The Path of the Systema Warrior, Compassion

Mitzvahמִצְוָה A commandment, a commandment from G-d, there were originally 613 of them. There are 248 positive and 365 negative mitzvot מצות that would be the plural of mitzvah. The Jerusalem Talmud commonly refers to any charitable act as “the mitzvah.” They are actually eternal to be carried down through every generation. Interestingly, one of them on Page 20: Building a Sanctuary for G­-d from Sefer H’Mitzvot. Okay, I’ll quit. But the point of this is that some of the commands are acts of kindness, acts of goodness and charity. From Psalms תהילים, Tehillim 10:

10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,and fall by his might.

11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;forget not the afflicted.

13 Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,that you may take it into your hands;

to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.

17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

One rather gets the idea that abuse of the poor, helpless and vulnerable is frowned on wouldn’t they? By G-d, and he commands us to have the same standards, as we are to be a reflection of him. We are to have compassion on them, not abuse them.

And yet.

More than one out of every 5 students report being bullied, 64% of children who were bullied did not report it; only 36% reported the bullying and, more than half of bullying situations (57%) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied.

While only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. The National Autistic Society reports that 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying. When reporting bullying youth in special education were told not to tattle almost twice as often as youth not in special education. Students with disabilities or special education needs are twice as likely to be identified as bullied targets and as bullies when compared to peers without disabilities.1

The results of being bullied are diverse. The victims may be:

depressed, lonely, and anxious, have low self-esteem,experience headaches, stomachaches, tiredness, and poor eating. Be absent from school, dislike school, and have poorer school performance, and think about suicide or plan for suicide.

Some children with disabilities have low self-esteem or feel depressed, lonely or anxious because of their disability, and bullying may make this even worse. Bullying can cause serious, lasting problems not only for children who are bullied but also for children who bully and those who witness bullying.2

While doing research for this column I found several government web sites dealing with bullying. They contained facts, figures and government programs. The government has been trying to deal with it.3 They have sent no less that four “Dear Colleague” letters, in 2000, 2010, 2013 and 2014. Just in case you want to read it yourself. There are lots of acronyms, and lots talk about individual plans, and that sort of thing. But what it amounts to, to me, is they don’t really have any real world answers beyond saying if the parents yank their kid out of your public school, you lose tax dollars.

I find it interesting that 57% of bullying stops when a peer intervenes on behalf of the victim. But what if the victim were empowered? No, I’m not talking about shearing more of the poor pink sheep to knit a bunch of hats to plop down on kids heads. I’m talking about an amazing program. I told you to hang on to the horn for this final part of my interview with Joe Mayberry, author of The Systema Warrior Guidebook.

Joe had been training in the martial arts since 1974, but he hadn’t really been teaching. But he started hearing from people he knew who had children that wanted to take lessons, of some rather despicable business practices in some of the area martial arts schools. And it was happening far more often than he would have thought. Joe decided that he would open a school and quit saying “NO” to those who had wanted him to teach. After the school had been going for a while, he got a email one night that became a turning point. He said it was on a Thursday night, and he had to wait about four days before he could respond to it, because he wanted to think it through, he was both mad and sad. The email was from the mother of a little six year old boy who wanted to learn martial arts. The little six year old boy was blind, he wanted to learn to defend himself. The mother had contacted other martial arts schools, some had flat out refused to teach him, others told her they would have to pay for private lessons as he would be unable to learn in a group. I believe Joe said they also told her his guide dog wouldn’t be allowed on the mat at the dojo. I opined that the dog was possibly better behaved than some kids, he would be the least of my worries. Joe kindly overlooked that remark.

The little boy came to Systema St. Louis and started classes, in a group. In his group classes Joe has trained not only blind students, but students with autism, deafness and one who has an eye missing. Students that other schools were unwilling or unable to train have learned and flourished. From this the Systema Warrior Foundation was born.

Because Systema looks at each child’s strength, they are able to help them develop actions and defenses that they are realistically able to use. Shamelessly swiped from the web site:

In Systema, the synergy of three components creates a TRUE WARRIOR – Combat Skill, Strong Spirit and Healthy Body.

Our goal is to strengthen those abilities that are already present in each child, no matter what disability they may have. We show them that everyone can be strong, confident and empowered.

​When Systema Founder Mikhail Ryabko created the foundations of Systema, he noted that everything that happens to us in life; good or bad, has one ultimate purpose, that is to create the best possible conditions for a person to understand him or herself. Our goal is to grow on that philosophy and to share it with others.

