[review] UK Systema seminar with Michael & Daniel Ryabko, 14-15 July, 2007
I attended the UK systema seminar taught by Michael Ryabko and his son Daniel this weekend. Here are some of my thoughts.
First thing to make comment on is the people who attended. They seemed to be of a very mixed background. a few of us had no systema training and others were instructors in their own right. The only person in camoflage was Michael who was wearing those over sized camo pants we have all seen in the clips. Yes he is that fat, but he is really powerful. The span across his lats was that of a small comercial jet and his forearms were massive.
It was explained to us that the first day was about striking. This is not really my strong point, but we started with breathing drills and exercises to help us to find the right spot to hit. This was not done in a way where certain areas were shown to us for us to remember and later hit. Instead we had to find where our fist fitted by climbing up and down our partners body using our knuckles.
This moved on through a number of drills which I often struggled with. What was interesting that when I worked with some of the more advanced guys they could do on me what I was so miserably failing to do.
Eventually Michael had people line up to experience his strikes. I have to admit I chickened out, but it was interesting to watch the difference in results when he hit people. Some people litterally crumbled. Others seemed to exhale and move with the hits and others seemed to suffer little in effect.
Day two was about applying the strikes and principles of day one to attacks that Michael said we were likely to experience on the street. It started with puching attacks where one person would hit and move as he wanted whilst the other guy used systema strikes to the head, body and arms to defend himself. This was done at different speeds by different people. Michael had us slow the drill down and use pushes with our fists to find the correct place and angle to hit that crumbled the attackers posture.
Then we got into wrestling. (At last something I can relate to). We looked at a number of ways of countering throws. Often the counters seemed to be about either moving or striking to distort the posture of the thrower and therefore put them in a difficult position. Having done some Judo I was surprised how the more experienced systema guys caused me to collapse at will, but then again I am not used to being punched half way through a throw.
We also had to work against double and single leg takedowns. The difficulty was the floor had no mats and was tiled. Judo breakfalls left my arms black and blue. One thing they did was kind of spread thier legs at the point where the shoot was commited. This was combined with a punch to the head to continue the movement. Honestly there was a lot of people acting like zombies until we were shown how to double leg from the clinch. We were then told to up the pace of the attacks and all hell broke loose. There were people flying through the air, rolling on the floor and generally having a good roll. Though it was not competitive some of the guys there were giving each other a hard time. Others quickly went back to being zombies, but I guess there are always going to be people less prepared to take a knock than others.
On the fitness side of things the standard varied from the amazingly fit to the incredibly obese. Some of the exercises were torturous to say the least. One prolonged pressup seemed to go on for ever.
On the whole I enjoyed the seminar. It certainly taught me a thing or to about falling on a hard surfice and the benifits of being relaxed and breathing correctly. The guys were friendly and seemed keen to roll. Michael is an odd man. He is very skilled, but is unfit. His son on the other hand did seem very fit and compitant. At one point I tried to take down into a RNC and endend up pinned to the floor by my kneck.
The other thing that I was worried about before attending the seminar was the religious overtones. I am glad to report that at no point did anyone try to convert or exorcise any demons from me. May be they have realised it is bad for buisness.