The following is footage from our Monday night Class in Surry Hill. The theme of the class is WEAPONISING NATURAL MOVEMENT, which we will explore over 6 video clips detailing our work.
I hope this is of use.
Part 1: Familiarising the Body with Different Attacks
Part 2: Accessing Natural Movement
Part 3: "Surfing" Your Body's Need to Survive
Part 4: Working from Physical Contact
Part 5: Feeling and Working from the Push Before it has Made Physical Contact
Part 6: Working Offensively
Before you can weaponise natural movement you first must be able to access natural movement. But REAL natural movement. This is what your body will do instinctively to keep itself intact, with minimal interference from your conscious mind. The opposite of this is contrived movement which stems from excess fear and tension. Natural movement is not so much something that you do, as much as it is something that you give permission to occur.
Once you have acquired natural movement as an ATTRIBUTE, progress to developing it as a SKILL, then APPLY it proactively.
Have a read of the list. Then Consider why we train the way we do in Systema. Think back to every Systema class, with every teacher, you have ever attended. Think back to every exercise you have ever done.
Veteran Australian Systema instructor David Quaile will be conducting a System seminar in Hamilton on 12 & 13 April 2013. This event will be hosted by Systema Waikato.
David Quaile (left) is Australia’s longest serving Systema Instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko (Right). Having Studied with Vladimir Vasiliev since the mid 90′s, David has always acted as a pioneer of Systema in both Australia and New Zealand giving seminars to training groups and clubs interested in studying the System. David has also had the opportunity to travel to Moscow Russia, to train directly with Systema Master Mikhail Ryabko.
David is also a retired Operative from the Australian Military. With his extensive real life combat experience in some of the harshest circumstances and environments that a person would have to survive, he has a thorough and intimate knowledge of how understanding of Systema can help an individual maintain him or herself in such situations.
An amazing and genuinely good natured human being with a wealth of knowledge and experience, David Quaile is highly skilled practitioner and teacher of Systema, and for a long time has been one of the best kept secrets of this art that you will find on our shores.
For more information on this seminar or to book you place contact:
With the arrival of 2014, I have been getting back into my running (and hopefully soon my swimming too). For most of my life this has never been one of my strong points. I remember as a child often getting out of breath at school carnivals and in the playground, while the other kids just zipped by at what seemed to me to be effortless ease.
With the help of 2 good friends of mine I decided to remedy this a few years ago and face what had turned into a bit of a fear of mine that had haunted me since childhood. That tightness in the chest and between the shoulder blades, the painful stitch in the belly, the gasping for air... Well at least that was how I remembered it... Fortunately with the help of Systema Principles and also my on again off again love affair with the Chi Running Method (Click Here for more information), I have made some great improvements and have actually started to enjoy running now.
This morning I was running on the beach with a mate of mine when my attention drifted towards the other runners on the beach. There were many different types of folks there today. Athletes, mums, teenagers, a few older folks taking a crack at it. Some were powering on, others were struggling. Sometimes I was overtaking slower runners other times I was being over taken by faster runners. It was then that something one of my teachers had told me some years ago came to mind.
"Establish and maintain a base of comfort. Then if you choose to increase your intensity, do so but remain as relaxed and as comfortable as best you can. Don't just become good at suffering."
It was tempting for me to focus on how fast I was going, how many people I could overtake or even trying to beat my friend to the other side of the beach. But instead I decided to heed that sage advice. So while I continued to run at a pace that I could sustain I began to ask myself:
How comfortable am I within myself?
How is my posture?
Where is the tension accumulating in my body and can I let it go?
Is my breath alleviating or creating more tension in my body?
Am I taking in just what I need or am I being greedy with my breath?
Am I moving at a pace where I can sustain this base of comfort?
Or is my pride and ego causing me to strain and throw out my base for the sake of an external result?
I have come to realise something when it comes to my running, my Systema training and life in general.
Make your goal to be comfortable within yourself. Don't judge your success based on how many people you can overtake or beat. Prioritise understanding and improving yourself over just an external result. Often those external results are just a by product of self understanding and what you choose to do with it anyway.
Run your own race. Or as we Systema folk like to say:
Secondly, Thanks to everyone who has come and supported us in the training and growth of our school. I must take my hat off to the crew as they have put in the hard work and have really helped each other to progress in our training of the System.
It's nice to be winding down now as we are approaching the Christmas and New Years break. I've been thinking a bit about what message I wanted to send out as we approach 2014. This has been on my mind for a long time and I guess this is as good a time as any to put it out there. It is something that one of my teachers, David Quaile, told me a long time ago that has always stayed with me regarding Systema.
Learning Systema is a lot like climbing Mountains.
You start at the bottom of this huge mountain thinking to yourself "Gee I'd like to climb that." And so you begin. You gear up and proceed to ascend this thing, climbing between the rocks, finding perches in the mountain face, hanging on for dear life, and somehow having a good laugh along the way. Finally you make it to the top of the Mountain, and it is the best thing ever. You're so pleased that you made it, and you look back down with a real sense of accomplishment at how far you have come.... Then you notice something. Off in the distance you see an even bigger Mountain, which gets you thinking... "You know what? I think I'd like to climb that one now.".... But you can't do it if you stay at the top of the current Mountain you have just climbed. So down you go back to the beginning, back to ground level, to restock your equipment and to begin planning how to climb the larger mountain.
It feels pretty annoying descending back down from that great height you worked so hard to get to.
After all the ground level is beneath you. Literally beneath you. However you do it. You find yourself back on the ground where you started. But now you have a whole new point of view having just climbed that last mountain. You have learned a lot about yourself and acquired a whole new skill set, as well as a better understanding of how to use the equipment that you brought up with you. Going back to the beginning you are newly informed when you restock your equipment, maybe even finding a few things to take that you didn't last time, in preparation for the next climb.
