Last week, we took some time to chat with NC SYSTEMA Chief Instructor Glenn Murphy about our upcoming seminar with Martin Wheeler - one of the foremost proponents of the art in the USA, and described by Black Belt magazine as "the best-kept secret in the English-speaking martial arts world." Here's what he had to say:
This is the sixth time Martin Wheeler has come to NC Systema to teach a seminar. What has made his events so in-demand?
Aside from his extraordinary skill, I think Martin has a very broad appeal. Experienced Systema students get a lot out of the content, as he tends to frame everything within the wider context of how Systema works. But trainees from other styles - like karate and BJJ - also get a lot out of it, as he keeps everything relevant to fighting in a street or sport context. This speaks to his experience and background - which mixes decades of intensive training in judo, karate, boxing and Systema, and many years working as a bouncer in some of the roughest clubs in the UK and US.
What do you think makes Martin such an exceptional instructor?
He has a very calm, focused delivery style, and gives very clear goals and objectives. He also has a great ability to teach difficult concepts through the use of comparisons and metaphors. Sometimes, it's a technical metaphor, like "You have to find a way to run three tasks in your background memory while you keep your real focus on the third".
Other times, it's more lyrical, like: "Breathing is the Rosetta Stone that translates thought into movement". This helps makes the abstract more concrete, I think. Every time he runs a seminar, you come away with at least two or three of these gems. They stay with you and inform your training for years afterwards.
What can we expect to learn or experience in this workshop?
First, a serious physical challenge - in the form of strength and movement drills that will vex even the most avid Crossfitter.
Second, a substantial jump in your overall skill level, with respect to Systema movement and defense.
Third, at least one major paradigm shift in relation to moving and fighting. From striking and kicking to grappling and weapon defense - Martin has a way of improving you across the board at these seminars, in the space of a single weekend.
What’s one of the most powerful lessons you’ve learned from Martin?For myself, it's not to be too lazy or complacent. There's a great emphasis on relaxation in Systema. But as Martin likes to say "Total relaxation is good for health, but it's functionally useless. Relaxation in combat means being in control of your tension, rather than your tension controlling you."
Usually, this advice is offered as an admonition to those who freeze up or hold themselves too rigidly through fear or aggression. But it can equally apply to those who hold themselves too loosely in the face of an imminent threat.
You have to find the selective balance between necessary tension and essential physical and psychological relaxation. Your body has to be poised, ready to move at all times.
This is a theme Martin returns to again and again, and one I know he uses with his elite NFL and NBA students at his studio in Los Angeles. It's a powerful lesson than applies to all forms of high-level physical activity, of which combat is just one. A concept worthy of study.
And worthy of study under someone who truly understands it.
Still time to sign up for our forthcoming seminar with Martin (Sep 22-23 2018, Durham NC). Click below to register online now!