Before going into details, I think it is appropriate to introduce myself first and give little bit of information about my background on martial arts, so that the reader can have a better idea about my perspective.
I started training martial arts when I was 7 years old (almost 26 years ago) and had the chance to train and experience various martial arts. In year 2000, I met Aikido and the year after that I met Ayhan Kaya Sensei. Thanks to him, Aikido has been a part of me since then. Also, in year 2008, Kevin Choate Sensei started to come to Turkey for Aikido seminars and besides opening my mind, he introduced Systema. I should note that he was the perfect example of how a man can/should think without limitations and prejudice.
Long story short, I have been training Systema and Aikido for sometime and it should not be hard to imagine how exited I was when I heard about a joint seminar in Moscow. Both Hiroshi Ikeda and Mikhail Ryabko are very high level instructors, masters and seeing them both in the same organization was an opportunity not to be missed.
Training with one after another showed me how many common points these two arts have. Their approach maybe different in terms of educational process but I believe the essence is the same. It is not about what you do to your partner, it is about what you do with yourself. It is not about hurting or disturbing other people, it is about blending with other people. It is about understanding yourself and then understanding other people. Therefore they are both internal arts. They both start with teaching the mechanics of human body and then go to deeper areas like how the mind works.
Breathing, relaxation, constant movement and proper body positioning are some of the other common points of these arts. Actually, I strongly believe that training in both arts is like looking at the same view from different windows but as I stated before there are differences too of course.
Sometimes some of the aikido people get lost in basic technique (kihonwaza) and lose the connection between the reality and the technique. I believe Systema’s realistic approach to confrontaion is very benefical to Aikido practioners in that way. Taking strikes is an important area that can be developed through Systema. Also, Systema people can gain great benefit from the Aikido’s emphasis on taking balance, control of the situation with minimum energy, timing and distance.
In a nutshell, training with two masters in Moscow showed me that it doesn’t hurt to get out of the comfort zone and try new things once in a while. Ikeda Sensei set a great example by participating every class and trying to explore new things with great humbleness. Practioners of both arts have a lot to share and learn from each other it was great to see the unifying spirit of Budo in Moscow.
Thanks again to Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei and Michael Ryabko and of course to those who contribute for this wonderful event.
M. Mert SARACOZ