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Kit LeBlanc
9th July 2002, 22:13
We are asked to try Systema before we pass judgement. I am sure there are some good things there. But none of that overrides this kind of shenanigans. Get it quick before this video disappears, too:

http://hamiltonsystema.bserv.com/mikhailsergei.mpg

As a professional in tactical law enforcement, I ask a very serious question in earnest to James Williams and Ken Good; as professionals involved in the training of individuals whose lives may be saved, or lost, by what you teach, how can you in good conscience support this kind of thing? What are we missing? I do not believe that the "try it and you will see" is a valid rebuttal any more...do I have to call Miss Cleo and see if her predictions are correct before I can assess whether what quacks like a duck is, in fact a duck?

What gives, guys?

Tom Douglas
10th July 2002, 01:05
It may be real . . . or it may just be one more thing to be marketed, by full-time martial arts marketers.

Meynard Ancheta
10th July 2002, 01:29
It looks very interesting. I'd like to see it in person. When's the next Sytema seminar?

tenchijin2
10th July 2002, 01:46
I'm not sure what it is I'm supposed to be getting from that video.

It looks like non-pressure oriented rolling practice. Without context I'm not prepared to "dis" it... because I don't know what it was for.

I didn't see any combative techniques, nor did I see the chubby guy attempting to knock down the other guy. I only saw the other guy rolling in response to soft directional cues from the chubby guy.

So what bothered you about it, exactly?

Aric keith

INFINOO
10th July 2002, 02:35
Learning to roll like that is a "very" usefull combative skill in my book. The applications are infinite, besides it looks fun.

Regards

Gregory Rogalsky
Rogalsky Combatives International
Calgary Alberta Canada

Kit LeBlanc
10th July 2002, 05:23
I guess I just prefer reality. Some rationalize the non contact manipulation stuff with strained analogies to highly tangential aspects of bio-mechanics and psycho-physiology and human performance. In my book that is psychobabble.

Personally I would avoid any practice that conditioned me to suggestion on the part of another. Cooperative practice is one thing, this is entirely another.

There was a Chinese martial arts group that did something very similar to this stuff. I don't mean Rich Mooney, who actually shows this stuff as valid knife defense, but the group his teacher was associated with. The common criticism of this teacher was that a) he could only do this with his own students, and even then, with specially chosen students who were more "sensitive" than others and had spent a decent amount of time with him and b) those students sometimes started to tank at the mere suggestion of movement and intent from the teacher, i.e. they had become hyper-susceptible to the teachers cues. Someone here on E-budo once wrote that in his aikido class, I think it was, the teacher did some no touch, hand in front of the face you rear back for the expected ukemi and wham, fall without being touched. He said that he got to the point where he sometimes fell over with a wave of the teacher's hand without wanting to because he had been so conditioned to it from practicing this way.

There is no martial integrity for the teacher there, and none in the students training.

I think there is a definite concern with the mental attitude this kind of training engenders. I truly see no valid martial application to this at all. You want to practice rolling different directions on different physical cues? Do it with someone attacking you realistically, trying to control your movement and direction, perhaps armed, and in some manner that at least looks something like real violence.

If you are concerned with what might save your ass tomorrow, and making that better and smoother and more instinctive, you should waste precious little training time on games like this. My comments to James and Ken are predicated on the fact that they teach law enforcement, they have publically endorsed Systema as the best thing they have seen for CQB appllcations, and they strongly advise getting video to get a look at Systema. So far the video I have seen only casts Systema in poorer and poorer light, from my admittedly biased perspective. The last time I was critical of some truly ridiculous handgun disarms shown on video from one of the Systema websites, and posted a link (literally a crescent kick knocking the gun out of the hand and catching the weapon on the way down...which was better than the drop on your back and scissors the gun out of the guy's hand with your feet...) the video disappeared from the website. I have to question why anyone would even put it up in the first place.

I still plan on checking Systema out, maybe there is something in there that all this circus stuff is obscuring, or even intentionally drawing us away from (how's that for psychological manipulation). I will go in with a large bias against it, though, and will have to be more than convinced. I make no apologies for that bias, because I honestly feel it has kept me practicing things which have saved me from serious injury at the hands of others on several occasions, and might again tomorrow.

John Lovato
10th July 2002, 05:27
Meynard,
You really should work out with Vlad if you get a chance.
Very impressive, and I think you would get alot from it.

John

Tom Douglas
10th July 2002, 18:21
There are other branches of the "Russian Martial Art" that do not rely on the prestidigitation of the "Master" and the hypersuggestibility of the students. Scott Sonnon's presentation of Retskuniyh's system and Kadochnikov's system are both available here in the U.S. Mr. Sonnon in particular presents interesting and effective conditioning practices and movement training that he can effectively demonstrate without recourse to mystification.

I don't see any realistic training value in the video clip demonstration by Ryabko here. If we're talking about training rolling escapes or taking falls on a hard floor, there are better ways to train it. If we're talking about training the student's ability to sense and evade, there are more thorough ways to train that in response to more realistic "attacks" than are presented in the clip.

To me, the video demonstration resembles nothing more than a well-trained dog rolling and falling in response to the treat held in its master's hand. The "uke" looks at Ryabko like he's seeking approval. I just have to wonder what is going through the observing students' minds ("WTF??! I paid good money for this?" or "I believe, I have faith, he is the Master . . . ").

In any event, I have to concur with Mr. LeBlanc that this particular aspect of Systema training does not seem to hold real value for law enforcement or practical self-defense training. The only real value would seem to be for Mr. Ryabko demonstrating just how foolish he can make a willing (and paying) student look.

That is NOT the same as saying that Mr. Ryabko, or Mr. Vasiliev, aren't highly capable martial artists. Enough experienced martial artists from a variety of backgrounds have "tried them on" in friendly encounters that their own personal skills are apparent. But they don't demonstrate shit like is on the video clip when they take on challengers. Apparently you have to be a paying student to receive the "psychic energy" techniques.

Amphinon
10th July 2002, 18:30
Anybody know which one is demonstrating it?

Is it the one who is using Combat Ki?

Or the one rolling in various ways?

(Sorry if it sounds sarcastic)

Tom Douglas
10th July 2002, 20:02
I am working to make a good-faith effort at understanding the purpose of Mikhail Ryabko's demonstration on that clip. I would agree that the best chance for understanding what Mr. Ryabko is doing there would be to train with him or with Mr. Vasiliev. But that commitment (financial and psychological) to training carries with it the risk of believing in the reality of the "psychic energy" as a matter of blind faith (as a loyal student). I have trained a little with a student in the Ryabko group, who doesn't make use of or refer to anything like what Mr. Ryabko demonstrates in the clip.

I found a useful paradigm over in the discussion forum at www.amerross.com/discus/, where Scott Sonnon talks about "soft work". It may be that what Mr. Ryabko is demonstrating is a type of "soft work" as Mr. Sonnon describes it (although as far as I know, Mr. Sonnon does not make use of this kind of demonstration or drill).

Now, I've only done some of the basic movement training and conditioning in Mr. Sonnon's ROSS system, and haven't trained directly with him at all. I'm not experienced enough in either approach to Russian martial art to be an advocate for Ryabko/Vasiliev or ROSS. I'm just trying to get my mind around what the training value of Mr. Ryabko's demonstration would be, giving him the benefit of the doubt. To that end, I found the following discussion thread useful. There isn't a direct link to the individual thread itself, so I'm copying an abridged portion of it here (although the thread in its entirety is worth reading):

"2002 Discussion Archives: "Psychic Energy" or balancing SOFT WORK & HARD WORK
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By Scott Sonnon (Sonnon) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 12:43 pm:
This is an interesting phenomenon I encountered many times inside Russia and other CIS countries.

For instance, in ROSS, the borders of her training are closely guarded due to one exercise in particular. In ROSS this exercise is called Soft-Work. It is an unusually slow-fighting drill with equal time-framing and asymmetrical role-playing: one attacker, one counter-attacker.

Soft-Work is an exercise something like sticky hands, something like push hands, but more like sparring done at slow motion, with joint yielding that ROSS calls Shock Absorption.

Here's the problem - if one does Soft-Work alone, one inevitably suffers from hypersuggestability. Soft-Work's ONLY benefit is the ability to diminish fear-reactive flinching, bracing and resisting of force. It is a sophisticated drill not designed for preparing a soldier for combat in a short period of time. Soft-Work is NOT taught in this context in Russia. In Russia, if preparing with 8 weeks to depart to some hot zone, the POI is predominantly Hard-Work, which I'll get to later.

Soft-Work if done sustained, tends to give a sensory impression that one can respond proactively to aggressive action. But this is a falsehood... and NOT the purpose of the drill. What I mean is this... action is always faster than reaction... but because of the time framing of the drill, the 1/4 second decisionary re-cognition phase of motor action in the counter-attacker is extended, so he can behave as if the attack is not threatening. Again, this drill is NOT for combat rehearsal. It is a psychological drill for diminishing autonomic arousal (respiratory rate and depth, heart rate, blood pressure, and most importantly muscular tension.) This drill's benefit then is in the autonomic regulation to sensitize the participant to false threats, and as a result to understand the depth of "true" threats. Again, a sophisticated drill, requiring trainees about a year of constant immersion... which is why it is relegated to SOU personnel who train "professionally" when not fingered for ops.

I'm sure you can see why in ROSS we protect the boundaries of this drill. It is easy to develop "false courage" for combat, when this is not even the drill. This false courage actually inhibits effectiveness because the practitioner (of exclusively Soft-Work) then is subject to hypersuggestability - he can be manipulated by a stout fighter, by over-reaction to perceived threats.

And more importantly, two trainees, who participate exclusively in Soft-Work, and not Hard-Work, can begin to feel as if they can manipulate their faux opponent with only the manipulation of his fear-reactivity. Only the most amateur assailant of diminutive morale would be affected by such manipulation... However, someone who is so mentally frail as to be manipulated by such psy-ops would be better dealt by a good swift slap to the eggs, which can be taught in one day, rather than in one year.

Soft-Work is a necessary but insufficient component exercise for the ROSS system.

Hard-Work, which is an exercise against fully resistant asymmetrical (ambush/counter-ambush, attack/counter-attack) and symmetrical ("sparring") opponent(s). The goal here is to take the emotional control of Soft-Work and apply it to the shyte hitting the fan. Remaining calm under increasingly more complex and varied combat multipliers and choas' friction. I don't need to go into this, but it ranges from simulation to scenario work...

BOTH are necessary from the ROSS perspective. Retuinskih and Kadochnikov separated because of Retuinskih's influence from Sambo lent him the insight to espouse the necessity of tempering Soft-Work with the realism of Hard-Work; whereas Kadochnikov wanted to focus on the sophistication of Soft-Work.


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By Admin (Admin) on Tuesday, March 19, 2002 - 03:57 pm:
From: Don Rearic
Date: 3/19/02 6:41:14 pm

Howdy,

I'm sitting here, racked with the flu and it's turning into something really bad.

I have nothing more to do than read and think, I lie down, I feel like I'm drowning...

The question might end up being multiples because I don't know where this is going to go...

The first part is about what you refer to as " Soft-Work."

Please remember, I have not viewed any ROSS material yet. Only Vladimir Vasiliev's and have viewed some comments by others Pro and Con about it.

Am I correct in assuming that the Soft-Work is the absorption of strikes as I have viewed them in some of V.V.'s material, as well as Sambo Instructor Brett Jaques, in that, the body moves in a wave fashion, the chest or stomach hollowing out and the arms moving outwards or forwards?

I'm sure that might only be one component, but is this what you were referring to in the other thread as to the origin of the "Psychic Energy" material being promoted by others?

If so, if I might jump ahead and further comment that - when you said this can cause hyper-suggestibility in a person and that can lead to responses not normally encountered in more violent attackers...I have to say that makes complete sense.

I get some heat because I find some value and interest in some of V.V.'s material. But people forget that I take heat from the diehard V.V. fans because I don't think I'm going to be lulled into falling asleep while grappling because I have my head on someone's chest.

Someone actually said that to me, said I should feel it before I discount it, sometime in the past two weeks in another Forum [PractTac at BFC].

I'm basically a pragmatic sort of fella. I understand very well that there might be things we do not understand or know about.

For example. Sensei George Dillman's "Pressure Point Knockouts."

I believe it is possible to do that sort of thing. We all know the radial and ulnar nerves react when they are struck. Brachial Plexus...etc. So, it does not take a Neurosurgeon to figure out there might be neurological responses that we do not understand or even know about.

I temper that with the fact that I have seen a couple of "Pressure Point Knockouts" from a Dillman Instructor and while one looked honest to God like a knockout with no real attempt at trying to save from impact, another looked so fake I could not believe it was placed on tape.

Another problem with that particular thing, Pressure Point Knockouts, is the fact that it would take an extraordinary high degree of accuracy in a streetfight and we know that is simply wishful thinking. In a streetfight, people are wild and flailing at times and you are never going to have the luxury of having that degree of pinpoint accuracy.

I say these things are possible but not realistic. I don't think results can be reliably reproduced, too spotty in effect and most certainly not suitable for Life-saving because of the accuracy factor even if the "Pressure Point Knockout" DID exist...

I hope I'm explaining myself clearly, I place alot of the "Psychic" realm and the comments you made about "hyper-suggestibility" into that Zone of "Art." The same as Pressure Point Knockouts.

There are so many things we do not know about the human body in general and the brain in particular that alot of these things are possible but not consistently reproducible nor are they pragmatic, effective or in any way suitable for defending yourself [in my opinion].

Entering into the Japanese Bugei Realm, into a "Shout of Intention" being a physical force that can be applied. I am of the opinion that if it does exist, it lies in the same Realm of what you state... hyper-suggestibility.

I think when it comes to use of Edged Weapons for Self-defense, that hyper-suggestibility can be exploited at times, the problem being, you roll the dice and you never know who is going to fear the weapon and who will clearly not. Some people simply are too crazy or too "street" to be scared by anything except actual damage and threatening does no good.

Yet, many people think they will wave the knife and their problems will go away...with no further training needed. They will meet a rather unfortunate and ugly demise if someone calls their bluff.

So, what I have watched with V.V. and a knife, to be specific, are some elements I have seen in Filipino Arts, Silat and even Tantojutsu. Some things having to do with a thrusting feint to the midsection and an immediate redirection to the throat or face, etc.

Those things can work, so I don't condemn him for everything he does although I admit, I do laugh at some of the more outlandish things like people flying all over the damned place, etc.

What I want your comments on is this. Others may chime in as well.

There is Magic, but not the flying around type of magic, that can be used. Fairbairn himself was said to study Magicians for Sleight of Hand in knife work, etc.

And it makes complete sense, deliberate misdirection seems to be something that could run hand in hand with hyper-suggestibility as well.

So, basically after the question about the "Soft-Work" you spoke of, what are your feelings/opinions on the rest of this and how these things all link together?

Some being not possible, impossible to improbable to possibly effective enough to spend some time at...such as studying Sleight of Hand, etc.?

http://www.drearic.com


[SNIP]

From: AoP37
Date: 3/19/02 10:01:07 pm

I have seen some Systema (via Arthur Sennott) - politics aside, some of it is pretty wacky, and seemingly effective. I have never seen the psychic stuff. If Don's assumption about the Soft-work is correct, I have seen a sparring session using it. And I have also 'tried' some of it.

I'm not sure I can add anything to this thread, except to say I like the idea of absorbing some blows/ whatever. In some cases, like if someone pushes you, it can be devestating. But, BUT, there are still other things to do that seem quicker, less risky, and just as effective. That is probably where my own short comings are glaringly obvious. I am sure there are 'concepts' hidden in this that I can't apply to fighting, but others most likely can. I've seen a demonstration with absorbing a strike which changes angles on impact v. tensing through the same strike. One of my most trusted peers had this demonstration done on him, and swore that absorbing it felt much better. But it's still one of those things that's hard to believe unless it's been done on you, and it has yet to be done on me.

What I think looks attractive about the Soft-work, is it looks like it helps one 'flow.' I'm not getting spiritual, I just mean the transition from tactic to tactic. This constant moving is one of the reasons I enjoy watching Kali/ Silat, and it seems training like this could definately help that.

Well, now I'm quite certain that I didn't add anything to this, but maybe Mr. Sonnon can at least dispell or explain to me where some of my assumptions are wrong. I will reread his post on using the Soft-work again.

AoP
www.knifefighting.com

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From: Don Rearic
Date: 3/19/02 10:31:47 pm

I'm awaiting Mr. Sonnon's return as I think it will be most interesting...

I think my interpretation of what Mr. Sonnon stated about "Soft-Work," if I were to bust it down to the most elementary level...would be this:

Some people become so engrossed in Soft Work that they begin to believe that everyone will act that way and they begin to build on a developmental drill and take it out of context in their immersion and they run with it...

And possibly arrive at all the wrong conclusions...

I think everyone that knows me around here, Mr. Sass and Grasso included, basically know what I'm about when it comes to V.V., I'm of the opinion that you can find a nugget of gold in there somewhere. The fact remains that some people do find more than a "little" skill at the hands of Vladimir while others embrace everything... I hope I'm expressing that correctly.

I'm not a "Psychic Flip Artist" anymore than I'm a "believer" or "follower" in the Pressure Point Knockout "Scene." Just because I believe those sorts of knockouts might be possible, how practical is it on two levels?

1. How long is it going to take you to learn something like that? In the meantime, you are missing out on a whole lot of time that could have been better spent because of #2;

2. How in the hell can you hit very small points in a fight? Sure, sometimes you CAN, but as I am fond of saying, when you fight and you do something, you roll the dice. Place the bets carefully because the stakes are high.

There is a world of difference between hitting a large patch of nerves on the top of the forearm mound, the radial nerves exposed there, in defending against a knife. When you pound on the top of the forearm with Ax Hands, that's really what you want to hit and if you don't, you don't and you chop'em down and hopefully beat the arm down and go high to neck/throat/head.

But if you do land with a good Ax Hand on the top of the forearm in that patch, that bundle, you will cause some degree of dysfunction. That's what you want...just like when you come upward with a Cane, if you are lucky enough to shatter the elbow from underneath, GREAT! But if you hit the ulnar nerve, the famous "Funny Bone," it can affect an immediate disarm.

We do target nerves, they are just large and easy to hit, even in WW2-based Combatives, in my opinion.

The problem then becomes when people extrapolate from that and say, "Well, we can hit this much smaller nerve we have scientifically discovered and knock you out from the start..."

That might be true but people are all different and the nerves are going to vary from place to place on two people of the same, basic size.

Too many variables and too high a degree of accuracy required...as well as "time in" to justify the pursuit...

Lots of discussion...
http://www.drearic.com

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From: Scott Sonnon
Date: 3/20/02 1:13:39 am
Don, thank you again for an even more distilled version of your initial post.

"Some people become so engrossed in Soft Work that they begin to believe that everyone will act that way and they begin to build on a developmental drill and take it out of context in their immersion and they run with it...
And possibly arrive at all the wrong conclusions..."

Precisely! Expanded below.

"Just because I believe those sorts of knockouts might be possible, how practical is it on two levels?
1. How long is it going to take you to learn something like that? In the meantime, you are missing out on a whole lot of time that could have been better spent because of #2;
2. How in the hell can you hit very small points in a fight? Sure, sometimes you CAN, but as I am fond of saying, when you fight and you do something, you roll the dice. Place the bets carefully because the stakes are high."

Beautifully succinct.
The POIs for someone trained in 8 weeks, someone trained in a year and someone trained over the course of a lifetime should be different (a later point I would issue would be that they should be progressive... one leading into the other.)

"We do target nerves, they are just large and easy to hit, even in WW2-based Combatives, in my opinion."

Beautifully stated. Training should be an ever increasing sophistication of gross-motor motions, which have AS A "fortunate" BY-PRODUCT of collateral damage in fine-motor incidentals.

"The problem then becomes when people extrapolate from that and say, "Well, we can hit this much smaller nerve we have scientifically discovered and knock you out from the start..."

