mastery lies. We look forward to Pete returning next year. Thanks to Ed, Simon and Mark for their help with Camp too!

So that has been my summer, busy, I’m sure you will agree! Is there time to rest in autumn? A little, but I will be finishing and releasing that new book, plus a couple of other fiction books too. I’m also planning our usual end of year workshop, which will likely be at the beginning of December. There has also been a reshuffle of classes, the main weekly class is now held on a Wednesday at Tempsford, from 7-9pm. Prior to that, there is a health class running 6-7pm. All are welcome!

If you have any questions or suggestions about what we do at Cutting Edge please get in touch at [email protected]
Also please let me know if you are interested in workshops at your school for the coming year. I already have some dates booked in the diary so it is best to contact me sooner rather than later.

Ciao for now!