WHAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT KAIZENTAO – Marc Bresse
I have been around martial arts for a few decades. After a decade in Asian Arts, including a good amount of Aikido, I spent a decade playing Capoeira. Then most recent decade was training in Systema under Sonny Puzikas for three years, under Vladimir Vasiliev for a couple of months, and with Mikhail Ryabko for a couple of weeks (over the years). I’ve taught for seven years since.
Last weekend a friend and I met up with Thong for some amazing southern BBQ outside of DC. We had driven up from Charlotesville, VA where we’d been working. The three hour meal turned out to be a continuous lesson from Thong whose enthusiasm for art and teaching is extraordinary.
Mostly the lesson was about relaxed strength. An example was to make an “OK” sign with index and thumb so they couldn’t be separated. It quickly became obvious that it could not be done with strength of the fingers. Although, Thong could consistently do it with his method, I was completely unable to hold my fingers together. Finally, he gave us a simple idea that could engage the type of strength to be successful. After a few fails, I was able to succeed enough to get a peek at a new way to concentrate. The most amazing thing was that it required me to find the sweet spot, which was to relax further than I had previously ever felt possible. If you resorted to a flinch, focused strength, it immediately brought excessive tension and the stress overwhelmed the joints and one couldn’t hold the fingertips together. But done lightly, with what I can best describe as fullness, I could hold the position.
This exercise was key as it was so simple and isolated that it let me see more clearly what later became more elusive. Since we were at a restaurant (with food on the table no less) all work was done from a closed space, as we looked at using relaxed intention to escape various holds, single and double. The scary part of it was to see how impossible it was to hold back Thong’s hand with a knife in it.
Best part was to see this work up close over good food, with my own two hands. Being critical of complicity of students, I was never more certain about the reality of quiet internal power than in this occasion where I could test it out for myself. I have felt similar things from teachers before but always thought it was because they were much stronger. I have seen work from relaxation before, and realized that I needed to relax more so this was not a new idea. But now, I just think I was not aware that the work needed to be THIS relaxed.
The trick now is to learn more while living a good distance away. Thanks Thong for your enthusiasm and generosity. That was an amazing meal and lesson, much appreciated by us both.
~ Marc Bresse
Instructor Systema(Ryabko/Vasiliev/Puzikas), Capoeira, Aikido