Exactly! My main issue is with sophistication-envy. Anything that's "advanced" is that for which the rookie lunges. He sees the DI outperforming all the recruits and starts to follow the DI's all beef and tobacco diet. A kid first time on the court sees Michael Jordan and runs out to practice his super fresh lay-up (while wearing his MJ merchandise.) The martial art newbie sees a knock out touch, or a no-touch knockdown and assumes that this is an intended technique to be developed, and sets himself upon its rehearsal.

However, success is invisible. Success was not in the specific details of the event, at the performance. What is invisible was the method of training.

One misunderstands the apparent "success" of SOFT-WORK as technical proficiency, when this has nearly nothing to do with technique. One watches a video and attempts to replicate the sophisticated techniques shown in SOFT-WORK. One works with one's partner for years until one can predict exactly what the partner will perform, how he will react... Moreover, one knows precisely how the partner will attack, and since one does not want injury, with the luxury of significant reactionary gap, one gives one's partner the impression of success.

That type of success is failure. Lethal failure for when one IS truly attacked, ask yourself what will happen.

SOFT-WORK is only in the development of attributes... or rather... traits. The sole premise of SOFT-WORK is this:

Fear creates tension. Tension amplifies pain, inhibits movement, and consumes energy.

Fear creates in one tonic immobility, a clutching that inhibits performance and arrests development.

SOFT-WORK IS A TOOL ONLY, which helps trainees learn to diminish trait anxiety, to inoculate the trainee to interpersonal violence, and instill fighting élan and esprit de corps.

However, at the moment that SOFT-WORK no longer elicits emotional arousal in the trainee, you've met the limitation of the drill. If the individual does not get frustrated, does not break flow, can tactically improvise on-site, and does not become emotionally aroused (autonomic - referring to heart rate, blood pressure, muscular tension, etc.; and hormonal - "the chemical cocktail"), then it is time for HARD-WORK.

Note: This is NOT a bipolar switch in ROSS. Through the incrementally progressive insertion of combat multipliers, the trainee sensitizes to the new level of intensity. The goal is to see how the trainee responds WHEN a mistake is made, and WHEN the unexpected occurs. It's not enough to do well. If you succeed in training, you fail on the street.

It ONLY matters what can be accomplished when mistakes happen and when the unexpected occur.

And this is the reason that limitations and dangers of SOFT-WORK need to be understood. Historically this was well researched and developed in the former Soviet Union, especially but not limited to biofeedback mechanisms on trainees.

SOFT-WORK must graduate into HARD-WORK, and should being incrementally progressive, be all shades of grey, rather than the black/white that it appears in terminology.

However, I see to often people that have deeply entrenched beliefs polarized in SOFT-WORK or HARD-WORK. Fixating on EITHER one endangers the trainee.

The dangers of over trained HARD-WORK are another story, but for now, the dangers of over trained SOFT-WORK lay in the problematic development of a skewed tactical perspective, which I refer to as Hyper-suggestibility.

Like life, we do not see combat as it is, but as we are... and worse, as we want it to be.

Many people want in combat to have the successes of SOFT-WORK so desperately that they blindly flow through the drill past the saturation point.

Once anxiety is removed from drill parameters, the drill should be discarded, OR the combat multipliers increased or intensified, another step (or more).

In Russia, this method is called Tempering. In Sport Psychology, it's called developing Mental Toughness, resistance to emotional failure. This is the graduation into HARD-WORK.

SOFT-WORK MUST reach towards HARD-WORK. If it is not graduated in a spectrum towards HARD-WORK, then SOFT-WORK is not only ineffective, but COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.

Fraternal,
Scott Sonnon


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By Admin (Admin) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 06:56 am:
From: Don Rearic
Date: 3/20/02 1:53:08 am

The other night I was watching the News and this fish type of creature had washed up dead on a Florida beach. Looked like a cross between a duckbill Platypus and a fish. No one knew what it was, the Scientists are looking at it.

Point being, we don't know everything and we don't know everything about our own bodies either. We're just now truly beginning to understand our own building blocks of DNA, etc.

I am of the opinion that when you see people fall from a survivable gunshot, it is the hyper-suggestibility you speak of, they are Pre-Programmed by Hollywood Movies, etc,. to fall down and die.

People that fight, well, they fight. They don't fall until their bodies tell them to on a physical level. So this concept of hyper-suggestibility has some merit in my opinion...on many different levels.

I think the Psychic aspects of throwing and striking, etc., are very "Aiki" minded, the problem being, when that symbolic strike does not illicit the response needed for the rest of the movement to be effective...you get trashed.

If someone is very impressed by Aikido, they might go into it so in fear of being hit...they might very well be locked up and/or thrown effectively.

The problem, of course, is the combative assailant who is not impressed nor Pre-Programmed. Then you have a tiger by the tail because he is pounding on you.

Nothing illustrates this better than Aikijujutsu Vs. Aikido. If you grab someone and you perform Aikijujutsu on them, you strike them, alot of the time more than once, and then you go into something like kotegaeshi -outside wristlock- and you have a success. In Aikido, it's all different because it has "progressed" into another realm. But the "progress" they think they have obtained is artificial and they have found nothing special...immersion in something else similar to Soft-Work as you detail it.

As Mr. Cestari and Mr. McCann and quite a few others have pointed out, no one who is seriously into this stuff that has really worked with a partner who is being combative, no one is able to instantly "peel" a hand off of a throat or lapel grab or any such thing and immediately move into wrist out turn or in turn, etc., without having the Atemi to back it up. The Samurai knew that, if Aikido were the way to go and the whole concept(s) were viable for combat as some suggest, it would be quite logical to arrive at the conclusion that the Samurai would have pared away all of what some consider to be superfluous movement in the form of striking, etc., and they would have been using the "Aiki" side of things.

But that did not happen and it did not happen for a reason. The Samurai were not pacifists and Ueshiba was. People forget that.

In the context of this conversation, I see O-Sensei as one who Mastered the Hard Work and because of his own, personal philosophy, he embraced the Soft Work and now, because everyone is in awe of that Art, they wish to emulate that.

Many of them have turned back to Aikijujutsu and some to Tomiki Ryu Aikido because of that as well. They found out that it was not what it was cracked up to be.

I appreciate your response on this, it's more than simply "interesting" on more than one level. The effects of Soft Work on a physical level to diminish or prevent damage from strikes is medically valid. It's for that precise reason so many Drunk Drivers survive the accidents and their victims often die. They are so relaxed, they suffer little, if any, injuries at times.

Good stuff, thank you.
http://www.drearic.com

[SNIP]

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From: Scott Sonnon
Date: 3/20/02 9:49:44 am

Just for my own edification, I remember reading an article on the life of Ueshiba, which included a youth full of continual fighting. If that's true, if that's what happened, then the HARD-WORK platform was in place. In my opinion, too many genius innovators have discarded the HARD-WORK for the "apparent" success of later years, the continued refinement... the SOFT-WORK that occurs through chiseling away at David, as Michelangelo said, 'remove the large, difficult, necessary [stones] first, and the [refined] artwork makes itself.'

SOFT-WORK and HARD-WORK need balance, need graduation into each other (and back again), need to be realized as to their appropriate conditions, such as duration of training time available.

Moreover, one cannot express enough the power of MORALE. If one believes in something so strongly, one can overcome incredible obstacles, INCLUDING one's own survival trigger. If one believes in something so blindly, so unquestionably (hyper suggestibility), one can continue to "believe" in "it" even when one's own mortality lay at stake, such as in media induced belief in single stab wound deaths.

Fraternal,
Scott


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By Jon Richardson (Richardson) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 11:58 am:
"But that did not happen and it did not happen for a reason. The Samurai were not pacifists and Ueshiba was. People forget that. "

People also forget that "-do" at the end of a Japanese fighting art invariably means that said art has been altered, by its founder, from its original combative form to one engineered to foster the development of certain attributes via its practice.

Kendo, Judo, Aikido...


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By Admin (Admin) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:22 pm:
From: Carl Cestari
Date: 3/20/02 3:06:19 pm

Many(!) years ago there a method of training for Judo randori/shiai that was termed "French" randori.

This "type" of randori was done at 1/2 speed(slow speed) and was practiced with the goal of perfecting and integrating the many variables needed for success in actual competition against a fully resisting opponent.

This method bridged the gap between by rote systemized Kata practice, i.e. Nage No Kata and full out randori where often little real progress is made. Proper form being sacrificed to poor form for the sake of simply "not losing". This is where Judo simply becomes "jacketed wrestling" as Kano said.

I believe that this method was devised by Kawaishi of France, and gained some popularity abroad for awhile. However, the goal of such training was lost, owing to the fact the pure competitive or "Olympic" style Judo took almost absolute sway.

Would this type of "French" randori be analagous or parallel in intent to the "Soft-Work" training described?

In the process of inculcating a learned motor skill, i.e. mechanical "form" to automatic reflex, such training seems entirely appropriate if not mandatory. One must learn to crawl before walking, and walk before running.

Carl


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From: Scott Sonnon
Date: 3/20/02 5:17:47 pm

Carl, this sounds exactly like the purpose of SOFT-WORK in ROSS.

"full out randori where often little real progress is made"

I could not agree more, here, Carl.

This is the limitation of HARD-WORK. People misunderstand Dynamic drills, such as jacket-wrestling, catch-wrestling, fisticuffs, free-fighting, bayonet-fencing...

Combat sport myopia (with which I am intimately familiar being a former US Nat'l Coach for Sambo and Bayonet Fencing) can lend the appearance that what happens in HARD-WORK should by the goal of training.

HARD-WORK develops mental agility, emotional toughness, and physical doggedness. It is NOT the arena of technical discovery and refinement. Too often I see combat athletes misunderstand the role of dynamic drills, and moves into the drill as a reality, as an end, in itself... To win the game for the game's sake.

If one does this... changes one's doctrine to winning the game for the game's sake, one defeats the drill itself, and denudes it of the inherent value. This is so because one will minimize risk and maximize high-percentage sport specific maneuvers. The role of HARD-WORK is not in winning, but in becoming inoculated to personal violence, in maintaining presence of mind in the face of a aggressive opponent, and familiarizing oneself with, albeit limited, chaos: personal mistakes and unexpected events.

In my early years of Sambo competition, my development soared, as I became acquainted with the rough and tumble nature of the dynamic drill of hand to hand fighting. However, as I began to reach an international level of competition, I was coached that if I were to succeed I needed to stop all my foolish risk taking and concentrate on scouting my opponent's and seating in the easiest bracket, on stalling, on playing the referee, on working the mat, on winning the game for the game's sake.

I had become a sportsmaster and as a result my development near totally arrested... As an international level fighter, national coach, international category referee, for me the drill had become a well known environment, meaning no unexpected events/variables, and with the manner in which I trained, and the degree to which I had been trained, the likelihood of me making a mistake had significantly diminished...

As a result - little to no chaos.

Little to no... development.

It was only in '96 in St. Petersburg, Russia with several trainers of various Russian SOU that I was exposed to SOFT-WORK. I was awful, laughingly awful, because I attempted to defeat the drill every time. I tried to win the game. My movement was rigid, and I had a laundry list of injuries to show for my hardness.

"In the process of inculcating a learned motor skill, i.e. mechanical "form" to automatic reflex, such training seems entirely appropriate if not mandatory. One must learn to crawl before walking, and walk before running."

And in my case, I had to relearn how to crawl, in order to counter-condition the debilitating limp I called walking and the clamorous stumble I called running.

The syncronicity of Kawaishi's "French" Randori sounds amazing. Thank you for sharing this! You're truly a deep repository.

Fraternal,
Scott Sonnon


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By Admin (Admin) on Wednesday, March 20, 2002 - 02:42 pm:
From: Carl Cestari
Date: 3/20/02 5:36:34 pm

Scott,

Don Draeger once stated that if Judo was to be a life-long endeavor it's training methodology must be made "sustainable".

Sounds like ROSS has made this transition. The transtion from pure "form" to pure "function" (in combative sports often crippling) MUST have a middle ground so to speak. Perhaps even MORE important for those past their competitive prime who still "need" to train.

Excellent posts, excellent insights.

Thanks,
Carl


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By Scott Sonnon (Sonnon) on Thursday, March 21, 2002 - 08:37 am:
There are many groups that I encountered in Russia on the "dark side" fixating upon SOFT-WORK. There are even schools named this very thing... SOFT-WORK, Soft-School, Soft-style, still others Slow-Sparring, Slow-work. It DOES work "in training" and it does have a positive physical impact upon development. However, untempered, unbalanced, SOFT-WORK floats to hyperbole, lending the appearance of martial flim-flam flummery.

The success of ROSS, and Retuinskih's unique genius, lay in her interwoven heritage with Sambo. I say this not because of the artificial combat/sport schism. The sport versus combat argument finds no basis in reality... they are merely two camps so entrenched in their BELIEFS that they remain unwilling to BOTH concede the valid points issued by each other.

SOFT-WORK and HARD-WORK are training methodologies, not training protocols. Symmetrical training protocol - SPORT - and asymmetrical training protocol - COMBAT are both valid depending upon if that training standard matches the specific venue of conflict.

For instance, when preparing for boxing (symmetrical engagement), practice in suddenly violent counter-ambush scenario (asymmetrical training) training holds only indirect preparatory value. Contrarily, when preparing for law enforcement hostile subject control (asymmetrical engagement), practice in Sport Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (symmetrical training) holds only indirect preparatory value. Incontrovertibly, in either example, ANY such practice will afford SOME indirect benefit. However, since the protocol (symmetrical/asymmetrical) harbors imprecise pairing with circumstantial performance needs, there lay the problematic development. Simply, if preparing for symmetrical conflict, train symmetrically; if asymmetrical, asymmetrically.

However, it is our training perspective (TIME SENSITIVE!) that regardless of training protocol, the incremental progression spectrum of SOFT-WORK to HARD-WORK (and back again) must be factored into the crafting of the specific program of instruction.

I emphasize this because I fear that this online text presents SOFT-WORK as "combat" preparation and HARD-WORK as "sport" preparation, and that terribly misrepresents these methodologies.

Both sport and combat divisions of Sambo emphasized HARD-WORK, which can be understood as "emotionally charged" - training through the medium of behavioral, autonomic and hormonal arousal. Although this was researched and developed, especially in regards to combat psychology and emotional biofeedback at DYNAMO, this is more a characteristic of Russian (much like American) culture: toughness, resistance to failure. In Russia, the process was called "tempering" (such as survival in hostile conditions; i.e. cold water dousing.)

The third division of Sambo, "Combat Sambo Spetsnaz" as it was called during the Soviet Union's lifetime, emphasized SOFT-WORK, which can be understood as "counter-conditioning fear-reactivity" - training to diminish behavioral, autonomic and hormonal arousal. It did not have this scientific orientation UNTIL the research conducted at DYNAMO.

One can understand the limitation of polarizing in HARD-WORK training as one's performance ceiling. One's "fear-reactivity" level determines the bandwidth of one's peak performance threshold.

SOFT-WORK training educates us in diminishing our reaction to combative stress, let's say on a bandwidth of 10 levels of intensity (emotionally perceived effort). For example, with emotional threshold training intensity level TEN, one has supramaximal response - your maximum respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. One can't go to TEN without endangering oneself. The same is true of energy levels, impact absorption, motor control, etc. In each performance threshold, intensity TEN lay beyond safety levels for sustainable training.

In SOFT-WORK one operates within submaximal effort - the first FIVE levels reduce one's arousal (the internal reaction to perceived effort) when exposed to each increment of challenge. From our perspective, this is necessary, but insufficient for combative hardiness, for it does not address the last five incremental clicks of challenge (mentally perceived effort).

HARD-WORK expands peak capability by taking you into the realm of supramaximal effort. HARD-WORK increases training complexity (physically perceived effort) beyond one's capable to diminish arousal. Here one becomes tasked to MANAGE one's arousal. In SOFT-WORK one only addresses autonomic arousal - respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, muscular tension. In HARD-WORK one address when autonomic arousal instigates hormonal arousal. There are two brands of hormonal/endocrine arousal:

1. The body responds by incrementally secreting chemicals as the "volume" of intensity, challenge and complexity GRADUALLY increases beyond level FIVE (SOFT-WORK's domain) into SIX and up to TEN (HARD-WORK's domain).

2. The body responds by DUMPING chemical secretions into the bloodstream when intensity, challenge and complexity rapidly jumps increments; for instance, suddenly violent attack scenarios. The chemical dump elicits peculiar psychophysiological events, such as visual distortion/tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and a host of other events outside the context of this article.

It is our position that exposure to DUMPING is not necessarily positive for survivability. For the demands of short-duration/terminal training, exposure to DUMPING is necessary for immediate combative effectiveness. However, continual repetition of DUMPING has been proven to cause a variety of stress related illnesses, diseases and death.

When longer duration/indefinite training permits, one can gradually increase the volume of intensity, challenge and complexity so that DUMPING does not occur. This involves a sophisticated synergy between SOFT-WORK and HARD-WORK, not a stone, dogmatic sequence, but a tailored program of instruction unique to each individual's pattern of fear-reactivity, and expected venue of conflict engagement.

One can use the tandem training methodologies of HARD-WORK and SOFT-WORK to become exposed to high levels of complexity (physical perceived effort) with significantly diminished challenge (mental perceived effort) and intensity (emotional perceived effort).

BOTH training methodologies are necessary, and only both suffice for development, for increasing one's performance threshold.

Russia and the USSR did not have the pharmaceutical sophistication of Asian style combatives training. For the Russians and for the Soviets, combatives training was not so much on the collection of specific skills, but more the cultivation of the necessary and sufficient attributes to navigate through crises - to think critically and respond proportionally, sufficiently, prudently, and covertly.

The interwoven history of the teachers of A. Retuinskih, the founder of ROSS - deriving from each stem of Sambo's creation, from old Spiridonovan SAMOZ, from rough and tumble Oschepkovan style SAMBO, and from the general wrestling style of Kharlampievan style SAMBO... each of these impacted simultaneously to create this balance, and the incremental progression of SOFT-WORK to HARD-WORK.

