Firstly, my journey starts on Facebook, one day, when I discover a poster about the bridge seminar. I’m practicing Systema since one year, and I said to myself: “Ouah…this is an opportunity you can’t miss”. Few days after I learn that my Portuguese mate Miguel wants too, so I decided to join the seminar firmly. Now start the trip to Russia, cause I had few weeks to get a new passport, and my Russian Visa. To get one you will need patience and cash. It seems that Russia keeps old habits from the Cold War; they don’t want you to come in their country. So you will need a voucher (it’s an invitation, if you’re not a relatives, get one by your hotel or travel agency) and some paperwork. After lots of waiting I was ready on time.
I have planned 5 days: 2 for the seminar, 1 to visit, 2 for the way and back. So I arrived on Thursday night after 5 hours of flight from Paris at the airport of Domodedovo. The train Aeroexpress is very modern and you get Moscow round 45 min. At this point, in the Rail station I get the MJ song in my head “Like strangers in Moscow” because I forgotten my subway map in Russian, and everything is written in Cyrillic script. Having one, makes you more serene. I finally found my way to the Hotel and met Miguel.
We get a very cheap hotel in the center of Moscow about 20€ per night (coffee/tea/ Wi-Fi Free …sounds like a song). It’s called the Z-Hostel and you are near everything 10min by walk to Red place, Arbat Street…You will sleep in common room in bunk bed, but don’t forget your earplug, (or you maybe wants to kill a roommate with an iron bar, by chance Miguel didn’t have one.)
Having only one day to visit Moscow is really a shame, because there is so much to see. Especially during winter, we have been obliged to stop in lots of Coffee shops and restaurants to keep us warm.
Before I speak about the seminar, one more thing, if you go to the suburbs to reach a friend or the dojo. Be sure to have the right address in Cyrillic, cause nobody speaks English nor French, finding the right bus is difficult and taxi drivers are not used to foreigners. So we have been welcomed by the promoter Vadim at the Olympic Center in the wrestling room. It felt like back in the 80’s with all the huge glorious wrestlers of the former USSR on the wall. It gives a special atmosphere to this seminar.
The Bridge seminar was made of two days of practice which alternate during the day, AikiDo classes led by Ikeda Shihan (Sat 4h30 & Sun 5h ), and Systema classes led by Mikhail Ryabko (Sat 3h30 & Sun 2h). So a very intensive seminar, as usual very intense for the mind to get focus on the teaching and your body perception.
For the Aiki parts I was firstly surprised by the skills of Russian people with internal aspect, but finally I understood that some study with Ikeda sensei. Moreover I found out that Vadim is a very good practitioner, therefore he must have good students. Practicing Internal since 4 years now, I get used to it but I am still very confused by all the different manners you can reach the goal. So we saw again: absorption, waves, lines, visualization…the only things I remember about 9h30 praticing was Sensei’s advise: “you have to be more precise Nicolas…”
Step by step by step… I let my frustration, my tiredness, my question at the pause waiting for Systema class.
Mikhail came and made a very special demonstration with one off his assistant, he produces lots of unbalancing and emotional effects to his partner Alexander Andreychenkov. Then he explained, using Ikeda Sensei as a demonstrator, how internal aikido practice was acting on body tension to destructure it, and how Systema was using strikes, pushing and different kinds of actions to have the same effects. Impressive!
Mostly, people didn’t have any experience in Systema, so we started by a beginner drills.
We walked around the mat doing one breath during each step, then one breath during two steps, then three, four to ten… normally at this time and even before, you will feel in your body due to anoxia, and due to emotions (especially fear of running out of air) your body tensions. So that drills is very interesting to feel tensions, and to be aware of them. Then we learned how to fix it using breathing. We experiment different drills to feel tensions and how to fix it by breathing which are basics in Systema: push-ups, squats, then strikes (how to give deep effect, and how to receive it).
So Mikhail insists on internal aspect of Systema and how we could use it in our AikiDo. That’s why the last lesson was emphasized on deep touch, and how to create deep effect to the body and mind of the partner. I was quite sceptical about it. Because I couldn’t experience it with Mikhail, cause too much people want to (frustration…), it was difficult to understand what belongs to psychological aspects (as suggestions or mesmerize effects) or to physical. Unfortunately I couldn’t get experience this feeling with any present instructors, and of course not doing it myself a tiny bit. (Obviously Mikhail is a master… things takes time to be mastered…).
Thus this seminar permits me to discover parts of the Systema I didn’t know. Even if I was already convinced of that, it’s a very impressive method with very talented people. I got also the opportunity to practice with instructor mix aikido&systema which was amazingly good and instructive.
Frosting on the cake, we had a very good moment when sensei was led by Mikhail to improve his strikes Systema’s way, on the Chest of the poor Jeff, who his very talented to absorb such heavy power. (Congrat’s by Mikhail himself). It looks like transforming a rocket into nuclear bomb…pretty scary.
Systema is a very powerful method to educate people, but it needs to be practice with a lot of awareness and compassion, if not people could be dangerous. I listen to Master Ryabko several times during the seminar repeating theses words:”Don’t injure your partner”
It seems that I was more tired than I thought; because I have the feeling I have missed and didn’t remember lots of things. As usual you could tell me…
The Week-end was very fun, instructive, and joyful. I got the opportunity to meet Mikhail Ryabko, his son Daniil, many instructors, Ayhan and all of the Turkish people, Jeff and Cate from San Diego, Baha and lots of lovely people. I would like to thanks Russian people for their warm welcome especially Vadim, his brother, Dimitry, Oleg, Tanya, Daniil.