Category Archives: Review


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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Sept 13 Handgun Seminar Review

This last Saturdays training session was a success. Eight people trained many aspects of gunwork, beginning with simple movement, gaining ability to draw from concealment, disarming and retention, and ending with many and various sessions of force-on-force (ie shooting each other) in the barricade field.

It was a long day training in the Florida sun, but mercifully broken up with time in the shade. We began with two hours working indoora at the Training Center.

From there we moved to the field and worked a short session with blue guns. Then we turned up the heat and brought out the paintball guns. This brought out the adrenaline, the need to breathe and most of all, enthusiasm. Students really loved the work and it provided many opportunities to adjust their habits and movements to greater proficiency.

It got pretty heated up. We broke for the shade and watched Konstantine Komarov moving in "Gunpoint Supremacy" while drinking cold drinks and eating traditional russian snack of cukes, tomatoes, and olives. 

We trained in the barricade field for the rest of the afternoon until breaking before sunset for a swim and adult beverages. Steaks cooked and we discussed the day and added more fluids as it got darker.

With one last push we geared up to work in the dark, practicing room clearing with a flashlight and gun. Those who were not clearing populated the mock structure, appearing as either innocents or as armed opposition. We had done this drill in the day. But the night closes the environment in, making it more real and intense. The drills with both opponents and non-targets are very interesting and are a great benefit since it requires that the target be identified: in reality we cannont just shoot anything that moves. This forces people to control their emotions even more under stress. As always, proper use of lighting proved to rule the night, a point that everyone quickly saw and tasted.

I compliment the students that came to do the work. Most people are too lazy, too afraid, to complacent, or oblivious to know that they need to expand their abilities. They see the fair weather and don’t see a need to prepare for the possiblity of life’s storms. I admire those who attended for their hardwork and understanding of the value of training.

A few pictures are already posted at:

There were quite a few who wished to attend but couldn’t. I do know who some of you are but it wouldn’t hurt to send me an email and let me know you are interested. The next event will be coming up soon….new and improved, of course.

Robert Cooksey wrote:
     Thank you for a good time and some good training.

     For me, this kind of work really draws attention to the small, internal things that get lost during excitement: wanting to sit and snipe with the illusion that I’m safe if I sit still; breaking posture and realizing that if someone gets the jump on me I am not prepared to move; uncontrolled tension causing my breathing, posture, movement, everything to go sideways.

     This time around, the space felt different to me. It was similar to working an attacker with strikes and leading them. I wasn’t good at it by any means, but I could begin to see how simply showing barrel in a lane would lead an adversary in another direction allowing me more freedom of movement as I worked them into a tighter package. If they were moving well, this became much more difficult.

      Something that I’d like to work in future seminars would be close quarters gun retention and perhaps some training involving both knives and guns in which an adversary has a weapon in close quarters and we don’t know what it is. I know that if I know I’m training gun, I am sloppier with my movement on the lateral sides of the weapon than I am when I know it’s a knife. If i know it’s a gun, I immediately try to close distance, but with a knife, the fear that I’ve yet to learn to manage results in much different movement (not necessarily and probably not good movement in most cases).
      It’s always good to train with folks at varying levels of training and to see how small the margins are that we are always working to shave away in our favors. The humbling aspect of such training is always good for me outside of the direct application of the techniques at work.

      The relaxing and fun approach to the training I think helps to dissolve some of the initial fear and hesitation that people have with regard to this kind of training. Seeing confidence grow initially and leading to a more considered humility that continues to work through all those things that threaten to prevent us from moving freely by the end is something I’ve grown to expect to see in training with you and the Systema community in general. This seminar was no different. The camaraderie, per usual was a giant plus.

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Seminar Review – Joint Destruction in Pacifica

It was a typical spring day in Pacifica. Cool, to say the least, with strong gusts of wind breaking up the morning mists to let the sun thru. One could just feel the vastness of the Pacific Ocean at our backs. Air doesn’t get much fresher than that. By passing over a thousand miles of open ocean, it was perfect for the breathing we would enjoy so much that day. Comrades gathered, hands in pockets, eager for the day of training to begin. As people arrived warm greeting sounded all around. Returning to this group of ours, wherever it may be, always feel like a family reunion. As with family, it is not that we are all such close friends, but there is a bond that comes from learning and suffering joyfully together. Many of us see each other only on these rare occasions. Conversations are often brief, but it is easy to builds bonds that go deeper than the level of our daily lives. The honest work of giving and receiving training cuts to the core. It was good to be among these brothers again.