Fraternal,
Scott Sonnon"

Tom Douglas
10th July 2002, 20:20
Here is a post at James Williams' bugei.com forum by Arthur Sennott, who trains under Vladimir Vasiliev and teaches "Systema" in Massachussetts. What the video clip of Mr. Ryabko shows may be what Mr. Sennott refers to as "soft aiki," a practice that he attributes to Don Angier and others as well as to the Systema art. For what it's worth:

"posted May 22, 2002 00:36
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[SNIP]
Some of you probably know me from the Systema forum; my name is Arthur Sennott. These days I'm a Systema guy, but in the not so distant past, I was quite enthralled by Aiki Ju Jutsu, and originally started out in Judo.
[SNIP]
In all seriousness, Non Contact Manipulation? Putting people to sleep through breath matching?
NCM? I first observed this by Don Angier in the late 80's. He did a wonderful job of explaining the psychology and physics of basic NPC. At that time, I believe we called one standard application of this the 'invisible block'. I'm not sure if that was Don's term, or our Dojo term, but it was certainly a reality when applied in the right situation. I also remember Don at the same general time describing and demonstrating a Shidare Yanagi Ryu principle, he termed 'the void'. Another manifestation of the psycho-physical which frequently resulted in NCM.
In fact, I think I remember Don having in depth discussions with me about many Judo Nage Waza incorporating this idea in the older days, but that it was now best seen in the Sutemi waza, as a void is near naturally induced.
At any rate, physics and psychology both speak to the issue of NCM quite loudly. Have you never seen a boxer fall over in a bout, without contact? Have you never walked through the woods, and had a threatening twig make you stumble more than was good for your reputation? Have you never thought there was just one more stair in that staircase, and landed down upon all fours? Well, I don't know about you, but I have and when it happened, I was quite curious as to why. Upon investigation heck it turns out to be the same stuff that Don Angier and Mikhail Ryabko talk about.
Considering all the everyday examples of NCM that happen, it would seem silly to me not to embrace it.
A serious question, not a flame: why should we view this any differently than Rich Mooney's "Empty Force" stuff?
Regardless of the accuracy of Mr. Mooney's claims, we should treat all things on a case by case basis. We should examine the facts, examine the science, ask if the 'science' is sound, re-examine the facts and science, form a hypothesis, test the hypothesis, re-examine if we had enough knowledge to design the test, test our knowledge, re-evaluate the hypothesis, look at the results, consider doing the whole thing over. Or I suppose that we could decide that we know everything already, and skip all that.
Of course there is also that issue of definable psychological reflexes and basic physics to contend with. Not a flame but IMO, if people were to put a serious effort into understanding basic biomechanics, they could clearly see for themselves why people are falling down on Col. Ryabko's tapes. This in itself is a quick and easy reason as to why this subject could be viewed differently than Mr. Moony's proclamations. Watch in slow motion, ask yourself, why? For each motion. The answer is there. No one is asking you take their word.
Speaking of which, Systema instructors are known for their willingness to openly share, teach and be tested. If you have doubts, if you ask why should I?... the best answer is because you felt it, and you now know better. Go ask someone. It can really be that simple.
I don't know about other traditions, but we are generally happy to share with someone the first day. There's really no time investment, no monetary investment; if that's too much of a hassle, then the question really isn't why should we believe, but why don't you try it. Well, my thoughts anyway.
'In all honesty, the Non-Contact/Psychic Energy stuff always strikes a sour note with me.'
Well, your honesty is appreciated, and personally, I think our System would be better served if we never mentioned it, however I do point you to the above. Its really just all physics and psychology. You do believe in physics and basic psychology don't you?
[SNIP]
'I have seen Don Angier on video and frankly to me it LOOKS like totally cooperative, soft-aiki TRAINING...like a real fight? Not by a long shot.'
Then you should train with Don. If you think the same of Mikhail, then you should train with Mikhail, and if you think the same of Vladimir, then you should train with Vladimir. Don, Mikhail, and Vladimir have all utilized their 'soft aiki' in real situations. I'm guessing many members of this board have as well.
Actually, I suppose there is some truth in that statement. Its not like a real fight; its not like a fight at all. That's the point really. As soon as you start to fight, you have lost. A fight is a struggle. In Systema we do not fight, we do not struggle. From what I understand, and what I have felt from Don, in Aiki it is the same.
I can't speak for Aiki, heck I can't really speak for Systema. I can only speak for myself. I've been in plenty of serious altercations. The only time they were a problem, is when I let them be a 'fight'. Systema and Aiki have both served me well in life threatening scenarios.
Ask my students, who are of many different backgrounds, as to the 'real fight value'. I've had bouncers, Muay Thai fighters, Boxers, police officers, SF, NHB fighters, and former bullies, etc. all as students. The impression I get they are all quite happy with the results of the 'cooperative, soft aiki' practice.

'So I am also attending the Don Angier seminar in Portland next month to feel his stuff first hand.'

That's a great idea! Though by now that was 2 months ago. Are you going to report in? Was it real enough?
They have a saying on the Neija list IHTBS (It Has To Be Shown). I¡¦m thinking, more importantly, IHTBF (It Has To Be FELT).
Talk to ya later,
Arthur"

Cady Goldfield
10th July 2002, 21:30
The guy in the videotape reminds me of Danny "Kensho" Furuya. Drops his uke without touching.

Sorry, all, but this just looks entirely bogus to me. I don't buy the "ki through dead air" thang. Give me body mechanics -- subtle as can be, yet still there is a connection, a connectedness. Dropping a guy without physical contact? Only if uke is psychologically attuned to nage (e.g. tank-o-rama).

Tom Douglas
10th July 2002, 22:16
Well, at least that's how it's explained by the guy who posted the clip. Bill Glasheen, Uechi-ryu's resident skeptic, apparently takes the explanation at face value in this thread from Uechi-ryu.com. Glasheen helped organize the field "test" debunking Richard Mooney's "empty force". From http://www.xpres.net/~gmattson/ubbs/

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jellyman

Posts: 3
Registered: Jul 2002
posted July 09, 2002 08:20 AM
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Okay, I don't know what 'empty energy' is, therefor I don't have an opinion. But I DO have an opinion on systema.
This is a demo on evasive movement. You're right, the rolling guy is working hard. He is showing his skill at evasion. He is not supposed to be falling, but avoiding. You may wish to consider how easy it is to hit a man who moves like that. You don't HAVE to evade. You can stay put or attack if you like. But be advised that if you choose to do so, there may be very physical ramifications. As I said on my site, gentlemen, this is high level stuff. If you don't see the threat in the movements, you are not at a high enough level to appreciate this work. That clip is for more advanced students to oooh and aaah over.

Mikhail Ryabko himself (the standing man) on the tape 'Beyond the Physical' explains the whole thing. There is no magic. There are no fairies. There is only the mind, our bodies, and what they have both been conditioned to do. If you walk through the woods behind someone, and you see a branch snapping back toward you eyes, what do you do? Do you stand there, rooted to the spot, or move? Same thing, gentlemen, same thing. Unless of course, you don't care about your eyes... In which case, you'll get a branch in the eye.

peace

john elliott

aka jellyman
http://russianmartialart.org/forum/phpBB/
http://communities.msn.ca/RMAHamilton/_whatsnew.msnw

aka poobear
www.mma.tv

BTW, this guy lives in Russia (I taped the clip in Russia) but does make it to the Western Hemisphere every so often. He will happily demonstrate on anyone who asks. And often has.

I would suggest you forget whatever Asian mythology you grew up with when viewing systema work. They do not really figure into the systema paradigm, which is russian, and not even asian, after all.

Also, if you look at my site, I make it quite clear that there is nothing unusual going on. No magic.

oh yes, and nothing is prearranged.


quote:
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The guy in the camo was manhandling himself so much he kept almost accidently kicking the witch doctor in the head.
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That is no accident. Dudes have been ko'd in our club that way.




[This message has been edited by jellyman (edited July 09, 2002).]

IP: Logged

Traveler in the Arts

Posts: 28
Registered: Dec 2001
posted July 09, 2002 09:38 AM
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quote:
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Originally posted by jellyman:
[B]Okay, I don't know what 'empty energy' is, therefor I don't have an opinion. But I DO have an opinion on systema.
This is a demo on evasive movement. You're right, the rolling guy is working hard. He is showing his skill at evasion. He is not supposed to be falling, but avoiding.

[snip]

peace

john elliott

aka jellyman
http://russianmartialart.org/forum/phpBB/
http://communities.msn.ca/RMAHamilton/_whatsnew.msnw



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Thanks for posting the explanation and links. When I downloaded and viewed the demo there was no sound, however my impression was as you say that it was a demo on evasion and recovery with impressive stamina and training evidenced by the evader.

Since there was no audio, I couldn't hear a description of what was going on. I tried to find links to your site but was unsuccessful.

Thanks,
John

IP: Logged

jellyman

Posts: 3
Registered: Jul 2002
posted July 09, 2002 10:01 AM
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This is my site:
http://communities.msn.ca/RMAHamilton/home.htm
The reason I have no audio is because it made the file even bigger than it is (28MB), and I'm not so good with compressing these things. Space costs money, and I've only 50MB to play with This is footage from the 2001 trip to Moscow, which I went on. The footage will be commercially released at some point in the future, albeit from a different camera angle (ie not my camera). At that time, you'll hear the explanation in the original russian and through an interpreter.

If you go to my site, you'll see some photos from the trip. We spent some time on a spetsnaz base as well (those guys are spetsnaz), the photos are mostly from there.

[This message has been edited by jellyman (edited July 09, 2002).]

IP: Logged

Bill Glasheen

Posts: 2699
Registered: Mar 99
posted July 09, 2002 10:12 AM
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As I wrote...
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The eyes get used to what is real, and what is forced. CammoGuy is working really hard here.
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Then jellyman wrote..

quote:
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I don't know what 'empty energy' is, therefor I don't have an opinion. But I DO have an opinion on systema.
This is a demo on evasive movement. You're right, the rolling guy is working hard.
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Well at least when I clean the egg off my face, I can say that I was right.
Thank you for the explanation. Sorry...we're a bit punch drunk around here with some of the empty energy stuff. If this has nothing to do with that, and instead is advanced ukemi, then I understand and appreciate the demo.

- Bill"

jellyman
10th July 2002, 22:18
You know, I have never read so much about systema and psychic energy with a certain somone's name attached before.;) This is definitely one for the archives. I had no idea SS did systema.

I am john elliott, and I am the guy who put up the site running the clip. Here is my web page.

http://communities.msn.ca/RMAHamilton/_whatsnew.msnw

On ths web page is the clip you guys are talking about. I will paste here what I have printed their:


The second clip with Mikhail and Sergei is massive, and is high-level - in other words, unless you are at least somewhat familiar with how systema works, you may not really appreciate it. Trust me though, it's some good stuff. As outlined in the fantastic tape, 'Beyond the Physical' this has nothing to do with magic or secret powers. Just a man saving his skin.

If you go to the page, you will find a link to purchase said tape.

So what IS that video clip? What the hell is going on??

It's really very simple. In spetsnaz, it's no good just training for an unarmed assailant. You must have better evasion skills than that. The excercise you witness has been done with naked blades, knife and sword, cossak wips, sticks, and fists. With the rest of the body thrown in, of course. What makes the guy roll? Is he taking cues from Mikhail? Well, if he doesn't move, he will get hit. He understands that. Not everybody understands that at first, of course, and in fact, if you buy the tape 'Beyond the Physical' you will see in the trailers mikhail giving a brief, painful, 'live' demonstration to a much larger, very experienced man.

The concept is called respect for the weapons. A fist comes at you, and you cannot parry. You have split second to do something. What to do? Move out of the way. Now, just because the man is avoiding doesn't mean he's passive. If you look, you can see him trying to kick Mikhail as he rolls. Remember, just because someone is rolling doesn't mean he's 'lost'! It may look good to the uninitiated, or the referees, but in reality, it's just a movement to safety and survival. 'Psychic' in psychic energy, under Ryabkos interpretation refers to the mind. Psychology.

Now, you may wish to argue about how effective this all is, and I can regail you all the livelong day abut how great it is for me, the guys I've sparred with, the result I've seen, and you won't believe me if you don't want to. The ultimate proof is doing it. This internet thing can only go so far.

You have questions, I'll take them.

Or better still, go to the systema board and ask there.

I'll be reading the previous posts momentarily.

jellyman
10th July 2002, 22:25
' If we're talking about training rolling escapes or taking falls on a hard floor, there are better ways to train it.'

What, by rolling by yourself?

'If we're talking about training the student's ability to sense and evade, there are more thorough ways to train that in response to more realistic "attacks" than are presented in the clip.'

You can't get more realistic than unpredictability. If you prepare for anything, you'll be ready for anything.

'The common criticism of this teacher was that a) he could only do this with his own students, and even then, with specially chosen students who were more "sensitive" than others and had spent a decent amount of time with him and b) those students sometimes started to tank at the mere suggestion of movement and intent from the teacher, i.e. they had become hyper-susceptible to the teachers cues.'

Mikhail can do this to anyone. Once he hits them a couple times, it works like a charm. In fact, when asked what he does when the person doesn't move, he said 'I hit them to let them know I am serious'.

jellyman
10th July 2002, 22:36
'I think there is a definite concern with the mental attitude this kind of training engenders.'

Eh? What kind of attitude is that, exactly? You obviously have never been to Vlad's gymn or seen a demo. In systema, we constantly test each other. One guy slaps my head whenever he gets the chance, in the gymn or out.

'I truly see no valid martial application to this at all. You want to practice rolling different directions on different physical cues? Do it with someone attacking you realistically, trying to control your movement and direction, perhaps armed, and in some manner that at least looks something like real violence.' If you don't recognize it for what it is, it will get you. Learning to kick while rolling is useful, for a start. We use that in 'live' sparring too.

jellyman
10th July 2002, 22:44
'SOFT-WORK MUST reach towards HARD-WORK. If it is not graduated in a spectrum towards HARD-WORK, then SOFT-WORK is not only ineffective, but COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.'

If you cheat, it's counter-productive. As far as 'hard work' goes... well, I can go soft at high speed. I'm never sure what SS means. If my opponent wants to attack with intent, he tends to do a lot of my work for me.

'The last time I was critical of some truly ridiculous handgun disarms shown on video from one of the Systema websites, and posted a link (literally a crescent kick knocking the gun out of the hand and catching the weapon on the way down...which was better than the drop on your back and scissors the gun out of the guy's hand with your feet...) the video disappeared from the website. I have to question why anyone would even put it up in the first place.

I still plan on checking Systema out, maybe there is something in there that all this circus stuff is obscuring, or even intentionally drawing us away from (how's that for psychological manipulation). I will go in with a large bias against it, though, and will have to be more than convinced. I make no apologies for that bias, because I honestly feel it has kept me practicing things which have saved me from serious injury at the hands of others on several occasions, and might again tomorrow.'

Doubt all you like, but be sure to film it :)

Cady Goldfield
10th July 2002, 23:54
Oh, so the tape is of an avoidance demo? There was no audio or written description, so it looked like the standing person was knocking uke around without touching him. Well, that certainly explains the airspace. :)

It all looks so alien to me. In what we train in, rather than avoid, we would meet and counter the attack, using the very energy and body mechanics that the attacker is using.

Interesting stuff, nonetheless.

Kit LeBlanc
11th July 2002, 00:04
Originally posted by jellyman
.....If you don't recognize it for what it is, it will get you. Learning to kick while rolling is useful, for a start. We use that in 'live' sparring too.

Learning to kick while rolling? This is a weapon evasion drill?

I hope you guys can do better than that. It's better than some BS empty force, but not by much. Sounds like some of the very strained explanations I have heard trying to rationalize some of the very strange exercises and sensitivity training that somewhere, somehow got confused with actual martial arts training. One of my favorites " If it looks fake, that means its really good..."


Uh.....yeah, okay.

At least you came on here and tried to explain it, though. I still wanna check it out in person, but I don't plan on spending a lot of $ to do so now. Before seeing the vids and hearing about this psychic energy stuff, I WAS going to.

jellyman
11th July 2002, 00:16
Learning to kick while rolling? This is a weapon evasion drill?

I hope you guys can do better than that. It's better than some BS empty force, but not by much. Sounds like some of the very strained explanations I have heard trying to rationalize some of the very strange exercises and sensitivity training that somewhere, somehow got confused with actual martial arts training. One of my favorites " If it looks fake, that means its really good..."

Like I said, if you don't want to believe it, I can't convince you on the internet. You have to try it in person. So far, you haven't really done much but say 'there's better,' or 'that's !!!!!!!!'. I mean, this is meaningless, I can say the same about any information you volunteer, but we'll never know behind a keyboard.

And of course, I can tell pretty much right away you've never sparred anyone who's done systema for any length of time.

Obviously, you don't believe in evasion or redirection, and you don't believe in sensitivity. Frankly, I'm surprised you're on an aiki forum. Anyway, bring a digital videocam, and stop trying to build straw men on the internet, it's silly.

'Learning to kick while rolling?'

Attacking while esaping is a useful thing. I'm sure you never have to escape though :rolleyes:

'This is a weapon evasion drill? '

The same movements can be used with blades. Belive it or not.

jellyman
11th July 2002, 00:27
It all looks so alien to me. In what we train in, rather than avoid, we would meet and counter the attack, using the very energy
and body mechanics that the attacker is using.

That clip is only part of the story. There's more clips on the site. There aren't really that many boundaries to what systema is from a technical pov. Ultimately, you try to do what's most appropriate.

We don't do rote techniques, so what if.. questions tend to break down. If he does something else, the reponse will be different.

Meynard Ancheta
11th July 2002, 00:48
I've seen other Systema and RMA videos and to be honest I enjoyed watching them even the esoteric stuff. No doubt Ryabko and Vasiliev are skillful guys and I look forward to meeting them one day to see what they do. But, I'm with Kit here...I just don't understand why they do have to do that no touch flopping around stuff. They have so much more practical stuff that I've seen. Why not just focus on that?

Brently Keen
11th July 2002, 01:02
Now this all sounds like the infamous Aiki Wars revisited! Just this time it's Russian instead of Japanese, and the key players are Ryabko, and Vasiliev instead of Okamoto, Inoue and Sagawa. Instead of Aiki vs Jujutsu it's Hard work vs Soft Work.

More skepticism of demos on video, and accusations of tanking abound. Now Jellyman and others associated with Systema are saying many of the same sort of things I've said in the past about DR AJJ. It's not tanking, and while it may equal hypersusceptibility in some people/practitioners, it's more a result of a high level of ukemi/sensitivity in others. I agree absolutely that if you can't see it, it's because those individuals are operating on another level altogether. Those who are adept with it are fully capable of hurting you if you don't jump, roll or fall away. It is to your own benefit to learn to take the ukemi as well as you possibly can. As in Systema, ukemi in AJJ is also used to attack, and/or counter.

As for SS's whole HARD-SOFT theory, it fits rather well with the orthodox traditional approach to Daito-ryu encompassing both jujutsu and aiki (and weapons). Different teachers differ on whether it's better to go from hard to soft or soft to hard. Some more progressive instructors insist on emphasizing soft as the better way to progress, and a few prefer only hard. But both are part of Daito-ryu and have presumably always been. Likewise different teachers have their own preferences for training with weapons. The question is one of balance and emphasis as well as which method is more comprehensive and/or effective for developing skills in the most efficient manner.

I will say this, as unique as I've always said Daito-ryu is, Systema appears closer than anything else I've ever seen - there are still some differences, but the similarities are truly uncanny.

With respect,

Brently Keen

jellyman
11th July 2002, 01:14
[quot]I've seen other Systema and RMA videos and to be honest I enjoyed watching them even the esoteric stuff. No doubt Ryabko and Vasiliev are skillful guys and I look forward to meeting them one day to see what they do.[/quote]

Glad to hear it.


But, I'm with Kit here...I just don't understand why they do have to do that no touch flopping around stuff. They have so much more practical stuff that I've seen. Why not just focus on that?

It's all integrated. The posture of the standing man, the relaxation of the rolling man - two sides of the same coin. The posture is maintained form. As long as you maintain form, you are very hard to throw or take down, and your movements will have power. The rolling gives you options when you can't maintain form. It's a gradual process. One day you'll be sparring and throw an elbow to the guy's face. He's surprised, so he leans back, misaligning his form. You can take him down, then. Later on, he learns to go down on his own terms - I'd rather roll than be taken down anyday. If you cannot physically dominate your opponent, it doesn't work. This is a higher level of domination. Of course, some guys refuse to be startled. They'd rather take a hit than a roll, because they're afraid the ref will count that against them. To them I say, if that's how you want it, okay. I can admit to myself when someone has the drop on me. And you'd be surprised what a well-timed roll can result in.


Of course, to get there, you have to know basic level systema as well. The stuff most people understand.

Like I said before, on my website (wonder why the people spreading the clip didn't give the url for the web site) this is not beginer systema, it's advanced. It's for systema people. Non-systema people don't know what it is, and I don't know of other MA's that do it. But I never claimed systema was like all the other stuff...

Meynard Ancheta
11th July 2002, 01:23
I wouldn't compare Systema to DR Aikijiujitsu. That long video clip is not representative of the whole art. I think it's just some high level skill that maybe Ryabko has fun doing. I don't think he fights like that. I've seen him(in video) slug some guys, man, he can hit! I've seen a lot of cool practical stuff in Systema (videos), but I can't say the same thing for DR Aiki jiu jitsu mainline and especially Roppokai. I can't even stand watching DR...YAWN. Systema keeps me glued to the TV. Watching Ryabko moves reminds me of Don and watching some of the training that Vasiliev does reminds the stuff that Tim teaches in his Shenwu class that is part of some traditional CMA method. I think it's got a lot of good stuff. Systema, that is.

jellyman
11th July 2002, 01:23
Brently

Personally, I like honest work, as opposed to hard or soft. You want to go slow? No problem. You want to go hard? I like that too. What really honks me off is guys who say they'll go slow, then try to bushwack you by going hard. Or, even more irritating, guys who do that, then when match them, suddenly want ot go slow. and then cheat again. There's a level of trust in sparring, and if you get petty victories through duplicity, you only fool yourself. Not sure where that fits into the hard/soft dichotomy...