You get to the foot of that larger mountain and begin to climb. But because of the perspective you gained from the last one, and how this informed your decisions when you restocked on ground level, you climb even higher than the last time, making it all the way to the top of this even larger mountain. What a feeling!!!! Even higher than last time and it feels awesome. You look at the landscape before you, and you look back down at how far you have climbed. You see that smaller mountain you climbed before and can't help but sneer a little bit and how much lower it is than the height that you have just ascended to. Then you look off into the distance... Where you see another, even larger Mountain.... "Gee I'd like to climb that..." is what goes through your mind.
And so... Back down the Mountain. All the way back to the beginning again, grumbling and cursing as you descend and your feet eventually touch ground. But then with perspective, and new skills you have gained, you are once again more informed when you restock your equipment. You really begin to see that there were pieces of equipment available to you, that you just didn't take with you before that were actually quite necessary. You begin to find the things that you were missing previously and rectify the error by taking them with you.
Up we go this third bigger Mountain, Up, up and even higher than the last time until you reach the top. "I'm the king of the world!!!!", you exclaim. So much higher now. Then you look off into the distance... An even larger Mountain stares back at you.... Guess What? Yep, time to go back down to the beginning...Again.
The thing about going back down to the beginning... Is that its Hard. It's a massive affront to pride, the ego, and it hurts. But you can't spend the rest of your training on one plateau. When you hit the plateau and can't go any further, always remember to go back to the simple things. Often things that were so simple that they didn't seem to be worth the time. Things that were so simple often people exclaim "But I knew that already!!!" Simple... Not Easy. It takes a lot of humility to be able to do this again...And Again...And again. The hard thing is that the higher you climb, the further it is going to be every time for you to have to come down... Back to the beginning. It never ends and nobody is exempt from this... The reward for good work.. Is more work :)
Upon this realisation two particular principles stand out and become particularly useful:
1. Remember to laugh at yourself
2.Enjoy the journey...Because it never ends.
But not to worry. Just remember, every time you go back and fix the simple things, the fundamentals the things in your base, you will be able to climb even higher. Don't neglect simple things just because they don't look cool...Trust me. I know it can be hard sometimes, but what you get back is truly rewarding. A true gift that you give to yourself. It does make a better person of you... And it's kind of fun :)
This is the study of the self... And it's a cracker.
For all our friends overseas:
Cracker - Australian colloquialism indicating that something is great or amusing.
So as one year comes to an end and a new one beings. Merry Christmas everyone, stay safe these holidays and have a very Happy New Year.
Great news everone. As of 4 November 2013 we are relocating our Monday night classes to Surry Hills, in the City. The new place will be just a 2 minute walk from Central Station and classes will run from 7:30pm to 9:00pm at Ace Dance Studios (see below).
Ace Dance Studios is currently in the process of completing a few extra renovations, however the place looks perfect for Systema training as you can see below.
Remember Monday Night Classes Start here as of 4 November 2013
The following is a very interesting read concerning the difference between Antisocial Violence (Avoidable, survivable, solvable with social skills) and Asocial Violence (lethal, unaffected by social skills, requires decisive action).
The above extract is from the text How to Survive the Most Critical 5 Seconds of Your Life, by Tim Larkin and Chris Rank-Buhr.
About the Authors:
Tim Larkin is a world renowned master close combat trainer and the founder and creator of the personal protection system called Target Focussed Training (TFT). During the Last 20 years he has trained elite military and law enforcement units such as the US Navy SEAL teams and Army Special Forces, as well as corporate and civilian clientele around the world.
Chris Ranck-Buhr began training in 1985 and commenced teaching in 1990. In that time he was heavily involved in the development and perfection of the TFT curriculum. In addition to training thousands of people in the TFT System he has overseen the training of 44 Cadre Instructors (3 year program), 7 of whom achieved Master level (10 year program).
Our Resident Health Practitioner, Peter Scarselletti, has just returned from a Systema training trip at the school of Mikhail Ryabko in Moscow. During his time in Russia, Peter was able to attend the Russian Bath house, Banya, which is a common but amazing health practice in Russia. Peter recently wrote a few words about this awesome experience which he was kind enough to share for everyone's benefit:
Russian Banya (Steam Bath), Systema Style. A brief run down, for the uninitiated:
Ok, I have experienced bath culture all over the world, including China, Japan and Hungary, but Russia takes the first prize. It was so different, but because it included Systema health practices and breathwork, it was particularly aimed at balancing the body, and it was particularly rejuvenating for the body, not just hanging out in a hot room.
Process: 1. Go to the Banya 2. Debrief with Systema Instructors on how to do correct breath work in the extreme heat sauna and in the baptismal ice pool. 3. Remove all clothes until you are butt naked 4. Go into the Sauna, and use slow breath work until you cannot stand the extreme heat anymore, and then jump into the ice pool, and hold your head underwater for as long as possible, until you can't anymore, resurface and do quick burst-breath-work, until you come to terms with the ice water, then back into the Sauna. 5. Repeat, repeat, repeat. 6. While in the sauna, get whipped with Birch and Oak Tree leaves all over your body, get massaged and smacked all over your body with an open palm, including your inner thighs to boost sexual function, get stretched and musculo-skeletally adjusted, and get pummelled with a rubber mallet down the whole length of your spine. 7.Finish with a nice cup of herbal tea! 8. And if you're really lucky, end it all with a Systema Whip Massage.........
About the Author:
Peter Scarselletti is a Sydney based Acupuncturist, Meridian Therapist and Chinese Herbalist. He is also the Director of Qiology, a company located in Sydney that provides premium acupuncture and herbal services, sells energetic medicine and health products, provides industry seminars and community based education concerning alternative health.
