Podcast: Systema; Russian Martial Arts for The Modern Era

Dennis Maginn, a long-time practitioner and teacher of martial arts talks to Phalanx about the Russian combat system Systema (“the system”). Maginn, who lives and teaches in St. Louis, Missouri, holds ranks in kickboxing, karate and jiu jitsu, and has been teaching Systema for six years.

Here he tells us about his experiences, and about what makes Systema different. Continue reading “Podcast: Systema; Russian Martial Arts for The Modern Era”

The Alchemical Dojo

Being at war with myself in a world I didn’t understand, I got tangled into a dark world of addiction and destructive behavior at a very young age. In a fatherless household, I grew up as a ball of directionless anger. Underneath it all was an inner spirit, waiting to be uncovered. All I needed was a guide, a “wise man” to show me the way. The wise man appears to people in various forms and in a variety of settings.

“The ultimate aim of the Art of Karate lies not in victory or defeat,” saidGichin Funakoshi, “but in the perfection of the character of it’s participants.” The message may have been surrounding me my whole life, but it never broke through until I heard it in a martial arts dojo. My quest for spiritual growth transformation began for me the day I began training.

Martial arts symbolized self-discipline, focus and purpose. The Sensei or Sifu (Master) represented the mythical philosopher sage and the dōjō was a Hall of self-discovery. If anyone is under the illusion that to begin martial training requires one to be in a healthy sate of mind or body, I’m here to dispel that misconception. I walked into train the first day burned out from extreme drug and alcohol abuse – full of self-loathing and anger. Situations were going from bad to worse in my life and the torment of my mind was becoming unbearable. I hid it as I was accustomed to doing, but it was writ large in my eyes. At my lowest, they accepted me and brought me in. Continue reading “The Alchemical Dojo”

Stav: The Spiritual Side of A European Martial Art

scandinavian-martial-artAs a martial art, Stav was introduced to the wider martial community in 1992, when the current inheritor of the tradition, Ivar Hafskjold, was interviewed by the martial arts magazine Fighting Arts International. However, since fighting is just a small portion of Stav, I want to focus, here, on the philosophical and spiritual — as well as some historical — aspects of the tradition.

Let me give you some background: Until fairly recently in rural Scandinavia there were no public schools, and, to a large degree, families educated their children by themselves. The higher up in society your family, the greater the responsibility to educate your children. Knowledge and skills were important, and professions were sometimes kept within families, being passed from one generation to the next.

Although the runes (which had served as both letters for writing and symbols of the spiritual, natural forces, and cultural beliefs, etc.) were suppressed when the Roman alphabet was introduced, together with Christianity, the tradition of passing down knowledge through the families ensured the survival of runic wisdom. In one isolated area in Sweden it was still common knowledge to read and write runes into the 20th century. Within the tradition of Stav, however, the runes are essential, and when Ivar decided to share the tradition outside his own family, Stav was the natural name for it. Continue reading “Stav: The Spiritual Side of A European Martial Art”