It's been said to me by some that the russo-japanese war had a certain amount of influence on systema - as have all wars in russia. Ryabko himself noted the similarities.

Kit LeBlanc
11th July 2002, 01:24
Originally posted by jellyman


....

And of course, I can tell pretty much right away you've never sparred anyone who's done systema for any length of time.

Obviously, you don't believe in evasion or redirection, and you don't believe in sensitivity. Frankly, I'm surprised you're on an aiki forum. Anyway, bring a digital videocam, and stop trying to build straw men on the internet, it's silly.

'Learning to kick while rolling?'

Attacking while esaping is a useful thing. I'm sure you never have to escape though :rolleyes:

'This is a weapon evasion drill? '

The same movements can be used with blades. Belive it or not.

No, I haven't sparred any with Systemites (is that the right word?), that's why I still want to check it out. Might be fun.

I disagree that I cannot at least start to form an opinion based on what I am seeing, and my own experience. I can watch WWF and know that I don't want to train it for actual application without sparring with the Rock (actually, he would probably kick my ass!)

I agree on the sillyness of the Internet as a forum, kinda like the silliness of posting videos that look ridiculous on the web as well.

Technically, actually, usually people are trying to escape from me.:D

And not saying that attacking while escaping is not a good thing...I can just think of more realistic ways to practice it. Even including rolling around, which I do a lot of. Different context, though, and one which you would probably dismiss.

As far as evasion and redirection and sensitivity, I practice judo, and jujutsu stuff nowhere near as sophisticated as aikijujutsu, or Systema, it seems. I am thankful for that! I did train in taiji in China and the US for some years but found out that in real encounters, when you really are afraid you might get hurt and might have to hurt somebody else, sensitivity and relaxation go out the window. You can only speak of them in relative terms.

I know, I know, that's not what a lot of people teach, or what a lot of systems are based on, even the "battle" arts or "spec ops" methods...but such folks need to be more open minded about what is practical and what is fantastical. Ya can't try to define reality diffently so it suits the world view and training methodology of a particular system. You have to define the system by how it addresses reality. If folks wanna train the more fantastical stuff, and try finding rationalizations for why they do it, I have no beef with them.

I do if they claim their system is a good thing to teach people in harm's way how to survive. That you have to expect will be questioned, and to have to prove.

Last, I think you misunderstand when I say I don't believe the same movements are used to practice evading weapons....

But you are correct, this can't go anywhere sparring with keyboards. The proof is in eating the pudding, not in looking at a commercial for Jello! I do like pudding, so I hope my fears RE: Systema are not confirmed!

You are a good sport, Jellyman.

jellyman
11th July 2002, 01:34
Fair enough.

I too have a background in judo and jujutsu. you may find the other clips on my site more 'reassuring' from that perspective - one has VV grappling, for example. Not the best shoot, as it's some guy from Boston shooting from one angle, so you miss a lot of ankle locks, but still pretty good.

Anyway, maybe we'll see each other.

cheers

Meynard Ancheta
11th July 2002, 01:35
Hey Jellyman,




What really honks me off is guys who say they'll go slow, then try to bushwack you by going hard. Or, even more irritating, guys who do that, then when match them, suddenly want ot go slow. and then cheat again.

I know what you mean. Sometimes you've just got to thump them. :-)

Brently Keen
11th July 2002, 04:50
I think these guys have progressed far past the basic "practical stuff". They probably think much of the more "practical" stuff you like is just as silly - flopping around of another sort.

For them, I suppose what's practical is really what works at higher levels against skilled practitioners and/or professional operators in the real world. In my mind anyway, what is practical is what is most efficient - what allows you the least amount of distraction from accomplishing your objectives. For the professional, they can't afford to be distracted or diverted from their task/mission. Therefore they might find these sort of techniques, drills and exercises to be of immense practical value. By all accounts most of these guys are already highly skilled at more conventional "connecting" sort of methods - and I'm pretty sure that in their minds what makes them so exceptionally good at those methods is these more "esoteric" or intangible skills and attributes - and that's precisely why they chose to focus on those more subtle things, because in their minds, and experience it's those things that make all the difference.

On the other hand, it may not be a conscious effort on their part to intentionally throw without touching, the intent to throw or divert the attacker is just there, and they may have just found that often their attackers are thrown prior to contact. So "how it happens" may very well depend on the attackers ability to perceive that intent and their skill and/or choice to react to it. Whether they actually knew how or why (at first) is irrelevant, if they can intentionally induce their attacker to throw themselves it's very useful.

In the case of aiki (and I presume systema too) that choice of the uke to throw himself may be a voluntary skill/choice or involuntary reflex - either may also be manipulated or influenced by various factors including both suggestion and/or susceptibility - but it really doesn't matter if someone "tanks", or is "thrown" as long as the results are as directed. If I somehow convince you to throw yourself, and you do it - is it because you "wanted" to throw yourself, or because I changed your mind and convinced you it was better to throw yourself, or because I involuntarily made you do it, or what? Either way, I'm exhibiting a skill to get you to do something I want. Such a skill would be very practical and would deserve much attention and focus (imo).

Something to keep in mind, by all personal and experienced accounts thus far - these sort of techniques/practices seem to work in both ajj and systema. There are quite a few respectable and highly experienced martial artists, instructors, real world operators, and even masters of other styles among those who have experienced these things and attest to their validity. The skeptics are usually among those who haven't yet felt/experienced it in person yet.

A more skilled attacker recognizes and appreciates the skill of the an adept instructor, and reciprocates in kind with more skilled ukemi, preserving some of his dignity and composure in the process. Yet it's clear in the minds and bodies of both who's will was accomplished, and who in fact completed their objective and who did not. In my experience, in DR AJJ anyway, the taking of ukemi from someone as skilled as Okamoto sensei for example, is very humbling. It looks as if the same is true for the likes of people like Ryabko.

A less skilled attacker will likely feel the hurt a lot more. It actually requires less skill for the adept person to use harder methods. That's why in DR we refer to jujutsu as belonging to more "basic" skills.

A good old-fashioned hard style @$$ whooping can be humbling as well - but depending on the demeanor and attitude of the whupped it may simply provoke him more, make him more hard-headed and/or resentful too. IOW it doesn't accomplish much, it's definitely not very useful for making new friends much less teaching new skills.

For example, if you come to a seminar to learn something, and you doubting the instructor's ability stubbornly challenge him - if the teacher kicks your butt, he shows everyone how strong he is, but you won't likely walk away with anything except perhaps bruised body and ego. Was it necessary to hurt you? Maybe maybe not, but you won't likely learn the subtleties of how the instructor kicked your butt, nor will you have gained any appreciable skill in duplicating the skills displayed.

If on the other hand, you "pay attention" as you take ukemi, you'll probably pick up a lot more on what the instructor is doing, and he will likely clue you in to how he's doing some of that, and thus impart/transmit to you some of what he has to offer. Having humbly received instruction from the start, you'll be much more able to appreciate his ability as a teacher, as well as pick up on some of the finer points of his overall skills without needless injury. Whereas if you simply got your butt kicked, that'd be the extent of your lesson, and depending on the restraint/mercy of the instructor you might not even be able to concentrate enough to receive whatever else he has to offer, or even be able to complete the seminar. It's possible that you wouldn't be able to walk away at all, and your training might be interrupted for a much longer time, maybe even for good. You have to ask yourself, is it worth it?

The other option might be that the instructor would simply ignore you, blow you off and not even engage your challenge. He decides that you're not worth his trouble (and you've already told him that by your attitude), and he'd rather you go home in one piece able to go back to work the next week. That would be a more compassionate, respectful response, not to mention a very "Japanese" way of handling your imprudence. If you're not there to learn, then why waste everyone's time? Why bother hurting you just to prove a point? You're obviously not going to learn much anyway. So the instructor let's you validate your own ideas, and your ego stays nice and big - and you walk away thinking less of the instructor and more of yourself. What does the instructor care? He knows you have no idea whatsoever, and also knows what he can and can't do.

Then as soon as you're gone, he pulls out the real amazing stuff and shows the guys that sincerely want to learn, some of what is possible. He generously pulls out all the stops and removes all doubt from their minds - and they come away really blown away, and here's the clincher: their skills improve dramatically as a result of their "experience".

It's only natural that some of them will post their experiences on these boards and other websites and make "unbelievable" video's available as they try to share their enthusiasm for their teacher/style and all that they've been learning and discovering.

At any rate, if the instructor does chose to "teach you a lesson" and puts the hard-style convincing, hurt on you - you're more likely to come away feeling that it was speed and power and more gross sorts of skills that triumphed, missing altogether what the instructor really wanted to share (frankly, I think this accounts for much of the differences in how Sokaku Takeda taught differently among his students). Whereas with softer, or no touch techinques, and more advanced kinds of training and drills, we're able to see more clearly how it's possible to really be beat by finer skills that require higher levels of training in subtlety and sophistication.

It's obvious when experienced, how much more efficient such methods are - in fact, most of the greatest warriors throughout history understood something of this kind of "work", and every great strategist from Sun Tzu to Yagyu Munenori and Miyamoto Musashi knew and proclaimed that the greatest ways to victory are those methods that don't involve direct conflict, fighting, struggling or otherwise exerting tremendous amounts of energy, effort, and/or resources in order to accomplish one's objectives.

FWIW, if I may give a little unsolicited advice for the skeptical:

If you don't buy what these guys are doing - then just shut up and MYOB. If you're really interested, then come more politely and respectfully, don't openly (and ignorantly) voice your skepticism and doubt by making dismissive and/or challenging comments in public from afar. It only makes you look silly. Instead seek out a qualified instructor, and go see him as soon as you can, come with an empty cup and open mind to learn, and ask your questions politely in person. If in person, you still find that you have doubts, then by all means voice your skepticism at the right time and in earnest, and perhaps you'll be obliged. Don't dish out more than you can take, and don't say you weren't warned though.

If you do find that any instructor is indeed phony, and teaching bs, then after you've soundly kicked his booty come back and trumpet your skepticism and doubt as findings "from your own personal experience" rather than from speculation. And by all means do it loudly on these boards. Just be prepared to back up what you say, I'd have some respectable (known) witnesses and preferably some video available. We certainly don't need more quacks teaching martial arts that aren't martial, much-less more dishonest claims of fantastic powers. You'll certainly do the world a favor if you in fact, expose some fraud(s) for their psychobabble and delusions of martial prowess with your realistic, no-nonsense practical-jutsu. And you just might pick up some students of your own while your at it, as I'm sure some folks around here might want to come and learn the real goods from you after everything settles down.

The question is how will you respond when someone then challenges, dismisses or makes fun of your claims, techniques, or training methods in person? Would you just repeat the story of how you once beat a famous master and exposed them as frauds? So you beat up a deluded, psychic energy poser or an aiki bunny, big deal. Would you intentionally hurt someone who's skeptical of you just to "teach them a lesson", and prove how "bad" you really are? Or would you just blow them off and ignore their challenge, choosing instead to concentrate on teaching those who want to learn what you have to share? How would you respond if they went on the net and blabbed about how you didn't have guts and/or ability to back up what you teach, would you care?

Brently Keen

Brently Keen
11th July 2002, 08:13
Jellyman wrote:

"Personally, I like honest work, as opposed to hard or soft. You want to go slow? No problem. You want to go hard? I like that too. What really honks me off is guys who say they'll go slow, then try to bushwack you by going hard. Or, even more irritating, guys who do that, then when match them, suddenly want ot go slow. and then cheat again. There's a level of trust in sparring, and if you get petty victories through duplicity, you only fool yourself. Not sure where that fits into the hard/soft dichotomy..."

I likewise appreciate honesty in both life and training. Not sure what you mean by honesty as opposed to hard or soft. I like to do what is appropriate for the situation.

For example: If someone is drunk or under the influence, or all hyped up and amped out, they may not respond to subtle, soft techniques. Also some people just have slow reflexes - in either case it wouldn't be appropriate to try and use soft, no touch, or other subtle aiki or PE techniques they're not likely to react to them, so you use something more appropriate, something that will connect with them and what they're doing. Whatever their psychic/emotional/nervous condition may be, drugged up or not everybody has a skeleton that is subject to certain laws of physics. In Daito-ryu such a situation would ask for a more jujutsu kind of solution.

However, someone who has a high level of sensitivity, good reflexes and/or some skill in conventional methods (like jujutsu) is very difficult to beat using such basic or conventional methods.

Perhaps the words used are different, but I was understanding Scott's hard/soft dichotomy as similar to the harder more concrete type of work found in jujutsu and the softer kind of PE work with that of (DR) aiki. Whether jujutsu is actually the same as the hard work in RMA and aiki is the same as soft work I don't know - I rather suspect there are both some similarities as well as differences there. James W. seems to think there's a lot in common between ajj and systema. I also appreciate (a little from what I've been able to gather) that there are differences between ROSS and hence SS's approach, and Systema as propagated by MR and VV.

FWIW, I wasn't referring to going hard (and fast) in practice as opposed to going slow (and deliberate), rather I was referring to hard methods (striking, locking, grappling, etc...) versus soft methods (like aiki & PE). In either, honesty, mutual trust and respect should be a given. I think there has to to be some honesty in training together in order to really improve our skills and get the most benefit from training.

So if someone just ups the ante in middle of a training drill or exercise, then I think that's another issue that has less to do with the hard/soft dichotomy that I think SS was referring to, and certainly is different from the issue of tanking, and questioning the "effectiveness" of PE work in RMA, or aiki in Daito-ryu (as in the infamous (pre-crash) aiki wars and ongoing occasional skirmishes.

However, I always insist that technically the attacker (or my training partner) is never wrong - they can do whatever, stand there and resist, change the attack, try and escape/counter, be sincere, tank right over, it doesn't matter to me, it's my job, and my own training to learn to deal with whatever they give me. Then again, if I'm teaching a class I can't get all sidetracked by that and let it interfere with everyone else's learning, if it get's out of hand then it has to be addressed.

For example if someone's not being honest, then that might not be beneficial for beginners, and as an instructor I'd probably want to correct that - but if the student(s) are farther along, then I might just point out how not cooperating, and not being honest can be counter-productive to what we're trying to do, but I'll also tell them to relax and try and deal with it either way, cooperative or not.

However, if it's myself, I don't want such an individual to "honk me off", and provoke me into an emotional reaction to "thump em". Because if I do, then I'm compromising my integrity, and my posture by "reacting" to them. I figure my opponent(s) can pretty much do whatever they want - so why can't my training partner? I better not react emotionally, especially when they try to trip me up, rather I'll just try to adjust and do whatever is appropriate. If he wants to play a silly game and cheat to win, then I can just change the rules too, and he can either play along on my terms then, or I might completely disregard him. On one level that might mean changing altogether what I'm doing, even if that's not what we're practicing - then on another level I can also work on finding a way to make whatever it is we're practicing work on the guy no matter what he does. Both require flexibility on my part to maintain my integrity, and to let go of my ego. Both will likely help improve my skills, but in order to do either, I'll need to keep a clear head, and calm demeanor.

I agree that whether one trains hard or softly one should train honestly. If such an individual agrees to train slowly then cheats just to win that clearly defeat the purpose of what we're doing, and it might be frustrating. Then again, on the flip side - isn't my enemy always going to try and defeat whatever I'm up to anyway? Why should I get frustrated by such things? So if I ALWAYS insist upon honesty in training, isn't that also dishonest in terms of preparing myself for the real world where I can hardly expect my enemies to be honest?

I think that's why in classical Japanese traditions the instructor/senior student always plays the role of attacker in the kata - it's appropriate for them (since they have more experience) to play the role of the attacker to prey upon and point out weaknesses in our form and movement. The instructor or senior student is honest and sincere in their role, yet the kata weren't practiced simply by rote - except to learn the form and movements at first. For that, you really need to have cooperation, but once you've learned the sequence, however, if you varied your posture, timing, or movement in a way that left any openings, then the instructor or senior would likewise break the kata and quickly point that out to you (usually with a good thwack). They might also intentionally and unpredictably change up the attack or sequence of the kata to test your response, and you quickly learned not to move in inappropriate ways, and also as you practiced with your juniors you also got quicker at taking advantage of their openings as well.

Rather than insisting on honesty, which would essentially lead to either hard all out "sparring" all the time, and/or slow deliberate, and cooperative practice, I would rather insist upon appropriateness. There's an appropriate time and place for various kinds of training, both hard and soft. Likewise each situation on the mat and in life also has appropriate and inappropriate responses and solutions. It seems to me that since real life is full of unpredictable turns of events (and people) it's also appropriate that one's training develop experience in dealing with such, whether it be kata training in koryu bujutsu, nagare geiko like in Daito-ryu Roppokai, or slow sparring in RMA.

It's generally not appropriate (imo) for peers or classmates to act as the "instructor" and point out their classmates openings/errors by "beating on them" (unless that's already been agreed upon). And also it's not appropriate to agree to a certain speed or intensity for training exercises/drills and then cheat by upping the ante in order to "win" and boost your ego. But nor is it appropriate (imo) to get ticked off and lose your cool or your composure when someone is acting inappropriately. For to do such is to compromise your own integrity and in a sense is to give in and react to the ruse of your opponent, quite possibly playing into his advantage.

Meynard wrote:

"I wouldn't compare Systema to DR Aikijiujitsu. That long video clip is not representative of the whole art. I think it's just some high level skill that maybe Ryabko has fun doing. I don't think he fights like that. I've seen him(in video) slug some guys, man, he can hit! I've seen a lot of cool practical stuff in Systema (videos), but I can't say the same thing for DR Aiki jiu jitsu mainline and especially Roppokai. I can't even stand watching DR...YAWN. Systema keeps me glued to the TV. Watching Ryabko moves reminds me of Don and watching some of the training that Vasiliev does reminds the stuff that Tim teaches in his Shenwu class that is part of some traditional CMA method. I think it's got a lot of good stuff. Systema, that is."

I can't speak for mainline Daito-ryu, but I see more similarities in Systema to Daito-ryu Roppokai than any other art I've ever seen or come across - including aikido, various chinese internal arts, and silat. I've also seen quite a few of the videos of Systema and while I'm sure they don't cover the breadth of the whole system - neither do Daito-ryu videos. If DR vids make you yawn, then don't watch them - I could careless. Sure Systema has lots of good practical stuff - I agree with that much - as for everything else it's a free country, you can think whatever you want, whatever floats your boat. I think anybody can slug somebody, some people like Ryabko can do it real well, but not everyone can do that Psy stuff or aiki for that matter.

Seems to me some guys are just into pugilism, and so that's all they really appreciate. Me, I'm into more than that, sluggfests might've fascinated me 10-15 years ago, now they make me yawn.

Brently Keen

Kit LeBlanc
11th July 2002, 13:43
Originally posted by Brently Keen
....For the professional, they can't afford to be distracted or diverted from their task/mission.


Uhhhhh, yeah Brently, thanks, how could I forget. I'll ask the guys at the next SWAT practice, or the HRT class in September....

:rolleyes:

Meynard Ancheta
11th July 2002, 18:07
What makes me yawn the most is the Roppokai stuff...5 minutes of that and I'm asleep! In case of insomnia watch DR Roppokai.

I don't think Roppokai even comes close to what Systema is, any similarity is just wishful thinking.

Emery
11th July 2002, 18:50
I am a student of Vladimir Vasiliev.

You gentlemen have a really comprehensive, even encyclopedic knowledge of your arts and other arts, which I find extremely impressive. Also, I see that this knowledge goes beyond just cataloging or taxonomizing techniques, I see that you can compare arts at more conceptual levels (e.g. the discussion on connecting to center and such).

I would like to offer one small, perhaps not entirely relevant observation, which is that when you say "systema" looks like this or that art, or overlaps N% with this or that art - that is a really tricky call to make. It relates to the quote from W. B. Yeats where he wrote "How do we know the dancer from the dance?" I'm NOT saying systema is a dance (obviously! LOL!) I'm saying it gets back to the old question of what is a style. I feel that in the case of the systema, this question gnaws with unaccustomed ferocity - perhaps a clue that we have something slightly revolutionary going on.