His qualifications are as follows:
Bachelor of Applied Science (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Sydney
Certificate of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing
Certificate of Manaka Acupuncture Protocols, Sydney
Certificate of Toyohari East Asian Needle Therapy, Gold Coast
Certificate of Mitsui-Onnetsu Therapy, Narita
Certificate of Far-Infrared Onnetsu Therapy, New York City
Certificate of Shinkiko Therapy, Tokyo
Certificate of The Dorn Method, Sydney
AACMA Accredited Member
Registered Toyohari Practitioner
Peter has been recently certified by Mikhail Ryabko as an instructor in the Applied Methodology of Systema Principles to Health. These practices are utilised and taught to people in the form of breath-work and exercises to balance their bodies. Peter is also the first Australian resident to been trained to administer the famous Systema Ryabko Russian Stick Massage which he will be offering as a health service to the public in Sydney, Australia commencing in November 2013.
This is a very personal post for me. So I am going to take off the Instructor hat for the moment and just address whoever is reading this as simply - Justin. A guy from Sydney, Australia, who is a practitioner of Systema. The following piece of writing does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Mikhail Ryabko, Vladimir Vasiliev or any other persons referred to with in. It is simply my personal account and experiences drawn from my time training in the Ryabko-Vasiliev camp. If I refer to said persons it is simply to convey my experiences and opinions.
Systema is very rewarding but it's not always the easiest art to study due to it's seemingly structureless nature, endlessness and the level of introspection required. That raises the question: Why continue to study this art when there are so many other easier options out there? Especially where explanations, techniques, clear guidelines, a syllabus and gradings indicating levels of competence are present to put a concerned mind at ease.
For me Systema has for a long time been about fixing myself up inside and healing. I'm not saying I have had the worst life in the world. Comparatively speaking I'm doing quite well. But nobodies perfect and we all have our share of damage inside. Some of us just hide it better than others. Systema is first and foremost a healing art, but I know people don't think that sounds "cool enough"... So I am going to approach this a different way.
A while back when I was going through a bit of a rough patch with my training I had a conversation with Vlad. As I walked with him through the training hall at Systema Headquarters he explained to me "In this "style" we teach a person to be a Master...But a real Master." I pondered this for a moment and the first image that came to mind was an old guy in silk pyjamas and a long white beard who could crack skulls with a single chop. As Vlad continued to explain I began to realise he meant "A Master Craftsman".
"Think back to how things were in the old times," said Vlad. "You would have one person. Somebody with his two hands and an axe, who could go out into the woods, chop down a tree, select the part he needs, take it back to his cabin, using his simple set of tools shape it into the components for a piece of furniture, put those components together, sand it varnish it and would have a complete product that he created himself." Again I pondered over this analogy. I thought to myself, someone who has created something whole and complete, but because of himself and his know how. Someone who has taken something all the way from beginning to middle to end.
Vlad continued, "Now think about how many cars are made in this day and age. One person designs the frame, another person designs the seats, another person designs the engine, another person designs the fuel system, another person designs the brakes.Then in the end all these different things made by different people are jumbled into this one end product. While the end product may be impressive... It is no longer the work of a Master." I continued to Ponder... A Master...Someone who has taken something all the way from beginning to middle to end. The other option is where the end product is developed...But the Master Craftsman is not.
For a long time this sat in my mind... It took a while for the enormity of this to sink in. I imagine I am still very much coming to terms with it.
Systema does not work...You Work...Systema is just there to help you see how to do this for yourself. It is there to help you Know for Yourself.
At this point I must reference some instruction I received from Sonny Puzikas during his time with us in Sydney. Please understand I am not name dropping I just don't believe in taking credit for other people's good work and intelligence. My understanding and interpretation of his advice is as follows:
In the beginning you study Systema and Yourself.
The Study of Yourself gives rise to the development of certain attributes
Over a period of time the combination of those attributes become skill.
Once you have acquired skill the next step is to apply them.
And so they become Applications.
Then you work these applications increasing the intensity, pressure, speed, level of impact, situational variants...until you reach an inevitable point of failure.
Achievement breeds pride...Failure is where you learn.
Determine for yourself what went wrong, why it went wrong and then how to fix it.
Modify the error or hole in your base, then repeat the process again and again.
You need to go back to the beginning before you can improve further.The problem won't be solved by bashing your head against the wall. Go back and fix the simple things that form your base. That is where the weakness is. Study and fix yourself. This breeds humility.
This is the work. And don't forget acquisition of skill takes priority over acquisition of knowledge. Skill saves lives. Knowledge on it's own does not. And while Skill can morph into intellectual knowledge at a later point, intellectual knowledge seldom morphs into skill.
On a personal note, Sonny if you end up reading this, thank you for coming to Sydney when you did, and for helping me find the strength within myself to carry on.
One thing I really respect about Michael and Vlad is that they do not try to make clones of themselves. However for some reason people think that doing Systema is all about copying them and mimicking some sort of "style"... It's not a style, it's a process. A process which is your responsibility to take from Beginning to Middle to End... Yourself. Don't just mimic Michael and Vlad. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't want you to. You're not them. They know this. You should too.
Your teachers guide you and you should listen to them, but do not ever expect somebody to do for you what is your responsibility to do for yourself.
That being said, this is not a licence for incompetent instruction. There is a difference between helping people to know for themselves versus just leaving them in a rowboat with no paddles. All things are a double edged sword. How do the people choose to hold that sword?
Remember acquisition of skill before knowledge. As an aspiring Master Craftsman and as a human, what is the rawest of materials that someone can have access too in order to begin to learn to do this? What is the rawest of materials that gives rise to the principles, occurrence of technique or strategy? An experience. You start by having an experience. A raw, often but not always non-verbal, unrestricted, unjudged visceral experience. Then you teach yourself to become a Master. If the pathways are drawn too easily, a person gives in to laziness and becomes dependant... As a result they fail to become self sufficient, self reliant, and to learn to find and navigate their own path. Life is NOT always clearly mapped or logical. Thinking and acting like it is so makes somebody simply a consumer, rather than someone capable of creating and seeing something through from the beginning, the middle and to the end....But then having the maturity to accept that there is no end...Only going back to the beginning. There are reasons that Michael and Vlad do things the way they do. In my humble opinion those reasons are not nearly as selfish as some may have you believe.
