Every two years Systema HQ in Toronto has a Systema Camp, its a week long training camp where Systema practitioners from across the globe meet up and train together. Its held at this beautiful camp site a few hours north of Toronto with a forest and a lake. This is my write up for 2012 camp that I originally wrote in January of 2013.
For quite some time I have been wanting to go to this Systema Camp and this last year i was finally able to make it. The plan was that this camp/trip should fit nicely after my summer college courses and right before my fall semester started. It would give me a chance to get some great training in, make some new friends and unwind from the last semester by punching people from other countries right in the face (and vice versa).
Leading up to camp…
As I got closer to to the 2012 Systema Camp trip, I found out that my dates where off, and that Tuesday of that week is the same day as my summer college course final exam. Well that’s a problem. Figuring that it wont be that big of a deal, I went and visited my professor to see if i can do the final before or after my trip. I met up with him and explained my situation, told him i leave the Sunday before the final and wont be back until the Monday after the final. I gave him a whole sad story to try and get his sympathy. He listened and paused. “You know what…maybe there is something i can do to help you” he said. “Yes!” i though, “this will all work out.” He then said, in a way that sounded like he truly thought he was doing me a favor: “Instead of Tuesday you can take your final on Wednesday.” “Wednesday? Of the week i get back? That would be perfect!” I responded. “No, the day after the scheduled final, that Wednesday.” he says. “That Wednesday? I will be gone the WHOLE week, that Wednesday is even worse that Tuesday.” “Well that’s to bad then, if you don’t show up for your final you will fail the course.” He stated. Well we never came up with a agreement.
Now between a rock and a hard place, i then take my problem to his direct boss, and eventually to the Dean of the department. They both gave me pretty much the same responses: “Doing it before or after you get back seems totally reasonable. Who is your professor?” “Professor ******” I answer. “Oh!…of course its him, I should have known…” Long story short they both then said that they are sorry and he is following the University rules and only he (the Professor) can change the date for me. So no luck.
I then contacted Toronto to tell them of my problem and they where as helpful as possible. To make that story short, they told me that coming in late on Wednesday would be fine. They know who I am and they said that the first few days are covering the basics, stuff i should already know, so i should be fine. The main things i would miss are the first water fighting seminar and the first night forest fighting seminar but those both will be revisited later in the week. Toronto HQ also said that to make up for my lost days they will wave the fee for the two day after seminars for that Sunday and Monday at HQ, which are designed as summaries for the week. Awesome.
Once I got that squared away I had to change my flight from the Sunday before to that Wednesday morning and it was not cheap.
Week of Camp
The weekend before and that Monday that was planned to be for rest before Systema Camp, I spent studying my ass off for that test. Took the test Tuesday afternoon, packed that night, on the plane Wednesday morning at 6am. In Canada around 10am, on the bus for a fun 2-3 hour drive with the nicest Canadian teenager they could find. Made it to camp grounds just in time for lunch break at 1pm. Though I was very glad to finally arrive, to say I was a little stressed about the whole thing up to this point would be a bit of a under statement.
The camp and the lake site is just gorgeous.
You have the choice to stay in a cabin or bring your own camp gear to Systema Camp. Not wanting to bring my own gear I choose the cabin, but I knew my friends at BigDSystema was bringing camping gear. So I had the option of staying with them if I wanted to. The campsite itself is designed for kids, so the cabins and the bunks are on the small side, as in your legs are hanging off the end at the knee small. Talking to the people in my cabin who have been here a few days, if given the choice of staying in the cabin or having a tent they all would choose a tent hands down, especially if its one you could stand in. So I soon moved in with the guys I knew from BigD in their nice big tent.
We then headed to the chow hall for food, I was warned a head of time that last Systema Camp the food was terrible and was the number one complainant. The food they fed us this time was probably some of the best food i have ever had, almost worth the trip right there.
At this years camp the main instructors where Vladimir Vasiliev, Valentin Talanov, and Konstantin Komarov.
Sunday, the first Systema Camp day that I missed, was set as a general meet and great and to have everyone settle in to their camp sites and cabins. Monday and Tuesday (i missed these as well) was more towards the fitness and basics of Systema and included a ‘intro’ to water fighting and a pitch black work in the forest. The first pitch black night work in the forest at Systema Camp has been said to be a lot of people favorite portion of the camp. They take you out at dusk through a trail in the woods to a clearing. Here you will train until it is to dark to see your hand in front of your own face. The instructors then “disappear” and you have to find your own way back on your own in the dark. This was done the night before i arrived. The theme for Wednesday was strikes, Thursday was grappling, Friday was knifes, Saturday was mass/group attacks and other miscellaneous topics.
Normally you will wake up about 5-6am for morning exercise. Here you would be doing some stretches and push ups and some warming up exercises based on what was scheduled. Then have breakfast. After breakfast, you have morning training, then lunch. Then afternoon training, then dinner. And finally night training. Tradition has it that you must take a dip in the (freezing) lake between each activity.
Without really having time to truly settle in on Wednesday I was thrown into my first event. Were we where working on strikes with Konstantin in the afternoon in a asphalted area and it was a great experience. Some of the people there had no problem training barefooted on that sandpaper of a ground.
During the evening rest I had a good chance to talk to Vladimir and Valerie. We discussed about training in Texas, upcoming events, and topics i missed that week. The next day we started with training in the water, and man that was interesting. I was partnered up for some time with a nice big guy from Scotland who straight up told me he did not like water and he wanted to apologize before hand on how uncooperative he will soon be because of his dislike for water, he was a tough one. The most interesting thing i learned was what a shock it is to the body when you are submerged. I feel pretty comfortable in the water, but the shock you get each time someone throws you under is something one can work through, i don’t think you can truly ever get over.
Friday was weapons day, that morning we had to go and pick our own stick from the forest (well to save time they had a pile premade to choose from) and we did stick work all morning. That afternoon was spent more with knifes both in the field and in the forest, great training. Then for Saturday we did a lot of group and mass attack work at Systema Camp
That evening was designed to be a celebration of the weeks work. There was great food and some great Vodka. The Russian group and the UK group got involved in a loud drinking song competition. “Yo Texas!” (my nickname there, for i was the only in our group born in Texas, one was from South Africa, the other from Russia from BigD) the UK yelled at me. “Come sing us a Texan drinking song!” “A Texan song while drinking Russian Vodka and Canadian beer? I would get shot back home!” I answer back, laughing them off. Better answer i guess than telling them the truth: that i could not think of any (ill have one for next time). Eventually we all got kicked out of the mess hall and headed back to the camp sites in a smaller groups. The UK group would then go from cabin to cabin, tent to tent singing songs and drinking beer. Everyone got rather drunk and it was a lot of fun.
Everyone was running a bit slow the next morning’s workout. Afterwords we all packed up for the ride back to Toronto, I was staying and leaving Monday after the seminar so I took the bus to Systema HQ. That night we had a small group, pretty much all experienced guys. This allowed for a great night class. That night we went out to some good burger joint and wondered around downtown for a while. A few guys, including me, where staying the night at the school. Sitting around all evening and night allowed me a lot of time to reflect on the week.