Last weekend I was lucky enough to train with the Russian martial artist and systema master Vladimir Vasiliev alongside other teachers and students from all over the UK and even further afield. The workshop was looking at ‘the Structure of Systema’, for two days we practiced some of the fundamentals of the enigmatic martial art.
One of the most inspiring ideas for me came from a few words Vladimir said as we were working on walking relaxed centered way. He would demonstrate with a student in the middle of the hall, talk them through some of the Systema breathing principles and say “Okay, now move”. The first few times as the student began to walk he called them back, “No no, you took a step. Don’t step, just move”…
The confusion of trying to discern a difference between the two took me right back to working with my Alexander Technique teacher years ago. The situation and the wording was a little different, I was sat down and she told me to move my arm, rather than lifting my arm. Up and down my arm went, I can’t even remember whether or not I got her approval on moving it in the end, but I can remember the frustration of thinking “but I AM moving!” It seems a little clearer now perhaps, while walking circles round the hall last weekend I felt that a ‘step’ has a beginning and an end whereas to ‘move’ is flowing on continuously.
Towards the end of the weekend I was doing some light sparring with a trainee instructor at the club where I had recently begun training and something else came up that took me right back to the early days of my explorations into movement.
“I think lots of people are get too fixed on a particular goal” he said while throwing a jab that caught me gently round the jaw “you know, like, I want to hit them there or grab them like that, and that gets in the way of them being able to react”. F.M. Alexander may have called it ‘end gaining’ but the idea is the same, fixation on a goal can obstruct the effectiveness of movement in the face of an ever changing environment, “Don’t step, just move.”
For anyone who is curious I can fully recommend Systema training, the freeform drills are engaging, exploratory and a whole lot of fun. It’s added new depth and practical insight into movements I’ve been practicing for years, I’ve only been doing it a couple of weeks and I’m already hooked! And likewise , even if you don’t train Systema, Vladamir Vasiliev is an inspiring teacher, sharing his skill with a great mixture of humour, humility and a contagious sense of enjoyment in what he does, go see him if you ever get the chance!