I had an important go to to The System Academy in Wiltshire final week the place I loved a little bit of 1-1 Systema teaching from my outdated buddy and proprietor of the Academy, Matt Hill. I additionally recorded a podcast episode with him for The Tai Chi Pocket book Podcast, which will probably be popping out in November. Matt skilled Aikido in Japan and served as a Captain within the British military, in addition to working in disaster administration earlier than he grew to become a full time Systema teacher, so he’s bought loads of expertise of various kinds of martial arts and dealing in strain eventualities. As a result of Matt and I dwell fairly shut to one another I had the chance to get a little bit of hands-on work in earlier than we sat right down to file the episode. It was nice to expertise some Systema myself this time, and I notably loved the placing points, which is one thing I’ve placed on the again burner a bit as I’ve bought extra into grappling over the previous few years.
A kind of everlasting questions that pop up on dialogue boards lots is, ‘how shut is Systema to Tai Chi?’, and this was one of many issues I’ve been mulling over since I had the lesson. Each these arts stress what Systema calls the 4 Pillars – breath, posture, leisure and motion – however on a primary degree I feel one of many fast variations between Tai Chi and Systema is that Systema appears to solely exist in relation to one thing you’re doing, whereas Tai Chi has this weighty set of philosophical rules that exist independently to the artwork, like Taoist philosophy and yin and yang, in addition to ideas from the Tai Chi Classics relating to posture, motion and technique. Tai Chi can definitely be talked about when it comes to these summary ideas and concepts, however in distinction, Systema must be proven. Whenever you’re not doing Systema, then the place does it go? It’s a bit like your lap – if you sit down you may level to your lap, however if you get up, it vanishes!
Systema appears intrinsically tied to what you’re doing, not what you’re considering. After all, you may argue that even if you’re doing nothing and never shifting, say, simply sitting there, you’re nonetheless doing one thing, so maybe Systema is at all times there: You continue to have a posture, and you’re at all times respiration, and meaning some motion is occurring within the physique and you’ll nonetheless chill out, which is a sort of a motion in itself. However there doesn’t appear to be an underlying concept, akin to one thing like Tai Chi’s concept of yin and yang, that underpins all of it.
One other attention-grabbing distinction is that when Systema academics speak about embodying the 4 pillars – they actually imply it! They’re not simply paying lip service to the concepts – they’re dwelling them. Even outdoors of the martial artwork observe, Systema appears to have the potential to pervade every part you do. In Systema you have a tendency to guide motion together with your breath, you breathe the stress out of your physique as you’re employed and also you strive to not muscle something. And that may be utilized to something, not simply combating.
After all, you can say the identical factor is true of Tai Chi, however there’s a lot different ‘stuff’ to fret about in Tai Chi – like a type,(and getting the shape good), dantien, and the 6 harmonies or the 8 co-ordinations, and so forth, and so forth.. I feel inevitably, with a lot in your plate, some issues slip. However with solely 4 rules to remember, you may spend a bit extra time actually digging into them.
After which there’s the quantity of bodily discomfort you expertise. Tai Chi may be actually arduous on the legs for certain, however push ups, leg raises, sit ups and squats are the meat and potatoes of Systema, none of which you’ll discover in a bog-standard Tai Chi class. To not point out studying to offer and obtain strikes. Much more martially inclined Tai Chi courses don’t are inclined to work on actively standing there and studying the best way to obtain strikes.
Adopting any type of ‘martial arts pose’ is frowned on in Systema. Once more, you may argue that there are not any fastened shapes in Tai Chi both, however Tai Chi does put loads of emphasis on construction – preserving a connection to the bottom by means of a relaxed body, and there are ‘kung fu’ model postures. Systema appears to choose you belief in your leisure and let gravity do its work. For a Tai Chi particular person, it’s fairly releasing and enjoyable to not have any fastened shapes you’re anticipated to undertake. The emphasis in Systema appears to be on not trapping your self into patterns of stress that you just first must exit earlier than you may transfer freely. Preventing any individual else is tough sufficient already – you don’t wish to must battle seven battles inside your self simply to maneuver freely earlier than you even start!
So sure, Systema is completely different to Tai Chi. However I feel the 2 work rather well collectively. The Tai Chi practitioner can take from Systema the concept of not being trapped in ‘postures’ – fastened shapes (Thrust back, Diagonal Flying, and so forth) and the worth of eradicating as a lot stress out of your physique as you may whereas nonetheless engaged on shifting with an opponent. Additionally, respiration tends to get solely a cursory point out in Tai Chi, however focusing an increasing number of on preserving your respiration clean and steady, and noting how that pertains to stress within the physique, is a superb addition to any Tai Chi type, and I feel that has to assist make your Tai Chi higher, by any goal measurement.
For extra on Systema have a hearken to my chat with Rob Poyton once more, and look out for my interview with Matt Hill within the subsequent episode of The Tai Chi Pocket book Podcast, coming in November.