One of the interesting and alluring aspects of Systema is its no-nonsense nature. No belts, no uniforms, no rituals. Hard training. Practical. Efficient. All sorts of things people fail to find in other traditional arts.
But after 20 years of teaching Systema, it is easy to come around to appreciate why so many of the more traditional arts actually have belts and uniforms and are so ritualized.
Systema, coming from a standpoint of training the elite, the Russian special units, it has its unique elements. And, as time has developed, we have developed our own sets of principles that govern our methods and methodology.
One of the most interesting and important aspects of teaching, instructing, and mentoring students are elements of character development. You mix those with ethics- which all martial artists should study- because frankly speaking, these are way more important than how good of a fighter you are, or who’s ass you can kick.
Systema is, however, rather deprived of these elements. People who were practicing it in the 20th century, were predominantly soldiers. And these soldiers didn’t necessarily need to work on developing these for various reasons. But, today, when you take the practice to the general population and have Joe-Shmoe with questionable backgrounds, and you fail to touch on aspects of developing character and the person, things can get tricky.
What matters for martial development is when and why should force be used, and then of course what comes with it are integrity and humility and all those other attributes that good martial arts should develop.
We have always been very relaxed at our Dojo, but we are in the process of fine-tuning some of our approaches. Some of the changes on the radar at Roots are precisely related to putting more emphasis on character development and building. No need to reinvent the wheel: tiered training, as with some of the more traditional arts, is one such concept we are examining. Higher level students act as models of training, behaviour, and so on for new students. Why should Joe-Shmoe, lowest denominator, set the tone?
At the end of the day, martial arts without character development is a failure. You need to have the integrity and know-how to recognize when something is right or wrong and be able to act upon it accordingly.
Looking forward to sharing more on this as things develop.