View Full Version : Systema Austin, TX LifeKido Russian Martial Arts (Ryabko)

9/15/2008 9:57pm,
Systema rocks -- This is (Mikhail) Ryabko Systema as taught by Vladimir Vasiliev of Toronto

Excellent school, excellent instructors.

And the FIRST MONTH of TRAINING is literally FREE with no contract or even promise required. Come on in, train and see for yourself at no cost. (No training, registration, uniform/gear, or any other "fees" are collected the first month -- it's FREE.)

One clarification: The kids don't do "Systema" per se, but the instructors are already incorporating a LOT of Systema training and principle into those classes too.

My ratings are CONSERVATIVE so I have chosen to include the rating standards and give detailed comments on each item below.


My rating 9:

Safety gear is not used (you could use it if you wished but no one does, beyond the occasional mouth guard) -- the rules are similar to the Dog Brothers but a bit gentler:

No one goes to the emergency room
Everyone leaves with original IQ
We are all friends afterwards

...but hitting is a KEY POINT to the training, and realistic weapons attacks are encouraged and expect.

Give your partner the level of contact/force/pain that he/she can handle, and that will train your partner to be safer in a real fight. Respect your partner enough to go hard while avoiding gratuitous injury, especially of a serious or permanent nature.


My rating: 6.

We really don't need much equipment but there are servicable mats (and for self-defense we are expected to fall on wood or concrete if necessary). Knives, shovels (yes we fight with and against Russian military shovels), staffs, shinais, etc are available and many of us have our own.

[B]Gym Size:

My rating: 7

At present, the dedicated classroom with mats is sufficiently large to technically qualify for an 8 (big enough), but as class grows the small size will become evident -- however, part of our training is to avoid getting hit or hurt by people in the periphery so that is not necessarily a disadvantage either.

[My ratings and review here are based on the "North Austin" location while the main location is larger and have both more equipment, mirrors, larger mat area etc. We only practice as the larger location occasionally -- and sometimes the instructors CHOOSE to practice outside, even in the mud, woords, or rocks.]

[B]Instructor/Student Ratio:

My rating: 9 (or more accurately 9.5)

Our chief instructor runs all classes personally, and head of the school (also an instructor) is almost always present as a student himself and additional teacher. Most students will find themselves working as a partner to the chief (and other instructors) at least once or more per class.


My rating 9 (really 9.5)

Everyone is cool and supportive or both newcomers and those with the "let's hit some more" attitude -- everyone adjusts for their partner's needs and readiness. No pressure to conform nor macho BS, but plenty of support if you want to get hit or do some hitting.

This directly relates back to the "Aliveness" category so I won't repeat what is above.

This rating could have been a 10, but everyone is so careful that blood is not a common sight. Personally, I have bled once in the last month (from a staff to the side of the nose) and it didn't even hurt or leave a scar, while I have drawn blood once in that time (by hitting a friend in the ear with a fist -- neither of us can figure out quite how that caused his ear to bleed. <grin>)

Another example of attitude: This summer, our small school had five people attend the week long Summer Intensive camp north or Toronto which included 7 AM physical training, all day Systema, including "Fighting in the Water" where we took turns holding each other under water.

Very few people were injurred but this is contact training.

[B]Striking Instruction:

My rating 9:

Striking is a cornerstone of Systema, so the only reason for not giving the "10" is that we don't do "competition" -- we hit and we hit for real. We are also expected to have enough control to only hit hard enough to do the job and to do so safely.

Our chief instructor himself was recently cut under the eye by strike from a regular student. We fight for real -- while keeping it at the level that the student is ready to handle and that he or shee needs to improve and prepare for self-defence.

Grappling Instruction:

My rating is 8:

Grappling is not our first focus (it is a very important secondary skill), but throwing, take-downs, control are critically important, and every practice does have SOME grappling done all the way down on the ground -- BJJ style arm bars, chokes, etc, without the rules are our general method. (We don't literally poke each other's eyes out but there are no truly forbidden targets.)