There is no catalog of technique, whatsoever, in the systema. Further, beyond a scatter of cute Russian nick-tags such as "trinity shot" there are no names for movements or types of movements, beyond what ordinary language provides to describe daily-life human motions, as a bystander might.

What's happening when VV fights may appear to look overall like DR/AJJ etc. But a Wing Chun practitioner can isolate sections of a VV session and set up his own isomorphism to that, as can a Silat guy, BJJ, etc. All such observers are applying their own low-pass filter to what VV is doing. Yes we could negate this direction of argument perhaps by attempting to apply it from the opposite direction - would a boxer, muay thai, judo person find in systema much to map ? From looking at it that way, we could perhaps 'type' systema loosely as an art of evasion and internal subtlety. But a more detailed typology of it is going to be very difficult to establish. Systema is more a mind/body training method.

For example, from the video clip, it will appear that "rolling" is a key systema method. Well yes and no. True - every student has to be comfortable doing rolls (of the type shown in the vid clip) when called for. Yet Vlad himself (a master roller of course), while he always evades, rarely rolls.

There's a lot of variation, infinite variation, in what Vlad does. And he is just a single (albeit the greatest, modulo MR) practitioner. The differences between practitioners are going to be even more striking.

Systema is making a really bold claim, that a lot of people are going to have serious trouble with, a claim that I for one am not in any position to demonstrate mastery of, or to shove down anybody's throat.

What systema is claiming is that since reality is infinite, our bodies and minds have already evolved to handle that as needed. The systema training is intended to restore natural adaptivity to the body and mind. It will sound hokey, but to become like water which is infinitely adaptable in un-named and un-cataloged ways. This concept is touted by most arts but in practice it is usually felt necessary to retreat to bounded, cataloged, and named mechanisms. Anyway, I feel systema embodies a bold and high-minded proposition - one that may present an insurmoutable challenge to many of us. Those who aren't comfortable with the concept, perhaps for their own very sound analytical reasons, obviously should not gravitate to this approach.

VV has noted "You can live (i.e. save yourself) by relaxation and you can die by relaxation. You can live by tension and you can die by tension." The same could be said of movement, types of movement, and any other quality of fighting or life. Even the sacred cow of breathing - there are even times when you need to operate while holding your breath. There are few absolutes in reality and systema openly accepts that and tries to reflect that in training.

Anyway, I agree that the "reality of training" problem is persistent, severe, and maybe unsolvable in principle. I'm ~not saying anybody has a solution for it. I am saying that VV presents us with a unique conundrum and I'm offering my take on some implications of what he shows and what he is.

OK, sorry, that's my one barge-in over here for this fiscal quarter...

Ellis Amdur
11th July 2002, 19:29
Just read this thread for the first time, and the list of things that I DON'T want to touch with a ten foot deer antler (A Systema weapon, I recall) is huge:)

I noticed, however, that the explanation of the video clip given by some practitioners was that it was an evasion practice - particularly evasion from attack by weapons.

1) If that is truly the purpose, then rolling is a very poor way of evading armed attack. Note in the video that from the moment the camie guy, theoretically evades the theoretical slash, he is absolutely vulnerable to being pushed out of his roll, stomped, pinned, etc. The attacker is close throughout. In addition, the 'evasions" often make little sense. He has not avoided in a way that would protect him were the attacker to simple extend his arm.

2) Several times, his foot flies up near the attacker's head. If inadvertant, then the attacker isn't protecting himself very well and/or IF the lesson to be learned is how to counter armed attack by doing ax kicks while rolling out of the way, it's a high risk, low return manuveur.

3) Actually, if one's intent in training was to learn to evade, I think capoeira is supreme in this regard. Particularly Capoeira Angola, in which one learns to evade/counter-attack from any position. One fades, slips, etc., while remaining on one's feet (or sometimes hands), while fighting in the process. The point is that, unlike the ukemi in the video, there is no "empty" position, where one is not protecting oneself and counterattacking. Note that in early capoeira, the hands were not used for strikes because they held edged weapons - and some practioners, even today, hold a razor between their toes - which, I've been told, is a warning to visitors from abroad who enthusiastically see a street "game" and want to jump in to play to0. Sometimes the circle is closed.

4) I'm off on a tangent, but interestingly, BJJ is primarily a middle-class pursuit in Brazil, and thus, training for one-on-one empty handed fights & competition in the ring makes a lot of sense. In the favelas (spelling??), capoeira is still THE martial art - both because of it's Afro/American roots, and most importantly, because in street-life, evasion/escape/multiple-enemies/edged weapon attack is the rule.

With respect

Ellis Amdur

James Williams
11th July 2002, 20:53
Kit,

Since you put this out to Ken Good and I let me answer your question. First the Russsian military has no sense of humor when it comes to combat. They have been engaged for most of the last century in one kind of conflict or another, check your history books. They are presently engaged, I know I was just with a Spets team that had returned from combat ( one dead, 5 wounded). Mikhail Ryabko has spent an extended amount of time in combat over a long career. He trained elite Spets teams and has a distinguished military record. Before you, with a LE background, present us with your opinion perhaps you should take the time to visit either Vladimir or Mikhail and see why operators who’s lives and the lives of the men with whom they served use this method of combat.

Did you in fact honor you commitment to Ken Good to personally work with Vladimir?

Quoted from Ken Good (e budo post)

You skepticism is healthy, but in this case unfounded. Don’t take my word for it. Go to a seminar or his school in Montreal yourself and question away, engage away, give him or some of his students your best shot.….Let me know how you make out!

Now, let's make an agreement. You stop questioning Systema until you go to a multiple day seminar or Vladimir's school. For my part, I agree to not to kick you ass the next time I see you with a flying gun disarm I learned on a web video....
------------------------------------------------------------------------
Quoted from Kit LeBlanc

I will remain a skeptic until I can feel this for myself. Considering you have just noted that the gun disarms are not what you would try, I think there is reason enough for skepticism. That is not to say that he doesn't teach a lot of good stuff, either, it simply means that I have been around martial arts long enough to know to take EVERYTHING with a grain of salt.

I am like you guys...he has gonna have to do this stuff to me in a non-cooperative force on force situation (let's just say I will try to arrest him and he can fight back...) before I will believe it. I have no problem taking lumps, indeed I will consider it an honor if this is indeed real.

I accept the agreement. Dang I wish James was coming up to Portland. Otherwise, I gotta get down to see you guys when Vlad is next in town.


So now we are back to opinion with no action taken. You don't know what you don't know. We have invited you to come and work with us personally, which you have not taken us up on and we are a bit taken aback by your negative comments. Do you think that people like Ken Good and myself, both with some experience in combatives, endorse things just because? Are you intimating that we do not take the responsibility of teaching Military and LE seriously? Maybe it is time to do instead of talk. Spend some time with Vladimir and then you can criticize. Go under the fist, go under the stick, go under the whip, and maybe you will have a different opinion, reality has that effect.

Seriously,

James Williams

Kit LeBlanc
11th July 2002, 22:43
Well, ya got me on that one, I forgot about that. On seeing this video, and the others on the site, I was simply once again perplexed and the same questions leapt to the forefront of my mind. I apologize to you and to Ken for that.

I would be curious to see the full extent of the curriculum that the Spets guys you mention have trained. Scott Sonnon has stated that in his experience with Russian Martial Art, their training is balanced between harder hittng stuff and combat sambo and the stuff that Mikhail espouses, and also that his approach is not necessarily universally accepted. The combo seems to make a lot more sense.

As a military unit, I am also curious as to how much actual hands on combatives they are engaged in operationally. I would imagine they use their firearms more often, probably to the virtual exclusion of hand to hand stuff. Spec Ops doesn't automatically translate to valid hand to hand training/skill...look what SCARS produced!

I have re-evaluated spending any major scratch to check Systema out, based on the videos and other accounts. Sorry. There's a guy in Seattle that I can get up to see, and maybe a local seminar (if offered at all), or James, if your trip up to CRKT works out we can meet in person and you can show me why you are so convinced by it. I'll buy you dinner, and if you are looking for a place to stay during your visit, I'll put you up, even. I also promise to buy a hissatsu off ya, and can arrange for a couple other purchasers who are waiting with bated breath for that baby to come out. :p

Do you think that people like Ken Good and myself, both with some experience in combatives, endorse things just because? Are you intimating that we do not take the responsibility of teaching Military and LE seriously? Maybe it is time to do instead of talk. Spend some time with Vladimir and then you can criticize. Go under the fist, go under the stick, go under the whip, and maybe you will have a different opinion, reality has that effect.

At least I don't believe that is the case. You seem to be consumate professionals, but I confess I wonder where you guys are coming from on this thing. I would also say that by virtue of your position in the tactical training community, you have a certain obligation to address the misgivings of members of that community other than with "you need to come see me to get it, you need to go see (fill in name) to get it" or "you don't know what you don't know." You have to convince me of that with sound reasons. "Russian Spets uses it" is not a reason.

I simply do not accept that one has to "feel" something to critique it at face value, when one has a base of experience to draw upon. You do exactly the same thing. As for Systema, what I have seen so far looks very similar to Chinese based training I have experienced, the sparring stuff on Furtry's website especially. And the terminology used in an attempt to describe it to the uninitiated also brings back a lot from those days.

But nothing jumps out and says "that guy is moving differently from anything I have seen before, and far more efficiently!" or what have you. Nothing says that there is anything but a different name with some familiar, and granted some unfamiliar exercises that appear to have varying levels of practicality, whether for developing attributes or developing real skill. Nothing says that if we took the people in the tapes and put them in a streetfight that it wouldn't look like any other streetfight and be decided by the guy with the superior attributes on that day and superior applied skill - no matter the training method. The description of the rolling exercise, while it shut down the empty farce debate, was contrived. People with no tactical background see the holes in the explanation that has been offered. Just like with ANY other system. Why does this one, just like we hear with aikijujutsu, HAVE to be experienced to even be apprehended? (This is a rhetorical question, please don't anybody answer it <Brently, that means you!>)

I'll put it this way....Surefire teaches a series of concepts and tactics which are clearly demonstrated simply by viewing what is being done. You can look at video of Ken in operation, watch other people perform them, read his theory and go "this is right, this is good, this makes a lot of sense." You won't be any good at it without practice, but you see the immediate, and superior nature of what is transpiring. And this is in a far more esoteric area (low light tactics for projectile fighting) than hand to hand combatives are. So when I look at Systema, and I don't see the same demonstrable sensibility in it, and instead see a training concept which I have some misgivings about, I gotta wonder wassup wi'dat!

Sincerely,

Kit

James Williams
12th July 2002, 01:21
Kit,

When you can't see you should reserve judgment. Mikhail's first engagement in Afghanistan was a ten minute knife fight in a cave in which, obviously, his Spets team was victorious. I am not going to reveal anything else that I am aware of in regards to their operations. Suffice it to say Mikhail and Vladimir operated at the outer limits of the tactical environment. Firearms were not always the tool of choice.

I am personally getting weary of the debate, go find out or come find out, in the mean time you will look better in the end if you reserve judgment when you can't see what is going on. Vladimir will be at my dojo the 8-9 of February 2003 there is plenty of time to plan. If Ken or I get in the Seattle area, no current plans, we will make sure to look you up. If you get down in this area stop by the dojo and we can discuss this in a more personal manner.

I just got back from training in Russia, the easy civilian way primarily. You roll and fall on hard floors, sounds easy, try it for two three hour sessions and one two hour session per day. When you train you get hit, not tapped, hit. After one, dull aluminum, knife training session with Mikhail I woke up the next morning with blood spots on the sheets.

Spets works like this, you deploy for six months to a combat zone, they bring you back for six to heal up and retrain and then send you back for another six. These guys are professionals and this is their life. PERHAPS YOU DIDN’T HEAR THIS, THEY LIVE AND DIE WITH THIS STUFF. This is not law enforcement, you are going to kill someone or prevent them from killing you, that’s the job! We are not talking arrest and control here.

This guy is one of the very best there is. The amount of operational experience that men like Mikhail have is enormous. Then they make you responsible for training their most elite unit. The training is extreme and death in training is accepted in a Spets unit and many of the training methods would not be legal in our military.

I do not know Scott Sonnen so I cannot address what he says. Mikhails “stuff” is not universally used in Spetsnaz, that is true. His knowledge, my best info, was only taught to Shadow and the information on that unit and it’s operations is not public knowledge.

I would keep your agreement with Ken and see Vladimir, you owe it to the people you are responsible for training.

James

Kit LeBlanc
12th July 2002, 01:42
Originally posted by James Williams
PERHAPS YOU DIDN’T HEAR THIS, THEY LIVE AND DIE WITH THIS STUFF. This is not law enforcement, you are going to kill someone or prevent them from killing you, that’s the job! We are not talking arrest and control here.



Hmmmm, and cops don't live and die by this stuff too? Don't you work for a company that teaches officer survival tactics in lethal engagements to police officers?

C'mon James, I am surprised you would post that. Many times its the arrest situations that lead to dead cops. Read Seattle's news lately?

We also don't get the chance to shoot first and ask questions later, except in extreme circumstances (they have been known to happen), so things end up being up close and personal from the get-go. It's not fun wondering whether the guy that is coming at you is actually trying to hurt you, planning on killing you, or just trying to get away. Just because I didn't kill anybody on my last shift doesn't mean I won't be faced with that situation on my next one....you never know so you always have to be prepared for it...through valid training. Don't you advocate that to your police officer students? And what, exactly, are the civilian students of Systema training for, certainly not to kill people......but to keep people from having the chance to kill them, no?

One question that did just come to mind...isn't this Spets stuff classified? What is the arrangement that the Russian government allows civilian American martial artists to come over and train with elite combat spec ops guys? Or is that a function of Mikhail's role? Doesn't he have to vet you guys to them or vice versa?

light
12th July 2002, 02:41
Greetings all,

This is my experience:
I have been to many of Don Angier's seminars I have felt his Aiki many times. I have come at him full speed with an attack of my choice that was unknown to him. I landed flat on my back, my perception of the world was spinning. He did not touch me. I confirmed that with many bystanders. As Don would say..."Magic!...Bull***t its physics". I will not even begin to explain what happened...it I am still processing it. I know that he his highly effective in Aiki....touching or not touching.
I have had the opportunity to attend one seminar with Vladimir Vasiliev. As I have not come at him with quite the same stubbornness as I did with Don Angier (maybe because i can see more now and I am not as hardheaded) I have thrown at him and he is just as soft and effective. I have witnessed and felt him put people and me down with out touching. In my experience he is very competent at martial arts. Also he is down to earth and a nice guy. I honor and respect him, he is not on any pedestal in my mind...just very competent and willing to share some knowledge he has found.
Mikhail Ryabko...I have not met or trained with him yet....he is Vladimir's teacher. As Vladimir's teacher and Vladimir being the Martial artist he is....its obvious to me that Mikhail Ryabko is a cut above Vladimir...he is the teacher after all...simple logic to figure out that Mikhail Ryabko is quite capable.
This has been said before, I am going to say it again because of the comments I have read. Get on the mat with these gentlemen. Simple, if you haven't felt them then you have no understanding as to what they are doing. It is absurdly obvious to those of us that have trained with any of these 3 above named martial artists. that some of you don't even know that you don't know. Get off the net bashing, stop trying to explain what they are doing because you just don't know. Go train with them, if you need to...then ask them to take it up a notch until you reach your level. I have done that with Don Angier and with my regular teacher...both took me to that level and beyond I ended up on the mat in many different positions...sometimes if it wasn't for the high skill level of these men I would have been seriously injured but because of their extremely soft and sensitive abilities they were able to protect me from myself.

Gentlemen and ladies please read past the venom in my post as it is fueled mostly by the lungful thread.

Kit LeBlanc James and Ken...have explained to me what Vladimir, Mikhail and Don are doing...they don't use words...we get on the mat....it's really not something that words can explain...as it is not words...it is Aiki or Systema...what ever name you want to call it, that doesn't matter. The explanation is not on the net, the explanation is not on the phone or even talked about over dinner....The explanation is, stop talking about it and get on the mat. I know you think that's a cop out, yet, it is where the explanation is...on the mat or street, not in words.

In Service to the light
~Garron

Ken Good
12th July 2002, 03:05
Above skill, above technique, above knowledge, honor in a man should be held in the highest esteem.

Kit, in a previous forum/thread you essentially tied my viewpoint and approach to your uninformed, untesteted viewpoint of Systema as practiced and delivered by Vladimir Vasiliev. I won’t waste my time and everybody elses time by trying to defend this or that about Systema and Vladimir Vasiliev. I know very little about either. What I do know, is that I have met very few men in my life that have his skill level coupled with an incredible and obvious sense of integrity and honor. He has done much for me on a personal level, asking nothing is return.

I took the fairly diplomatic stance of asking you to kindly stop posting your obviously negative comments on this variant of Systema until you personally as in physically attended/trained with Vladimir. You agreed. Not a small thing in my book as I consider myself a professional trainer, and my reputation/credibility is always an issue.

Since that time, you have elected NOT attend/train with Vladimir, yet you have also elected to bring my name up again in a post that essentially revolves around the same issue.

So, I consider all you “words” essentially meaningless at this point.

I have invited freely invited you to any training. I have invited you to come to my dojo and stay at my house to freely exchange ideas, concepts and training methodologies.

I find your public posting on this issue unprofessional at this point.

As stated earlier, I think the RMA videos are of low production quality, but chalked full of many useful concepts. Any, I mean any formalized system will have it’s pros and cons. It is up to the individual person to sift, sort and value. We must remain adaptable, teachable or suffer the consequences of a self-limiting/debilitating mind-set.

Please do me a favor and do what you say and write in a public forum.

jellyman
12th July 2002, 04:03
Why is the guy in cammos still getting his butt kicked? Because the guy standing is better than he is.

I suggest you go here to debate the clip with other people who practice systema.

http://russianmartialart.org/forum/phpBB/

Kit LeBlanc
12th July 2002, 04:22
Originally posted by light
The explanation is, stop talking about it and get on the mat. I know you think that's a cop out, yet, it is where the explanation is...on the mat or street, not in words.



I know. I also know I am not making any friends here.

Ken, no breach was intended, though I confess it was done. Just honest questions and an admission that I just don't get it. You know how seriously I take this stuff and that I have strong opinions, maybe they will change, maybe not.

I consider a lot of the work you do cutting edge. Your popularization of the Boyd Cycle, the connections you guys make with classical martial arts, your approach to tactics have been in some ways the start of an exciting path for me.

But I was thrown for a loop with this stuff. Not an excuse for not experiencing it live before posting more...guilty as charged, it was an oversight I should not have made. I will when I can look at it with less bias going in.


Kit

R Erman
12th July 2002, 04:54
Kit,

I think you probably have more supporters than you realize, many are loathe to admit their own doubts publicly, whereas you are bringing out serious questions that many have, and not just in regards to systema.

I find myself in a similar position, I want to believe that minimal motion, relaxed movement works. Why? Because I want to believe that there are different operational systems that a person can utilize, when old age sets in and our physical attributes wane.

I have to say however, that although I find some abstract benefit in much of the "soft" training within so-called internal arts, and I truly enioy practicing those concepts, I have serious doubts to their performance under extreme duress. I'm not saying that it can't be done, I've obviously not seen all of the proponents of these methods, but those I have seen didn't convince me. They were/are certainly talented martial artists, I'm just not sure that their paradigm includes some of the people out there who don't play by the rules that most of us adhere to.

Ken Good
12th July 2002, 05:16
Kit - Good enough.

Ken Good
12th July 2002, 05:31
R. Erman.

I have quite a few emails as to efficacy of moving toward the softer end of the scale, specific to LE operations:

Here is one example from an officer in Kit’s neck of the woods:

_____________________

Ken,

I think I have attended at last count, 5 or 6 Surefire courses. All courses emphasized some sort of suspect control training. The technique that has been most beneficial for me is the basic head tip. The best thing about this technique was that it was almost effortless. I've used it in numerous situations and it has always worked as advertised.

There are two situations that immediately come to mind:

#1 Bar Fight: Officers respond to a bar fight at one of the local drinking establishments. Suspect flees on foot, later found walking through parking lot. Officer has suspect at gunpoint, ordering him to prone out. Suspect squares off on officer with hands raised but stays in a stationary position.