At this point it is probably starting to sound like a lot of hard work. Yes. Yes it is Hard work. Not in the sense of physical demand (although there is that too) but the level of personal responsibility and self accountability involved when you study this art. As a Student or Instructor you choose to take on responsibility for yourself and your journey. The alternative is to complain that someone else isn't doing this for you, or latch onto some sort of guru figure to do all your thinking and problem solving for you... I wouldn't recommend either... And from what I have gathered from my time spent with them, either would Michael or Vlad.
Remember Systema gives us freedom, but with freedom comes personal responsibility...But when personal responsibility is accepted freedom soon follows :)
Nobody knows what it's like to be you. To have lived your life, your pain, your joys, your needs. Nobody truly knows what is best for you except you. Learn to have faith in yourself and to keep your own counsel in all matters of life. It doesn't mean ignore everyone else's input, but learn to trust yourself. The System is you.That last sentence is one of David Quaile's, a great teacher.
I admit there is a high likelihood I'll never be good as Michael or Vlad. But that is ok. I don't really care. I never got into this gig to be "the best". I don't need to be good as Michael or Vlad. I don't need to be better then anyone. I just need to be as good as me. And that is a by product of studying and healing the self. That is it's own reward. One of the greatest thing I learnt from all of this was to be kind to myself. By doing that you are kinder to other people. That is a gift to both them and you.
I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not even saying that it's even fair really. There will be stumbling points. You'll strive, you'll fail, you'll hurt. You'll be knocked down, again, and again, and again. Some times by life, by circumstance, by your own fears and sometimes by other people. That's the worst especially when a lot of the time they're the very people who you have sincerely tried to help and have suffered for in the process. All of these things will happen sooner or later despite your best intentions. Just keep getting back up. Like I said, it's not easy and a lot of the time it's not fair. It's not always your fault, but it is your responsibility. So find a way. Find a way.
You don't need the respect or approval of other people when you are able to give those things to yourself. That is your reward. And you give that to yourself. Don't ever make your happiness dependant on the words or actions of other people. Happiness has to come from within...And so does Systema. It's not about being perfect, it just about trying to improve yourself, for yourself and the people you love.
Another important thing. Do not underestimate the importance of the Spiritual Aspect of things. I don't strictly mean Orthodox Christianity. I myself am not Orthodox, and don't see myself becoming so any time soon. But what a person chooses to believe, or not to believe is no one's business except their own. Do not jump to conclusions about people's decisions or lack there of. You don't know them. Don't presume to. To quote the film Snatch, "Assumption is the mother of all F#%K ups". I'll say it again:
Do not underestimate the importance of the Spiritual Aspect of things. Make of this what you will.
This is my opinion and whether or not you agree with it, please respect it as I respect yours. Whether or not I agree with it.
I know this journey is hard. I choose it anyway. It may not be right for everyone. But it's right for me.
I can appreciate that this doesn't sound particularly glamorous or feel good inspirational. But please keep in mind, there is a difference between being straight up with people versus tailoring words and responses in such a way that elicits a response from them that satisfies a particular agenda. Beliefs don't make a good person. Actions do... And while I don't claim to be a good and perfect person, I can assure you I try. I don't care much for it when people presume to judge me based on here-say taken out of context, limited time with me and half baked opinions that may have formed, or an idea in their heads of the person I was years ago although we may have barely spoken two words since. Time passes and people change. Life does that. The Systema Community is not a museum of saints. It's just a bunch of imperfect people trying their best to heal and make themselves better.
In this crazy and sometimes harsh world of ours Systema is a beautiful thing, and a gift that you give to yourself through time, hard work, honesty and faith tempered with common sense. There's a feeling that you get which is different for everyone and as undefinable in words as the taste of something sweet or fragrance of something wonderful. A long time ago the group I was training with at the time was visited by a gentleman named Dimitri Trufanov from Chicago. After the session he finished with some breath work. I just remember being left with a feeling. A very calm, relaxed and peaceful feeling. I remember thinking to myself "If I could feel like this everyday even for just a little bit of that day, everything would be worth it". Personally I believe this feeling, however you wish to define it (or not to) is at the heart of the System. It is from where everything springs, and it is inside of you, connecting you to yourself and everything and everyone around you. Without it there is nothing. That is worth protecting. That is worth cultivating. That is worth sharing....All the best Systema people I know are people just trying to heal themselves. This is what keeps me going.
It's amazing to see footage of great Systema Masters demonstrating skills and abilities which leave us inspired and even more curious about our study of the System. However when viewing these things from the other side of a computer screen, it is important to remember there is a lot that we can't see going on. Furthermore it is also to important to remember that what these people can do is often the result of a lot of time and hard work to acquire these abilities which is a credit to them. Neglecting to remember this and neglecting to take into account the context of what we are watching can sometimes lead to imitation without understanding. This is a big problem.
I recently came across some great footage on Facebook of Mikhail Ryabko teaching internal work in Moscow. Through this social medium I got into a conversation with a friend of mine Loren Clements, an Instructor in New Zealand who raised some questions which were both FAIR AND REASONABLE to consider. For context here is a link to the footage. I could not embed it so please click the link below the photo:
Please note that this article has been written with the permission of Loren and also, Kitagawa Takahide, the gentleman who's Facebook wall this conversation occurred on.
Loren Clements: What are we seeing here? What is the purpose and what are the roles played? Cheers.
