“Intuition is the highest form of intelligence, transcending all individual abilities and skills”
― Sylvia Clare
Feeling (or instinct) is the pillar that integrates all others, that brings them together.
Ever see a Chinese chef at work? Does he measure carefully everything before executing his recipe?
In some cases, yes but generally speaking, all the untrained eye sees him do is toss a few things in, stir stuff up and boom, you have a dish.
Of course, that chef has gone to school, has learned his craft, has made mistakes and learned but he has achieved such a mastery that for him, this has become second nature.
He can do it without thinking. He could do it in his sleep.
Remember the first time you learned to drive? That first time you turned on the contact, hesitantly pressed on the gas pedal. Everything was a bit uncertain but as you slowly understood how a car and the road works, you became more and more comfortable. Today, you have no problem eating something while driving, talking to people in the car… Hey, guess what: the F1 driver started just like you did.
To put it simply, driving has now become something that you could do in your sleep (but please don’t).
I have looked at people with a higher grasp of Systema notions then I do, and like the cook, like the driver, they make it look so easy. They make it look like they could do it in their sleep.
I remember wrestling with my instructor Emmanuell both at Fight Club where I grew up and at HQ, and I remember trying this or that only to find my finger oddly twisted and I’m stuck and I have to stop because there’s simply nowhere to go, no more things I can do that will not result in that finger twisted further and generating heaps of pain. All the while, Manny is looking at me with a look on his face similar to “Okay so what’s next?”. Like it was effortless for him.
He looked like he could do it without thinking. Like he could do it in his sleep… And I’ve seen this example countless times: Manny, Vlad, James, Daniil, Val…you name it, you come at them and they seem to shrug you off like you’re merely a mosquito.
And this is not only the case in Systema: In the clip below, Mestre Cobra Mansa plays with his partner and his moves look so easy and like my previous example of wrestling with Manny, he is so many steps ahead of his partner and is guided by intuition, guided by feeling and this is what allows his knowledge to flow. He too looks like he could do it in his sleep.
Another example? Look at this bartender:
Now then, let’s go back to the cooking analogy (yes, I worked in kitchens in my early years). Once you have that basic cake recipe…you can play with it. You can vary the flavor, personalize it. Adapt it not only to your taste, but to your audience, customize it, reinvent it and this is where innovation comes from.
Intuition, feeling, is what also helps people reinvent themselves, helps them grow. It is what allows their knowledge to flourish. Many instructors I’ve met have not only integrated their knowledge but through their practice, through their teaching, have allowed their personal experiences and culture to make it grow their own way.
It comes back to Martin’s phrase: “If you’re doing Systema like me, you’re doing it the wrong way”.
In my humble opinion and experience, feeling, intuition is what binds technique together.
Without it, we stay stuck in the copy/paste mentality, repeating mantras and technique without grasping their full potential and ultimately, all we end up doing is managing our own mediocrity and failures blaming it on the technique.
It becomes the perfect outlet to say “Well this martial art is inferior/superior to this one” and turns many people into martial arts “Tourists”, always in the search of the perfect art (“Oh but does it work for this/that”; “But what if this/that happens?”) and never committing to a single one for a long period of time. The martial art is not inferior or superior, your feeling and intuition in it is what needs to grow.
This is why Systema Hong Kong will once again be innovating and reinventing itself in the Systema world by integrating that fifth pillar: Feeling.
Because in light of what is mentioned above, without feeling, without intuition, it’s only technique.