I arrive, put light in suspect's face, move in and utilize head tip from the side. There was absolutely no resistance from the suspect as he quickly went from vertical to horizontal position. Impacted the ground with enough force to stun suspect. This made control and handcuffing of suspect easy.

Suspect later informed me that he did not know what happened after the
"bright light" was put in his eyes, only that he hit the ground and was
taken into custody. Suspect was fairly intoxicated at time of contact,
resulting in his refusal to obey verbal commands.

#2 Domestic Violence Assault: Officers arrive on scene of DV Assault.
Suspect is a large, heavily muscled male who has beaten victim numerous
times. Suspect is highly intoxicated and angry.

Two officers move in to handcuff suspect, who is talking to third officer. Suspect hears officer behind him snap the handcuff case as officer takes cuffs out. Suspect immediately tenses up. Cuffing officer grabs right hand and attempts to handcuff. Suspect begins shaking officer around like rag doll. Officer two grabs left arm, attempts to apply some sort of finger lock. Suspect laughs at him as he pulls hand away.

We now have three folks struggling on a third floor landing of an apartment complex. Needless to say, space is limited. I was inside the apartment speaking with the victim when the fight began. I come outside and see both officers getting tossed around as they try to hang onto suspect's arms and hands. Third officer, that was outside initially is some what blocked on the stairwell by the other officers and is having a hard time getting into the fight.

I'm able to move up the middle and use a frontal head tip. Again, this
technique works well but due to space issues, we don't go straight to the ground. Instead, suspect strikes head on neighbors door. This works out alright as it stuns suspect enough to reapply head tip, this time taking him all the way to the ground. The only other problem I encountered was that the two other officers were still trying to hold on to the suspect. This minimized the impact onto the landing but it still worked well enough to take suspect into custody without officers or suspect sustaining any injuries.

These techniques are principle based, easy to learn and easy to apply. All my officers have been shown the basic head tipping drills and have utilized them on numerous occasions.

In closing, I whole heatedly support the information that Ken has been
putting out regarding suspect contact and control issues. I highly recommend that any officer interested in improving their defensive tactics skills attend any of the upcoming courses offered.

Respectfully submitted,

Sgt. Eric Hamry
Metro Pierce SRT



My point, I teach, preach balanced, sensitive and aware at all ranges of conflict, regardless of weapon, individual or team.

Soft does not mean ineffective, not painful or damaging to threats. This approach does allow for a fundamental in Law Enforcement and that is using only that force which is necessary to accomplish the task at hand.

Using counter measures like striking a 15-year old girl across the teeth with your MP-5 or kicking an elderly man in the chest with a good front thrust kick because they are in your way might not be the way to go. Extremely effective though….

Ken Good
12th July 2002, 07:28
My original comments to Kit:

http://www.e-budo.com/vbulletin/showthread.php?s=&threadid=11093

jellyman
12th July 2002, 13:47
Okay, I'm not a salesman, I have no fiscal interest in any of this, but some good questions were raised that I'd like to address.

Kit, you seem to set great store by your jujutsu. I understand that. I studied for 6-7 years doing it. I was convinced it was all-encompassing.

jujutsu is typically presented as a collection of procedural techniques. When I'd go to WKF seminars, the various experts, cops and suchlike, would show us recipe-like techniques. If he does this, you should do that. There was another side to this, of course - the sparring. But the sparring was different than the procedural techniques - nobody does what they are supposed to do. Of course, you can go over the catalog of techniques, pick out the key components - this throw, or that lock, and apply those as needed - the judo approach. However, what I've seen of sport jjj has taken maybe too much of the judo approach - I see very little in it that looks like the techniques we practice.

Systema, on the other hand, has no techniques. What you do is made up on the spot, and depends on what he does. One gripe I always had was, how come I never see kote-gaeshi in sport jjj? After systema, I think the answer is, because you can never really set up a kote-gaeshi, you can only grab them as they come by. Since doing them, I've landed some in sparring that I feel were legit (see http://hamiltonsystema.bserv.com/hamsys1.mpg for an example), Not all the time, no, but now and then. Well, it's a low percentage move, after all, so it's landed less often. Doesn't mean it doesn't work, but you have to be able to recognize when, at a sort of instinctive level. Systema has sharpened that instinct in me. Remember, one in a million chances crop up 9 times out of 10.

Now, I don't doubt a specialist could apply them more efficiently, but it might take more effort than I'm prepared to expend - there might be something with better results for the energy expenditure. Systema strategy is formless, too.

So now I hear you say 'Big deal, so now you can use kote-gaeshi, jujutsu has that'. Well, this gets back to Emery's post, which maybe you should read over. There is no real limit on core techniques either. You'll see wrist locking in systema, because wrist locks are possible. But you'll never hear anything named specifically. The closest thing I've heard to kote-gaeshi is 'twist the wrist'. But that's what they call kote-hinari, too. Instead of learning varieties of wrist lock, you're maybe given some guidelines - like how to recognize by feel the other guy's wrist is locked - and off you go to play. As a result, what you do is dictated by the immediate circumstances, and the anatomical options available. Is his head open? hit it. Groin exposed? kick it. Over balanced reaching for you? twist his wrist this way, etc. etc.

So - what you do at the time may seem highly improbable, impossibly specific, but it's all down to taking what you get, and adpating to the result.


I have to say however, that although I find some abstract benefit in much of the "soft" training within so-called internal arts, and I truly enioy practicing those concepts, I have serious doubts to their performance under extreme duress

I can only give you testimonial evidence for that. All I can say is systema has devotees among the police and military, and even the mercenary. My own experiences are nowhere near that intense, but under what intensity levels I've met as a civilian and sometimes sportsman using this stuff, they have held.


I likewise appreciate honesty in both life and training. Not sure what you mean by honesty as opposed to hard or soft. I

Hard and soft is a blurry thing. I notice you use judo and jujutsu as an example of 'hard'. I think of those as being soft. When I think 'hard', I think of kyokushin or something like that.

If by hard you mean the presence of resistance or use of force or power, I find that varies with the individual. That's not really something that concerns me, because the movements and principles, at least from my pov, are the same. As long as you are scrupulously honest in 'soft' mode, you will be okay in 'hard' mode. But it's not simply a hard-soft thing. There's skin work, muscle work, deep work, pain work...

Getting 'honked off' - I guess annoyed is a better word for it. Not quite angry. Doesn't mean I'm going to get sucked into the tactical error of going ballistic, and when it does happen (which it does) I just treat it as a training opportunity. It annoys me more when it hampers someone elses growth though.

R Erman
12th July 2002, 14:03
Ken,

Thanks for the rely. I've no doubt that suppleness can work. I'm a jujutsu man, there is a lot of suppleness/pliancy involved. I'm no advocate of hard styles. But hard is relative, as is soft, and the relaxed, no-muscle-only-good-physics type of movement has a tendency to take the backseat in a lot of confrontations.

Don't get me wrong, I think alot of what you guys do is awesome. I appreciate that you are educating people that the effects of adrenaline can be minimized, instead of saying that it's inevitable and you will lose all acute muscle movement.

I just still have reservations about alot of the "effortless" stuff.

Thanks again,

Rob Erman

Ken Good
12th July 2002, 14:20
Rob,

Don't get me wrong....

I don't consider my movements effortless. I'm just steering in that direction. I don't have enough time on target to be totally relaxed.
I have too much fear inside to be relaxed. But I have unloaded buckets full over the years.

We do a drill in which both combatants create as much tension as possible and then the "good guy" somewhere in the mix, lets it all go....crash tumble goes the "bad guy".

Try it. Put a stick, knife, pistol in your hand. Have the opponent wrap it up. Both of you start struggling at the mid-point off your 2 bases. Try to match the opponents tension and don't let him move or move you. Inhale, exhale, totally relax....watch the consistent result.

This is planning for tension, but working your way out.

What I put out, is that most in the heat of the moment, when surprised most will tense, grab and resist. But learn not to STAY there. Step out of the struggle for a moment and use relaxation as a weapon.

I also have another guy who when through some of our training who came up to me at an exposition to tell me how he applied this exact drill in a street struggle for his duty weapon. While dealing with another threat, he was blind-sided by a secondary threat who started grappling for his pistol. Caught up, he said he could almost audibly hear me say "Inhale, exhale, relax". He did and dumped the guy flat on his face without having to fire his weapon. The guys own tension and commitment to take the weapon provided the energy to the end the struggle.

If this doesn't make any sense...it would not surprise me as I have been working on my website all night....

Kit LeBlanc
12th July 2002, 18:10
Thanks Ken. Things are getting a little clearer. I'd like to see that last exercise. Maybe what we need is more descriptions and examples like that, a clip of that exercise to show other aspects of what you guys are doing and balance things out.

I had a long respohse but I 86-ed it. Jelly, that's not what I am talking about, we are on two different waves (like we don't already know that!). This is a circular argument though and won't be settled here, so I am bowing out until I can come back with a seminar or class review.

I mean it this time. I won't forget after THIS thread.:(

jellyman
13th July 2002, 14:28
I hope no bad feelings are lasting because of all this.

During the last week, we got a lot of comments about that clip. I decided to do something. So forget that old url for the clip, it's off the server.

The chief complaints were - too big, and no explanatory text. Now, i did have text on my site, but of course who would go there when you have the url for the clip, right?

This led me to discover the wonders of Windows Movie Maker, something I get with XP, and therefor *free*. I've reduced the clip to a 2.4 mb windows media file, which means you'll need windows media player to see it. It also included a couple of explanatory title slides. Now, this requires that you have Windows Media Player, but since most of us (I assume) have Win 98 or later, this shouldn't be an issue. I could have cut the vid to a .7 mb clip, but it looks a little too crappy imo. If you guys ask, I'll put it up, but it's low on the priority list. According to movie maker, if you have a 28.8 kb connection it should take you 11 minutes to download the 2.4mb version. Yeah, so that could be a 1/2 hour, depending on your server, but who has 28.8 in this day and age?

What has me stoked is that I have some massive (like 1/2 gig) clips that i should be able to shrink dramatically using this technology. And one good soul has pointed me to some free space. So there'll be more coming.

I'd convert to Real player too but I'd need a non-basic (ie paid for) verson of Real Player Producer, which costs about 200 us, or a year's income canadian.

So if you want the clip, go to my website http://groups.msn.com/RMAHamilton/_whatsnew.msnw and download it.
And Kit, there will be more. There are already more, in fact.
_________________

AmerROSS
13th July 2002, 18:47
I've never encountered a thread with so many references to my name without anyone contacted me to inquire as to the accuracies of how people represent my statements!

To John Elliot:

"You know, I have never read so much about systema and psychic energy with a certain somone's name attached before. This is definitely one for the archives. I had no idea SS did systema."

John, there are as many "Systema" in Russia as they are authored styles of Yoga in USA. I've trained in a few in Russia including those entertaining "psychic energy." If you or anyone else have questions about me, feel free to contact me directly, since you know how to do so.

"'Psychic' in psychic energy, under Ryabkos interpretation refers to the mind. Psychology." Just for a point of reference, Vladimir told me that there are three aspects to his teacher's Systema: Physical, Psychological and Psychic. If you say that the Psychic refers to the Psychological, is there then only two? Alexei Kadochnikov's system, in which I've had training in Russia as well as with Ryabko's system through Muscovite Oleg Shishkin (ask Mikhail) spoke that "Psychic" work was distinct from the "Psychological."

To the issue:

Now, in regards to my statements that have been represented throughout this thread without asking as to the accuracy of the interpretation, allow me to state the following:

Hard-Work is a term I tagged to what Russian Physical Culturalists call "Tempering" (popularized in the West by strength conditioning guru, my friend Pavel Tsatsouline, http://www.dragondoor.com) Tempering creates what sport psychologists such as Dr. James Loehr, Ed.D., call "Toughness" - the ability to resist failure. Hard-Work in martial art and combat sports refers to Effectiveness.

Effectiveness = Opportunity / Risk

I tagged the term Hard-Work to create symmetry between what I translated from the Russian Physical Culturalists calling "Soft-Work" in English language. Soft-Work creates what behavioral specialists and sport psychologists call "Flow" - the ability to remain composed under pressure. Soft-Work in martial art and combat sports refers to Efficiency.

Efficiency = Useful Work / Total Work

How to contradistinguish between these two training methodologies?

Dr. Grigori Raiport, M.D., Ph.D. explains some important sport psychology principles from Russian Physical Culture in his excellent primer book, "Red Gold: Peak Performance Techniques of the Russian and East German Olympic Victors." He describes paraphrased that what I call "Hard-Work" (Tempering) can be understood as follows:

Your Threshold of Performance = Yout Threshold of Pain.

How much you can "take" (toughly) determines how much you are able to accomplish.

A few interpretations of his material based upon my study in Russia with the Russian National Boxing Coach and the founder of ROSS, Alexander Retuinskih elaborates that what is called "Soft-Work" by various Russian Physical Culturalists can be understood as follows:

Your Threshold of Performance = Your Threshold of Fear-Reactivity.

How much you "resist" (Flow) determines how much you are able to accomplish.

Fear-Reactivity here refers not to the natural response of the organism to danger stimuli, but rather to the learned/conditioned fearful reactions (what behavioral specialists such as Dr. David Barlow in "Anxiety and its Disorders" call "Conditioned Defensive Action Tendencies")

My article taken from my website (http://www.RMAX.tv/nature.html) refers to the danger of not balancing Soft-Work and Hard-Work.

Too much Hard-Work and the body breaks down: ultimate failure in tissue, but also the learning curve plateaus rapidly and then diminishing returns turn to degenerative learning loss.

Too much Soft-Work and unrealistic tendencies encode: the practitioner becomes hypersuggestibile to stimuli.

I wrote an article entitled "Success is Invisible." The point of the article is this: you can only judge a man's development over his lifetime, not at any point in his training. For instance, from what I understand of Ueshiba, he was quite the scrapper in his early years, same with Funakoshi, same with Kano. There are many masters from various styles that have done amazingly challenging Hard-Work, basically they have increased their Threshold of Pain, and meet diminishing returns.

In later life, and don't misunderstand this as representing this as a stark contrast because from my experience it exists as a gradual continuum, once "Effective" individual begin to work on "Efficiency." (What else is there once effective? Where do you go but towards Efficiency?) These practitioners begin to refine their abilities through various training protocol regarding decreasing their Threshold of Fear-Reactivity.

Increasing the Threshold of Pain and decreasing the Threshold of Fear-Reactivity are the two protocol for creating FLOW in fighting that I describe in "Flow-Fighting: Toughness Training for Martial Arts and Combat Sports" (http://www.RMAX.tv/flowfight.html)

People that view practitioners in their later life refining development assume that they must BEGIN training in Soft-Work and thus can end-run the necessity of Hard-Work. This is blantantly false. Worse are the people who claim to be able to teach that Hard-Work is unnecessary.

I've only spoken with Vladimir on the phone, but some of my clients have trained with him and some of his students have trained with me. I also have had students of Mikhail train with me, and some of my clients with him. From this above interaction, I deduce that Vladimir and Mikhail still teach "Tempering" and both have had significant Hard-Work in their training history, and now work on "Soft-Work" to continue to refine their development. This is just an assumption, obviously, and to know for sure, you should contact Vladimir and Mikhail directly as advised by several in this thread.

It's difficult to determine the actual training context/history of an individual without interacting with that individual directly. Do so to avoid polemic. It's easy to look at Michael Jordan, Tom Kite, Joe Montana, Mario Sperry, Chris Evert and try to reproduce their effortlessness (level of efficiency) through regurgitation of their current level of refinement. You can't see the "invisible sucess" of all their Hard-Work. And no one can end-run that Hard-Work.

For God's sake, please don't drop my name and use my comments to pit one against another. Please refrain from representing my statements until it can be confirmed with me directly when interpreting what I have written or spoken. Thank you.

If anyone has any questions about my comments, I am rarely online these days, so you may contact me at my office: sonnon@RMAX.tv or 770-956-9765.

Scott Sonnon
RMAX Performance Solutions
http://www.RMAX.tv

jellyman
13th July 2002, 19:05
Alexei Kadochnikov's system, in which I've had training in Russia as well as with Ryabko's system through Muscovite Oleg Shishkin (ask Mikhail) spoke that "Psychic" work was distinct from the "Psychological."

My understanding of the psychological is that it refers to emotions in your enemy and yourself. You make him scared, for example. Or you make him angry. You learn to deal with your fear and anger. For instance, Vlad has told me that most beginners are not pychologically ready for small movements, and feel the need to intercept incoming strikes further from the body, whereas when you have gotten to systema's psychological path, you will be able to intercept at increasingly smaller distances from your body (we call it 'thin work') - he then told me this was where I had to go. This is pretty obvious when you read the systema guide book, and he describes the handling of corpses from murders and gruesom accidents as part of his psyhcological training, to get over the emotional reaction to death. (No, we don't handle corpses).

Psychic, as mentioned in 'beyond the physical' refers to reflexes embedded in the mind. You will know that you are scared, but you will not know why you flinch from a knife in the face. At least, you won't know why when you did it. It refers to sublimanal, subconscious processes in your opponent and yourself. At least that's how it was explained to me by Vlad and Mikhail both in person in Toronto, Russia, and on that seminal tape, 'Beyond the Physical'.

There is more than one aspect to psychology (i.e. the science, as opposed to psychology in the systema context).

And Scott, I really had no idea you'd trained with one of Ryabko's students.

Emery
13th July 2002, 22:17
All these posts are fantastic. I'm learning a lot.

I would like to point out that while the term "psychic" definitely creates a ton of mis-understanding, there are two important issues that are being ignored or illegitimately conflated in this discussion and that it's worthwhile to tease apart and make explicit.

(1) While the tag "psychic energy" has turned out to be a semantic disaster, it remains a fact that the human being is surrounded by a subtle energy shell (actually several layers of depth and of various types). The exact nature of this energy is not fully understood. Science will catch up. Please keep in mind that the concept of the "gene", required for the full explication of Darwinian natural selection, was not understood by Darwin himself. Though the idea had already been elaborated by Mendel, it was not known to mainstream scientists when Darwin wrote. His theory requires such a mechanism, which was later generally accepted. Likewise, the existence of atoms could only be theoretically predicated prior to the existence of high-tech electronic sensors, but they were fully predicted and understood as a concept prior to that confirmation. So, the human/animal energy shell is there. You can feel it for yourself, easily, with a few minutes of instruction (no big ego deal about that), and then confirm it with anybody you meet.

So we have two problems. Problem [a] is when people just reject Point (1) above, out of hand. Such people are just wrong! Sorry. That's an easy call though. The downside of the term "psychic energy" in this context is that "psychic" calls up connotations of mind-reading or table-tipping or channeling and such irrelevant baggage. But that's just a minor issue of terminology, Point (1) stands and will stand, game over.

The other (opposite) problem comes up when suggestable people assume that, given the existence of the energy shell, and given that some historically supreme combat masters such as Ueshiba, Vasiliev, and others at the pinnacle of martial arts ability, appear to have some extra sensitivity to such energy fields. Or, their speech or action is somewhat consistent with the possibility of directly manipulating such fields in real-world combat. This leads to my ...

(2) - Just because these energy fields exist, and just because great masters may implicitly or explicitly appear to refer to their use as a component of their overall solution approach, does NOT mean that any Joe off the street, even a Joe who can easily feel and detect such fields (like me), is likely to have ANY sucess whatever with such subtle detections and manipulations in a strictly combat context ! That is only possible at the very highest Musashi/Ueshiba/Vasiliev/Ryabko level of attainment which very few people will ever reach (just as - how often do we see a Barishnikov, a Tolstoy, a Michelangelo ?) The deployment and manipulation of such energies, in the real world, for regular students generally DOES require an 'agreement' - be that uke/nage, push-hands, healing context, EF demo psycho-social agreements, and all the others. That doesn't make it fake unless explicitly misrepresented, but it can lead to wrong conclusions in casual observers.

So, we are left with Scott Sonnen's excellent points (above) about all kinds of training being required for regular people to make the grade in the real world, there's just no way around that.