Justin Ho: From the outside looking in, to me it looks like incredibly refined internal movement to study how to return tension. IMHO it is the result of meticulously cultivated FORM, but real form not just "good" posture held with tension. I don't know if you can see it due to the angle of the camera but look at the connection of his feet to the floor and how it relates through his body to the top of his head. Whatever existing tension he has he evenly distributes throughout his body making it both full and powerful.
Again as I'm on the on the side of the screen and can only take a stab at it; He seems to use his sensitivity in order to feel the direction of the external force the Japanese gentleman is giving him, and uses the very minimal amount of internal movements (a masterful expression of economy of movement) in order to RETURN TENSION into this gentleman's body affecting his structure in such a way to weaken it enough making him dependant on Michaels physical presence for support.
I think this also involves how Michael is in terms of his very being (not in an esoteric sense). I think due to the practices he engages in the way he is as a person but also just being comfortable as physiological and neurological ATTRIBUTE enables him to develop that rapport through comfort to enable him to relax and hence control this person's nervous system. Simply put he is so comfortable he makes the other person comfortable. The other person is so comfortable he has no desire to fight against the situation and his nervous system accepts it, and as such is willing to accept Michael as his main frame of reference (perception) to remain standing and his main source of support (physical).
I believe that Michael then indicates that once you can do this from contact, by keeping a "Connection" (I am not entirely sure as to the nature of this connection) with the person you can begin to have a similar effect from a distance. That part is outside the realms of my understanding so I cannot comment.
That's just me taking a stab at it. I may be wrong.
Also I think whilst we can perceive a very small amount of what's going on, there are always many things going on which we just don't understand, and may not have the capacity to understand... Yet
Loren Clements: That's the one Justin, thanks! The posting of these types of clips is a doubled edged sword - good to see the work, not so good that there are no real descriptions or translations of what the work is......
This is an interesting clip. What is the transition to using this work against someone that does not want to be controlled?
Again I may be wrong but I'll take a stab at it. Oh and I'm not saying "It's like this and that's a fact". I'm sincere when I say there are always other factors at play which we don't and may not ever have the capacity to understand. This is just what I can see at this point in time.
1. Acquire the right attributes and understanding of ACTUAL form. And TAKE THE TIME to do it properly. Don't just gloss over the work like it's a chore. As a mutual friend of ours advises you gotta go back to the beginning before you can climb higher. As usual it involves finding whatever it was we've been missing/ignoring, and as we both know that hurts the pride and ego more than any beating ever could. It's hard to convey the information properly via text but this may be useful:
NOTE: In the linked article I am not referring simply to keeping the heels on the ground. I am talking about whole contact and even distribution of weight and pressure throughout the entire soles of the feet.
If you observe the clip in the article I think that the same principles may be at play:
2. Once you have acquired REAL form as an ATTRIBUTE (not something that you "do", and "not something written in some textbook, or that someone else tells you to do" but something that is part of "who and how you are". Then Begin studying the impact of external forces on your body and your form. Begin with a slow, honest push consistent in pressure. Pick a part of the body that suits you (hand, forearm, chest, stomach etc...) Take that pressure from the push and rather than escaping absorb into your physical being, distributing that pressure and external force evenly throughout your body. Here's a tip: Feel the soles of the feet. Really feel the sole's of your feet. Don't gloss over it.
I know everyone always wants to go full speed and force with that whole "would this work in real life?" Mindset... Resist this urge in the initial stages. People are keen to pressure test their skills (and gratify the ego) but I submit to you this: how can you pressure test skill when you do not possess any skill to pressure test? Or as I like to say: "why buy a lawn mower when you don't have a lawn?" Work at the pace and level where you can produce results, and increase the intensity (speed, physical pressure, unpredictability of the attack) to the point you are able to succeed until you reach the point of failure. Reaching a point of failure is inevitable.
3. Upon reaching the point of failure often the pride is hurt and it is a common misconception for a person to throw their hands in the air in frustration and go " arrgh it's all just smoke and mirrors!!". Do not fall into this trap. People will often try to break through this plateau by banging their heads against the wall. But now the question is "how did you come to the wall in the first place?"... Time to study ourselves. Go back to the beginning. The problem is likely to not be where you are stuck but something missing back in the beginning. The weak, undeveloped and ignored part of the base so to speak. Go back to the beginning and figure it out. Again, this hurts the pride and ego more than any beating. But then you should be able to progress further with greater levels of intensity and pressure before failing.
Do this again and again and again. Hard work. No short cuts. No excuses. No self pity.
In my opinion the mark of a good Systema practitioner is someone who can take the rawest of ingredients pulled from a personal experience, and make those raw ingredients into whatever he needs them to be. Someone who can take it all the way from beginning, middle and end, but as a result of studying themselves.
When people say things like "aww know yourself, know yourself, these Systema guys are just spouting out catch phrases and buzzwords"... Well they are only buzzwords when people choose (and it is a choice) to pay lip service to them. "Study yourself" is NOT a metaphor.
(Just a general statement I'm not having a dig at you man)
I don't mean to talk down to anyone. I consider how this applies to me and my shortcomings far more than I do to anyone else. Nobodies perfect.
Loren Clements: Studying is good. Taking things for granted is not.
The question - Will it work in real life? is a very important one and should not be swept aside because we are 'supposed' to be training a certain way. Some of us HAVE to know whether the work CAN translate to streets because we rely on the lessons to protect ourselves and our colleagues on a daily/weekly basis.
Systema is a lifetime of study - but we should definitely be taking away very PRACTICAL information from every class. This immediate practical material keeps us safe and healthy while we have years to delve into the truly mysterious and amazing.
END OF DIALOGUE
Thankyou Loren for being so mindful and having the time (and nerve) to ask questions of such an important nature, rather that simply accepting what is seen on a computer screen without thinking.
