What do I think of systema? Why did I set up the Systema Natura school? In a short summary:
“I really love systema. I love practicing it, be it alone, with a companion or in a group. Anytime and anywhere. I just start to move and everything else comes on its own like as if it was coded in my DNA, as if it had been within me the whole time. Because it is natural and simple. There are cases when I do think about it a lot… in which cases it becomes quite complex and difficult… so I try and avoid these… and just do my thing, letting “it” work on its own. It makes me think, to be stronger in my everyday life and calms me down, breathing together with me. Thanks to it, I can feel free, because systema is me, myself.”
Those who have introduced me into karate and led me on the way to learn to like this art are wonderful people and outstanding teachers. I am still learning every day though and my “training” will never be complete.
Many outstanding masters are helping me improve and I try and pass on this knowledge to my students, from whom I can also learn new things.
This is the mutual respect and humility that is “operating my systema”.
This is why Systema Natura is alive.
What is Systema?
Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. The battles took place on different terrain, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat alike, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces. As a result of these factors, the Russian warriors acquired a style that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative and versatile tactics that were at the same time practical, deadly, and effective against any type of enemy under any circumstances. The style was natural and free while having no strict rules, rigid structure or limitations (except for moral ones). All tactics were based on instinctive reactions, individual strengths and characteristics, specifically designed for fast learning.
When the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. Those practicing the old style of fighting could be severely punished. At the same time, the authorities quickly realized how viable and devastating the original combat system was and reserved it just for a few Special Operations Units.
In our schools and through the instructional materials, you will learn this fascinating style and see for yourself why Russian Systema is said to open a new page in the world of martial arts.
In Systema, the synergy of three components creates a TRUE WARRIOR – Combat Skill, Strong Spirit and Healthy Body.
The body has to be free of tension, filled with endurance, flexibility, effortless movement and explosive potential.
The spirit or psychological state has to be calm, free of anger, irritation, fear, self-pity, delusion and pride.
The combat skill includes movements that are powerful and precise, instant and economical, spontaneous, subtle and diverse, the signature of a true professional.
There is a reason why Russian Martial Art is called SYSTEMA. It is a complete set of concepts and training components that enhance one’s life. In this case, acquiring the martial art skill is a way to improve the function of all seven physiological systems of the body and all three levels of human abilities the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.
The key principle of the Russian Systema is non-destruction. The goal is to make sure that your training and your attitudes do no damage to the body or the psyche of you or your partners. Systema is designed to create, build and strengthen your body, your psyche, your family and your country.
Systema has another name “poznai sebia” or “Know Yourself”. What does it really mean to Understand Yourself? It is not just to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, that is good but fairly superficial. Training in Russian Martial Art is one of the sure ways to see the full extent of our limitations – to see how proud and weak we really are. Systema allows us to gain the true strength of spirit that comes from humility and clarity in seeing the purpose of our life.
As the roots of the Russian Systema are in the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, the belief is that everything that happens to us, good or bad, has only one ultimate purpose. That is to create the best possible conditions for each person to understand himself. Proper training in the Russian Systema carries the same objective – to put every participant into the best possible setting for him to realize as much about himself as he is able to handle at any given moment.
One of Mikhail Ryabko’s words to the beginners is “Be a good person and everything else will come to you.” In a simple, yet comprehensive way Systema helps you choose and follow the right path.
Why The Systema?
Several closely interrelated aspects can be singled out in effect made by SYSTEMA upon a trainee, and namely:
● spiritual – spiritual development of trainee, formation of system of his life values and objectives;
● psychological – development and consolidation of trainee’s psyche;
● physical – development of body and its abilities;
● sanative – improvement of trainee‘s health;
● specialised – achievement of high results in any activity, including professional;
● social – facilitating adaptation to various, also adverse, social conditions.
Person who is mastering SYSTEMA gradually acquires a number of most valuable universal skills, expertise and knowledge that will be afterwards widely used by this person in everyday life, professional activity, communication, in solution of stressogenic and extreme situations. Regardless of what objectives were pursued by a person when starting studies in SYSTEMA, skills acquired by him lead to a consolidated result: personality growth, physical, psychological and spiritual development and rehabilitation.
SYSTEMA – a unified training and education in the form of physical, psychological and spiritual exercises that can be used for education and training of any person regardless of sex, age, physical condition, nationality, religion
Systema is very innovative and versatile. Movement and tactics tend to be very natural and free, and are based on instinctive reactions. There are no strict rules or rigid structures and movement remains very fluid. These aspects allow Systema to be learned quickly and thoroughly.
Systema is less a collection of techniques and more a set of principles which each individual uses in ways that are best suited to him in terms of his height, weight, strength, flexibility, natural aptitudes, etc…
Over reliance on ‘techniques’ tends to limit the mind and body’s reactions and does not allow us to perceive the most efficient solution to a particular situation. In Systema sparring, there are no prearranged attacks and so this more closely resembles a real life situation.
Techniques do not define the art of Systema, and in fact, techniques are not specifically taught per se. The principles of a ‘technique’ may be demonstrated, but then each individual is expected to work out for themselves how to best make that ‘technique’ work for them. This encourages creativity, adaptability and sponaniety. As a principle-based system it conforms to the individual instead of requiring the individual to conform to it, and thus does not force the individual into a ‘one-sive fits all’ mentality.
The four main principles of Systema:
1. BREATHING – is calm, rhythmic and controlled even when under pressure.
By avoiding holding the breath we learn to avoid:
– Rigidity of the body and mind
– Slowing of reflexes
– Giving way to fear
– Becoming physically exhausted (breathing hastens the removal of the metabolic by-products of muscle metabolism)
The breath is trained through various drills, exercises and experimentation. There are also specific breathing techniques used to heal and energize the body. Seek out the book – Let Every Breath…by Vladimir VASILIEV with Scott MEREDITH. It covers the foundation, principles and exercises used by the Russian breath masters.
Learning to fight whilst remaining relaxed has many advantages:
– Mental and physical reactons are faster
– A relaxed body allows for the diffusion of a strikes impact energy, the energy from the strike has less chance to penetrate.
– Physical exhaustion is delayed
– Falls on hard surfaces are less likely to result in injury if the body remains relaxed
– Keeping the body upright at all times ensures correct structural alignment. This translates into the body working as one piece and allows it to work efficiently.
– Correct form allows for the practioner to use limbs together or independently.
– Having structure and form allows the student to developing a body that can and will do what they want, when they want.
4. CONTINUOUS MOVEMENT – in the body and mind
– Helps to avoid attack
– Prevents you from being surrounded
– Boosts striking power, also adds an aspect of the unpredictable as the strikes can come from odd angles/trajectories
– Puts the attacker on the ‘defensive’
– During multiple attacker senarios, continuous movement helps you to add confusion to the attackers by allowing you to make them interfere with one another – effectively causing them to ‘fight’ each other.