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Vladimir Vasiliev on cover of Black Belt Magazine

Congratulations to Vladimir on his recent appearance on the cover of BLACK BELT magazine. And this is pretty cool: You can not only buy a copy …but one that is signed:  

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The Best Online Pharmacy. Buy Cialis Without Prescription –

Why buy cialis on the internet is really beneficial for you? So you’ve decided to order cialis and do not know where to start? We can give you some advice. First, ask your doctor for advice in order to properly … Continue reading

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Training Location and Schedule.

Systema is a Martial Art with roots in ancient Russia. It is in active use in top levels of modern Russian special operations groups. We teach Systema as taught by Vladimir Vasiliev and its founder, Mikhail Ryabko. This Style encompasses every aspect of conflict, from the psychological aspects of conversation and posturing, thru all aspects of hand-to-hand fighting, grappling and groundwork and group attacks, and weaponry, including firearms. Continue reading

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Why Systema?

Why Systema?

by Martin Wheeler
Over the recent years I have read with interest on the internet back and forth as to the validity of training in Systema by observers who have only viewed experts in the art on YouTube or video. Usually a comparison is made to the most visual of fighting arts, mixed martial arts. The same types of questions are posted over and over again, “Why do they train slowly? Why does this look way too easy? Why did that guy fall over and seem unable to get back up?”
And I read with equal interest the various ways in which the art is defended by practitioners of Systema. Not that they are not valid questions, they definitely are, it is just I rarely hear these same questions from anyone in seminars, classes, or in sparring sessions, no matter what their background or what speed they work at.
Just for the sake of balance, I began in the martial arts at a tender age and have studied in many full contact environments from boxing systems to grappling systems, to clever weapons based and ‘street-fighting’ arts, and have enjoyed sparring, fighting and training for the last thirty years with anyone who’s paths I have crossed from beginners to world-class full contact fighters. I was a bouncer for ten years and I am currently contracted to share my views on close-quarter-combatives with professionals from elite security services around the world, as-well-as MMA fighters, Systema practitioners, traditional martial artists and civilians.
So why, if I have studied all these other full contact systems with relative success, would I choose Systema?
For me that is easy to answer. It’s because I have tried it. I am just one of many who brought whatever I had in my little bag of tricks to test Vladimir Vasiliev, or heaven forbid, Mikhail Ryabko, when I first met them. And I have yet to see anyone who did not come out the other end of the experience the same as I did, that is to say, confused, in pain but with a profound insight into the fact that something fundamental had changed.
To put it mildly, there is a lot more going on with Systema than meets the eye. And if there were not, if you could really just see what was happening by watching it on YouTube, then it would not be very good Systema.
Mixed martial arts are dramatic, fast and superbly visual. The best method for two pugilistic grapplers to go at it since the gladiators of old Rome. You can see what is happening and the results are self evident. It hosts some of the best conditioned and most versatile athletes.
I love to watch it, I love to train in it and always enjoy working with anyone from that world. And in my opinion, anyone who trains in MMA who is even half decent, a man or woman, is to be taken very seriously.
So I hear you ask: Well, if Systema is so good why isn’t it in the UFC? And I think that is an excellent question.
But I might ask: Well, if the UFC was any good why don’t they throw a knife in the cage?
