Q & A with Grandmaster Michael Galperin

Grandmaster Galperin

Grandmaster Michael Galperin has a prestigious career in the Martial Arts with experience spanning more than 60 years.

Physical Conditioning and Martial Arts: A Grandmaster's Perspective

By: Grandmaster Michael Galperin, Six Dan Combat SAMBO, March 2011

From time to time, my students, instructors and even teachers of other martial arts ask me what I see as the role of rigorous physical conditioning in martial arts, particularly Combat SAMBO. At first glance, this would seem to be an obvious question. To be proficient at Combat SAMBO, like any martial art or athletic endeavor, requires a great deal of discipline and dedication, and surely physical conditioning is a necessary component of the classical study of Combat SAMBO. This is true; however, there's more to the story than this simple answer.

Students are sometimes uncertain when they attend one of my classes and see that our focus is not on "getting a good work out and breaking a sweat". In my schools, we focus on 8-10 techniques per 90 minute class and, of the 90 minutes, about 20-30 minutes is spent on the "warm up". To some this appears to be too little emphasis on conditioning. If that warm up were all the student were expected to do, I'd have to agree. Perhaps a little explanation would help.

My explanation begins with a simple acknowledgment of the scarcity of time my students are typically people with busy lives who are trying to include the serious study of Combat SAMBO into their hectic work and personal schedules. I have to balance the need to cover the proper amount of material in limited amount of time while at the same time helping students reach their own individual fitness and Combat SAMBO proficiency goals.

I instruct my students in keeping with the teaching traditions handed down by my teachers, including Ivan Vasilievich Vasilyev one of the founders of the Russian Combat SAMBO system. My classes focus on the techniques and the time-honored and tested manner of teaching them. In short, I use the traditional teaching methods to impart the maximum knowledge of Combat SAMBO in the least amount of time. In this way, my students can learn more about Combat SAMBO, and their ability to develop within this system is thereby enhanced.

All of that said, of course, physical conditioning is critically important to being a martial artist, and we try to introduce new and innovative exercises at each class that our students can take home and incorporate into their own conditioning programs. It's important for students to incorporate variety into their physical conditioning it keeps things from getting boring, maximizes the effectiveness of the training itself by avoiding training plateaus and minimizes repetitive stress injuries, particularly to joints and connective tissues. However, as one of my students observed, "I don't need sensei to show me how to get in shape. I need sensei to teach me Combat SAMBO."

This strikes me as the right concept. The student's obligation is to come to class, take notes, and practice the techniques in his or her non-class time. In addition, the student must condition his or her body in order to be as good a fighter as he or she can be. My obligation is to impart the right knowledge of the art in the most efficient way possible to advance the proper instruction and learning Combat SAMBO.

Questions and Answers by Grandmaster Galperin

Q: Grandmaster Galperin from your extensive experience instructing Martial Arts, what qualities make the most successful students?
A: A person of good moral character, who is dedicated and focused, generally is able to grow within his Martial Art to his fullest potential. I have seen some students who are very enthusiastic when they begin the study of COMBAT SAMBO. For some people they come because it is a fun activity. When their training becomes more like work for them, they lose interest, because they had the wrong objective as their focus. I mention people of good moral character, because I have seen some individuals who study the Martial Arts for wrong reasons. They may be bullies at heart and come to learn tricks they can use to intimidate others. From my experience these individuals last no longer than 10 classes. They lack the proper motivation that keeps practitioners focused when the training intensifies. They were never interested in self development, which is a major benefit of COMBAT SAMBO training and of other legitimate Martial Arts training.

Q: You mention self development, we hear this term referred to often in terms of life skills both personal and professional. What do you mean by self development in the study of COMBAT SAMBO?
A: The person who just wants to study a Martial Art to be a black belt has the wrong objective. COMBAT SAMBO is a Martial Art that develops self defense skills in the individual, which help him or her confront any situation they may encounter. I feel the study of Martial Arts is a lifelong activity that returns more to to the practitioner than they often realize. In the course of their study individuals achieve personal success as they master techniques. They improve their skills through practice. They receive physical, mental and emotional benefits while gaining increased self confidence.
As students advance they learn to share their knowledge by assisting others in the Martial Art. When students become instructors they improve their teaching skills as well as learn more themselves about the techniques. Instructors must answer questions from students, that makes them think and learn more deeply about the specific application. Students learn to interact with one another while practicing techniques. In our schools we insist that participants rotate their partners, so they can experience applying the technique against individuals of different size and capabilities. Tall people, short people, men, women, boys, girls, thin, heavy individuals all have successfully developed their talents in COMBAT SAMBO.

Q: Why are self defense skills important today? There are various tools on the market that can enable an individual to disable an assailant, such as tazers, pepper spray, firearms, etc.
: These devices were developed to give you an advantage over an opponent, as I might add were traditional Martial Arts weapons. I would maintain that there is no perfect device that you could utilize successfully in all situations. We live in a dangerous world. It is more difficult to travel today, even within our own country, much less internationally. Most personal defense devices would not be allowed as a carry on in an aircraft. I also see searches are being conducted on subways, trains and other modes of mass transportation. Besides being more limited today in being able to carry external devices, any device can fail, especially if it is mechanical. If an individual relied solely on some personal defense device that fails to function, what will they do to defend themselves?
Also any of these devices used by either trained or untrained individuals can be turned against that person, if they are disarmed during a confrontation. In COMBAT SAMBO we train to defend against weapons, disarming and controlling the assailant. I have trained individuals in various military and law enforcement units, who have access to many personal devices, offensive and defensive. These individuals were anxious to learn how to disarm and disable opponents with their bare hands. They know from personal front line experience, that they cannot always rely on equipment to save their lives. The daily news is filled with stories of robbery, car jackings, rape, terrorist attacks, gang activity.
A life threatening situation can occur at any time or place. People are attacked in their own homes, at work, at school. COMBAT SAMBO training helps prepare you mentally and physically to react to threatening situations without relying on weapons as your primary means of defense. Most people fail to act in a dangerous situation because they become paralyzed by fear. Proper self defense training gives you confidence and helps overcome that paralyzing fear.

Q: You mention military and law enforcement applications, is that where most of your students come from?
: COMBAT SAMBO students come from very diverse backgrounds. We have students who are professionals, like doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, social workers. There are students, policemen, housewives, warehouse workers, government employees, etc.

Q: What philosophy would you like to spread through your schools and students?
: I would like to teach as many responsible individuals as possible the skills to survive. I wish my students to become teachers who will continue to assist other students in developing their skills. No student of COMBAT SAMBO is less important than any other student. I personally try to spend time with every student, helping them in their personal journey within Martial Arts. We are on this path together and everyone has had help to get where he is today. I wish to continue this spirit.

Q: What do you say to individuals who indicate they have no time to spare to study Martial Arts?
: Part of everyone's self development is learning to manage their time. We are all faced with the same challenge of making the best use of the time we have for work obligations, family activities, personal development, recreational activities and various other demands on our time. Like any other worthwhile endeavor, training in the Martial Arts requires commitment and self discipline. You must make the conscious choice between conflicting activities that occur at the same time. When you commit yourself to the practice of a Martial Art you must follow through and participate as much as possible. The practice of COMBAT SAMBO is not all work and no play. We enjoy the activities and the company of other individuals interested in the same pursuit. Learning is an enjoyable experience. It is continuously reinforced by successfully executing techniques. You learn constantly, picking up fine details that you may have missed previously. This is exciting and stimulating for students. It is gratifying for me to see students express their enthusiasm when they are successful, because I understand that they realize they are growing as individuals.

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