This is the second part in 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/
Another good thing about viewing Systema as not only a habitus but an immune system is that it helps me to overcome an obvious tension in my argument thus far. I insist that Systema has its historical roots in nineteenth-century European physical culture, and that its primary impetus comes from that era. Systema is not, at its core, a martial art. At the same time, consider the following DVD titles out from Systema HQ: Russian Stick Combat, Fighting in the Water, Street Crime and Knife in a Fight, The Combative Body, and (a personal favourite) Dynamic Joint Breaks. Clearly, if Systema is a physical culture like Yoga, it is one deeply concerned with a specific domain of injury, that of human conflict. Employing the notion of an immune system allows me to massage this tension between physical culture and martial art, bringing all of Systema’s attitudes, practices, and ideas into focus. As a physical culture, Systema seeks to ward off the threats of physical and psychological disease and decline; as a martial art, it seeks to ward off the threat of outside invaders. Both of these aspects, the internal and external, make up a total system of immunization.
We see the intertwining of these two aspects most clearly in the ways that Systema trainers seek to imbue practitioners with the virtue of courage. It takes courage to step up on to the tightrope, to practice at something you feel that you will never master, to not quit. It takes courage also to face an enemy in life or a disaster. Let us call the first sort of courage ‘grit’ or mental toughness and the second sort bravery. The first is internal–moral and psychological; the second is also internal, but outwardly directed–physical.