Loren Clements and Systema Auckland
Loren CLEMENTS is the Principal Instructor at Systema Auckland Loren began his involvement in martial arts in 2000. He studied a number of Chinese Martial Arts systems before becoming heavily involved in Yin Style Bagua Zhang.
Loren's interests expanded to the 'reality-based' combatives systems but he found that although they were extremely functional they did not fit in with his philosophical needs. Upon commencing his Systema Journey and obtaining certification to teach from Systema Master Vladimir Vasiliev, Loren has set about creating a healthy environment where those interested in Systema can work as equal explorers and delve into this unique art. He has set a goal of constant upskilling for himself and sought out the opportunity to do so; this has included - daily training, attending and arranging further seminars, as well as regular trips to Systema Headquarters Toronto. For anyone interested in training with Loren in Auckland please visit: http://www.systemaauckland.com
So since I returned from training at Systema HQ in Toronto about a fortnight ago, we've been playing with a lot of work involving breath permeation exercises (breathing and visualising the breath entering and leaving from different body parts) in order to diagnose and clean tension in the body. During the recent Mastering Systema Seminar Vlad went through some very simple breathing exercises in order to help us learn to do this. Whilst during the Seminar a lot of different lessons were covered over the 5 days, this work was utilised intermittently throughout the seminar. It was an incredibly physically strenuous 5 days, however everyone seemed able to function without falling into exhaustion. I believe it was the result of this amazing breathwork and it's restorative and performance enhancing properties. Upon my return home we have been focusing and exploring this work in great depth and also applying it to other concepts which we have been utilising over the last year.
In a nut shell it has involved:
1. Connecting the breath to the body
2. Inducing tension and managing it by way of breath during physical exertion
3. Removing the residual tension that has remained in the body by way of breath following the physical exertion
Whilst in a lot of cases getting rid of accumulated tension can be done by way of movement, we have been studying how to do this by use of breath alone. Breath permeation has been the key. For anyone interested this process is described in detail in the book “Let Every Breath”, and involves visualising the breath entering and leaving through different body parts Ie. Arms legs, back, stomach, head. In order to do this we have to be aware not only how to breathe through the different body parts, but more importantly that we CAN breathe through the different body parts.
1. Prepare yourself:
Lay down on your back, put your arms by your side and close your eyes. Check your body is as symmetrical as possible. Begin to inhale in through the nose and out through the mouth. Direct your breath into the diaphram so that your stomach rises and falls like that of a new born baby. Keep it there. Breath in such a way that does not bring tension into the body. Breathe light. Not Shallow light. When you breathe light you are able to breathe deeper. So breathe deep. While doing this work it is important to note what it means to breathe deeply. According to Vlad to breathe deep is not just about filling the diaphragm and lungs with as much air as possible (respect the principle of sufficiency). To breathe deep is to do so without creating excess tension in the body. To breathe deep is also to be able to breathe through and take in air from any part of the body and also to be able to exhale and allow the breathe to exit through any part of the body. In this way we study how to connect the breath to the body, and with that connection directly regulate our tension levels with breath alone.
2. Connect the breath to the body:
You can jump straight into the Breath permeation work, however if you have trouble perceiving the the breath entering and leaving through different body parts, it may help to do a series of full body and segmented tension sets to increase your ability to feel your body.
Inhale and tense the whole body,
Exhale and relax the whole body
Inhale and progressively tense the whole body like a wave from the top of the head down to the soles of the feet.
Exhale and progressively relax the whole body as a wave from the top of the head down to the soles of the feet.
Inhale and progressively tense the whole body like a wave from the soles of the feet to the top of the head
Exhale and progressively relax the whole body like a wave from the soles of the feet to the top of the head
Then move onto the breath permeation work. It is important to note that the more relaxed you are the easier it is to perceived the breath entering and leaving your body through the different body parts. So again, Breathe light and breathe deep. Not Shallow and not heavy. The lighter you breathe, the deeper you can breath because the more relaxed your are.
When you inhale and exhale visualise the breath entering in though the different described body parts and spreading though your whole body like a wave. I like using the analogy “like a full jug of water being poured into a container, until the container is completely full. You are the container and the water is your breath.”
Inhale from the top of your head, and ALLOW the inhale to spread from the top of your head down through your face then neck, shoulder and arms, chest, stomach, hips, down through your legs and to your feet. Then once your body is full of your inhale, exhale but through your mouth. Repeat this process several times.
Inhale through the soles of the feet like a wave all the way up your body through to your head and arms until your whole body is filled with the inhale. Then exhale through your mouth. Repeat this process several times.
Inhale through the entire left side of your body spreading the inhale like a wave to the right side of your body filling your whole body. Exhale through the mouth. Then do this from the right side but to the left side of your body, then exhale through the mouth. Repeat this several times.
NOW: Inhale form every single part of your body and gather your inhale into the very centre of your body i.e. The solar plexus. Then exhale down through the legs and make the exhale exit your body through the soles of your feet. Repeat this several times.
There are endless permutations to the breath permeation and segmented tension cycles. The above cycles are just some examples.
3. Induce tension and manage it by way of breath during exertion:
One way of doing this is the use of holding static positions. When holding the following positions described find away to breathe, permeating the breath through your body in such away that takes the tension away. Again there must be endless variations as to how to do this so figure out what is best for you, but one way I have found to work quite well is to inhale through wherever the tension has stored itself and exhale through the mouth. Another way is breathe through the body part which is raised off the ground (I will explain in a second) and then exhale through and then out of the body part still resting on the ground. When doing this part perform 1 set of the static hold followed by 1 set of breath permeation for restoration detailed in the next section, before moving onto the next static hold set.
Whilst still laying on your back make sure that your lower back is flattened and pressed firmly on the ground. This will activate your core and protect your lower back from taking onto much load preventing strain to the lower back muscles or damage to the intervertebral discs of the spine. DO NOT leave the arch present and allow your lower back to come off the ground at ANY POINT during any of these static holds.
