From my earliest days teaching Martial Arts it was clear that the most dangerous thing you were ever likely to come up against in class was the complete novice, and all these years later although not teaching anymore, always feel the same trepidation when training with the uninitiated. We all spend years training in what ever system and along the way you hear people say, “well the system we train in assumes the opponent knows nothing for it to work”.. this was the explanation given when two like students basically cancelled each other out in their training or things didn’t work out too well.. Well its all fine thinking like this, but as I say the times I’ve been at my most uncertain was against a novice or someone from a different style, who did things unpredictably or in a slightly different way than you were expecting. When training with someone new or someone who you are unfamiliar with, it’s so easy to be complacent and drop your guard basking in your own experience, thinking that will be enough to carry you through, but generally this is where you come a cropper, unintentionally dropping your guard because the man in front of you seems as though has less experience in what you do, but how do you know this?. In some ways you should really encourage training with allsorts, as this is like a low level pressure test of your chosen art, someone catching you off guard when they themselves weren’t aware that they were doing anything and neither were you, then suddenly you realise that you’ve been caught out and desperately need to recover. Facing something that doesn't necessarily fit in with what you expect highlights your weaknesses and teaches you not to be complacent and not to switch off. I can remember when practicing Kobujutsu weapons drills years ago now, but can remember that with a practiced partner the drills flowed and everything was pretty safe, even at fast speed, because you both knew what you were doing and knew what was expected of you, but with the novice, the prospect of receiving a knock here and a poke there was quite high. Although this was frustrating, the fact you weren’t able to function as well as you’d like, made you just a bit more observant and cautious. The same can be said with Systema to an extent, when with the experienced the flow-motion feels really good, but with someone who may have just popped in for a random session, or someone who is really keen to learn and gets over excited, suddenly shows up your own work by their unpredictability and you have to work more cleanly and be on your toes so to speak, not to get drawn into their excitement, fast uncontrolled movement and excess tension. So my lesson for today dear reader is never “take your eye off the ball” otherwise it will be your own bloody fault if you get a slap :) Steve
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