Three weeks in.

I’ve now been in Russia for three weeks, and there have been a few developments since my last post. Not as many as I’d hoped, mind you, but still some!

When I arrived in post, I agreed with my manager that my days off would be Thursday and Sunday. Originally, they had anticipated that I would be off on Sundays and Mondays but, because I’d seen on the ROSS St. Petersburg site that their general classes were on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I asked for Thursday instead of Monday (the first class I was given to teach was Tuesday evenings, so that wasn’t possible).

I subsequently discovered that the building the ROSS group had been using is being renovated, so the general class isn’t running at the moment. Phone calls and emails to the head of the school were all very positive, but never seemed to lead to any actual agreement to have individual classes, or even meet. On the other hand, Paul Genge’s Combat Lab page on Facebook put me in touch with Vitaliy Denisov, an instructor from the same ROSS school, who was running his own classes on Thursday nights.

When I last posted, I’d tried to get to Vitaliy’s class but had ended up getting lost. This week I had worked out where I had gone wrong, and was ready to finally join the class.

However, since it was on my way, I popped in to the school where I work. In conversation with my boss, it developed that they would really like me to work Thursdays, since they’re getting lots of new students wanting classes then, and I’m the only teacher whose time isn’t fully committed…

Well, at the end of the day – I’m in Russia to work. The company sponsors my visa, the company pays my salary, and to be honest, they’ve been very fair with me. So, I agreed: I’ll work Thursdays, starting next week.

That, of course, made it senseless to go and train with Vitaliy; one class isn’t really worth it. However, since Vitaly has been helpful and really welcoming on Facebook, I really wanted to meet him in person. So, I trekked out to his school.

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I got there a little late, just as the class was about to start. We recognized each other from our Facebook pictures, and had a brief chat. We don’t share a language, but one of his students was able to interpret a little, and I explained what had happened. After that, I went home… We’ve had a chat on Facebook since, and I hope that when a new teaching schedule is set around July, I’ll have the chance to train with him. Hopefully by then my Russian will have improved as well!

Still, it’s an ill wind that blows no good… Since I’d lost my agreed day off on Thursday, I was able to negotiate Wednesday instead. That means that I should actually now be able to get out to Pushkin to train with Andrey Karimov – and that’s good news. I’ve emailed him about it and, at the time of writing, haven’t received an answer, but I can’t see why there should be a problem, given our previous exchange of emails…

When I’d been hoping to go to Vitaliy’s class, I’d asked him what I should wear; he suggested just a t-shirt and some sweatpants… Well, given the weight limit when I flew here, I hadn’t packed anything like that, so I went to my local supermarket, and bought some there. It turned out that Russian sizes are a bit smaller than their UK equivalents, so what I bought was, erm….. a bit snug, shall we say? Not to mention, when I got to Vitaliy’s class, everyone was wearing battledress so, oh my… Well. It would have been embarrassing.

So… I must say: there was a really good vibe amongst Vitaliy’s students. They were clearly raring to go, and buzzing with enthusiasm and energy. That has to be the sign of a good teacher and a good activity. It seemed like a really good crowd of people.

Following that, I decided that my supermarket purchases would henceforth be used only for tai chi in the privacy of my apartment, and that I needed to get my own set of battledress. Fortunately, my Lonely Planet guide to St. Petersburg knew just the place…

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… which is where I went this afternoon and, for 1900 roubles, picked up the outfit. Which fits well.

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During the week, I also took a surprise phone call from the head of the local Kadochnikov  systema school. This was in response to an email I sent  a couple of weeks ago. I’d given up on hearing back – but then he called. We couldn’t understand each other. I got one of the ladies from the office to call him back for me, and it turns out that they run classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. Wednesdays! I was excited! It seems that Wednesday is theory night though, so I wouldn’t understand…

I asked about private classes. Everything went quiet. After a few follow-up phone calls, he quoted 3000 roubles per lesson, which drew expressions of horror from my colleagues. That’s a lot on my salary, and basically kills off the prospect of studying with the Kadochnikov school – unless, perhaps, I can get to an evening class after July…

I’ve also been trying to follow up the prospect of private classes with the head of the ROSS school, but he’s being really evasive. As in, really evasive. The girls in the office are just rolling their eyes , and saying “This is typical, you just can’t get Russians to commit to anything…” – and they are Russian, so they should know!

Well, so, anyway – it’s some progress. With any luck, I’ll start training with Andrey Karimov from next week. If there’s no progress with ROSS or Systema Kadochnikova, I’ll look for classes in Cossack dancing, or acting, and just train in systema at home…

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