A Russian baskeball gym is a lonely place.
As few Westerner’s can truly relate to…when it’s you and instructors in a Russian basketball gym – you will learn more in 8 hours than a life time with a master in a megagym.
I kept a journal for four years of training in Kadochnikov System that is separate from my training journals. This was a personal journal for me detailing discussions, conversations, insights, and personal thoughts about training. Sometimes I break out that journal just to read it and see how far I have come.
The other day I came to an entry. It read, ‘Victor said, ‘Stop trying to use a whip like movement, and become a whip.’
It was the only words on that page.
Most Westerners will never know Victor Zavgorodnij. He was president of the AA Kadochnikov School, and along with Dr. Shvets, my primary teacher.
Victor is one of those teachers that is hard to explain. In America, we had a guy who trained with our group, Juri. We called him the Juricaine because he rolled everywhere he went. Our joke on Juri was when he went to get a beer from the fridge, he rolled to it instead of walking, grabbed the beer, and then rolled back. It was a joke until his wife confirmed he actually did this, much to our chuckles.
Juri gave me two concussions in training, one with a baseball bat and one with a throw into a basketball post. We were wild and crazy back them.
We still laugh about Juri, who works for the the US government now and could move like a oil covered snake. He was an inspiration to use all in his ability to thwart any attack by simply rolling away leaving his attacker confused by something so unorthodox.
Juri had spent years in the Ukraine training in Kadochnikov System when there was still a lot of interaction between the school and the Ukraine. He had long hair and would talk about how Mr. Kadochnikov would simply pull his hair down and remove his equilibrium every time they worked together, and after say, ‘Get a hair cut Juri.’ But, Juri did not like working with Victor because as he said, ‘You can see Victor turn off in his eyes, and then he just works and you don’t know what to do because he’s simply breaking you down like a puzzle.’ All of us felt this way. Victor would simply break you down to your mechanical root and then work off of his knowledge of how you function.
One day in Krasnodar we were working with knives and I asked, ‘What about whipping movements?’ We had been training with a dulled steak knife as our knife for hours and Victor picked up it, walked over, and in one movement threw the knife into the gym floor. It stuck – and when I say stuck, it went half way into the floor. I was in awe.
He pulled it out of the floor, and Dr. Shvets said, ‘That is a whip like movement. Use what you know to whip the knife into the floor.’ Dr. Shvets picked up the knife and did the same thing – sticking it halfway in the floor. I picked up the knife, and like a monkey looking at a cube in it’s cage, I stared at the knife and the floor.
My first attempt sent a ricochet of the knife into my shin.
My second attempt, the same.
On attempt 7, I could see the slight frustration of teachers who were waiting on me to teach myself. Victor and Dr. Shvets went through the movement…how to load, chain movement together, and then whip the knife through the movement. Dr. Shvets walked up to me and, what we have developed as The Pulse, he moved me across the gym. Then said, ‘Ok, now to the knife.’
Attempt 8, 9, 10, 11.
At this point Victor turned and walked to the table of charts and graphs and Dr. Shvets said, ‘Ok, we are done for lunch.’
Victor turned and said in Russian, translated by Dr. Shvets: ‘Stop trying to use a whip like movement, and become a whip.’
I thought of the drawings of the whip, how it functioned, how the body could move it’s kinematic chains like a whip. I visualized the concept, and Theory + Movement = Application was born. With all my heart and determination, I told myself silently, ‘Become the whip.’
I stuck it about an inch into the floor.
Victor turned around, put down his stuff and came back over and we continued training. About an hour later I was asked to it again and I did it.
There was no repetition, there was no refining – there was simply the whip and I had to become one.
Today, every movement I make has a purpose…my kicks and knees are whips, my strikes are hard rods or whips. Everything has a mechanical purpose.
A knife throw exercise has governed my movement for a decade.
As much as it pains my heart, I don’t know if I will ever see Victor again. But, I don’t have to – as I see him daily in my training as I remember that it is not the importance of a technique, as much as it is the concept behind the technique that truly matters.
Far too often, we don’t pay homage to where we learned something as martial art teachers horse race to seem the innovator – when sometimes, we are simply fine tuning something that has been done since the dawn of time, through every martial art and movement used by someone wrangling a cow.
And for that insight, I am eternally grateful to those two men.