Monthly Archives: February 2009

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 wheelersystema@yahoo.com 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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FAQ

WHAT IS IT?

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.

·  WHAT IS TRAINING LIKE?
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.

·  WHO WOULD BENEFIT?
                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.

·  HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER MARTIAL ARTS?
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.

·  WHY IS IT EASY TO LEARN?
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.

·  IT LOOKS DANGEROUS – IS IT SAFE?
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.         

·  WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL BENEFITS?
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.

 ·  WHAT ARE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS?
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.

·  IS IT RELIGIOUS?
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.

·  IS IT MILITARISTIC?
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.

FINAL COMMENT
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

Lloyd Robrecht
Roanoke Systema Group
540.312.9832
www.russianmartialart-va.com Continue reading

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