Monthly Archives: September 2008

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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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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Saturday Sept 13 – Handgun Mini-seminar in Sarasota

On Saturday September 13 there will be a training session focused on handgun use with Systema principles.

This is not going to be a particularly difficult day in terms of the level of fitness needed. But you will be mentally and emotionally challenged and rewarded with some specific and extremely useful concepts that will greatly increase your chance of survival in a situation involving a gun.

This training comes from generations of Systema experience in the field, and is state of the art training …a snapshot of some of the material used at highest levels of elite training. This may provide the single biggest leap in your ability to use a handgun under stress.

Schedule is subject to change but an approximate schedule is:

12:00-1:30 orientation session at the Training Center (shade) covering:
safety and training rules and procedures
paintball gun operation (to allow expedited training later)
drawing and firing from concealed carry
form and movement for efficiency, accuracy and relaxation
strategic use of cover for concealment and protection
use of breath to control fear and activate movement

1:45-3:00 Dryrun use of barricade field (offsite) to train smooth movement thru obstacles
become familiar with proper distance to protective barriers and cover
continue studying use breath to aleviate stress symptoms

3:00-4:00 Session with 1-1 force on force drills
using previously trained concepts under greater stress (shooting opponent)


4:30-6:30 session practicing senario drills and room clearing
work with target identification and use of speech under stress

Food and drink

8:30-10:00 Presentation of work with a flashlight
voluntary force on force training in the dark.

after 10:00 optional use of dark course for participants 🙂
We will meet at the training center at 1795 Desoto Rd at 12:00. I will
be there after 11:30. Please come a bit early. Eat an early lunch. Drink plenty of water. Wear comfortable clothes (with long pants).

Fee: $80 includes training, beverages, dinner, materials (gun and mask
use, paintballs, gas) This seminar will not be held with less than 6 participants and attendance will be limited to approximately 12.  Please let me know on or before Sept 6 if you will be able to attend.

You can call me with any questions 941-355-2591

Best wishes, Marc Bresee

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Fear is a Symptom of Our Ailing Soul

Vladimir Vasiliev wrote:

"Fear is a symptom of our ailing soul. It is easy to see how ill we are – as soon as someone praises us, we get proud; as soon as someone criticizes us, we get resentful.

"We should run away from praise, but we always want more. We should be thankful for criticism, for it teaches us humility, but we get angry or offended. Things are reversed in our world and that destroys our inner balance and the result is fear.

"In my opinion, the ultimate and only source of power is God. For this reason, there is no better tool for overcoming than prayer to God. Everything is right in the world of God and if we try to live in His world, there will be no fear. If for various reasons, you choose not to pray, then I can say that for me breathing/breath training is the next best thing." Continue reading

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Vlad Seminar in October in Manassus VA

For those of you in the Florida area this will propably be the closest Vlad will be this year. Take advantage of it if you are able. This flyer says it all.
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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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Shocknife … looks like fun.

Hmmmm. This new knife training device looks like it might be really good …like what paintball and simunitions can bring to handgun training.

and a video demonstration:

It IS pricey – so before I run out and buy one for the school I would like to test it. Since we work alongside the blade a lot in systema I am not sure it would fit our needs. I will try to get someone to test on me at a gunshow sometime soon. Or if anyone has one, bring it in to share the good times. Continue reading

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Announcements from Systema Lousiville

(From Bill Parravano in Louisville KY)

Hey Sarasota,

Training up in Canada at the Systema Summer Immersion Camp with Vlad the other week was amazing!

It is difficult to put into words the kind of personal growth that takes place as a result of training in Systema.
At first I got into Systema 8 years ago because I thought it was a cool martial art.  You know Spetsnaz/Russian Special Forces just in general thinking that I would learn to be tough by training with the "elite."
However, one thing I realized was how weak my body is.  If you don’t think so, try doing one of Vlad’s 40 count down and 40 count up – pushups.
I realized how much I don’t breathe and how much my mind would tell me what I could or what I couldn’t do.  It is quite a humbling experience!
No matter what, I always came out the other side of the experience feeling better, more relaxed and felt like I knew more about myself.
Something that I never really found in other martial arts. Not to mention the feeling of brotherhood that I felt towards those others that showed up to practice and trained hard with me in this type of environment.

Coming up are two trainings (one in Sept and one in October) that would be of similar experiences.

I know you have lots of obligations with work and personal life. However, One thing I discovered the more effort I put into Sytema the more rewarding and enriching my life became on many levels…

A Systema seminar coming up in Lexington, Kentucky on Saturday September, 13th.  Check out the following link for more information:

… and a Systema Seminar in Delaware coming up October 4th.  See for more information.

Kevin Secours is a great instructor as well as a great person and definitely someone you would want to train with at some point in time.

I hope to you can make it to practice or a seminar soon!

Best regards,

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Go to "Web Links" at the left,  and then "Systema Photos" category and you will find a link Continue reading

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Jeff Sherwin on Efficiency

We hosted Jim King for a seminar in Northern California and one of the things Jim talked about was the difference between art and fighting.

The difference as I understood it was that art tended to value large, impressive and beautiful movements and fighting was sometimes just ugly, simple and quick. An example Jim gave was if someone grabbed your gun hand you could do an elaborate fancy throw or you could just switch the gun to you other hand and shoot the guy. Not impressive to watch but effective.

I remember Vladimir saying at the first summer camp after showing a bunch of impressive work that all that was really necessary was something much simpler but people want to see the impressive looking stuff.

The art is really fascinating and inspiring but I think it is important not to lose sight of the simplicity of survival. As martial artists we sometimes imagine using elaborate and impressive techniques in a hostile situation but maybe it is best not to desire beauty when all we need is to live.

When I think back to the physical confrontations in my life none of them were resolved with aesthetic beauty. Since this is true and since I train partially as a means to enhance my survivability maybe I should concentrate less on art and more about fighting.

-Jeff Sherwin Continue reading

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