As unrealistic as that is, maybe you get my point? The dynamic of a fight would change immediately if a knife were indeed tossed into the cage. You would see two highly trained fighters having to immediately adapt to a completely new set of rules or die almost instantaneously.
I think anyone would agree that eating jabs from a skilled fighter, possibly the least lethal of MMA striking attacks, sucks, but by comparison is quite pleasant compared to a single knife wound.
When I first trained with Vladimir he stopped me in the middle of a sparring session and said in his own inimitable way, ‘Martin, I know men that you would take to pieces in the ring’. Of course, stupidly beaming with pride I thought he was complimenting me, until he turned away to attend another student and added flatly… ‘But they would kill you.’
And there’s the rub. Almost every visible strategy, philosophy and motion that is great in an MMA sport environment is useful in the street and even on the battlefield. But only useful. Whereas everything in Systema is purposely designed for both of the later environments, is not visual, and has been proven as effective in those arenas as MMA has in the cage. Systema’s structure is intentionally designed to appear structureless, and the speed of the action although registering as slow to the eye is actually a highly developed relational timing, deceptive due to the Systema practitioner remaining calm.
Recently I was invited to introduce the concept of Systema to an overseas Special Operations Unit. While there, I was shown a video of various instructors that had been invited to train their operators and show what they had to offer. Among them was a top MMA coach from Pride. I asked what they thought of his training. ‘Excellent’ the Colonel said ‘but for us, virtually useless.’
This is in no way disparaging to the Pride coach, he was obviously excellent. But the fact remains, what is good in one arena is not necessarily good for another. Systema is not designed primarily for a sport environment or a sport mentality anymore than MMA is primarily designed for a battlefield environment or a combat mentality.
One could train for twenty years in Jujitsu, for example, and be an amazing grappler. But if you were to introduce just one more opponent into the fight you would not be doing Jujitsu anymore. It is simply not designed for fighting two opponents efficiently at the same time, even on the ground. It is primarily structured to fight one opponent at a time.
I am not saying the Jujitsu fighter would not prevail, I am merely suggesting that if he had to fight two or more possibly armed opponents at the same time on a daily basis then his training might soon start to look, at least from the outside, like Systema. And then armed with that knowledge, the way he worked against a single opponent again would also dramatically change. After ten years or so it would look as alien to another Jujitsu practitioner observing it from the outside as Systema does now after centuries of refinement.
Systema, as a martial art, in the form it exists now is primarily designed for real life application, it works for unpredictable situations (such as multiple opponents, various weapons, uneven terrains, poor lighting, confined space, etc.) for professionals in the military, law enforcement and security, for someone who’s got to fight while injured or wounded or has to protect a woman or child, for someone who is older or in a poor physical condition. Training and fighting in Systema is designed to avoid injuries, and even heal your old ones. And that requires a very different bag of tricks, look and feel to a sport fighting art.
Although, as Vladimir once remarked with that casual profound quietness ‘Systema just happens to be a martial art’. And to have any understanding of that gem, one cannot merely observe it from the outside…
About the author.
Martin Wheeler is a Senior U.S. Systema Instructor certified under Vladimir Vasiliev. Martin is teaching regular Systema classes at Los Angeles School of Russian Martial Art. He has trained in the martial arts for over thirty years ranging from Boxing, Grappling, Weapons fighting, Kenpo Karate and for 10 years in Systema. He is contracted to teach SWAT teams and Special Operations Units and is also produced Hollywood screen writer.
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If You Aren’t Training Force on Force….