Since the Systema Warrior Foundation started at Systema St. Louis, Joe has trained around 2,000 children with disabilities. TWO THOUSAND, in the United States and Canada. Did I mention, he does this free of charge to them? Yes, he does. The cost of teaching them is covered by donations (just in case you wanted to) to the Systema Warrior foundation, and some of the things that Joe does, he donates the proceeds to the Systema Warrior foundation.

As Joe said, no matter your age, shape or abilities, you have a G-d given right to life and defend yourself. And his actions back up his words.

It seems so perfectly fitting that a Systema school would have a Systema Warrior Foundation when you consider that the original Systema warrior was Ilya Muromets. And Ilya has quite an amazing story. I really prefer the version in the Systema book as it gives you more of a spiritual side. That’s Ilya in the first picture with the little girl.

I just can’t help but love the school motto: “Doing bad things to bad people since 2010”. Just kind of fits with my world view.

So, if I were a kid, and I had a choice of having a knitted pink hat plopped down on my head, or a government program that says it’s illegal to bully children or learning skills that have been taught to me, for my level of ability? I know which one I would go for. I think the Systema Warrior Foundation is a great example of a mitzvah, don’t you?

The Systema Warrior Foundation


1Bullying Statistics


3Bullying of Students with Disabilities Addressed in Guidance to America’s Schools


3 thoughts on “The Path of the Systema Warrior, Compassion”

  1. “Doing bad things to bad people…; I really like the slogan.

    Forwarded this article to family involved in special education in St Louis County.

    Thanks Shelia.

  2. I LOVE that slogan!! I’m so glad Comrade X ! Isn’t it amazing how these things work? Sometimes the right person saying the right thing at just the right time. That’s how I ended up even knowing about Systema in the first place. I’m going to end the series with my thoughts on some things and some links to resources. There is just so much more in this book that affects life, and it really is a path.

    Having seen how people with disabilities can be treated, and knowing they are more vulnerable, this program really touched my heart. And I’m guessing it’s not what people expected when I said my next column would cut to a different direction. Thanks for hanging on to the horn!

  3. I saw this yesterday, Sheila, but I couldn’t respond until today, as I needed time to allow my thoughts to settle and my heart to simmer down. Sometimes, it overflows, you see, and it takes time to get back right. I of course love the thing that Joe is doing with this program. The reason that I needed time to process this all is that I am saddened that people dare to hurt children and especially those who are the most vulnerable. I remember growing up, and making special efforts to include and protect the less able, and the ones among my peers who would be targets of the bullies of my friends and classmates. I remember in particular a set of twin boys, ( I myself am a twin) whose father was a Presbyterian minister in my hometown. They were different from the rest of the boys in my grade in that they had been brought up as very passive and at an age when the rest of us were playing football at recess, they would go skipping and playing, as if they were much younger than us, when they were simply happier and more carefree. This caused the boys in my class to want to pick on them, and shun them, but I would not allow it. I made sure to include them whenever possible, and to try to make sure that they did not feel ostracized. It was nothing told to me, it is just the way that I have always been. My twin brother is completely opposite of me. As a senior in high school, when we were picking our locker partners at the start of the year, there were maybe 10 guys left. There was one guy who was always not included as his family was poor, and he always had to go home after school to work, either on the farm, or selling papers, to help out at home. So before he could be made to feel like a left out nothing, I quickly asked him if he would be my locker partner. He was surprised and quite happy. I should say that our school was small, and of course had it’s own share of cliques. I was actually a decent guy back then, that everyone liked, even the teachers and administration. I was the president of the student council, and I ended up being the only unanimously voted student athlete of the year. The high school principal emphasized that the award was based partly upon character. I still believe to this day that high school athletics must be about character first and foremost. I tell you these last things not to brag, but to explain that by doing the right thing, and reaching down to people that others ignore, I have made lifelong friends that others now look at with envy. This locker partner friend is a truck driver based on the west coast, but we keep in touch online, and he is on of my most cherished friends from school. I am as I think you know, a Christian, and so when I first saw where this ended up, I was hit with a Bible verse and I wanted to share that with you as I once again end this long drawn out drivel that you graciously allow me to post. Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Thank you for all you do , Sheila, and I am looking forward to your next post, with handkerchief nearby. Allergies, you know.

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