That now said (re energy) my orginal post earlier stands independently, as confirmed by John's perfectly articulated post about sensing the "present moment" situation only, the excellence of Systema for me is that Vlad is, albeit slowly and severly inhibited and limited by my own personal cramps and kinks on all levels ... Systema is teaching me to be ... free.

It is qualitatively radically unlike any other form of study I have ever undertaken in my life and I've studied a lot of things (not just martial arts I mean).

Sorry, getting too personal here.

AmerROSS
14th July 2002, 05:35
John, I've exhausted my online quota for this weekend, but I wanted to comment quickly.

Thanks for the clarification. Your distinction of their system makes sense. This distinction clearly is not drawn in clinical psychology from my understanding. However, the contexts with which you explain the distinction in Mikhail's Systema (based upon my experiences in Russia) now becomes discernable. PE work sounds curiously similar to "decreasing the threshold of Fear-Reactivity." Perhaps some day, individuals trained in my system and theirs will be able to determine the veracity of that hypothesis.

Next - I don't discus my training history because firstly, rarely does someone ask. Secondly, describing my training history lends the impression that I "represent" that which I've studied or those with whom I've interacted. I know that when I've had clients train with me for X amount of time, they assume X comprises what I teach. X remains only what the individual experiences. Granted, "public opinion" views that if one states one's historical experiences then one represents "collections of X's". Igor Stravinsky said, "I have learned throughout my life as a composer chiefly through my mistakes and pursuits of false assumptions, not by my exposure to founts of wisdom and knowledge." I concur. Though I've experienced much more from many teachers and coaches than I'll discus without being face-to-face, they all had one thing in common: the great ones told me that I'm "on my own." It's a solo journey. This is why, as anyone honest will testify - I only claim to represent myself. I don't represent any of my coaches and teachers, though I make it ostensible to anyone inquiring.

And anyone that claims to represent me, or attempts to interpret/represent a statement by me speculates only.

-----------------------------

Scott, for someone that has trained with me in person, why can't you spell my name correctly? :)

Based upon your post, I can say this: I have a personal preference that you, I assume, view as a limitation. I prefer to go at the "slow speed" of science; call it my "Pennsylvania Dutch" pragmatism. Perhaps my development will arrest some day as a result, who knows? I have not seen that occur at this point - in fact, just the opposite. In my opinion, "science" is mysterious, empowering and infinite process of discovery, as any mystical discipline purports to be. And discovery as Albert von Szent-Gyorgy said, "consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought."

-----------------------------

To all:

Russian training remains as diverse and multi-faceted as any cultural tradition. Dan Millman once wrote that there are three things in the universe - humor, paradox, and change. Paradox interests me, because what has been true at one point in my life, changes with the next, and then changes back again to the original POV. I've come to accept the point of a "meticulous skeptic" - one who only accepts that which can be replicated successfully under identical variables, yet one who can suspend judgement of a point of view that contradicts his current perspective. IMO, it is possible for two things to contradict each other and equally be valid.

Cultural martial traditions possess cultural contexts that when scrutinized outside of context appear to contradict an other cultural perspective.

In my opinion, it's better to unplug the blasted 'puter and get back to training.

Regards,
Scott Sonnon
RMAX Performance Solutions
http://www.RMAX.tv

Kit LeBlanc
14th July 2002, 16:38
Scott,

Sorry to have taken your name in vain. Thanks for the clarification.

Emery,

Thanks be to you, too. Your conceptualization really helped get a better grasp on what you guys are attempting to do.

Kit

AmerROSS
14th July 2002, 18:45
Kit, thanks, but I don't think you took my name in "vain." I commented only on the accuracy of interpreting my words by several posters. Moreover, by using my words the posters distanced themselves from ownership of the conversation by standing behind my name. Doing so drops my name against Vladimir and Mikhail. This behavior creates childish defensiveness in an opposing camp who attack me ad hominem, even though I had never been present in the conversation. This has been done for years now, between Vladimir and I. I've spoken with Vladimir and he and I have no problems with each other... it remains a conflict fabricated by anonymous cowards that desire more soap-opera drama in their lives.

To your credit Kit, there are quite a few institutionable whack-jobs in Russia, who actually believe (and worse condition others to believe) that Hard-Work is not necessary, and that special, esoteric powers were given to them by Divinity. They are not beautiful, unique snowflakes, and need one of the special Gi closing in the back with the arms tied behind. However, I presume this is not limited to Russian Martial Art - the presence of weak minds seems to be pan-cultural. I've known people in Russia whom over the years moved into "the castle in the sky" believing that Soft-Work was reality, and not just a training tool. Actually, I've seen quite of few enthusiasts who made themselves "believers" even in USA. Jonathon Ellsworth Winter said, "we don't see life as it is, but as we are." I would add that we see life as we want it to be. People want paranormal superpowers so badly that they will convince themselves of very strange beliefs. As if becoming a good fighter is something simplistic and banal.

I've also participated in the type of exercise demonstrated in that clip with Mikhail. And to John Elliot's defense, no amount of labeling, describing or elaborating upon the nature of the drill will convince non-participating observers as to the performance goals and benefit of the exercise.

I reject the idea that people in the refinement stage of their life are miraculous. I reject the notion that there are "beautiful, unique snowflakes" that deserve reverence. Daniel Quinn said, "the difference between a teacher and a false-prophet is that the false-prophet tells you and expects you to believe, where the teacher presents the facts and tells you to figure it out for yourself." Call me an uncouth American, but Kano, Ueshiba, Funakoshi, etc... were nothing special.

They were normal people doing what others found difficult: the Hard-Work. Like Henri-Frederic Amiel wrote, "doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius."

Doing Hard-Work easily is talent, but what happens when one becomes talented? For those that cannot afford the time, I assume maintenance of Hard-Work becomes the training protocol. But what then for those that can train consistently, sustained, over a lifetime? What is impossible for the talented? Where lies genius work?

What appears as "impossible" to talented fighters is the Soft-Work. I believe it appears as "impossible" because of the inherent dangers of Soft-Work, and because of the innate honesty of talented fighters. Talented fighters hold suspect all of the belligerent snake-oil salesmanship that runs rampant worldwide: the promises of powers, the portrayal of charismatic leaders as demi-Gods and the cultish, group-think organizations which they form and manipulate. Talented fighters pragmatically plod along as the "slow pace of science" carefully choosing their path. And well they should.

The great method acting coach Stanislavsky wrote that one should, "make the difficult habitual: what is habitual will become easy, and what is easy will become agreeable." It's difficult for talented fighters to move beyond effectiveness. He should take care and take his time. There's no rush. He should investigate and query and experiment. There's every need to do so. Soft-Work should always be tempered with Hard-Work to boil away the slag of misfit gurus.

Soft-Work is a gradual process of skepticism and brave experimentation. Soft-Work is not distinct from Hard-Work, but is rather a natural intensification and refinement of Hard-Work discovery. This produces genius. Nothing "special" in genius. Genius SHOULD be the norm. The talented are those whom make the difficult easy and agreeable. Then having done so, they explore if the impossible is possible to actualize their genius.

Talented fighters should trust their intuition - their ability to recognize truth and falsity, for as Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, "mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius."

Regards,
Scott Sonnon
RMAX Performance Solutions
http://www.RMAX.tv

Emery
14th July 2002, 19:53
Yes - Scott SonnOn has written just what needs to be said about unfounded mysticism, above. We are so lucky to have Vlad and Mikhail to cut through unfounded, self-delusional fluff, and demonstrate the higher work down where the tires meet the pavement.

I will also say that though I am a student of Vladimir, I have been privileged in the past year or two to attend several of Scott's small-group, semi-private local training sessions and I can state from first-hand knowledge, without reservation, that Mr. Sonnon is a superb trainer, a fantastic professional, and an asset of unique value to those who can seek him out.

Since my personal training wavelength had already been tuned to Vlad, I persist long-term with the Systema stream.

James Williams
25th December 2002, 17:18
Systema
Seminar
Taught by
Vladimir Vasiliev
February 8th and 9th 2003
At the Dojo of the Four Winds
Encinitas California


This is a comprehensive two day seminar on Systema taught by Vladimir Vasiliev. Vladimir, a former Spetsnaz operative, is the foremost student of Mikhail Ryabko in the western hemisphere. Vladimir’s personal skills and teaching abilities are truly exceptional. Vladimir studied at the Moscow Spets Institute, with ten years extensive military experience with the Special Operations Unit in Spetsnaz. He is a former trainer for the Russian Paratroopers, Swat Teams and Elite Bodyguards.
Systema is an ancient Russian martial art that dates from the 10th century. It was nurtured in the Russian Orthodox monasteries and in the Russian culture until the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Russian culture was surpressed by the communists. Systema became the pervue of a few elite Spetsnaz (Special Operations) Units of the Russian military. These units underwent intense training in Systema and used it frequently in the many decades of modern warfare. These ancient physical, mental, and psychic techniques have proven themselves invaluable in modern practical application.
Systema contains a deep spiritual imperative as well as it’s martial imperative. As has been true with certain warrior systems in other cultures morality is essential to living an honorable life. Your art should reflect your life and your life should reflect your beliefs. You should be a good person as well as a good warrior, the two cannot be separated. The Systema operating system is faith based which reflects it origins in the ancient Russian culture.
Articles in regards to Systema as well as Information on the location of the Dojo of the Four Winds is located at http://www.dojoofthefourwinds.com. The cost for the two day seminar is $150.00. Mat space is limited so it will be necessary to register as soon as possible.

For information contact
James Williams
james@bugei.com
760 753-2060
www.dojoofthefourwinds.com
Checks can be mailed to
James Williams
337 Melrose St.
Enicinitas, CA 92024

Nathan Scott
11th February 2003, 18:55
[Post deleted by user]

Jay Bell
12th February 2003, 00:35
*click* Light bulb just went on.

Kwan came up to me and pointed you out...saying that you trained with Obata sensei...but I didn't realize who you were :(

I was outside with you and James when he was talking about his very extensive title collection :D

I wish you could have seen more. That stick is a singer in Vlad's hands.

I'll write more about the seminar when I get some time later tonight.

James Williams
12th February 2003, 02:57
Nathan,

I wish that you had gotten the opportunity to be able to see and work with Vladimir I know that you would have found it very interesting. Many things in Systema look similar to other arts however when you actually work with them you find that they are really quite different. I was surprised when i first work with Mikhail Ryabko how different the actual experience was from the opnon that I had formed from watching the video's. Far more sophisticated and subtle than it looks on tape and at the same time very effective.

Vladimir will not be back this way until the Aiki Expo so I look forward to seeing you there. You know that you are always welcome in my dojo for what ever exchange of ideas you are interested in. Give me a call the next time that you are in the area.

Regards,

James

jchetty
12th February 2003, 07:50
I've been lurking around here for a while now. I don't post much as I'm here primarily to learn from the more knowledgeable. I feel I am able to gauge which members are worth listening to (for their knowledge) and which members have their opinions (which they are entitled to).

So I am quite intrigued by Systema given that people like James Williams gives it this much respect. Especially after watching James chop up those tatami roles, he seems like a no BS guy.

However, if anybody made claims of a Japanese art with a 1000 year history, nurtured by budhist monks, blah, blah etc. They would be ridiculed, posted up in bad/baffling budo, mercilessly attacked etc. In almost all cases deservedly so.

But James makes similar claims for Systema (as well as claims of "psychic techniques"). My natural, sceptical, reaction to these claims is "yeah right!".

So my questions for James (and anyone else) are :
1) What evidence is there for Systema's historical claims?
2) Why do you call some of their techniques psychic? I would appreciate your reasoned opinion on this one.

Thanks for your time,

Respectfully,

Jairaj Chetty

Mark Jakabcsin
12th February 2003, 15:05
Originally posted by jchetty


So my questions for James (and anyone else) are :
1) What evidence is there for Systema's historical claims?

Jairaj,
I ain't James (I'm much shorter) but I am 'anyone else' so I will take a stab at this. The claims of Systema history are just that claims. Believe it or not that is your choice. Considering the country that Systema has come from and that countries history in the past 80 years it is unlikely that you will ever see the written historical proof you desire. Whatever proof did exsist was most likely destroyed in the 20's and 30's as Stalin attempted to remove all things Russian and/or that tied back to the Czars. If this lack of written proof means you are not interested in the art, so be it. You are free to look elsewhere.

Personally, I don't think a system as deep as Systema could be developed in one generation. This does not validate the claims, but then I am not overly concerned with the claims to begin with. The system far exceeds anything else I have seen to date.



Originally posted by jchetty

2) Why do you call some of their techniques psychic? I would appreciate your reasoned opinion on this one.

I am not sure the term 'psychic' is used in the same context as you are implying in your post. A quick review of the dictionary has the following definitions: adj. 1 (of a person) considered to have occult powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. 2 of the soul or mind -n. 3 person considered to have psychic powers.

I realize the common use of the word psychic is the first or third definitions and those are the ones everyone jumps to, however in my limited experience in Systema I believe when Vladimir uses the word psychic he is using definition number 2. From what I have seen Systema has an indepth study of the mind (both uke & tori) and how best to use or manipulate the mind with real or perceived stimuli. This is wholely different than definition number 1. Nothing mystical about it, although sometimes the results are a bit freaky. Take care.

mark

James Williams
12th February 2003, 17:53
Mark,

Thanks for stepping in with an excellent viewpoint and good information.

Jairaj,

There are several factors here and I will try and address them the best that I can.

When I first viewed Systema on video tape I could tell that it was an edged weapon (sword) based art as this is an area with which I am familiar. (And when we talk of Systema we are referring to Ryabko Systema as taught by Mikhail Ryabko and his very superior student Vladimir Vasiliev.) All of the core movements and strategy come from an environment that existed for a long time in human history. There is a version of Systema or perhaps several that do not evidence this connection to any great degree. Even though I was impressed by the video’s I did not realize how sophisticated Systema was until I spent some time with Mikhail. I have also had the benefit of working with Misha with broad swords in Russia. He worked with me because of my interest in the ancient roots and how they impact the more modern aspects of the art. I hope to continue that study this summer in Moscow.

The Russian Orthodox monks, unlike Roman Catholic monks, defended their own monasteries. There are accounts from the 11th and 12th centuries of monks fighting with swords against far greater odds and prevailing. Russian Orthodox Christianity also has some practical mystical aspects, for want of a better word at the moment, that seem to have been lost in the western tradition. Obviously much of the curriculum has been changed to adapt to the more modern environment however the roots are still the driving force behind what is more of an operating system than a martial art in the normal use of the term. Systema is not made up of techniques, has no forms, and is not taught in the way that you would be used to in other martial arts. Because of this aspect Systema cannot be written down in the manner say of Okuden scrolls etc. that might be part of an Oriental system. I am hoping to finish an article on Systema after I get back in town next week that might also shed some light on this subject. So it is the strategy and operating system that has evolved and been passed down not a set ryuha.

Physic energy is also something that I will explain in more detail in the article. Look at it like fire. We don’t own it and can’t “make” it. It is not an intrinsic part of us. We learned how to recognize conditions in which fire will manifest as an energy release. We can use it and create those conditions and this gives us ability. There are many other analogies to existing energy systems that we use most of which at one time in human history we did not know how to access, there are others that most of mankind are not aware of. This does not mean that these energies do not exist it just means that they cannot be used at this point until awareness and understanding reach a point where we can access them. Again a post is not sufficient to go into great detail.

The best way is through experience. Go to a seminar and actually feel what is happening. Something like Systema cannot be viewed and understood. Some of it will immediately “look” something like things that you are familiar with however when you experience them they will not be the same.

I have been very fortunate in being able to train with some truly exceptional men throughout the world from various disciplines. This gives men some basis for comparison. Systema has the most free and sophisticated operating system that I have seen and that alone warrants closer inspection.

Sincerely,

James

jchetty
12th February 2003, 18:56
Thank you both for your replies.

Systema is really hard to describe adequately, I don't follow much of what you guys are saying about the nature of it. I guess watching it on screen might be a bit better, but not much.

As to the historical claims. You guys (both of you) are saying it appears to be old because of its richness/depth. In addition James is saying it appears to be old as it exhibits the traits of a sword based art. Both are valid arguments for me, but not evidence.

I would not make those historical claims though. Systema seems to impress you guys without needing them. That should be enough. There are more than a few proveably old arts that are not very good and lots of new ones that are good.

As to the "psychic" techniques, Marks second definition I could accept. If I'm correct in understanding it to be stuff like subtle deception etc. The stuff James brings up about other energies etc. I don't follow so will leave alone.

Systema does intrigue me a little. I'd like to see it some time, but as I don't live in North America I don't have the same opportunities you guys have (seminar circuits etc.)

Thanks for your time,

Jairaj Chetty

budoboy
12th February 2003, 20:26
I was at the seminar this weekend at the Dojo of the Four Winds. I'd like to share some of my impressions.

Overall I was very impressed. I really was surprised that they did not practice techniques. Everything was spontaneous and without form. Even the attacks were not preset. I see this freedom and adaptability as stemming from a form of mushin. Vladimir was so relaxed and calm when dealing with unpredictable attacks.

The aiki was similar to what I had experienced in the Bujinkan and in Yanagi Ryu Aikijujutsu. Lots of timing tricks and attention diversions. Very effective against a good uke or determined attacker.

Another thing I liked was their method of hitting with only the dead weight of the limb. Striking in that manner was not only extremely effective (felt like a firecracker went off inside my body) but it gives the uke no input as to your position. My friend Clayton was able to hit me from angles I did not think he could possibly hit me based on his relative position to me.

Also interesting was the way they used consecutive strikes alone to imbalance and throw an attacker to the ground. I really liked this.

I did not see many finishing moves(joint locks, immobilizations, etc.) Vladimir seemed more interested in flowing and dropping the opponent to the ground.

Also much like any art your uke will partially determine your level of success. I trained with a few guys who were tired and did not feel like receiving which made flowing with them difficult. This is the lot of the reason in many arts why people end up manhandling their partners.

I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance.

Jeff Sherwin

Nathan Scott
12th February 2003, 22:43
[Post deleted by user]

kokumo
13th February 2003, 02:06
Originally posted by James Williams
Russian Orthodox Christianity also has some practical mystical aspects, for want of a better word at the moment, that seem to have been lost in the western tradition.

Psychic (correction fl) energy is also something that I will explain in more detail in the article. Look at it like fire. We don’t own it and can’t “make” it. It is not an intrinsic part of us. We learned how to recognize conditions in which fire will manifest as an energy release. We can use it and create those conditions and this gives us ability. There are many other analogies to existing energy systems that we use most of which at one time in human history we did not know how to access, there are others that most of mankind are not aware of. This does not mean that these energies do not exist it just means that they cannot be used at this point until awareness and understanding reach a point where we can access them. Again a post is not sufficient to go into great detail.



I don't know anything beyond what I've seen of the clips of Systema, but as a student of comparative religion, I can confirm some portion of what James writes here. Both the Greek and Russian Orthodox traditions have preserved various kinds of contemplative and meditative exercises that were, for the most part, forcibly suppressed within the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions; there have been a number of very small scale inter-tradition sharing and learning initiatives in this respect in the past two decades. One of the factors that has made this possible is that contemplative monastics are often much more concerned with specific practices and specific effects than with doctrinal pronouncements regarding any of the above, whatever faith they are ostensibly aligned with.

In addition, along with the Russian Orthodox faith, Buddhism is a legally recognized religion in Russia and the former Republics, as a result of its longstanding role within the culture. And Buddhism has a long, long tradition of detailed study in this same area of "psychic energies." Given the lengthy coexistence of the Orthodox and Buddhist (particularly Tantric Buddhist in North Central Asia) traditions and the aforementioned tendency to focus on PRACTICE of both, it would be fairly surprising if there wasn't some serious interchange. It is also the case that Mongolian Buddhist monastics protected their own monasteries on a number of documented occasions and were interested in such applications, which would generally be named "siddhi." The flexibility of individual teachers wrt to the social or religious background of people they ran into is a clear feature of Buddhist Tantric literature; teachers are generally presented as bumping into someone when conditions are right and that person is "ripe," which is ultimately the most important thing. So additional avenues for cross-fertilization existed for a long, long time.

