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Don't Destroy the Charm

Watch the video Podcast Don't Destroy the Charm

I have traveled all over the world teaching Systema to friends and students. I used to teach 3-4 seminars a year in Belgium, for example. I will never forget a house an instructor and his wife welcomed me to: it was beautiful, unique and full of character – even by European standards. It had a charm. As did another we visited, full of trinkets and family photos and 20-year old furniture. I am often invited into the homes of students, where they tell me about their families and lives and show me around their city. I enjoy it tremendously, and love the charms particular to every city I visit. Yes, every city has its problems. But even with those problems, there is a charm. Some times that charm is found in the problem itself.

We should remember this about ourselves. We all have unique qualities or idiosyncrasies about ourselves that make us who we are. Some times a unique quality we have is found in one of our flaws. Or that unique quality is perceived as abnormal. In both cases, we might try to change that quality to conform. But that would be a mistake, as those unique qualities are part of our character and should be embraced.

Look, I’m not saying don’t improve yourself. I’m not saying don’t clean yourself up. Anyone who has known me for any length of time will know that. What I am saying is, learn to embrace who you are.

In my classes, I would rather see bad Systema by one student than a good imitation of me. When someone first starts working with me, I observe what they do, how they respond and behave, and how they move. I ask questions to get to know them a little. Because I want to see them, much like a coach might tell a singer, “I want to hear YOUR version of the song, not a copy of someone else’s version.” When you are not bringing yourself to the table, you’re just copying. It’s not authentic or original.

Our charm is in our originality. And that originality can often be seen in how we move or our mannerisms; even in our style. Just think of Vladimir and Michael, two great masters of Systema yet their styles are both very different. Recently I did a seminar the Summit of Masters 2021 and Michael was on screen giving a demonstration with a 60 year old woman with white hair and a knife. He picks people for demos no one else would pick! Very different style than Vladimir’s.

You see these renovation shows on TV where if they find something old or unique in a house they try not to touch it, to preserve the charm. Remember that old pair of shoes you never wanted to throw out? There is a charm to them. So when you see something unique in someone, don’t disrupt it. Don’t force people to be carbon copies of yourself.

Don’t destroy the charm.

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