Movement drills in Systema are incredibly important and yet are frequently the most neglected. Especially when sometimes we tend to focus on offensive movements, such as striking, that we tend to ignore the simplest response (i.e. moving out of the way). Even I find myself “taking the brunt” of attacks in drills, causing me to stay in the line of an attack before I tell myself to “get out of the way.” Perhaps a good Systema body would not be like this at all.
A tense body is akin to a sunken rock in a stream. It drags along the bottom colliding frequently with the river bed and other rocks. It is hardy and heavy, held back by its on weight and unable to use the river’s flow. The relaxed body (the Systema body) on the other hand is a coconut. The coconut is also heavy and hardy, but not so much so that it cannot move. The coconut is not only alive, it draws energy from the forceful waters of the river and while it might also bump into other floating fruit or the shores, it is unaffected by it and continues to traverse the stream with ease. It is full of life and energy unlike the rock.
Make no mistake, being relaxed under stress is much more difficult that it sounds. Our daily lives of stress and lack of movement lead to psychological and physical tension. We are also born with different physical conditions. My own right leg is an inch and a half shorter than my left and thus have an imbalance in my weight distribution which exacerbates my tension problems and gives me a harder time to keep good posture. Nevertheless, the beauty of Systema is that the core principals of breathing, relaxation, movement and form still apply. Systema helps me to find what is comfortable for me, not just simply letting me know what is ideal. I might still have some limitations due to my physical condition, but as a Systema practitioner I am equipped to find my own comfort and relaxation – and sometimes, the only way to learn to relax is simply to move.