Benevolent work: Gene Smithson in Kortrijk

Warning: this posts contains hippie-ish content and might cause anxiety and distress for the more serious Systema practitioner.

Now I am a bit late writing this review. Three months after the fact I hardly remember any details of a seminar. But, to be honest, I don’t believe really believe I have to remember all the details of a seminar: my body and spirit should. And they are in general quite amazing at that, as long as my mind doesn’t hold them back. It is exactly in this area where Gene’s seminar in focused on. So I will refrain from giving you a list of details I admittedly would not be able to give you anyway and focus on what I consider to be the important part of the seminar.

So what did linger and is still present three months later? Benevolent work.

To some benevolent work might sound a bit contradictory to doing martial arts. And even though I think it is not the most important: I’ll start with giving some reasons why training in benevolent work is going to help you be a better fighter.

So to do proper benevolent work, your physical and mental skill will have to be better than when you do non-benevolent work.
Physically it is easier to do non-benevolent work. Break a knee, crush a skull, do some other irreversible damage. Controlling people without breaking them however requires a lot more Systema skill and insight. So if you want to get better from a physical point of view, you better train to do benevolent work.
Besides proper physical skills, you will need excellent control of your psyche. Getting upset, angry, vindictive et cetera will make it difficult to do benevolent work. But again not just benevolent work will benefit from a calm psyche, any work will improve from a calm psyche.

Gene’s build-up was (besides having ample attention for the physical) mainly aimed at learning to keep a calm psyche regardless of what we were doing. Most interesting were the group exercises with tennis balls. Walking with the balls, passing them to others without dropping them while knowing that at some point a signal will turn all the possessors of tennis balls in crowd-stabbing attackers makes for a very testing environment for a calm psyche.

In the end however what I found to be the basis for proper benevolent work is in the spirit (or however you wish to name it). A conviction to have your action come from a place that wishes even your attackers well without becoming a victim. This state of mind is already difficult to maintain while training with a partner. Let alone in real life situations, for example when working with your colleagues. But this is where the true value of benevolent work and many other aspects of Systema lies for me: in everyday interaction.

Instructor: Gene Smithson
Organizors: Systema Belgium