Love the hit

So, just back from my second systema class, and in a thoughtful mood. Rather a frustrating experience, this one; through neglecting my zhan zhuang over the last few months, I’ve stiffened up a heck of a lot. We did a fair bit of light sparring tonight, and I was totally out of my depth. It’s OK, in a way. For one thing, as I’ve said frequently before, the training I’ve done in martial arts has never really been about the fighting. For another, I’ve learned a few things even so, but when you’re starting classes in a new style, you want to approach it de novo, with an open mind, rather than just breezing around with what you’ve learned elsewhere. So, there was an element to the sparring where I was holding myself back, trying not to apply yiquan or taiji techniques, and try to think about what a systema response would be. Nevertheless… just not at ease in the systema way of doing things yet. Hey ho, there’s only one way to get better, and that’s to practice.

Likewise with the hits… Boy, am I not used to taking punches, especially the deep, organ-level ones – the ones that you see Mikhail Ryabko demonstrating on YouTube… Ouch… Definitely, as I trained with the others – a bigger group this week – I found myself anticipating the shock, and tensing up. Something to work on…. The title comes from something Mark said during one of the exercises – to focus on the energy of exchanging punches with your partner, and to not worry about getting hit – indeed to love the hit, because when you get hit, you know you’re alive, you’ve learned something… Wise words, but not always easy to live up to!

One of the others in the group tonight is an instructor in his own right; he’ll be running Thursday night sessions, which I might try to get to from time to time.

Oh, and the chap who runs the gym knows Chris Crudelli, and thinks he might be able to get him to Cardiff for a seminar…


  1. Systema is a training method, not a style of fighting! One of its hallmarks is that you’re encouraged to try stuff out to discover what works. So do use what you know from Taiji / Yiquan / everything else you’ve done, especially in free sparring.

    As for taking punches, you don’t ever really get used to the pain, you just realise that however much it hurts, it’s still possible to stay upright, stay relaxed, keep the breathing ticking over and remain aware of your surroundings. It’s only pain, not damage – hang in there!


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