Keeping your lower back flushed and pressed against the ground raise your legs up of the ground 90 degrees. Keep them as straight as possible without allowing your lower back to come off the ground. Make sure the upper half of your body is as relaxed as possible. Breathe through the soles of your feet and exhale through your arms. Now lower your legs to 45 degrees of the ground and hold this position for a certain amount of time. Then lower your legs to just a few centimetres off the ground and hold this position for a certain amount of time.
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
Now raise your upper body 45 degrees of the ground, keeping the spine as straight as possible and the head in line with the spine. Check and make sure your lower half of the body is as relaxed as possible. Check and make sure your arms and shoulders are as relaxed as possible.
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
Now raise your legs and upper body off the ground so that you are sitting on your butt. Breathe and make sure you are as relaxed as possible. Hold this position for a while. Then take your arms and place them out to your sides like a crucifix, and straighten your legs. Slowly and with breathing lower your whole body so that your lower back is flushed flat on the ground, but your upper back is just a few centimetres off the ground. Try to keep your head in line with your spine. Your arms and legs should be just a few centimetres off the ground, with your arms still out to your sides. Straighten your legs as much as possible without letting the arch of your lower back leave the ground. Play with how far apart you would like your legs to be.
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
Now roll over onto your stomach. Make sure you are still breathing into your diaphragm/stomach. Through out all of the following holds continue to breathe into your stomach making it rise and fall like a new born baby.
Raise your chest and head off of the ground keeping your arms and lower half of your body as relaxed as possible. Hold this position for a while
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
Now while laying face down raise your leg up off the ground as high as possible. Hold this position for a while
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
Now raise your arms above your head (like Superman). Make sure your are still breathing into your stomach/diaphragm. Raise your legs, chest and arms up of the ground continue to breathe through the diaphram. Hold this position for a while
SLOWLY LOWER YOUR WHOLE BODY TO THE GROUND AND PERFORM A SET OF RESTORATIVE BREATHING DETAILED IN SECTION 4
The entire time you perform these holds breathe in such a way to remove the tension. Test yourself to see how minimally you can use movements to remove tension and see if you can remove tension by breathing in and out of the areas of tension in your body.
Interesting note: We have observed that when you inhale into a limb raised of the ground it tends to make the limbs lighter. When you exhale into a limb that is raised off the ground it tends to make the limb heavier. Try it during the static holds. Then consider the applications of this information.
4. Remove induced tension that has remained in the body by way of breath following the physical exertion:
The afore mentioned RESTORATIVE BREATHING. Again whilst in a lot of cases getting rid of accumulated tension can be done by way of movement, we have been studying how to do this by use of breath alone. Take note of where the tension has stored itself following the static hold and just be aware of it at first.
Inhale from the top of your head, and ALLOW the inhale to spread from the top of your head down through your face then neck, shoulder and arms, chest, stomach, hips, down through your legs and to your feet. Then once your body is full of your inhale, exhale down through your legs and out through your feet. Repeat this process several times.
Inhale from every single part of your body and gather your inhale into the very centre of your body i.e. The solar plexus. Then exhale down through the legs and make the exhale exit your body through the soles of your feet. Repeat this several times.
Something we have been playing with:
The inhale can help identify where the tension is and the exhale can release it. So take note where the breath has shown you where your tension is during the previous cycles.
Inhale into where ever your remaining areas of tension are and exhale them through your mouth. Repeat this several times
-Inhale through your nose and exhale into where ever your remaining areas of tension relaxing them. Repeat this several times
Now: Inhale from every single part of your body and gather your inhale into the very centre of your body i.e. The solar plexus. Then exhale down through the legs and make the exhale exit your body through the soles of your feet. Repeat this several times.
Then move on to the next static hold.
Again there are endless permutations to the breath permeation cycles, and the above cycles are just some examples.
5. Finishing Up:
Begin to quicken the pace of your breath. Breathe in such a away that begins to make you feel awake and alive. Begin to move your body as if you are about to get up out of bed. Slowly open your eyes. Slowly sit up.
When you look at it in writing it doesn't sound particularly exciting, however feeling that you are left with after performing this work is truly remarkable. When teaching this work Vlad advised all of us that it would take years to truly understand it because it is both incredibly simple but incredibly deep. Again where this work takes you inside yourself and returns you to after is truly amazing and changes everything. You could do it again and again and learn something new every time. In the last 2 weeks we have been taking what this work has shown us and used it to explore and enhance many different areas of our training.
Some examples in the last fortnight include:
Restoration following physical exertion.
Efficient movement so as not to accumulate excess tension and tire out.
Filling the Body with “power”.
Expelling tension from the body that an opponent attempts to induce in you.
Enhancement of performance increasing the intensity of the work and staying relaxed
Materialisation and management of fear, evenly distributing and cleaning the tension that comes with it.
Maintaining the internal state despite external stressors
And I'm sure we've only just begun to scratch at the surface of this work.
About a year ago during my 2012 trip to Toronto, Vlad advised me that in order to feel the form properly try to feel the soles of the feet completely flat on the ground as it would enable you to feel your whole body from the soles of your feet all the way to the top of your head and everything in between. It was quite cool.
Now the interesting thing is that he also showed us how to apply this to the squat. Alot of the times it's easy to fall into the trap of just pumping out squat after squat mindlessly allowing the tension to accumulate, the breath to run out, or just simply become a mechanical process which doesn't actually do anything to remove tension and actually just expediates fatigue. However feeling the connection of the soles of the feet can be quite remarkable.
