This is the conclusion of the fourth chapter of an ongoing series entitled Know Thyself. You can find the first chapter collected here. The second chapter is collected here. The third chapter is collected here:http://www.fight-club.ca/FC_Connect/tag/chapter-three/
Working with pain and fear develops a student’s psychological courage, their capacity to deal with the threat of losing their mind. The martial arts aspect of such training develops a student’s physical courage, their familiarity with and capacity to overcome the threat of physical injury. These are excellent qualities, but they are not in and of themselves enough. Gaining expertise, the final prerequisite for courage training, involves developing foundational skills and attitudes, such as grit and mental toughness, and then placing experiences on top of those foundations, strengthening the whole as you proceed. This means practice. This means simulation. True, we can never imitate an unknown future reality. That time, when and if it will arrive, is a perpetual and unsolvable mystery. But we can make an educated guess, looking at the past and drawing out repeating patterns, devising situations in which we are likely to fail so that we can learn in a safe environment how to maybe prevail. For instance, on the US Navy’s central training grounds they have constructed a life-sized model of a submarine, capable of mimicking the dangers and threats which sailors would likely or even possibly encounter at sea. Training in a virtual reality serves to expand the range of a student’s experience, helping him or her to translate theory into reality. Systema, if everything I have written has any truth, is a good training in the virtue of courage. But if there is one realm in which it falters, it is in the realm of simulation. This, however, is in no way a reason to reject the approach. Indeed, it may be as virtuous an approach as we could want. But we shall get to that soon enough.
Training at Fight Club is not as formal as Komarov’s presentation leads one to suspect. No Systema club that I know of (mind you, I have only ever been to three different clubs) follows Komarov’s stages, moving from breathing to sitting to standing to multiple attackers. That programme is meant to serve, one assumes, as an ideal introduction to Systema from the perspective of a behavioural psychologist, or for someone lacking a situated club and a seasoned instructor. At Fight Club, Emmanuel avoids the sort of massed practice that Komarov appears to recommend. Society generally assumes and fervently believes that constant repetition of a skill in large quantities produces the best learning. This is not so. I strongly suspect, given his background in psychology and as a military instructor, that Komarov knows this as well. Learning occurs best when practice is varied, spaced out, experiential, and simulated.