Training started with a bearable bit of running, followed by the tension exercises that I have come love as the gentlest transition into work. This is especially appreciated at seminars where travel leaves the body cold and a bit disconnected. Tension work tunes the body to the mind gently, and we were ready to work after a short session.


Then we began, following up on things recently explored in the Dallas seminar and true to the seminar’s title “Joint Destruction”. Now, work on the joints always makes me cautious -and I am sure I am not alone. It is easy to have some serious respect for an arm bar once you receive a couple overly zealous applications. So as we got moving I reminded myself to be careful and mentally set the reaction-to-pain sensors on high alert. Little did I know that by the end of the day we would all receive hundreds of elbow hyperextensions on each side.  It turned out well: there were only a couple that my body remembered a day later, and no one was injured in the two days of training.


Overall, this seminar seemed unique to me in that it was almost entirely centered on this one concept. From seminars I have attended this was the most thoroughly explored of hand-to-hand concepts. This work is so fundamental, so functional and so beautiful. It is easy for the mind to grasp since it is natural and intuitive. An attacker cannot reach out, push, punch or stab without putting their limbs at risk. It requires no strength to take the opponents limb because he freely gives it.. This is true of Systema in general but in this case it is so easy to see and use.


The principle works by fulcrum and lever. The body is moved by the lever if you go slowly and smoothly.  But the body is a dead weight that can’t move fast enough, and breaking the lever if you move the too fast. In the course of training one learns to find the fulcrum and feel the lever very easily. This allows a joint extension to be applied quickly and smoothly.  And this make joint-trapping and hyperextension a very functional part of a hand-to-hand combat system. One can even accentuate the attackers offering with a little tug to straighten him further. Or push the body away gently to start an opposing wave to straighten the arm and make the work more effective.


Joint extension can be adjusted for a variety of results. If one applies it in a small dose it can simply stop a person, or it can be used to move and steer them, like a big lever. And taken abruptly to its extreme, it can destroy the joint and leave them momentarily preoccupied with internal problems. It provides a whole continuum of physical conflict resolution in a single and simply attainable concept. And this works in every dimension. You can work up, down, and sideways. You can work from the floor with someone attacking downwards or standing with someone attacking upwards. It works for head grab, waist grab or attack on the legs. Whatever the opponent reaches for, there it is. And any part of the body can be used for a fulcrum point, as can another opponent, or a nearby object.


Due to the simplicity and effectiveness, It is very appropriate for multiple attackers. A broken arm can occur in a split second, like falling into a hole, almost as fast as you can pass by. This would give almost any attacker something to think about, hopefully eliminating them and quickly reducing the group. Some of my favorite drills were working against multiple attackers. It was very easy to discover greater efficiently: the complexity brought out the skill of applying force with any part of the body, whatever is closest.


We explored joint hyperextension in every variation, ending with a session of knife training using the same principles. I love the way Vlad frequently ends seminars with knife work. It always suits the mood so well, when, near the end, everyone is tired from the work of a two-day seminar.


There is only one thing better than thoroughly satisfying training session like this. That is when Vlad decides to use the material to make a teaching DVD. It is like getting a video of ones vacation. And there is always the fun and sometimes humbling experience of seeing yourself in the production. But the real benefit is being able to fine-tune what one got out of the seminar. We all remember what got into our bodies during that time, then in training that follows we get to plant it deeper. But there are always thing that pass by because we unable to grasp it at the time. Video review can really bring back these fine points. And many times over many years it will bring a different message.


This was one of the best seminars ever. Those who couldn’t make it will surely enjoy this video since it will clearly explain the progressions that lead to mastery of this concept. The work contained within could be a fighting system all in itself…even without the rest of Systema’s storehouse of treasures.

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