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Peter AFTANAS

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Systema History


The Origins of SYSTEMA

Systema has its roots in the early Cossack Martial Art dating back more that a thousand years with records showing that this "style" of combat dating back to at least 948AD. 


Some historians suggest that the Cossack people were of mixed ethnic origins, descending from Turks, Tatars, Russians, Ukrainians and others who settled or passed through the vast Steppe that stretches from Asia to southern Europe.

Additional to this the Cossacks were a well trained and conditioned militaristic society.  They ofter would hire out there skills as mercenaries.

From this beginning grew the tradition of the System of Russian Martial Art.  As the art was continually developed and enhanced it started to attract respect from the surrounding regions.

When the Communists came to power after the October Revolution of 1917, the practice of this combat system as well as all traditional and non Russian martial arts was prohibited for the public.  These fighting systems were kept for the exclusive use of the special military units (Spetsnaz) and secret organizations such as the KGB and GRU etc.

Within the Soviet government and military circles this combat system became known very simply as the System or Systema in Russian.  It had no fancy or descriptive name.  It was just called the System.

Throughout the the Soviet reign Systema was continually developed and enhanced.  Countless numbers and types of strikes, locks, breaks, submission, kicks, and escapes, etc were incorporated into Systema. Additionally the best training and combat methods and techniques from other martial arts were also incorporated and blended into the Systema/Cossack framework.

The addition of modern military weapons and small arms has developed and evolved Systema into a truly modern day martial art.  Such aspects as gun disarms, shot avoidance work,  plus all of the plethora of knife work and much more.

Thus Systema has evolved into a highly developed and well thought out and extremely practical combat system. 

To the western world Systema is still young having only left Mother Russian at the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Systema is fare more that just a fighting system.  This is a complete system of physical, spiritual, psychological, and emotional health.  There are breathing, relaxation, and psychic development work also within this system.  All of these different aspects develops a well rounded practitioner that is more able to deal with the riggers of a harsh militaristic/warrior life style.

Interestingly many of the movements of traditional Russian and Cossack dances are Systema combat training and fighting techniques.  This allowed the the warriors to continually practice there skills in casual and relaxed social atmosphere.  Thus further interweaving the martial art into there communities.

 


 

 Completely opposite of many Asian styles, Systema teaches no fighting stances, but to fight from all positions. It stresses relaxation, and to slow movements down in combat rather than accelerate them. It disciplines its students to reduce power in strikes, rather than focus to generate maximum power, allowing you to strike at odd angles, to smile in combat rather than adopt a fierce visage or announce your intentions with a blood curdling yell. There are no fixed training patterns of combinations or movements, all training is based on the reality that unexpected things happen in combat.

Even in meditation, the Russian system teaches you to relax and become totally aware of all that is around you, never to close your mind off in a state of hypnotic unconsciousness. The purpose of this discipline is not merely to prepare for violence, but to improve one's own mental state, to have a healthier and more limber body, to be more relaxed in a stressful society, to live a decent and peaceful life.

 


 

Russian Martial Arts History

Russia is a huge country with a remarkable combat history, with diverse population, geography and climate, with rich and fascinating culture and traditions. For centuries these factors have contributed to the formation of an incredible variety of martial arts styles.

Close protection has always been the most vulnerable and challenging area in martial arts. The goal of Stalin's Falcons was to have a system that combined all the best components of the Russian System on all three levels of human abilities - the physical, the psychological and the psychic. And what is most important, to develop tactics that would not look like martial actions, tactics that are so subtle, that when they were applied it would be barely possible to see what happened and how.

 

 

Needless to say, this System was kept away from the public by the Russian authorities. In fact, when the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. It is only since the late 1980's, with the fall of the Communist era, that these martial traditions and styles started to become available.

Systema

Systema was developed by the early Cossacks more than a thousand years ago, with historical record of this fighting style dating to 948AD. For Centuries Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east and west. These included the Varangians (Vikings), Sarmations, Scythians, Pechenegs and Drevlinians, Mongols and Volga Bolgars. Each of these invaders brought to bear the peculiar martial skills, physical abilities and weapons of its culture. As a result of the varied skills and weapons of the invaders, the need existed for a fighting style based on adaptability, instinct and ease of learning. While the Cossacks existed as a highly trained, frontier paramilitary society which often hired out as mercenaries, or giduks, many of the early Russian oblasts or regions could not afford professional armies, relying instead on the martial skills of the villagers, farmers and hunters.

From this need arose the System of Russian martial art (Systema Russkovo Boevogo Iskustvo). For many years the Russians trained in these skills were highly sought as warriors, even by the Roman empire. When the Communists came to power after the October Revolution of 1917, the practice of these fighting skills was prohibited except by the elite High Risk Mission units of the Soviet Special Forces or Spetsnaz (Voiska Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya) and K.G.B. bodyguards.

In the 74 years of existence of the Soviet Union, the Spetsnaz further developed the countless striking, submission, kicking and weapons disarming skills of the early Russian practitioners. This has resulted in the highly evolved fighting methods of Systema practiced today. It is only since 1991, with the fall of the Communist era, that these martial traditions and styles have become available to the West. The instructors of the U.S. Systema Academy have been trained in both the ancient style passed on by generations and in the modern Spetsnaz hand-to-hand combat version.

Despite the more recent development of this art, however, it has never shed its roots in Russian life, health and culture. This is far more than a fighting style. The study and practice of this discipline involves a complete system of physical and spiritual health, relaxation, and courage in the face of all forms of adversity. Unknown to most, each movement of the traditional Russian and Cossack dances seen by people around the world is a technique from the fighting arts, enabling the Russian people to practice their fighting skills in an atmosphere of fun and community.

But most of all, it involves a philosophy of life, peace and decency seldom seen. Completely opposite of many Asian styles, Systema teaches no fighting stances, but to fight from all positions. It stresses relaxation, and to slow movements down in combat rather than accelerate them. It disciplines its students to reduce power in strikes, rather than focus to generate maximum power, allowing you to strike at odd angles, to smile in combat rather than adopt a fierce visage or announce your intentions with a blood curdling yell. There are no fixed training patterns of combinations or movements, all training is based on the reality that unexpected things happen in combat. Even in meditation, the Russian system teaches you to relax and become totally aware of all that is around you, never to close your mind off in a state of hypnotic unconsciousness. The purpose of this discipline is not merely to prepare for violence, but to improve one's own mental state, to have a healthier and more limber body, to be more relaxed in a stressful society, to live a decent and peaceful life.

Anyone, in any condition or any age, can learn this form.

 

 


 

History

 

The Russian style of martial art dates back to the 10th century.
Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. The battles took place on different terrain, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat alike, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces. As a result of these factors, the Russian warriors acquired a style that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative and versatile tactics that were at the same time practical, deadly, and effective against any type of enemy under any circumstances. The style was natural and free while having no strict rules, rigid structure or limitations (except for moral ones). All tactics were based on instinctive reactions, individual strengths and characteristics, specifically designed for fast learning.
When the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. Those practising the old style of fighting could be severely punished. At the same time, the authorities quickly realised how viable and devastating the original combat system was and reserved it just for a few Special Operations Units.
In our school and through the instructional material produced by, Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev, you will learn this fascinating style and see for yourself why Russian Systema is said to open a new page in the world of martial arts.


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