Category Archives: Strikes


Breathing with Multiple Strikes

(This is a follow-up to articles on striking posted earlier)

Vlad writes:
Question: When we work with a single strike it seems clear – exhale at the very moment that the strike makes contact with the body, and then, follow up with Burst Breathing if it is necessary to recover. But what happens when there are multiple strikes?

Vladimir: Multiple strikes give you multiple opportunities to take action by ways of: Breathing , Movement , Capturing the force. Let’s look at each one briefly.

1. Clearly, the importance of Breathing properly becomes even more important during multiple striking. No matter what, try to maintain exhaling upon every contact. If you are faced with quick consequent strikes, keep up by making your exhales very short. If two or more strikes land on you simultaneously, make a longer exhale. It becomes very apparent how to do that when you experience it yourself. Begin with pushing and practice by having two or three partners deliver pushes with their fists to various parts of your body. Start slowly and gradually increase the speed.

2. Breathing will help you avoid the tension and if tension is not holding you back, you will be able to move. The more mobile you are the less pain you will experience. In Systema, we often practice moving different body segments such as shoulders independent of the rest of the body. This drill will allow you to put forward less vulnerable body areas to meet the strikes. With multiple punches, you will also realize that preplanned and pre-rehearsed techniques will not work. Whereas, your breath patterns and your free movements can be adapted to any unpredictable attacks and challenging settings.

3. An additional alternative in dealing with multiple hitting is capturing the force. You would take the strike onto your body and redirect it towards your own fist to give your punch more power. You can transform the energy of each punch you receive to go into the force of your own strike. This training requires an experienced instructor and we do it in class and in seminars.

Vlad says, "We have received many questions on this topic. Some very good ones and some questions only show that people have not read LET EVERY BREATH book carefully, and that is a shame. The book contains many answers and most valuable information. It is entertaining and tremendously well put together by a skilled writer Professor Scott Meredith.
Life goes on so quickly and we should try not to miss the treasures on the way.

Please visit Vlad’s website when you get a chance. And contribute to the forum there if you are able.

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Take it…or Greive it (Part 2)

-Second part of an article with Vladimir Vasiliev. Be sure and find part 1 below.

        Student: Could you give a few tips on applying Systema Breathing to taking a punch.

        Vladimir: There are training tips related to preparation for striking and the actual things you do while your are receiving the strike.
Most people have the primary fear of contact. Of course the degree of fear varies from person to person. I have met some who came to my school afraid to get hurt to such an extent that they were shaking even in a peaceful setting of the gym. Learning to take strikes should follow a good progression.

          One day at Mikhail Ryabko’s class in Moscow one of his students brought a friend who was not a fighter at all. In fact, the man had no experience in any martial art or any sport, he was from the world of science and classical music. He wanted to know how to take strikes, but was absolutely unprepared to have any contact with a fist. Despite his interest, he was completely unable to understand the principles of breathing and taking strikes. Even talking about punches made him panic.

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Take It… or Grieve it (Part 1)

An interview from the gym of Vladimir Vasiliev
Student: We heard that you are currently working on a new book on STRIKES. One of the topics covered in that book will deal with the skill of taking strikes. It is of great interest to anyone studying martial arts, self defense or even human psychology. In Systema training, this skill is recognized to be very important, quite a lot of time is devoted to learning it. Why is that?
Vladimir: Why study this, you ask, but when they get hit, students also ask Why Me?… There are 2 reasons for training to take strikes. The practical-apparent one and the underlying-psychological one.

         No matter how good a fighter is, sometimes he gets hit. Some strikes you just do not see, some pleasant ones may come from the back, unexpectedly, or can be more powerful than you anticipated such as when hit with an object or a weapon.

         In my experience with numerous martial arts and martial artists, fighters avoid getting hit by trying to be the first one to punch, by learning escapes, evasions and blocks. But they rarely talk about dealing with the strike that actually landed on you.

         There is also an approach of taking strikes by withstanding pain, deliberately toughening up and tightening up various body parts. Aside from ultimately destructive effect of such practice, it would only work for a visible, anticipated strike, while in place. But what if you have not seen the strike come or if you were on the move then you would need alternate relaxation of muscles.

          I have seen how an unexpected punch can send a skilled martial artist into a state of disorientation, shock, panic, resentment, and many other counterproductive conditions. Moreover, I have never seen anyone capable of avoiding all strikes in a mass attack or crowd fight. You can easily verify it yourself in a group of 10 or more fighters.

         Here is a typical example seen in class many many times. A new student joined in, big and strong guy, experienced in martial arts. We began a mass attack drill where everyone comes to the center of the gym and is hitting in all directions, each man fighting for himself. Right away the new guy got punched on the head, he turned to see who did it ready to hit him back. At that moment he received a punch from the other side, with some anger building up, he turned to that side, his fist ready to fly in that direction. And then of course he was hit again from the opposite side. He was twirling like a good punch bag. Finally, he realized that a punch-for-punch does not work in a mass attack. So he exhaled and started punching those who were close by and not those who hit him.

       Unfortunately, most of us have an almost automatic response: when a strike touches us we immediately go to retaliate and hit back. This is caused by pride. Systema training of taking punches deals directly with pride.

Be sure and see the rest of this article (at READ MORE)
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Fist Development

Written by Vladimir Vasiliev 2003

"In my understanding, there are stages to skill development.
In the initial stage, we learn the technical components while generally being focused and tense more than needed. This commonly produces the traditional fist where the thumb covers the index and middle fingers while the whole fist and forearm are tense. Moreover, because it is hard to localize tension it usually spreads all the way up the arm. Tension in the arm greatly reduces precision and that tension makes it very difficult to estimate the right striking distance. Tension also makes it impossible to deliver the right dosage of force in a strike. (As we know, excessive tension is totally counterproductive, it comes from fear and causes fear.)

On the next stage of training, our whole body becomes more relaxed. That leads to the fist being held more loosely as well; and you may loose some fist structure, the position of the thumb can begin to vary. When you train properly and become more calm, the whole arm may become too loose. At this point, you are acquiring freedom and power but the thumb can move to the side.

I sometimes used that fist position in demonstrations in order not to hit hard and to illustrate the loose hand positions. Also, those of you who are teaching will notice that when you are talking and explaining something to your students, you fist will automatically loosen up. It is natural that when we talk our hands and fingers move as well.

On the third stage, due to certain drills (such as fist placing, pushes and proper striking) you may start to attain what’s called the “alive fist”. Such fist has both sufficient power in it, you can control it independently of the rest of the body and at the same time, the structure of the fist is solid and collected. Everything falls into place comfortably, to the extend that it will be just as easy for you to hold a closed fist as an open hand. At this stage, the thumb is placed in its traditional classic spot. In real fighting when you wish to avoid injuries the fist has to assume the form that protects it the most. Correct technique without tension – power and precision without injuries – this is what we want. " Continue reading

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