(written by Ken Good)

If You Aren’t Training Force on Force….

I don’t care who told you what. If you are not doing FOF, you are playing games and not really training for the gunfight. Here is an article I wrote a year ago.  It bears revisiting.
Imagine for a moment if you will, a class of students attentively studying the art of swimming. The instructor, ostensibly an expert swimmer with vast and honorable credentials, certified by the international swimming associations and such, calmly walks up to the class wearing an impeccable gray business suit and begins lecturing on swimming. The environment is totally business-like, clinical, comfortable and dry. the students are clothed in similar business attire to the instructor, doing their very best to emulate him, and notes are being taken as they sip water or coffee.

The renowned lecturer goes on to describe the need to float, and to move the arms and legs in unison, this way and that. He discusses in passing how to breathe and what water temperature may do to the technique. He discusses warm water and cold water swimming methods, and he shows films of swimmers, and analyzes their techniques.

Finally, after discussion groups and several written tests, the class understands the concept of swimming.

Then they retire to their respective swim couches and practice their strokes carefully and incessantly. After a while they very good at this and can whip out a back stroke or breast stroke or even a dog paddle like the expert in class. They are given Swimmer Diplomas and sent out ready to swim, or teach others how to swim….should the need arise.

Eventually these would-be swimmers begin discussing the merits of pumping the arms more than the feet, or of holding the breath or the theoretical need to get the head up out of the place the water would be, if in fact they were actually swimming in water, in order to breathe. Minutia upon minutia are analyzed and discussed to perfect "the couch swim".

But the problem is that nobody ever gets into the water. You see, the water is a fearful place. One actually gets wet. "There be dragons" seems to be the attitude. "The water is not safe", some say. Others say that the mere suggestion that one would have to test the Master Swimmer’s Theory Of Swimming, by actually swimming, to be a disloyal and unfaithful act.

"Analytical swimmers do not need to get into the water", others murmur as they grind through their swim kata every day.

The discussions on minutia and the unanswered questions persist. Yet if one of them dared to wander into the murky wetness, all the questions that they have spent hours and hours bemusing would be answered in one instant flash of sudden understanding.

I’ll let you in on a secret. It is a dark and ugly secret that has been kept hidden like a national security issue for decades.

The master swimmer does not, in fact, know how to swim.

(be sure and click on the link below to read the rest)

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One Minute

By Scott Meredith

The new best-selling book The Survivors Club : the Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood does not mention Ryabko-Vasiliev Systema even once. It’s not about martial arts. And it isn’t published by Systema Headquarters. But never mind all that – It’s going to be one of the most compelling, motivating, and informative books you ever read about Systema or martial arts. If you do read it, that is. I’m betting that by the end of this piece, you’ll be running out to get it. If not, I’ve failed you as a writer, but more importantly, you may have failed yourself, at your most important task – staying alive.

‘The Survivors Club’ explains why some people live through things that creep your flesh even to read about – mass drowning events, horrific fiery infernos, metal spikes through the heart, and beyond. Sherwood makes the crucial distinction between “surviving” and “living”. The idea being that you need to apply the same calm awareness and rational sensitivity which have probably served you well in the calmer waters of your daily life, to the maelstrom of a life-threatening emergency. He thoroughly explains all the recent cutting-edge survival research, and spices his narrative with incredible anecdotes that will make you proud simply to count yourself one of the same species as these “ordinary” people who walked (or swam, or fell…) through hell and back again.

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A Description of Systema by Martin Wheeler

Martin Wheeler wrote this years ago when he first became acquainted with Systema. It was always one of my favorite posts from the forum so I asked his permission to reprint it unedited here. Martin is one of the top instructors in Systema. He is in LA and can be reached at if you are lucky enough to live close enough to train with him.

          "I met a master of the art, Vladimir Vasiliev at a seminar
organized by Lee Wedlake and was further encouraged to study it by my friend Al
Mcluckie. After what I saw I started training under him in his school in
Toronto whenever I can. I would have to say I am blown away by the concept of
Systema which is an internal Russian martial art. Vladimir and Mikhail Ryabko,
who I was lucky enough to meet recently, are incredible teachers of the martial
arts. Their concept of the art and teaching methods are quite simply amazing. I
am not even entirely sure how they do what they do, I just know that it works.
In a way I was searching for Systema without really knowing what I was looking
for, the training regiment I was following was telling me to relax, stay in
contact with the opponent , steer away from specific technique, keep in motion,
allow my weapons to follow their own paths and let the bodies fluidity work for
itself while encouraging the mind to intuitively strategize. But saying all that
I think if I had carried on down the path I was taking for the next 20 years I
still doubt I would have learned as much as I did in only my first week of
training in The System under a teacher such as Vladimir.


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Russian:    Systema is a Martial Art with roots in ancient Russia
Martial:     It is in active use in top levels of modern Russian 
                special operations groups
Art:           Well, perhaps Systema is not an “art” at all since we don’t
                much care what it looks like. It is instead a functional system
                that encompasses all aspects of interaction
We teach Systema as taught by Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko. This Style encompasses every aspect of conflict, from the psychological aspects of conversation and posturing as violence arises, thru all aspects of hand to hand fighting, grappling and groundwork and group attacks, and weaponry, including work with a handgun or rifle, and work in special environments, against a wall, in a chair, car, stairway or in the water. You name it: we work with it.

