Systema Seminar Review

Suffer Better – Eat Bitter – Be Happy

A Review of Emmanuel Manolakakis SYSTEMA Seminar

written by Matt Furey

Years ago in the movie “Iron and Silk,” American born Mark Salzman documented his life in China, which included teaching English and studying Wushu. Before he began his martial arts training, though, Salzman was told by the master, Pan Qing Fu, that he would need to “eat bitter.” If unwilling to do so, there was no point in getting started.

In Emmanuel Manolakakis most recent Systema seminar, he took the philosophy of “eating bitter” to a whole new level when he said, “We need to learn to suffer better.”

Unlike the story in China, Manny had no prerequisite to “suffer better” before the teaching in Russian Martial Art began. Instead, he opened with a discussion on breathing and how it influences everything you do in life. He taught that Systema is not solely about learning to fight, which was his orientation when he began.

“Only 10-15% of Systema is about fighting,” said Emmanuel. He then drew a diagram showing us how Systema’s methods can and do effortlessly integrate into all aspects of life. This, he taught, starts to be set in motion when you “know yourself” through a combination of deep breathing exercises done while walking, running or doing other types of exercises like pushups, squats, leg lifts and more. Or, in deep contrast, how you breathe and relax while at rest.

There was little need to “suffer better” the first day, even though the exercises and training were demanding. But on the second day reality reared its ¬†head.

No more soft stuff, fellas. Let’s see how you handle pain. Let’s see how you suffer.

The exercises and drills in pain tolerance helped take the student beyond the physical pain. With changes in breathing patterns and awareness placed in different body parts, attendees learned to transform the pain into something better. And like it. Yes, they learned to suffer better. The bitter became the sweet.

Most importantly, despite Emmanuel’s many talents and his keen ability to teach, his greatest assets are his sincerity and humility. He puts on no aires, tries to impress no one – yet does so abundantly because of the ages-old truth that “he who know himself knows others.”

Know yourself by suffering better. What a concept. – Matt Furey

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