Systema Instructor in Need! Feb 2013

March 05, 2013 by  

On Humility

by Gene Smithson


In November 2012 Gene Smithson, a Systema instructor from Austin was seriously wounded in a shooting accident. Gene underwent a few surgeries, his recovery is steady but the process is very long. Gene has been openly sharing his tragic experience and ways he has been coping with Systema family. Here is update number 4, dated February 2013.

There is no real way to describe what it's like, to be standing there, shot 5 times. Blood and bodily fluids running down, your insides hot and getting harder and harder, kind of hunched over... left arm is shot up high, right hand is mangled and bleeding. You say what you need to... You shot me... your voice doesn't convey how much it hurt your feelings, just a little bewilderment and that you want it to stop. It's alright just get the emergency medical kits, I'm hurt real bad... my phone is over there please call my person.

And then you do the unthinkable... you go down... to your knees... and to your bottom and then you lay down. The finality of that. You lay down and you won't be getting up without help.

It’s humiliating and confusing. This is not a place to lay down. And for an instant in your new multi- layered awareness, you think of the videos of wild African animals being shot, the ones that don't drop instantly but sort of stagger and groan and lay down. And there you are laying down where you aren't supposed to, because you don't know what else to do, you know you are hurt and some primal thing has left and you have accepted that you cannot stand up and you didn't think about it, but pride has left your body.

People are rushing in and rushing out and shouting and are very active but for me it’s a small universe.

A small circle and my condition. You tell the people, it’s my stomach, I'm shot in my stomach, and my hand and my arm, and no I can't lay on my back, I need to stay on my side because it’s too hard to breathe on my back. And inside is the struggle, I've already described the searching for a seam, a tiny crack that will let air sneak through to inhale. And outside you have your small circle and it’s easy to be brave because it has only just begun, the pride has left your body but not your mind.

And then weeks later, 3 am... nightmares again so you are awake and shaking in the restroom, kneeling in front of the commode, you glance to the mirror left of you and there you are, 30 pounds lighter, pipe cleaner arms and legs, hollowed out face and eyes, you see yourself... and stand up, skin is messed up? collagen released because of the long zipper like trauma on your belly? wrinkles because muscles are LONG gone, the hated plastic bag that covers the end of your intestine and causes a wave of self loathing every time you remember it.

And your eyes move up searching the hollowed out ones in the mirror and you truly see yourself. And you ask yourself with a laugh, who is tough now? And you stare into your eyes long minutes until you say: I got this, I can make this... and all alone there, the strength of humility starts to come to you, this is me, scared... this is me alone... this is me naked except for a bag hanging off of my stomach. I can do this because it’s what is here for me to do. So you get up and pull on pajama pants and go out to the dining room and read the letters tacked up on the wall. Well wishers... children mostly... one in particular... and the letters say We're glad you aren't dead! in all kinds of colors and materials and crazy looping LIVELY ways!

And it’s okay now to read the prayer book, and to say Thank you to God because truth is, every sincere prayer you've ever uttered has been answered.

And then weeks after that, you've worked out a way you can do pushups! And tentative... you can't let your stomach touch the ground yet cause of the intestine end, you press out 4 pushups from your knees. FOUR!!!! I could do pushups all day before! Nope... you can do four pushups. And you say ok... then it’s 4, that's what I can do right now, tomorrow... maybe ten :)

A short story.

Several years ago I travelled to Toronto to train with Vladimir. I was very excited because my shoulders were healthy and I was going to be the best at pushups and I was going to show Vladimir how much he meant to me and how hard I was working. I never had much of a family, but I think this is what it must be like, I want Vlad to be proud of me! And he will be because I am in superb condition.

And we get to class and Vlad says start doing pushups. HAHA!!! Finally he will see how awesome I am!

And then he says, when you can't do anymore pushups, sit up and use breathing to clean out the muscles then go right back to pushups.

Are you kidding me!? So I went to failure, and breathed and went to failure, and I got so angry, so frustrated....this is so unfair!!! This one time I was gonna do well... this sucks... I hate this... poor me... and then. My mind just shut up. I stopped measuring, I stopped comparing I just did the exercise. This is the power of humility. You do what you can. Because you can.

When you get hurt. Really bad. In your body and your mind and your heart and your soul... you breathe to clean yourself out and then you do what you can.

You love as much as you can, you live as much as you can and do a few pushups if you can. Don’t measure, don't compare, do what you can do.

Unfortunately, Gene has no medical coverage or insurance. He has two children and is unable to work. Any support would be most appreciated. You can write to Gene directly at:

Funds can be sent through any one of the following ways.

1. PayPal:
The account is called Gene's Trust. The email address associated with the account is:

2. Bank Transfer or Wire Transfer:
The Trust account is with Citibank at:

for Wire Transfer within the U.S.:
The name of the account: Gene Edward Smithson 2012 Trust
The address of the bank: 3508 S. Lamar Blvd. Ste. 100 Austin, Texas 78704

Routing # : 113193532
Account # : 9792935002

for International Wire Transfers:
The name of the account: Gene Edward Smithson 2012 Trust
The address of the bank: 3508 S. Lamar Blvd. Ste. 100 Austin, Texas 78704, USA

Account #: 9792935002
The Bic Code/SWIFT: CITI US 33

3. Check or Money Order

Should be payable to: Gene Edward Smithson 2012 Trust

and mailed to Gene's physical address at:

Gene Smithson

803 Lambeth Ln.

Austin TX, 78748 USA