Our practice sessions are usually is a series of drills, with some freestyle work on occasion. Most drills are done at a slow speed. Slow study creates a fear free environment so the body and mind can learn thoroughly.  Speed ultimately becomes somewhat irrelevant when one simply matches the speed of the incoming event.  Since Systema is based on training concepts,  laws of motion, and sensitivity to the moment, there is no "technique" to do right or wrong and the learning curve is shortened. The immediate feedback makes this truly effective. Throughout all training, the primary focus is on good form, relaxation and breathing. This is for the purpose of keeping strength and managing fear. These are our tools to maintain an energized and creative state that allows free flowing and appropriate work.  Unlike sport fighting, life is vastly more unpredictable and may demand effort for an extended period of time. One beautiful facet of Systema is that it is designed to work when one is tired, injured or weak.

                Men and women that want to learn to protect their families and gain better understanding and control of violence and fear.
Older people that want to gain health and decrease injuries: Systema has students in their 70s
Professionals that want more insight into working with the human body will appreciate the realistic training.
                Anyone who wants to strengthen their character in an honest and real way.

You don’t have to memorize anything
It is a “come as you are” study. You don’t have to be “in shape” to learn.
It is not based on brute strength or flexibility.
There are no traditions or cultural practices.
There are belts or ranks.
You don’t have to fight your way thru a hierarchy of individuals
There are no rules and no secrets.
Systema works when you are tired or injured.
Systema gives increased awareness and responsiveness without hyper alertness.

It is not technique based: No katas. You don’t have to memorize.
We move more from what we feel than what we see.
Flexibility is not required: We use intuitive natural movements.
Strength is not required: We use manipulation of form rather than brute force.
Training is non-intimidating and movements are typically studied at a slow speed.
Training is fun, non-competitive and cooperative.

Students are taught progressively. All drills are started with simple variations to allow the body to work properly.
Training cooperatively generally prevents injuries.
Learning to work in a relaxed manner using the breath reduces tension and therefore reduces injuries
Training blades when used are flexible plastic or dulled metal.
Nothing we do is mandatory. Students can sit out any sessions that they are not comfortable with.         

Systema promotes health: It strengthens and does not injure the body.
Use of proper breathing and relaxation leads to decrease in injuries and huge gains in stamina.
Posture will improve with understanding of body structure
Systema exercises are typically isometric. They are designed to increase tendon strength and teach proper breathing.
We decrease stress with breathing and improved understanding of psychology.
Injuries are decreased thru increased physical awareness.
You will increase strength immediately thru understanding of Form, breath and selective relaxation.

We learn to relax –even in a chaotic environment.
One learns to calm the mind thru training the breath.
The system is a form of movement therapy that removes fear from the body.
This system is compatible with spiritual living: force can be appropriately applied.
Systema provides a greater understanding of psychology of conversation, posture, aggression and combat.
Fear management has very widespread daily benefit: it is one of our biggest enemies in life.

Systema comes for Orthodox Christian roots but religious doctrine is not part of outward the curriculum.
Its roots are evident in the underlying approach to life and training.
There are aspects of breathing technique that can be linked to prayer if desired.

Although many practitioners wear camo clothing, it is mostly just a tribute to the roots of our art.
It is one of the least regimented martial systems you will ever see.
There are no ranks. No one ever yells at anyone else.

Training is never like boot camp. Strengthening exercises are primarily breathing exercises.

