by Alison Lane
Thanks to the enthusiasm of Aikido Republic’s Dan James and Andrew Seyderhelm from Systema Australia, a combined workshop was held at the Mizu Aikido dojo on Sunday 15 May to explore the relationship between the two arts. There was a fairly even balance of students from both schools, meaning plenty of opportunity to play with a mix of people and get the goss on the two approaches.
The morning session focussed on the foundations of Aikido through practicing a variety of techniques with and without the sword. This was followed by exploring ways to harmonise movement with another person and blending with their energy rather than opposing it. Dan Sensei bravely introduced some reasonably fast blending movements and worked out strategies on the fly to help the Systema guys step back from their trained reaction to enthusiastically engage with their attacker. The experience and great training attitude of the Systema students showed through in how fast they picked up the new techniques.
After lunch we were initiated into some of the concepts of Systema training. Two statements from our comrades that summed it up nicely for me were “we train for the worst case scenario” and “getting hit is good, it recalibrates your body”. So, although Systema includes the principle of getting out of the way of an attack when possible, it trains for when that doesn’t work out and you are stuck close quarters with some mean spirited bugger who is enthusiastically laying into you with both fists and quite possibly some well aimed kicks as well.
The training on the day was largely around how to absorb blows with minimal damage (with regular “recalibration” to remind you why that was a good idea) and how to use instinctive, fluid movements with the whole body to redirect an attacker’s force until you found a space where you could take them to the ground. The Systema guys were all careful but also refreshingly unapologetic about using whatever effective technique presented in the situation. A really nice focus of the Systema training was the principle of keeping your body very relaxed and using your natural reactions to best advantage. Also great was the concept of not choosing a technique, or even looking for one, just waiting until the opening appeared and then exploiting it.
So a great day of training. A long hot shower and a neck rub resolved most of the results of over-calibration and left us with a head full of new ideas to play with. Many thanks to Dan and Andrew for their time and effort in making the workshop a reality and to all of the participants for the great spirit and open minds they brought to the day.
Scroll down for class notes from the workshop