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01 The Mat is Your Friend - Systema Method

posted 20 Jan 2010, 18:54 by aikidorepublic   [ updated 27 Nov 2011, 03:48 by Dan James ]
The Systema method comes from The System developed in Russia and although a striking art it is remarkably similar to Aikido in many of its principles. In my own dojo we introduced the Systema method of rolling for beginners and it has helped many of them to get over the first (of many) hurdles in learning ukemi. The focus of the method is to teach our minds and bodies not to regard the ground as an adversary to fear but something to join with and welcome. The method starts with breathing and stretching exercises designed to get the body moving in close contact with the mat. The breathing helps to focus the mind and the stretches are progressively modified to lead into a tumble without a 'moment of truth' roll that leads to failure and a negative perception of rolling. There is a nice tutorial here

We found using a good instructor/ helper who can hold the weight of the hips it leads into the next level of rolling practice

Systema rolling example in Aikido

Gabby's describes her experiences on introducing this method to the dojo:

"The systema method of rolling uses breathing and relaxation techniques to
overcome or prevent the development of fear. Finding the article was timely
as I'd been approached by a couple of junior students who had said that
falling forward scared the hell out of them a class earlier.

I was asked to teach this method to the class as a trial run and
started with a small group of beginners including one of the students who
had expressed fear of rolling. I incorporated a suggestion from someone
reading the original post to include a roll by reaching behind to grab the
foot and rolling over. The students were able to perform all the movements
and relax further into the stretches but the end "roll" was very messy,
needing lots of room to avoid hitting each other. I also went through these
exercises with the whole class another day but omitted the roll at the end
due to space restrictions. 

I found that a couple of the older, more stiff students weren't able to get
their shoulder down to the ground and so the massaging element wasn't
successful. Although they assured me that the movement was comfortable I am
still a bit unsure whether it is beneficial for them to practise it and
whether they were able to maintain relaxation throughout. I asked the
student who was fearful for some feedback and she said it was helpful,
although I've noticed since that she still has issues both in rolling
practise and rolling from techniques, so perhaps this process needs to be
repeated or a program created over a period of time. Many students told me
the really enjoyed the exercise and found the relaxation element beneficial."