The best way to see what Systema is about is to train for a month. You can’t really get a good taste in a single session. If you come once it may be too brutal, or it may be too mundane. There are so many things to study and train that the content of training varries immensely. One time we work on sensitivity, another recieving strikes, then fighting in a crowd, or fighting with a knife or stick, and sometimes we disarm or do force on force work with training guns. It is always different so don’t judge by just one class, nor only a week. A commitment to a block of training and tasting will serve you better. It will be worth the experience whether or not you decide to continue training with us. Continue reading

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Surviving the Urban Jungle Part II

From our friend Lloyd Robrecht:

Hello friends,
Just wanted to let you all know that Kwan Lee’s seminar (Surviving the Urban Jungle part1) in West Point, VA was just amazing! We covered dynamic joint breaks, stick work, confined spaces work, gun disarms, and more. It really kicked things up to the next level! I hope all of you will be able to join us for Part 2 held in Roanoke, VA March 28th and 29th some of the topics to be covered include fighting from the ground against weapons and 2 attackers, improvised weapons (we will look at use of chairs, credit cards, clothes, pens etc. ) dynamic joint breaks using the legs, kicks, and escapes from hold, chokes and locks. This series of seminars will without a doubt expose you to a deeper level of work that many have yet to experience. 
 Please see the attached flyer and call me for hotel information
 Best regards, 

Lloyd Robrecht
Roanoke Systema Group
540.312.9832 Continue reading

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Handgun Training, Training Attitude

I had posted a question on Vlad’s forum about training guns and a friend and fellow Systema person replied 

Ken Good writes: I have personally trained with wax bullets, a variety of commercially available and custom paintgun/markers, Simmunitions FX as well as varying quality of Airsoft guns. All have Pros & Cons. Yes, you want reliability and accuracy and as much replication of the actual weapon as possible. That being said, I believe the single most important thing you are doing when putting any simulation training weapon in your hand, with opponents downrange that plan on shooting you when the opportunity presents itself, is training your perception system/situational awareness. The ability to "see". The actual firing of the weapon (whatever it happens to be), is the last thing in a long chain of events that you are dealing with. The weapon should be transparent in your hands so to speak. Don’t pay too much attention to it. If you are, then your mind is in the wrong universe and you simply need more time behind the weapon on the range and immersed in simulation. If you line somebody up, drop the hammer and your round(s), doesn’t actually hit the target because the training weapon is not quite up to speed, don’t worry about it. It was a good rep so to speak. Also remember, if you are hit with any number of the possible training projectiles and you attribute it to (he or she got "lucky") or he or she has a better weapon than you do, you are concentrating on the wrong reality. Don’t let your pride get in the way of a good lesson! The reality is: If you got hit with a crappy training weapon system, how much easier for your opponent would it have been with an actual weapon? As training weapons do improve on the field, the better shooters will leverage them faster/more efficiently that less proficient shooters. In others words, as the weapons get better, the fights are finished faster in favor of the more proficient/experienced. When I first got started in so-called "Force-on-Force" training, I forced myself and all my instructors to generally use the least effective training weapons of those available on any given training day. We used 1-shot pump Sheridan training markers (10-rounds in a magazine above the barrel). We gave the students higher capacity rifles (both semi and full-auto) for their use. Although significantly outnumbered and "outgunned), we (the instructors) would regularly dominate the situation using better movement, tactics, communication and calm under duress that will promote accuracy & proper timing. You could not simply cover your sloppy movements with more rounds in the air, you had to find out what was going on on some of the not so obvious levels and consistently execute. Then when we did use the better weapons, the fights were over exceptionally fast. I guess what I am trying to say, is don’t get too wrapped around the axle at first with respect to which training weapon you have. Get in there, mix it up. Learn from the myriad of mistakes we all make in these situations.

Marc writes:
To say the least, Ken was one of the pioneers of force-on-force handgun training. Take a moment to visit his website at
And be sure and read some of his articles on the same site.

Also reread the above article and consider the training attitude described by Ken -and then extend the concepts to ALL your training. Training is about learning and expanding your awareness. In a training environment this is not the same thing as "winning". In fact, we often learn more when we lose. When we win (which sometimes comes with a good dose of luck), we pat ourselves on the back and hardly think back about the things that made it work….the ego is too busy. But, when we lose we often replay the tape over and over, looking for what went wrong.

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