Systema Camp 2014
Unlike Systema Camp 2012, I was right on time. This Systema Camp was a full day shorter than the last one, so we arrived there on Monday and left on Saturday. The plane out of DFW airport left at around 7am in the morning and arrived around 10:30/11:00 in Toronto, which means the plane would arrive right after the big charter buses would leave for camp. Traveling with a few other guys from Big D Systema we informed Vlad and Valerie of our late arrival and they had a van ready for us at no extra charge. We made it there just in time for lunch. We all also decided to stay in the same tent as last time.
The head instructors planned for this week was the same as last one, Vladimir Vasiliev, Valentin Talanov and Konstantin Komarov. Konstantin was having some trouble with his visa this time around and was scheduled to arrive as soon as possible. To warm us up for the week Mr. Talanov started us off with some breathing and mobility exercises, which was great after being stuck in a plane and then a van all morning.
Just like for Systema Camp 2012 we spent a good majority of the time split into a advanced and non advanced groups then at the end the instructor group would break off for some more specialized training. Unlike last time, Talanov was not left alone to run the instructor groups and tests, Val was with him each time. At this Systema Camp instead of there being four major tests focused on each area, there was just one test at the end. I think some people complained about failing the test last camp which is a shame. The testing set up was near perfect at the last camp. Everyone had to perform the four major training sections of Systema: strikes, grappling, ground, and weapons. In front of their piers and in front of the camera, it really added a great amount of tension and importance to the test. Everyone was able to see where everyone stood, and not everyone should be able to pass. I’m pretty sure everyone who went up passed this year.
Konstantin Komarov never was able to make it to Systema Camp this year, and his presence was sorely missed. Mr. Komarov’s specialty is the psychological, and he would usually run the evening and night sessions. So the evening events where not as crazy and memorable as they where last time. No getting left in the middle of the forest, or having to work in a team to save a ‘injured’ team mate. Instead though we got to spend a lot more time training with the Zettler Twins, who are amazing. Those two take a more serious and realistic approach to Systema training. I could just watch those two spar for hours, they one of my highlights for Systema Camp.
The main reason I enjoy going to camp is the chance to train with a huge array of people from different backgrounds. In Texas it is usually the same group of people that go to the same seminars together. But here you get to train with hundreds of people from all over the globe, each one with something new to add to the table. Outside of the excellent training my two main highlights came at the end of the seminar.
The first one was my “whip massage” by “Big” Sergei. Sergei is one of the main instructors out of California, who was once a Sambo champion in Russia. He is one of my favorite instructors to work with, for he is a very big guy who is rather soft spoken. Near the end of Systema Camp a shipment of whips arrived and Sergei offered to give a small lesson on how to give massages. This small lesson ended up being about half of camp in a small room during the rain. He started off teaching us the correct way to breath during and how to teach of partner how to breath through the massage. How to avoid hitting the bones, and how to strike the muscles using different areas of the whip for different intensities of massage. When they all laid down and waited for him to come to each person and give each one of us a full whip massage.
My turn came about near the end, so I was laying on the cold heat sapping bare concrete for quite a while. Sergei would beat you…i mean, massage you…with the whip right up the point to where you could not take it any more. Then the endorphins would kick in and you would go from pain to a very warm almost euphoric sensation. Your body would just feel warm and heavy. Once that wore off he would be back for another round. This would go for several sessions. Near the end of mine, instead of feeling warm and heavy I started feeling very cold, to the point of shivering. I did not know at the time that this meant that my body was done and to end it there. Sergei comes around for two more sessions and I am tapping out oh man I don’t think i have ever felt anything more painful than those last to rounds. He asked me what was wrong and I explained to him how I felt, he then gathered people around and used me as a demonstration on when to know when you have reached a limit during this type of massage.
The next morning i could barely get out of bed. Everyone else in my group also had this massage and where very relaxed and energetic, showing each other how minimal bruises they had and how great the felt. They then wanted to see mine, and here it is, a photo taken about 3 days later:
To say my wife was beyond pissed when I got home would be a understatement. Luckily for me I already took my instructor test because i could barely walk that last day of camp.
The next big highlight I had at Systema Camp was during the wait for my plane flight home. I had about 3 hours until my flight, and spent it all talking with a instructor from New York City named Sergei (so many Sergei’s). He told me his whole life story, from arriving at the states, to opening his first school, to his first Systema Camp, to how proud of his students are. Everything. It was great just hanging out and talking to him for hours, made waiting for my flight fly by.
Just like in 2012 I had a excellent time this year at Systema Camp, see everyone again in 2016!