The tantric literature is also replete with cautionary tales emphasizing the way in which the development of "siddhi," absent a fundamental baseline of ethical behavior, can lead to bad results for the practitioner and others; this seems very much in keeping with some of the emphasis James has placed in earlier posts on Systema.

My point is not that this is Buddhist material which has been preserved in the Russian Orthodox tradition, but that there is good evidence that individuals of the same culture in both the Buddhist and Russian Orthodox traditions focussed on these matters historically, and that there is a long history of interplay between those traditions which hasn't been much studied (or if it has, the material is almost all written in Mongolian or Cyrillic letters). So, even absent a documentary trail, a lot of the features are congruent enough with the claims that if we were talking rare birds, many serious birders would regard Systema as worth a trip to see if this really is a species once thought to be extinct.

Conversely, I tend to be pretty skeptical about this sort of claim and it's usually pretty easy to dismiss them out of hand. I think this one bears closer examination.

Best,

Fred Little

Tom Douglas
19th February 2003, 18:09
This comment is not about Ryabko and Vasiliev's Systema in particular, but Russian martial arts generally. Russian martial arts emerged from multiple roots, some of which are undoubtedly very ancient, some of which (like Kadochnikov's system)continue to evolve. Following is an interesting look at some of those historical sources. Much of the development appears to have happened in the twentieth century, stemming from late-Czarist-era and post-Revolutionary work, including "field research" at Kano's Kodokan and wandering around Mongolia and China.

http://glory.nsu.ru/projects/satbi/satbi-e/martart/ruseng.html

Here is another interesting article on an encounter between Chinese and Soviet troops, in part dealing with hand-to-hand combat:

http://members.tripod.com/~CombatMachine/kemp05_e.htm

Finally, there is a Ukrainian gentleman in the San Diego area who works with a martial art that includes a lot of Chinese influences (this from a baguazhang teacher there that I know). In the course of following this up, I came across the remarkable (to me) fact that historically (over the past several hundred years), people of Russian ancestry have lived in Chinese domains, continuing to speak Russian and maintain their Russian culture and identity--even today. The possibilities for cross-fertilization in martial arts seems great in those circumstances.

I'd also like to respond to one of the two distinctions Nathan raised in an earlier post distinguishing between Systema and traditional Japanese ryu-ha, something to the effect that to him Systema does not appear to have a traditional etiquette or standard of behavior attached to it. At least in the Ryabko/Vasiliev teaching, there is much emphasis on simple common decency, and an atmosphere of authentic good will in hard training that is not commonly seen even in very traditional Japanese dojos.

Ryabko has been quoted as saying that being "a good person" is essential to Systema practice. I don't know whether this simple moral tenet is Ryabko's overlay, or was central to the way Systema was taught to Spetsnaz units (but it is hard for me to imagine concern among Spetsnaz troops for anything more than lethal efficiency as they slit the throats of sleeping Afghans, nor much of a moral center in Stalin's bodyguard "Uncle Peter" who taught Ryabko). The balance and tension between the warrior's code of conduct and the lethality of his martial practice is a fascinating topic.

Nathan Scott
19th February 2003, 21:15
[Post deleted by user]

Jay Bell
19th February 2003, 21:45
Hey Nathan,

From my understanding, the student you spoke of seems to put the chicken before the egg.

Sambo was the attempt at the Soviet government to stifle Russian Martial Art under one banner of combat and sport. It's said to be the ecclectic bringing together of Jujutsu, Judo, Kickboxing and 25 seperate styles of Russian combat systems.

Systema, in it's current form, was developed by the Soviet government based on the Russian ethnic combat systems. Many arts were researched looking for something that they felt encompassed everything they needed in hand-to-hand combat and health. It was understood by them that they already had everything they needed in the old styles of Russian Martial Art.

Taken from a Sambo history site:

"As the yoke of the oppressive Soviet regime lifted, the information and the truth concerning its intentional covert nature and the wealth of research and experimentation became available to rest of the world. With the veil of deception removed, Sambo is recognizable in its ultimate origin: Russian Martial Art.

Although Russian Martial Art is the mother of Sambo, due to the influence of foreign "tricks", Sambo soon became a mere curriculum of techniques lacking any high degree of depth and substance. To avoid Soviet attention, Russian Martial Art remained in practice under the concealed title of "Combat Sambo Spetsnaz" at higher levels within the military, among the elite combat subdivisions of Spetsnaz. Even though classified with the label of "absolute secrecy", the training was often referred to merely as "The System".

Sambo continues to be confused with Russian Martial Art because of the state-fashioned falsification and distortion of historical and technical data, as well as the vanguard protection of Russian Martial Art heritage under the guise of the title, "Combat Sambo Spetsnaz"."


For more, click here (http://www.elitekombat.net/print_sambo.htm)

Nathan Scott
19th February 2003, 23:32
[Post deleted by user]

James Williams
20th February 2003, 00:04
Gentlemen,

There are a few things here that i would like to clear up. Mikhail Ryabko was not taught by “Uncle Peter”. One of Vladimir's early teachers was this man. When I asked Vladimir what the difference was with Mikhail’s Systema Vladimir said that it was more pure.

Mikhail is Russian Orthodox, much of his “inner” training comes from these roots. His physical training was basically completed by his mid teens and most of the rest of his training consisted of more subtle breath related and psychic energy work.

Asking a Russian about the Systema that was taught by Mikhail to a very select number of elite Spets personnel, about 100, is not going to be of any value. They will know nothing of this except perhaps by rumor if they were in other Spets units, or have actually worked with Mikhail. Soviet Society was extremely closed with little information dissemination especially in regards to this type of training. This military community is still not talkative about training or military operations and it is difficult to get much information from them.

Regards,

James

Tom Douglas
20th February 2003, 00:35
Thanks for the clarifications, James. My mention of "Uncle Peter" was based on my imperfect recollection of an interview with Vladimir Vasiliev at http://russianmartialart.org/rmadotcom/html/fightman.html. You're correct that "Uncle Peter" was an early teacher of Vasiliev's, not Ryabko's.

And Nathan, thank you for clarifying what you meant by your contrast of traditional Japanese ryuhas' view of codes of conduct. I did take your initial post to imply that concern with conduct or a moral basis for taking action was not part of the Ryabko/Vasiliev teaching. Again, what Ryabko teaches by way of moral example and what Spetsnaz troops who he trained in Systema learned may differ. Vasiliev's recounting of the intensity of his Spetsnaz training doesn't seem to include much concern with how to be a "good" person, a concern that is central to his teaching today (from what I understand).

The history is interesting, but it's what is being done today that's most important, IMO.

Best regards.

kokumo
20th February 2003, 01:12
Originally posted by Tom Douglas
In the course of following this up, I came across the remarkable (to me) fact that historically (over the past several hundred years), people of Russian ancestry have lived in Chinese domains, continuing to speak Russian and maintain their Russian culture and identity--even today. The possibilities for cross-fertilization in martial arts seems great in those circumstances.

Yes, the cross-pollination has been going on for some time and it seems that there are remnant populations that have maintained practices older than either Orthodox Christianity or Buddhism still out there.

Check out the attached photo of Ms. "Nellya A. Prushenova......(in a)tiny village in the mountainous Russian region of Buryatiya, just north of Mongolia."

"The villagers practice Buryat shamanism, a set of beliefs that centers around a reverence for nature. Trees and rivers are worshiped. The main prayer rite in the spring celebrates, as Ms. Prushenova says, "the earth waking up."

The full article, which is primarily devoted to the clash between preservation of sacred woodlands and a proposed pipeline construction project can be found at in the online edition of the NY Times at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/19/international/europe/19RUSS.html

Fred Little

James Williams
20th February 2003, 22:23
Nathan et al,

Here is an article by Stan Pranin that might be of interest in regards to this subject.

Overview of Systema and its Relevance to Aikido

Seeing Systema for the first time

My first exposure to Systema, the Russian Martial Art popularized by Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev, came in April 2001. I was in attendance at the formal presentation of a Shindo Yoshin-ryu Menkyo Kaiden to Sensei Toby Threadgill in Dallas, Texas. At the party following the ceremony, a group gathered in the living room to watch martial arts videos. At least 20 of us--mostly seasoned martial artists with decades of training experience--watched parts of videotapes of several styles and eventually got to one on a Russian martial art that most were seeing for the first time.

The tape featured a certain Mikhail Ryabko conducting a seminar in Russia for a group of visiting foreign martial artists. Mikhail. a recently-retired colonel in the Russian Army, is a short, stout man with incredible sensitivity whose movements seemed more "aiki"-like than what goes on in most aikido dojos. The husky foreign students on the video were obviously strong, experienced people and Mikhail easily dispatched them in a way that might look faked to the untrained eye. We all were captivated by Mikhail's skills and some very nice compliments were offered by those present. I made a mental note to check out this Systema more in detail at some later date.

A few months later I received an enthusiastic call from James Williams of Bugei Trading Company who had visited Toronto to attend a Systema seminar taught by Mikhail Ryabko and hosted by Vladimir Vasiliev. James, as is well-known to many Aikido Journal readers, has an extensive background in both empty-handed and weapons-based arts and is not easily impressed. He was effusive in his praise of Mikhail and Vladimir and went on to say that he had never seen a teaching methodology that could develop skilled students so quickly.

Shortly thereafter, I purchased several Systema tapes featuring Mikhail and Vladimir to take a closer look for myself. What I saw was truly impressive! The scope of the curriculum and sophistication of the techniques were remarkable. Not only did I want to try Systema myself, but I got to thinking that cross-training in this art might be of great benefit to aikidoka so compatible were the two systems. It was a natural jump from there to proposing to James that Systema might fit very nicely with the theme of Aiki Expo 2003. James liked the idea and, on my urging, extended an invitation to Vladimir Vasiliev to join our group of seminar instructors at this year's Aiki Expo. Vladimir seemed pleased at this invitation coming from outside of the Systema circle and accepted.

Since I still had no first hand knowledge of Systema, I talked with James about going to Toronto to meet with Vladimir in person. James, whose enthusiam for Systema had redoubled after traveling to Moscow to again train with Mikhail, seemed to be looking for a good excuse to go a second time to Toronto.

To Toronto with James to meet Vladimir

On October 10, 2002, James and I boarded a plane for Toronto to spend the weekend training with Vladimir and his students. We scheduled a time to meet with Vladimir privately to conduct an interview and to explain in greater detail the concept behind Aiki Expo 2003. I had high expectations about Vladimir based on what James had told me and my viewing of the Systema videotapes. Vladimir didn't disappoint. He is one of the finest human beings I've ever met and a credit to the kind of person that Systema develops. His skills are astounding and in perfect consonnance with the philosophy of aikido. He never opposes an attack, but blends and leads the attacker into a fall or submission. Vladimir is humble but with complete confidence born of his many years of training and exposure to life-and-death situations.

Out on the mat I found the training in Systema to be very rigorous. It includes lots of pushups, situps, varied breathing exercises, and body strengthening exercises. Since it is so demanding, anyone who seriously trains will become very fit quickly. The techniques themselves are applied with wave and spiral-type motions which can transform into a cascade of follow-up movements depending on the reaction of the attacker. An important part of training time is devoted to light, sparring exercises that are quite enjoyable and constantly challenge you to resist the temptation to use power. Systema techniques performed at the highest level use only the minimum amount of energy and operate largely on a mental/psychic plane. Also, the variety of training scenarios is vast ranging from empty-handed attacks, to the use of various street and military weapons, multiple attacks, car-jackings, bodyguarding work, etc. You name it, Systema has a body of techniques to deal with it.

Vladimir has produced a series of more than 10 videotapes featuring Mikhail Ryabko and himself that are highly recommended.

James and I and two other visiting Americans were invited to Vladimir's house for lunch on Saturday afternoon. His gracious wife Valerie and their three girls comprise the other members of the close-knit Vasiliev family. We had a chance to talk at length and I found Vladimir to be a deep thinker and, by nature, very spiritual. He also has a terrific sense of humor. Although not at liberty to discuss most aspects of his military career, he did relate a few episodes that underscored the life-and-death nature of some of his assignments.

Like Mikhail Ryabko, Vladimir is also a religious person. From visiting his home it was apparent by the prominent placement of Russian Orthodox icons that religious observances are a daily part of his family's life. Having an intimate relationship with the Creator is an essential tenet of the Systema philosophy. Here are some quotes from a booklet he published a few years ago that touch on this theme:

Religion is [also] important. Realizing that, despite your skills and experience, you are still below God is essential. Humility must be served. Staying in contact with your "good" side and regular prayer are essential to a true master of the Russian Martial Art...

Certainly, not everyone who practiced these arts became good and respectful of God and nature, but the best masters did. When you reach a very high level of training, you come to understand that there is something beyond you. This understanding brings you to new levels of ability.

From The Russian System Guidebook, by Vladimir Vasiliev

Quoting Mikhail on religion during our conversation, Vladimir also related this semi-humorous and very perceptive remark: "[Mikhail] says, 'There are no atheists in the trenches. Soldiers think of God 'just in case.'


About Systema

The Systema that is being taught today to the general public has been refined by Mikhail Ryabko and disseminated by several of his students in Europe and North America. Mikhail Ryabko currently resides in Moscow and is an advisor to the Minister of Justice in Russia. In addition to his military duties and teaching assignments, Mikhail also hosts groups of foreign students who come to him for intensive training in Moscow.

Vladimir Vasiliev is one of Mikhail's top students and relocated to Canada in 1993. He spent some 10 years with a Special Operations Unit of the Russian Army Special Forces. Vladimir operates a successful school in Toronto and teaches mainly in Canada and the USA.

The antecedents of Systema go far back in Russian history and much of the credit for the preservation of these traditions is due to Russian Orthodox monasteries. Following the Russian Revolution the military coopted these fighting skills and taught them to elite troops. Mikhail states that he received his training from one of Stalin's bodyguards starting from boyhood. He further refined the knowledge transmitted to him eventually developing Systema into its modern form.

The technical curriculum taught to the Spetsnaz forces is extremely rigorous and designed to eliminate the fear of death in the trainees. Many of the drills inflict tremendous pain and suffering among the men in an effort to harden them for the battlefield and dangerous special missions. The training develops the trainees' intuition to a high degree and teaches them to act spontaneously when in harm's way.

In reading a description of some of the training exercises these men are put through, one is both shocked and fascinated at the same time that human beings can endure such treatment and maintain a state of mental equanimity. It's hard to imagine anyone more prepared than these men for the kind of dangerous operations they carry out.

Vladimir Vasiliev's training philosophy

Here are a few quotes from the above-mentioned booklet that will give some insight in Vladimir's personal training approach which has been adapted for teaching to the general public:

... [I] try to keep the training sessions fun and urge you to do so, too. You should be serious on the inside, but on the outside look so as to relax your opponent. Again, I must make this point: If you're serious when there is no threat, when a threat really does arrive you'll be left with nothing in reserve. You've used yourself up and left no more room to make the transition from civilian to warrior.

... to master this system you must also be able to move so that your appendages and the rest of your body can move in different ways simultaneously. It's a kind of 3-dimensional movement of the body.

All movements should be dynamic and multi-functional. You should never move just for the sake of moving. And at any moment, the whole body should be perceived and used as a complete system. Though one part of the body may be moved while others relax, they should never be cut off or physically or psychologically separated from the actions of the other parts.

... it is also essential to learn what your natural response is so that you can guard against it when in situations where it may be harmful.... awareness of your own body and identity along with what's going on around you is essential to mastery of the Russian system.

Russian Health Method

Vladimir also practices a Russian health system that was developed by a philosopher named Porfiri Ivanov. This method was also a part of his training while serving in the Special Operations Unit in the Russian Army. The premise of this approach is to anticipate physical problems before they occur and stimulate the body's immune system to ward off disease. Great care is taken to prevent the body and mind from reaching a state of exhaustion. Special breathing exercises and daily cold-water dowsing are used to energize the body and are important parts of this health method.

Systema and Aikido

Soon after getting my first serious glimpse of Systema, I began thinking that many of the principles and training methods employed by Mikhail and Vladimir might be highly relevant to aikido practice. As you know, the theme of Aiki Expo 2003 is "Realizing Aikido's Potential." Basically with Aiki Expo 2003, our hope is to bring to the forefront the martial aspect of aikido that has become rather neglected in the modern forms of the art. I believe Systema can play a significant role in this regard. We hope to have serious aikidoka reevaluate their training approaches and consider bringing their current practice more in line with the techniques and philosophy of Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Ueshiba O-Sensei was heavily influenced by the Omoto religion during a turbulent time of Japanese hisotry. He emphasized both the martial and spiritual aspects of aikido and considered the two inseparable. Systema was born out of centuries of technical refinement on the battlefield as Russians repelled a multitude of enemies under vastly different combative conditions. It has had strong ties to the Russian Orthodox Church historically, a tradition that continues with Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev. With its dual emphasis on the martial and the spiritual, Systema shares much common ground with aikido. Aikidoka looking to revitalize their training will find in the techniques of Systema a powerful, energizing example. Systema will find in the aikido world a large community of serious-minded and ethical people desirous of impacting society in a positive, moral way.

I am certain that Systema will impact Aiki Expo 2003 in a major way that special weekend of September 19-21. I am equally sure that the interaction between Vladimir Vasiliev and the other Expo instructors and participants will result in the blossoming of lasting friendships and important interactions that will reshape our thinking and practice of aikido.

Stanley Pranin
February 2003

Tom Douglas
21st February 2003, 21:11
Thanks for posting Stan Pranin's article, James. Not being an aikido guy, I don't always see his stuff when it's fresh. I've always enjoyed his writing and respected his insights.

Matt MacKenzie
25th February 2003, 23:19
Myself being a Systema practioner under Vladimir, it was a real pleasure to read through this thread.

It's great to see that people can have a thoughtful and polite discussion about something that may be unclear or vexing to them.

Thanks for the thread folks!

James Williams
26th February 2003, 02:42
Tom,

The great thing is that Stan has seen virtually everyone who is anyone in Aikido and Aiki jujutsu. He is also a man of tremedous integrity who writes what he believes is the truth, always after careful research and first hand knowledge. This, for me, gives the article so much more validity.

Hope to see you at the Aiki Expo as it will be a lot of fun.

Regards,

james

Pavel Rott
26th February 2003, 05:45
To Jay Bell
the link that you have posted is full with so much wrong information that I am not sure where to start.
Example: " This Soviet Close Quarters Combat (CQC) training methods were tested for effectiveness in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I." Duh. Russo-Japanese war was 1905-06, WWI for Russia was over in 1918 with separate Soviet-German peace, how did they test Soviet CQC there escapes me.
Further more, "Voroshilov assembled a retainer of combat-experienced individuals to carry out this endeavor: A. A. Kharlampiev, V. A. Spiridinov and V. S. Oschepkov ...V.S. Oschepkov traveled to Japan."
Ohhh Oschepkov went to Japan and received nidan at Kodokan
before the Revolution (he entered Kodokan in 1911). Kharlampiev was one of his students who was made into "the farther of Sambo" after Oshepkov perished in the purges. Oh, and SpiridOnov, not Spiridinov.
Then Dynamo is mentioned as a group of SAMBO practitioners. Urgh. Dynamo was founded in 1923 (at least the date was right) by theorder of Felix Dzerzhinski, then head of ChK, future KGB, as a sport society for the ChK's workers. Then did swimming, running, soccer, all between sleepless nights of interrogations.

In short, you can get enough information if you know where and how to look for it, it is not like it is 1950 out there. I find it extremely hard to believe that there would be no historical evidence of sytema anywhere. It is not a nuclear missle design or a method to train a killing dolphin. Archives are there. Most of them are open. We could find the details of the first atomic bomb, see the manuals for Soviet tanks and submarines, learn very well how Amin's palace was stormed BUT Systema is for some strange reason is covered in deep mistery. I find it perplexing to say the least.

. This military community is still not talkative about training or military operations and it is difficult to get much information from them. Interesting. They talk about Afgan campaign, about Angola, about Korea, about Chechnya...