How Far We’ve Come

Class Notes: Multiple Opponents

By lbeacon, at Systema SLC

Looking back, over the past few months we have studied the core principles of Systema.  We learned to recognize tension and how to release it.  We practiced strikes with “springy” fists and a relaxed body; we practiced receiving strikes comfortably.  We explored basics of grappling and ground work.  We studied with weapons: sticks, knives, guns.  And then we tried to do it all at once, with multiple opponents.

When we train one on one, our intellect has time to process what is happening and respond to it.  This is great for learning new principles or delving deeper into familiar ones.  But it is difficult to really test ourselves against a single partner without drastically increasing the speed and force of our movements.  To develop trust in our bodies and see where residual tension may be hiding, we need another approach.

Training with multiple opponents allows us to test ourselves and the things we have learned without increasing the intensity of our sparring.  It is a safe way to push our limits and locate our weaknesses.  This is because we are constantly acting and the situation is fluid, but no single opponent is particularly menacing.  By periodically returning to group work, we can examine how far we have come.  Other martial arts may utilize exams or tests to mark a student’s ability, we allow group work to mark our own.

“Systema can be thought of as a selfish art, do your work and let your opponents do theirs.”

– Mark Zamarin

Examples of stick and knife work with multiple opponents can be found here.


Multiple Opponents

Systema was designed to deal with multiple opponents. In many ways it is the Magnum Opus of the Russian Martial Art because it employs work from all previous units. The premise of defending against multiple opponents is to learn to distribute attention and awareness across a group rather than isolating an individual. To succeed we will need soft movement, timing, distance, the ability to deliver and avoid strikes, grabs, and kicks, as well as control over the psychological tensions generated when the odds are against us. For 4 weeks, we will study these topics in the context of multiple opponents along with redirecting blows, delivering a single strike to multiple opponents, using an opponent to control others, and escaping from multiple holds.

As always, class is safe and slow for beginners and experienced martial artists alike. Students are taught and expected to work safely with their partners. The spirit of fun is paramount.

Continue reading