Martin Wheeler is actually the first instructor who got me interested in Systema. So, finally meeting him in person for the first time was even more magical than I had imagined!


In my Ryo seminar recap, I mentioned applying tension to trick or mislead your partner. Martin showed me why this might not be a good idea. Yes, although this may work beautifully in hand to hand combat, when it comes to weapons… even the slightest thread of tension could get you stabbed or shot!

I didn’t totally understand initially but all Martin did was move in such way that is almost as smooth and soft as water and although I may have seen him move, I couldn’t possibly respond… or rather, I didn’t know to respond?


As far as I understand, this is probably as simple as relaxation. Yet, while the skills or drills are no secret or strange to me, no matter how hard I tried, I could only perform them sometimes, at best, as it was later explained to me, that the problem is that I was “trying”.


“Trying” means I want to make things happen, which inevitably leads to tension; While relaxation is simply letting things happen.


When I stop worrying about things like “I want do to it” or “can I do it”, and just know that I know the stuff, that I am on top of things, everything came so naturally. In fact, things worked even better if I didn’t think about any of that. Two separate light sparrings, about a week later, I somewhat performed the first half of a move Martin had shown, the second half of the said move lit up in my head… and actually happened simultaneously. My fist went into the eyes beautifully!


However, I feel like when learning new material reaching new depths basically means that we don’t know them… at least not that well, and definitely don’t own them. So, quite a Möebius loop there?


Nevertheless, as I was presumably more relax… Not only was my work more natural but it also seemed to give me a clearer perspective. And, I started noticing things, for example, when I had the pleasure of working with Martin himself, I realized I was always following, that I was half a step behind. Probably because whenever he did something to me, that said thing was what caught my attention. I was feeling pain and I just wanted to get rid of it and in so doing, was blinded to the threat I was walking into. And I might have even thought that I was relaxing through it but I wasn’t. At least not as much as I would have liked to.


This brings us to the most important insight Martin shared with me: True Systema is very boring. When you punch, do push ups, whatever you do, your emotion should always be neutral, and you should always be consistent in how you feel. And hence when you do Systema, you are not fighting with anyone, but with your own emotions.