While Systema is based on a foundation of no rules, no katas, no nonsense, it is a perhaps a bit of a flaw that there are no processes and progresses- tests of character- to earning the privilege of training in a given Dojo. Having said this, there is no real true test of character…there is a diamond in every person and you can’t be overly judgemental. Furthermore, it is a fantastic place to be as a mentor, teacher, and educator to learn from your students and your own assumptions of them as they polish themselves…and become reflections of yourself (another topic to be explored another day).
People have myriads of reasons for training. Ideally you can weed out the questionable characters and motivations with 20 some odd minutes of push ups followed by 20 more of squats. But what makes a quality student is certainly more complicated, and the internal aspects and the cultivation of these is becoming more and more interesting (leave the senior students to teach the kicking and punching).
In times past, it may have been more difficult to earn your way into a Dojo. It really is a privilege, and these things are being lost now. You fork over some money for your hour and a half. This is not a call for complicated and cumbersome entry requirements, but here’s where I’m going with this.
Delving into a bit of the lore of it all, let’s say you didn’t have the correct family lineage to allow ease of entry. You would have to prove yourself in another way. Maybe you swept the floors for a while. But while you were busy proving your dedication and character, you got to simply observe: An arguably underappreciated aspect of training.
Watching good, simple, clean movement is such an important element of Systema. Demos do their part to allow students to observe (at a slight risk of stunting student creativity though I might add), but a half an hour demo with just one student is not exactly supported by the North American market. Training time is training time..
Arguably demos are not enough. The floor sweeper, who puts some serious time into observation gains so much from the sidelines. He hears the instructor in a completely different way and sees the class from his perspective. He sees the mistakes the students are making and watches when and why people improve. He gains a respect for who is who in the group. And by the time the floor duty is done, the outsider is already in.