Small joint manipulations, as well as strikes to the throat and groin are all acceptable (if you can control them enough to practice.) We generally have a "rule" against strikes to the spine, but this only means we slap or push when striking to such dangerous places.

The assumption of Systema is that you must be able to throw, fall, and FIGHT on the ground, but that for self-defense against multiple opponents choosing to stay on the ground and grapple long term is not usually the best strategy against multiple opponents, an assailant who might be armed, etc.


My rating 8:

We use realistic practice knives, sticks, staves, etc. The standard practice knife is roughly a military K-Bar at full weight with a plastic coated hard blade -- these things COULD kill or certainly injure but there are no sharpened edges, even though they are generally pointed almost as much as your average steak knife.

Again, we do self-defense and combat, not competition (nothing against competition but it just isn't included) so this must be slightly adapted to fit the scale and that adds a bit more subjectivity.

Also, note that this is NOT training emphasizing the USE of weapons, but we all must practice realistic attacks to give good training to our partner. And yes, we do the whole range from set attacks (partner knows what is coming and no resistance is offered by the attacker when the defender takes action) to completely free, full speed (still respectful of safety) attacks with little or no protective gear.

[Based on:
6-7: Medium contact with excessive safety gear. (some pain and/or wide variety of realistic weapons)
8: Hard contact with reasonable safety gear (pain and/or some blood)
9: 8 but with various weapons. Tournament winners, proven success in limited restriction, top level competitions or high level self defense situations.]

9/16/2008 2:58am,
So the initiation fee would still apply then?

9/16/2008 9:26am,
So the initiation fee would still apply then?

I am a bit reluctant to promise a definitive answer but (at least for me) this was not the case -- I was charged only $20 enrollment (to cover the t-shirt) when I signed up (after the first month) to continue.

There were NO CHARGES during the first month.

My daughter lives in another city and accopanied me to the first two class under the "free month" -- we made it absolutely clear that she was only visiting and not a true prospective student, yet she was welcomed and encouraged to attend. She actually wanted to give them something to say thank you (or pay her way) and had to CONVINCE them (finally) to let her buy a t-shirt.

These kind folks are in it for the long haul with students who really want to train.

It also turned out that taking both Tai Chi and Systema did not double the fees -- it adds about 1/3 to the single class cost ($30 I beleive).

I really need to encourage the owner to clarify this on the web site since he may be losing business, and we may be losing new friends and play partners, through misunderstanding the cost.

Again allow me to confirm:

The FREE month is really free, and completely without obligation.

Given that you went to the trouble to ask and notice the costs you probably shoudl accept an invitation to come try it out -- it's a great class with great people teaching and studying.

It is Fake
9/16/2008 9:59am,
So, you spar with the weapons?

The reason I ask, by your own admission you do not fit into a 9. Before you get up in arms, this criteria is set for this website.

It isn't made for you to adjust to your liking.

9/16/2008 10:24am,
So, you spar with the weapons?

The reason I ask, by your own admission you do not fit into a 9. Before you get up in arms, this criteria is set for this website.

It isn't made for you to adjust to your liking.

We do spar with weapons.

So, if I gave you the opposite impression then I need to go back and edit the post for clarity.

As to "adjust to [one's] liking", I specifically included the posted criteria so as to remind both myself (while writing) and others (while reading) what was being reported.

Thanks for asking -- clarity is good. Being as objective as possible on what is largely a subjective review is also good.

It is Fake
9/16/2008 10:27am,
Well, you added the competition vs street debate with your words.

Again, we do self-defense and combat, not competition (nothing against competition but it just isn't included) so this must be slightly adapted to fit the scale and that adds a bit more subjectivity.

Competition has a slight negative ring. Did you look at the videos detailing sparring? Dogbrothers, for example, rates a 9-10.