Going into St.P, I already had a few medical setbacks, so I knew most of the training would not be something I'd be able to participate in.
That being said, I was looking forward to training with Natasha Kopylova and Yuri Sheshukov.
Before I continue, I would like to point out the following:
|Happy just to observe|
Some of us like this organic flow...some hate it. Either way, you either adapt or not.
This event is heavy on the cultural side.By "heavy",I mean there is a definitive guideline to the music,dance,and performance of this Cossack group. It helps if you speak the language, know the lyrics to the songs,have a natural ability to dance and sing or understand the Cossack lifestyle.
If you came to "just train ",that will not work.While nothing is mandatory, it helps to attend everything.
Now...let's get into it.
I suffered from severe jet lag,followed by more jet lag with a dose of the "White Nights". This,of course,made me extremely unproductive and unmotivated.While,I arrived a week late, I felt it would be a non issue due to the fact that I sorta knew everyone. As soon as I walked in the door,it was like I never left a year prior. About 10 minutes after saying hellos, it was back to training as usual.
|yup, I did not wake up on time for this. Trust me..I know|
This year's event seemed to heavily focus on music and singing lessons.Both of which I have a tiny bit if interest in and not nearly enough to work on my actual singing voice. While the group as a whole,had absolute dedication to improvement, I sat along the sidelines documenting and observing as much as I could. Previously, I tried the balaliaka and it's not my thing,so I chose to skip those classes.
|the power is self explanatory|
- Fedor Tarabukin. Evidently, I missed some good dance lessons the first week,led by him. I was blown away by what I did see. It was magical and profound and likely to outshine any lower acro routine imaginable. He is a professional dancer...he makes it look easy and pointed out to me that everything he did standing up,he could replicate on the mat. Just like that,Fedor out-Cossack squatted everyone in the room. It was almost like watching a bouncy ball that never lost energy. Hands down, one of the best instructors around. He is full of creativity, energy, and passion about the art.
- Natasha Kopylova. I want to say I came here to train with her,but really,I came to watch her. She makes swordplay look dangerously easy. Again,I missed a few classes,and some were cut short to have her proceed with filming (this is where my creative energy ended),but when she did coach me, she immediately saw my mistakes and corrected them.No fluff. She also broke down alot of the more complex skills by number count(thank you dear God for helping her learn English numerals). Her classes were often bright and early in the morning, and again..*jet lag*. I had a great time learning from her and she is a very gracious and patient instructor,which is a nice break from the norm. I was super excited to see her working on combatives training and mat work,singing and music and am sure she will embody the full package of what is necessary to be a great instructor.
Now..the goods and the highlight of my trip....
- Yuri Sheshukov....well, Yuri brought it this year. I mean,he BROUGHT it. That's all I can say without overly gloating about the work I witnessed (I cannot phathom wtf I missed). His attention to detail, scenarios, weaponry and his mass abundance of both military and historical knowledge really has driven me to learn the language so I can keep up with what he is saying during his block of instruction.His physicality along with technique and helpfulness makes just attending three or four of his classes worth the entire trip. Not only does he teach blocks of coordination, mat work and hand to hand, his knife skills workshop, trench work, and fencing are equally matched with his dancing knowledge and singing skills. If you haven't heard me brag about "The Shesh",
then I have not done you service. He mentioned to me that alot of his basic work is what is already on video but he did make a few more videos while I was there(some I missed filming, some I witnessed and managed to get some short video clips).His block that was about basic to advanced floor roll techniques and floor"gliding" and combative crawls, proved that alot of what we are missing in the US is a significant and detailed military based style that requires a proficient instructor to correct your mistakes while working towards a progressive skill set that takes time and needs to be evaluated more thoroughly. In short...if you have a chance to train with Y. Sheshukov, you must. At this point, I'd even invest in hiring a personal translator just to make sure I didn't miss anything he was saying.Yes..he's that good.Not to mention he has a great sense of humor, is very animated(sometimes, you don't need a translator) and he is seemingly ego-free.
Another interesting concept that I have yet to see in the US(or anywhere), is two master level instructors working so well together.While Sheshukov and Karimov work flawlessly together,it is very time consuming to do the two method approach during a seminar, but it was very effective. If you cannot identify or seem to mentally disprove one method, there was always another one to observe and work through.This for me, was definitely something that is needed when perhaps you have a preference between a more structured style or something more organic and free flowing. In fact, often times the two instructors would sidebar during filming and still continue to talk about methodology and technique.Truly a point worth seeing because rarely, do two men at this level attempt to further acknowledge that there is more learning to do. And they both are fervent learners.
