Last week’s systema class went very well. I should probably give a little background about this. The classes are an offshoot of Mark Winkler’s Celtic Systema school, which has been going for a couple of years now. I haven’t met Mark in person, though we’ve spoken on the phone a few times, and he’s a really nice bloke. He’s super-into systema, and is currently working every hour he can get to save money so that he can go to Canada and spend 6 months training solidly with Vladimir Vasiliev. Now that’s commitment! Anyway, since he’s working, he’s not teaching, and the Carmarthen classes are being run by his long-time student, another very nice chap called Martin.
So, last week we went through rolls and ground work to begin with, and then moved on to partner work. This started with identifying chains of tension in the partner, initially with training knives, and then later on with fists. When we used the fists, we brought in breathing exercises to disperse the force of the blow (I’m not very good at this), and then added in a return strike, using the force of the blow received and redirecting it back to the attacker. This one was practised first on the ground, and then standing. Very, very, interesting. The class ended, as always, with us all sitting in a circle and contributing what insights we’d had during the class. I really like this aspect of systema: it’s very supportive and non-aggressive, and yet it trains with more use of actually receiving punches and dealing with the force than any of my internal martial arts training (but with less injury and attitude than the Thai boxing I trained in many years ago). This class is 90 minutes long, and the time just flies by.
As I mentioned to Kim in a comment, during my time in Asia I developed fairly thick tendons and a fair bit of relaxation, which allowed me to perform very well in, for example, yiquan tui shou sessions. This is how power is supposed to be generated in the internal martial arts, and is why neijia practitioners are able to stay strong into old age (I know, I simplify here, but you get the gist). On the other hand, I never really developed any muscle strength or aerobic endurance, which are also pretty handy things to have! (Sun Ru Xian was the only teacher I had who strongly emphasized that; plus, I suppose, Master ‘Blade Runner’ Zhang). Hence the pre-Christmas start to a fitness regime…. Last night, I did about six sets of Scott Sonnon’s Flowfit. I’m on level 2 (of 4), and it’ll be quite some time before I move to the next level. I can keep up with the ‘follow-along’ demonstration with minimal breaks between reps, although I’m gasping by the end. The main issue is that I can’t do the routine ‘elegantly’, so I now need to persevere with it and focus on doing it properly – which means focussing on foot placement, leg alignment, etc.
I’m also working on Scott’s Tacfit Spetsnaz Kettlebell routines. I’m now at the point of doing 6 reps of this: 2 reps at pre-recruit level with a 9kg kettlebell, 2 reps of pre-recruit with a 12kg kettlebell, and (for the first time last night) 2 reps with 9kg at the recruit level. This is working me very hard indeed, and exposing a lot of weak areas in my muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance 🙁 On the positive side, the pre-recruit sequence with 9kgs is now fairly easy, whereas when I started, I struggled even with this – so I do seem to be gaining ground!
Thus, my routine on these sessions is Tacfit Spetsnaz warmup (about 5 min), 6 or so sets of flowfit (14 min), 6 reps of kettlebell (40 min), and Tacfit Spetsnaz cooldown (8 min or so). After that, I just have to lie and stare at the ceiling for a while 🙂
Tuesday evenings are for training with Eli Montaigue. This evening was my second bagua class with him. It’s a small class, only 6 or so students. We worked on mud stepping – I still need to pay attention to my heels, as I haven’t managed to lose my bad habit of lifting them, but I am actually getting better on that, I think. We’ve moved on from the opening move and looked tonight at the single palm change. It’s unlike any bagua version I’ve trained before, but that of course is in the nature of bagua’s multiple forms! Eli teaches each element as form, followed by demonstration of application, and (in tonight’s class) incorporating body conditioning. So, all good so far.
Eli’s classes are an hour long. I mentioned before that I attended one taiji class, but since that was on a Wednesday, which clashed with the systema class, I didn’t go again. I’m glad to learn that there will be a new class on Tuesday nights, right after the bagua class. That’ll start next week, so Tuesday night will be neijia night!
So, there we are. After a slow start, my martial arts schedule is starting to pick up, and covering all the bases that I wanted.