In the DESCENT rather than lowering yourself with tension, use the breathing in order to relax yourself downwards progressively switching of the necessary tension required to keep you standing. It's like taking the remaining tension holding you up, and funnelling it down and out through your body. However if you are doing this the tension has to have somewhere to go otherwise it'll just linger in your body and disable your ability to go lower in the squat with relaxation. This is where the connection with the feet comes in. When the soles of the feet (except for the arches as they ideally should be off the ground unless you are a flat footed) come up off of the ground, that is usually indicative of excess tension that is being stored in the body. That excess tension leads to fatigue, depleting the oxygen supply, and also just simply restricting relaxed movement. So if you notice the soles of the feet coming up, you then check yourself and see where tension is building up preventing your descent whilst being able to keep the whole soles of your feet completely flat on the ground. This is diagnosis of tension, and then you will have to remedy it though breathing and relaxation. Once you have relaxed to the point where you can go down in the squat with the soles of your feet flat on the ground, there is some good news: There is now a path for any remaining EXCESS tension to go in order to exit your body rather than building up. The storage of excess tension in the body creates the a disconnect in the body so it is no longer one piece unified by relaxation in effect destroying the form. You can have what appears to be good posture on the outside but if this excess tension and disconnect remains, then that good posture does not mean that there is good form. You can of course have just right amount of tension to hold shape (form) and perform the activity however it is now evenly and appropriately distributed throughout your entire physical being. This is because of the other good news: When you can keep the soles of your feet flat on the ground is that it begins to properly use the skeletal structure as support without having to rely on excessive activation of the musculature (excess tension) in order to perform the activity.
In the ASCENT by keeping the soles of the feet flat on the ground and pushing up I have found that it enables me again to utilise my skeletal structure in order to rise and keep the necessary shape and posture, whilst I can then also allow my muscles to relax (aside form the ones required to perform the task) and use breath and very minimal movement in order shed the excess tension. Going up from the squat by nature of the movement and the fight against gravity tends to accumulate more excess tension especially when you go slower. Keeping the soles of the feet flat on the ground and pushing the ground away from you seems to have the affect of (and bear with me here):
Being able to funnel the excess tension down throughout the entire body around the skeleton and to the feet connecting the entire body for the soles of the feet to the top of the head and everything in between through relaxation. This I believe is good form. The change of shape and maintenance of structural integrity and the even and appropriate distribution of tension by way of relaxation evenly throughout the whole being.
So what's the practical application of this you ask?...Well I reckon this is pretty good:
Daniil Ryabko is the son of Systema Founder Mikhail Ryabko. Daniil has been training in the Russian Martial Art, Systema, with his father since a very young age and is today one of the most experienced Russian Martial Art instructors in Moscow. He has also served and trained an elite unit of the Spetsnaz.
A few months back I needed some advice on how to explain certain things concerning the principles of "working from support" and providing "resistance with muscular tension VS resistance through correct use of structure". I got in touch with Colorado Systema Instructor Brad Scornavacco who was kind enough to provide me with some guidance on the matter:
Hi Brad, Thought you might be able to help me with something. The reason I am asking is so that I know how to explain things to my students here in Sydney. It concerns the principle of "working from support" and providing "resistance with muscular tension VS resistance through correct use of structure" Is resistance with excess tension giving support, as it provides feedback (i.e. Muscular tension which the opponents musculature and nervous system can register) for an opponent to work from? ON THE OTHER HAND: Is resistance through structure (Bones, Tendons and ligaments) NOT giving support as the absence of excess tension (excessive activation of the muculature) will not provide any feedback (point of reference) for an opponent to work from?
So although you are not yielding the absence of feedback keeps him neuromuscularly (is that a word?) blind to what you are doing, hence not giving support?
Basically the harder you tense the more the opponent's brain can create a map of the shape of your body. He can feel exactly where you are, about how much force is being applied and about the size of it. His brain can use this feedback to respond.
Using the minimum necessary tension (my definition of relaxation) to get the job done doesn't give his brain enough feedback to create a clear picture of where you are or the amount of force being applied or where it's coming from. This is what fools his proprioception, where he cannot detect you or your movements.
As for the principle of support, think "holding him up." When you give enough tension that the person feels like he can relax into you because you will keep him from falling, he can relax and free himself up to act while you are supporting him.
On the other hand, setting him up, creating "false support" for him, makes him fall because you take the support away. This is a big part of non-contact takedowns. When we see a person, our brains instantly estimate the size and weight of the person because most things obey this law. So when you don't give any support it fools the brain again.
We have these kettle bells, all the same size at the school. If we give someone a heavy one to swing, then give them a pink one to try next, they almost hurl the thing through the roof because their brain mis-estimate the weight, based on size and previous experience.
I learned this idea in my Philosophy classes in college. We always sit on chairs assuming they are solid and will hold us up, even though there's no logical reason they will keep doing so. Funny story: in NY several years ago Vlad sat in a chair after a workshop and promptly fell to the floor (maintaining his Form). No matter how many times we have someone take support away/move, we can't stop our bodies from assuming and acting like they are solid.
Ok, Structure vs. excess muscle.
This one time Vlad had us do "no-muscle" push-ups. Afterward, he said in private, "of course you use muscle, you have to, but saying it this way gets people to use the least muscle as possible." Imagine moving from tendons/ligaments/bone with your muscle cut in half. Not happening.
So here's how I visualize it. I imagine the smallest line of muscle contraction through the entire muscle, just enough to connect the bones. I liken it to a puppet being pulled up from the floor, just enough tension in the wires to make its shape and no more.
Here's a secret -- the stronger the tendons the less muscle contraction you need to maintain the structure. This separates experts from novices and is a very real, physiological difference when it comes to that work.
Brad Scornavacco is one of the longest time, continually teaching certified Systema Instructors in the United States and is one of the first Americans to travel to Russia to train directly with Systema Master Mikhail Ryabko. In 2003 he demonstrated Systema for the Russian Minister of the Interior, where the current Ryabko-lineage Systema logo was unveiled. Brad appeared with Mikhail, Vladimir and other top Systema teachers on Russian television. Brad is head of the Systema school in Colarado: