Systema Finding Mastery Seminar 2019
Greetings Emmanuel and FightClub Students,
I had the exceptional honour to be invited to witness the Mastery Seminar I on March 16 along with the invitation to speak after as Emmanuel’s former professor of Kinesiology & Health Science in York University’s Faculty of Health. I always thought great teachers made great students, but Emmanuel showed me that the reverse is true: great students make great teachers. Now here I am a couple decades later seeing him offer master lessons in his smartly humble way through exuberant revealing of his own daily practices and deep grasp of Systema principles as his Way of Life. Too good a mentor to just talk, he directed those lucky ones attending (he told me 12-15 but there were 36 plus two film crews and me) into experiential movements and School of Kinesiology imaginative partner exercises (please don’t think of them as ‘drills—far too dull a term). I and Health Science observed the actual learning grow stronger before my eyes in moves that were fun, comfortable, exploratory, gutsy, knowing, and each action training calm breathing under all conditions and changes. The teaching inspired guts and grit as much as laughter and delight. Beautifully done! What could I add to a superb expression of ‘mastery’ where these best lessons blended precise words into exact teaching by doing? I witnessed his mastery! I saw practitioners practicing…
While Emmanuel teaches by example as well as by systematic immersion into the principles of this ultimate martial art and cultivation of Situational Awareness, I had the advantage of living 73.5 years before receiving a fatal diagnosis of Stage IV Prostrate cancer last November that impelled me both to intensify my desire to share lessons learned and to tell no lies since I was at the end of my game. Facing 36+ wonderfully engaged students, every one deliberately giving their best yet channeling total enjoyment in each moment, I felt gratified to have my half-hour to share what I could after my active life loving combative sports and martial arts. Most professors stand before captive audiences trapped by huge tuition and too often wishing they were anywhere else, so being in front of enthusiastic, passionate, inspired, and alert students was a definite thrill as much as it was a rare experiment. I used to tell my students not to introduce me to parents or friends as their professor or teacher but rather as their deep-sleep therapist who within a few sentences could put hundreds of them into powerful pure trance-states for 50 minutes. FightClub attracts moving lovers of learning. What was I dying to teach?
Now there will be surely finely edited video of the Seminar (my simple words too) so let me say what I either wished I’d said or what I should repeat. As I revealed, my end of days ultra-real diagnosis compels me to focus on what is most important. Since I cannot add to the quantity of my days I must intensify the quality of my moments. My big mantra is “the secret to life is to keep breathing” so you can tell I am right in line with the essence of Systema. So if in Systema strikes are where ‘soul meets body,’ then for me death is where soul goes beyond where body cannot; your martial art is not an accumulation of techniques but rather a simplifying rigidity by dropping all inessential habits through training until one “masters’ effortless power where simplicity rules. Awaken your power, wake up you warrior! Train you own inner master.
Emmanuel started the Seminar by giving points on three stages: Before, Now, After. I equate these with the three ages of Growing Up, Waking Up, and Showing Up as Ken Wilber says—Before=>Childhood & Adolescence, Process =>Adulthood & Maturity, After=> Seniority/Elderhood/End of You. This is your life-cycle as martial artist—you start off as a rookie, train to become a competent student, and excel into teaching as a senior instructor. All the way through from your first day you are fitting yourself to live as a protector of life while ridding yourself of all that is unnecessary—movements, acts, habits, inertia, concepts, fears, techniques, and complexities. You become over the years a distillation of inner aspirations to learn Systema, to become a martial artist as a master of Systema. That is not a title you give yourself—it is recognition by others of your worth and how you live. In my four decades as a professor, I observed the difference between the ‘good’ and the ‘excellent’: the good think they are ‘good enough’ and the excellent use every moment in each opportunity to become ‘better,’ working hard to gain even a 1% improvement. Those of you intending to become excellent and then surpass “excellence” cannot miss a day of that self-discipline in refining your art, of training to ensure your skills are your best eliminating any flaws with practice over and over. The only person you compete against is who you were yesterday. So when you are urged by Emmanuel to “Know Yourself,” do you work at it? Systema is superbly complete because it requires knowing how to apply the principles PLUS what it feels like to have those applied to you. Go beyond you. Ken Cohen the celebrated Qigong master says there are four “F” levels of knowing as one ascends into lessons of the art: Form, Function, Feeling, then Forgetting. When you have trained your art to the point of blending your unconscious, subconscious, conscious and superconscious into your embodiment, that hard-earned genuine humility harmonizes your physical/emotional/mental/spiritual dynamic spheres. You actually unify into your mastery, the mystery of flowing as the actual beautiful awareness without the impediment of pretended rigid ‘perfection.’ Then your life is proof of mastery: forget it…you live it by FEELING alive every instant & LISTEN to everything within and outside you. Listening is being present in your life.. We live in a world of threes: you have 3 seconds to move when confronted by a predator with lethal weapon, you have 3 minutes to live without breath, you have 3 hours to live in hypothermic conditions, you have 3 days to live without water, you have 3 weeks to live without food, you have 3 months to live without social contact, 365 days to live through before your next birthday. Yet Systema teaches you to transform your mindset and all your 8 dynamic spheres so you can push beyond those apparent limits, those “horizons” (remember that a ‘horizon’ is an imaginary line that recedes as you approach it. Every one of those 3’s can be overcome by training in principles and movements and disciplined determination as long as you breathe calmly. So practice this: listen x3 today!
Breathing is life—and you should recognize that you are alive today because your ancestors originated, practiced, trained, excelled at martial arts in both ancient and also historic times—you are here because your lineage were champions at staying alive in the face of deadly threats. You owe it to them, to yourself, and to your descendants (should you have any) to preserve and protect your life with these vital arts. Self-defense is essential to optimal health. Mastery is lifetime training in a decisive lifestyle, not a hobby or activity. It is not a “goal” that takes a certain investment of time nor a trade requiring a contractual apprenticeship before you create a ‘masterpiece’—it is a formation of you as lifelong learner assimilating lessons every day in every movement shaping your attention, focusing your concentration and listening to your internal world such as your changes in breathing and heartbeat and tension levels as well as the external milieu including people around you (friends, strangers and predators alike), sounds, sights, talk, feelings, perceptions, intuitions, messages, deeper feelings, events, omissions. Listening is NOT hearing just as seeing is NOT reading—illiterates can see but cannot read. Listening is rare work.
You train to condition your overall sensitivity in order to register even the subtlest elements into comprehensive situational awareness that heightens fun, your intelligence, your exuberance, your intuition, your apprehension of threat, your decision to escape or control or move in the presence of risk or threat as well as distraction or allure. That training cleanses your palate of conventional thinking and rigid habits. You become thereafter a force for good by transforming negatives into positives in every way and in every instant, so that even potential confrontations become occasions for your capacity to respond in the right ways. Psychologists tell us we have two innate instincts when aroused by threat: fight or flight. BUT I see four “F’s” in my observations: freeze (the most common), flight, fight, and flow. All four are enhanced by habitual reinforcement, but Systema strongly immerses you into practicing “flow” whenever tension triggers you as a stimulus. And any member of The Survivors Club will tell you that the best outcomes result from consistently sustaining the flow-experience signaled by your rhythmic breath patterns conditioned by practiced, intentional, expert training. “The secret to life is to keep breathing.” Calmly, comfortably, smoothly, from the centre of your self-controlled sphere of your present life-force, open your potential: physical/emotional/mental/spiritual/familial, social/political/global.
If you have read this far, you know my fatal cancer has metastasized into my bones and lymph nodes as well as my lungs. I can manage pain enough with “miracle drugs” (they are called that for good reason) even more effectively because I want to share my life-lessons with you in order to intensify your appreciation for what Emmanuel offers you on your sure path to mastery. He gives you edgy purpose to pursue passionately a life worthy of your unique gifts, talents, intellects, feelings and personal as well as cultural history. You become in Fight-Club.CA a protector of life—for yourself, for others you care about, for your community, for future people and for our Mother Earth. He teaches you to alter your views of adversity to use those events as training grounds for knowing yourself, for sharpening your situational awareness, for relaxing under pressure, for moving so you stay in control, for having fun and staying comfortable so that no inner demon nor external disaster nor sadistic predator can victimize you and literally make you “lose your mind” and thus die without saving your only precious life. What would your life be like if your only attitude was gratitude? Let me assure you that life is not about time- management but actually consists of energy-management—time is outside you, but energy is within you. Now consider this ultimate truth: every thought, perception, feeling, word, action, omission, habit, goal, training exercise even inertia or indecision has an energy-consequence. Using that knowledge, evaluate what Systema (as Emmanuel both teaches and lives in example) gives you to counter the energy-drainage that comes with fatal “freezing” or with your usual inadequate responses to life’s challenges. You receive the sweet gift of life once. What do you decide ? Do you dare to live intensely so that you LOVE life?
From my point of view with a dead-end diagnosis (who knows how long I live or you do?), let me quote a brilliant Russian proverb which I’ve been told translates beautifully into English “You’ll know it’s true when it happens to you.” So if you accept my claim that the most precious thing in the world is your attention, then identify with the life-giving worth of giving your life to master Systema because, as Qasim Chauhan says, “ Pour the magic of passion and attention into everything you do. Don’t think of anything and just be here now while doing every single little action you do.” I urge you now to pay pure attention, start with this single master-skill that flowers into all the others in martial art: it is Listening! Everything starts there, friend: in breathing, in focusing, in relaxing, in knowing yourself and in knowing others. Do it always. Be brave in your beautiful decision to create your own path where there are no tracks except the ones you make, because you have witnessed others living here as Awakened Warriors: feel Alive! Canadian band Trooper sang ”We’re here for a good time, not a long time.” Master energy!
Respectfully offered, in gratitude for your attention enriching us both…
Gregory Malszecki, Ph.D
FACULTY OF HEALTH