What Is Systema?

What is Systema?

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.         


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.


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.


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.


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.


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."

(c) Mark Bresee