The addition of the performing arts path at a more professional level, left me as a mere observer as I quickly identified the group's goal into actually working towards stage and more public performances. I was totally ok with sitting out and watching someone new to me, Denis Denisov, a professional singer, who's voice seemed to singularly carry the entire group. Once he began professionally coaching the group, within days, their level was catapulted to being very substantial, and he alone, made all the difference in sitting in on some of the singing. The first time I heard him sing, I ended up in tears. That's how profound his deep, powerful singing voice is. It captured the true essence of the Cossack lifestyle.
- This event is not for everyone. I have stated this publicly many, many times. Some people come to just to learn combatives with Karimov or Sheshukov and that is NOT what this event is for and that is not how it is taught here. There is a social concept that is required to graduate to the tier level that they teach and if you miss out on this theorem, you will not grasp the H2H or mat work, or even knife skills. They are masters and breaking the mental hangups that you may have that they feel are necessary to give you significant breakthroughs in training. Essentially, it is a step by step and buildup ideal that is not done anywhere outside of Russia. Do I think it will be plausible outside of Russia? Not necessarily. You have to have a certain strength, moral character and you most certainly have to be comfortable with yourself and accepting levels of critique that may or may not make sense to you. If you are of weak constitution mentally, the event is not for you.
- Translation-OK, again...learn the language. That's it. I missed so much technical speak , not of the translator's fault(she was amazing and absolutely helpful), but if a translator does not have RMA or technical background in martial arts terminology, you may miss out on some things. Social translation also is very important in a communal setting and usually, this is when rightfully so, translators turn themselves off to relax. It may be worth hiring a translator at your own cost while training in Russia. There are several localites there who will work on an hourly basis, and it may be worth looking into. Since our translators were there for translating the material into English for the DVD series, I had no expectations of them following me around translating everything I had to ask or say( I have learned this from previous experience). Again, I need to learn the language and only blame myself.
reverse technical translation-my brain hurt
- Have a plan B, C, D, -----Z. There were blocks of instruction that I wasn't really interested in or felt like since I do not actively train as a stage performer in the US, it was not something I could keep up with.Therefore, I spent ample amounts of time meeting with other groups,
- Take time for yourself- this is something I struggle with even in the states, but was forced to face in Russia. The jet lag was so severe, that I slept for 10 hours straight one day (not something I've ever done at home) and I didn't feel bad about it. I've never had such severe jet lag in my life and it wasn't until the end that I began feeling a bit better. Thankfully, I had some great advice from friends that helped me (one was being out in the sun as much as possible). I also spent alot of time walking around some of the parks and museums on my own, at my own pace with my own passions guiding me. Much different experience than running through St. P as a group. If you are an international visitor, this is probably something you may want to consider. Last year, we missed a few great museums and tours, so this year, I tried to get to as many of those spots as I could. Again..made it worth the trip.
I found Mosaic Yard!
- Know yourself- many people know Karimov's style as very strong and powerful and this also segues into his psychological critique of both your emotional blocks and weaknesses, to help you understand how to move and perform more freely. At a few points in the seminar, it seemed a little too much for instructors to muster, but again...this is the Russian way (I am told). This certainly may not be palatable to everyone and was difficult for me , personally to bare witness to. However, the results of this technique seem to be effective for a few people.You can take it or leave it, but in no way does it change the level of mastery he commands on the mat, in combatives, or more. He is a true master and genius at his skill set, which is something 100% undeniable.
- Make new friends and try to communicate-oddly enough for me, the children at the event were alot more eager to communicate with me than the adults. Children typically have very little social hangups and this was also something that happened last year.While I also struggle attempting speaking the Russian language, I managed to use Google translate quite easily, which helped me navigate some of the social barriers. I learned alot from how truly brave and curious the children were in their attempts to spend time around me and play, which helped open my mindset to regaining a fresh, new perspective on working my way through St. P on my own.
kids keep it real
- Know you aren't always going to get what you ask for--this event is uniquely divine in that it will not change for anyone. Period. There is no conformation to what other people want and it has seemingly progressed as an event for mastery versus an event for culturally profound cross exploration. Alot, if not all consistent attendees are the same group who frequently tours together, it is building annually for Karimov's main instructors to take their skill set to the next level. That alone is something worth watching and interesting to see the progress they've made in just a year. In short, Karimov and his group, will NOT sell out to make it a cushy and soft event for YOU. And that, is a powerful thing that is also very, very rare.
|will go to Rostov to see events like this|
|Oleg the Great|