Apart from Adam being “the talker”, what other differences are there between you?
Brendon: Well, he’s older by four minutes first of all, bigger in size (laughs), punches harder thats for sure. Actually we’re very similar.
Do each of you have different focuses? Things you like doing?
Brendon: Yeah, I like to move more – a lot of movement, a lot of up and down. He likes to move less and hit harder.
Watching you teach, I think the main thing that comes across is how much passion you have for Systema. Its infectious, isn’t it? How do you keep that level of passion in your training?
Brendon: Well you know for me its really the constant growing as a person – Systema helps every part of the person – physically, psychologically, spiritually. Its the whole package martial art. We started when we were about 14 – young, aggressive, this and that – and we started training and it completely changed our life. We had Vlademir to look up to every day and we tried to be more and more like him.
How did you come to start training?
Brendon: I looked on the internet and I saw Vlad showing like knife stuff and so I went there to be more aggressive, but the opposite happened. You go in there, get hit a couple times and you begin to change as a person and become a better human being. In this style you can’t be too aggressive because you won’t last – its better to try to work with less fear and try to understand yourself better-
Adam: -Work on yourself-
Brendon: -which is the hardest part.
What are you working on yourselves at the moment?
Brendon: Every day for me its just trying to work with less emotion, trying to have more love for people, trying to just become a normal person. We try to help people, not just show what we like. There are all kinds of groups, and we try to make it a seminar for everyone.
When you think about what to do in a class, do you plan everything in advance?
Brendon: (laughs) no!
Adam: Not at all, just like here.
Is it just about what comes up organically? What you enjoy doing on the day?
Brendon: Our first seminar, we wrote everything down. And we were so tense running back looking at it all the time. And then, for us we just have an idea of what we want to show and then one question can change the seminar, completely. We try to be free like that and just teach what people need.
Did you have that kind of moment here?
Adam: Yeah we came planning to do something else and then we totally changed everything!
Brendon: They were starting to get the feeling of what we were showing about how to move freely, so from that we went into a whole bunch of exercises.
You were talking a lot about finding inner freedom, freedom inside and in your movement. What does that mean?
Adam: Well, like we explained in the seminar if you have too much fear you can’t control it and it starts to lock your body up. It affects your psyche and your body starts to become rigid and tense.
Brendon: It’s like your body and your psyche are the same. If the psyche’s tense, the body’s tense. So you have to free yourself from all your emotions and your physical tension. So its hard – we have a lot to work on. This is why in Systema we practice with a lot of movement. If you’re free from tension inside you should be able to move and adapt to all sorts of different situations. If you have too much fear and aggression you’ll always be too tense.
How would you go about helping someone who was naturally very tense, or had a lot of fear?
Adam: Just teach them breathing right away.
Brendon: We have a lot of exercises, like breath holds which help the person to deal with emotions, fear – and to see the inner tension that they have. And through that you start to see how breathing just cleans everything. So its not just a martial art, its for life. You can have a problem just walking down the road, stress comes, fear comes, but breathing restores you. It puts you in a calm state, and that’s what a lot of people are missing.
Have you reached a point where you feel satisfied in your ability to do that?
Both: Oh, no!
Adam: No, the thing is the more you train the more you see what’s wrong!
Brendon: That’s why this style’s so hard, you just have to work on yourself and that’s the hardest thing to do. Its always free, its always changing its not just rigid, its not doing the same thing every class. Its always growing, its alive.
What do you hope students will take away from today?
Adam: Movement and relaxation-
Brendon: -and just paying attention to themselves when they train. Like I was saying in the seminar, even if you have no martial arts skills but you know how to move naturally, its a very good skill to have. If you see a car coming, if you see danger, at least you can move. If you have a knife coming towards you, if you have the ability to move, instead of just getting tense and freezing, you can survive. Like sometimes, people see a train coming towwards them, and just get frozen from fear. But for us, when we feel fear and tension we try to escape from it and move.
Adam: When someone is very tense it’s very difficult for them to move. Like on the ground, people often become rigid and tense. That’s why once we learn to move properly on the ground our psyche starts to relax more and our body becomes more relaxed – which frees you up for daily life too.
Do you feel constantly connected with your Systema practice in your daily lives?
Adam: Oh yeah, even walking down the street is Systema. Its not just at the gym, you take it outside with you.
Brendon: Systema’s life. You can try teaching it to your wife if she gets too tense…
You obviously trained mainly with Vlademir, but are there any other teachers who have had a strong influence on your work?
Both: Michael Ryabko!
Adam: Yeah, like Michael, I mean he’s the master…
Brendon: We practice everything.
Adam: We always watch him, but I think we’re very lucky to be under Vlad. Vlad has a really strong influence on us, after all we met him when we were very young.
Brendon: Yeah, and a lot of other teachers as well like a couple of friends I trained with at the Systema HQ. But Vlad for me is definitely my main mentor.