What is Systema?
martial art developed in Russia. It is designed to be
highly adaptive and practical, having no specific predefined techniques
or moves. Instead,
Systema practitioners learn to respond to attacks at a reflexive level,
essentially “developing” responses to attacks as they occur. These responses
eventually evolve into a system of fighting that is customized for the
attributes of each practitioner.
2. How old is
Systema? Why haven't I heard of it till now?
actually dates back to the 10th century. Various Russian
ethnic groups, such as the Slavs and the Cossacks, developed their own
native fighting styles. Over
time, these styles eventually combined and evolved into the art now
known as Systema. When the Communists came to power
after the October Revolution of 1917, the practice of these fighting
skills was prohibited, except by the elite units of the Soviet Special
Forces (Spetsnaz). Only
after the end of the communist era in 1991, and the subsequent
immigration of Systema practitioners, did Systema become known in the
3. I’ve seen some
videos of Systema. It
looks a lot like Aikido, Kung fu, Wing Chun, (insert your martial art
look similar to other arts depending on the practitioner. Each Systema
practitioner develops his own style of fighting. This style is
influenced by several factors such as the practitioner’s physical
attributes and past martial experience. In addition, Systema
does have some principles in common with other arts (people move in
only so many ways after all). As a result, Systema
can look like other arts, but doesn’t necessarily have to.
Does Systema have a ground fighting component?
Systema principles can be applied to wrestling/ground fighting. However, there are
substantial differences between Systema’s philosophy of fighting
on the ground and other popular ground fighting styles such as
Brazillian Ju Jitsu or SAMBO. Systema does not
attempt to engage in submission grappling, or prolonged one-on-one
wrestling matches on the ground. Rather, Systema
practitioners generally only go to ground when necessary, and return to
their feet as soon as possible. This is largely due
the street reality that many attacks are not one to one fights, and
getting tied up with one opponent in a wrestling match leaves you
vulnerable to the second attacker.
Systema the same as SAMBO?
and SAMBO are both Russian fighting styles, but the two differ
was developed from fighting styles from various Russian ethnic groups
and eventually evolved into a style of instinctive/reflexive fighting. In comparison, SAMBO
Bez Oruzhiya) was developed from the many folk styles
of wrestling that existed in the fifteen republics of the former Soviet Union. SAMBO is very
technique specific, prescribing set attacks and counters for various
fighting situations. Although both systems are in use
with the Russian military, fundamentally and philosophically, Systema
and SAMBO are at different ends of the fighting spectrum.
I’ve seen several videos of Systema on Youtube which look
is taught using a number of creative
biomechanical exercises, and challenging psychological and physical
drills, which are designed to re-educate the body at a kinesthetic
are designed to elicit various degrees of sensitivity and awareness in
the practitioner. Without
an accurate explanation of what the drill is trying to accomplish, a
third party observer often takes the drill at face value and makes the
assumption that the drill is supposed to simulate reality. Taken out of
context, the drills seem unrealistic.
7. What’s with
all the slow speed training?
speed training develops a proper understanding of the many things
involved in the complex realm of combat, thus resulting in a calmer
emotionally detached way of functioning in real life combat situations. In time, this
methodology develops a different mentality in the practitioner,
accepting the reality of a confrontation in an almost casual fashion,
without fear and its byproduct hyper aggression. At a higher level of
proficiency, speed and power are increased. Work flows from soft
to hard, seamlessly adapting to changes in the situation.
8. How old do I have to
be to train in Systema?
Due to the
fact that Systema is tailored to the practitioner, generally speaking,
Systema can be taught to people of any age. Children
often pick up Systema quite quickly, since they typically carry less
tension and do not carry with them the assumptions/expectations of how
fighting should be.
9. What kind of shape
do I need to be in?
to the fact that Systema is tailored to the individual, you do not need
to be in top physical condition to begin training. In fact, people of
nearly every body type can train in Systema. That being said
however, Systema is still a martial art, and certain degree of
physicality is involved. Being
strong and fit is not necessary, but having superior attributes will
create greater options. Fitness, though not
necessary, is certainly preferred.
10. What kind of
equipment do I need to begin training?
requires very little training equipment. The only things
initially required to train are the following:
training knife (for knife work)
A pair of
clear safety glasses (for knife work)
progresses, you may wish to purchase these additional pieces of
11. What type of uniform
do I need?
no belts, uniforms, or ranking systems. You may train
using any type of non restrictive clothing. Experience is shown
through skill, rather than rank insignias. A pair of shoes may
be required for outdoor sessions.
12. Is there anything
else I need before I start training?
important thing to have when attending Systema training sessions is an
open mind. Systema
is different from most other martial arts in both principle and
desire to explore new possibilities is vital to learning the system.
Systema is actually developed by the practitioner, for the practitioner. Since no technique
is actually dictated, it is the student’s responsibility to take
advantage of each and every learning opportunity and apply himself/herself with 100% effort. Enjoyment
is best found in the process, not in a predetermined goal. Finally, basic
manners, open communication, and concern for others are needed to create a positive
and safe training environment.
13. What are training
training sessions are performed using various drills and exercises to
encourage the practitioners to move spontaneously and naturally to
solve difficult survival situations. Students learn through a process
of good motion (surviving) and less than good motion (not surviving).
Doing things incorrectly is an important part of the learning process. Repeating a motion
long enough with negative results eventually teaches the body what NOT
to do. Hence the training drills used are a process to teach the body
how to move, and how not to move. Over time, this training method
re-educates the body at a reflexive/kinesthetic level, allowing the
practitioner to respond to attacks in real time with little or no
14. What subjects are
explored during training?
below are some of the topics explored during training sessions:
strengthening and flexibility
of posture breaking, balance breaking and throwing skills
training using all parts of the body
and joint techniques
methods and understanding