RMA fact and fiction: marketing Systema, Russian Style, ROSS, my impressions
Hi everybody, first post here, so I'll start off with a little background (don't worry, it's all relevant): I'm a former karateka (5th Kyu, I also studied TKD before that, and Judo when I was a kid) who stopped doing martial arts about 6 years ago (I keep myself busy and in shape with lots of bodyweight exercises, some weight lifting, long-distance cycle touring and lots of running). A year or two ago I began noticing information about various Russian martial arts - Buza, Slavyano-Goritskaya wrestling, etc. which got me curious. This past June I went to Latvia to vacation for several weeks, and used this time to satisfy my curiousity. Originally I planned to visit the Riga Slavyano-Goristkaya wrestling club ("Varyag"), but they weren't holding training sessions in the summer due to many of the members going off on vacation (not a sign of a good club, IMO). My next option was the Riga club of Kadochnikov's "Russian Style." I was a little hesitant at first because I had seen Kadochnikov's footage on a "Systema" tape by Vladimir Vasiliev, which, umm, didn't particularly impress me (more on this and dishonest marketing below). The club is headed by Sergei Silkin, who turned out to be a former officer (I didn't inquire which military branch) who had been studying karate when that was un-banned during Perestroika and switched to studying and then teaching Kadochnikov's Russian Style in the early 90s. The first thing I noticed when I came in is that everyone was warming up by doing those weird arms-out rolls (more on them below) - I just did my regular stretching routine. That training session we did some rolls, then worked on strikes, then some very interesting elbow and shoulder stretching exercise swinging around a stick, then some knife work (NO defense or BS like you see in "Systema" tapes), then some more strike and joint lock work (more on this below). Then we finished up with a whole bunch of different push-up and push-up like things (the "crucifiction" is particularly interesting) and a variety of jumping exercises.
I had told Sergei that I was a former karateka, so he decided to use me as a punching bag a little during practice. From this I can testify: No soft stuff - what they're doing works. The striking technique is very unusual - I don't know either, but Sergei told me that it is something like Medieval English boxing and "kulachniy boy" (Russian traditional boxing). There is a great economy of movement and energy and it is very rhythmic. There is never just one punch - to conserve momentum, the forearm circles around in the elbow and you can throw another one right away. The interesting thing about throwing punches this way is that you can grab hold of the opponent's appendages and start doing joint locks at any point. Things are very flexible, and sparring with someone experienced in the Russian Style is weird because it is very difficult to predict or anticipate them. This kind of "deception" is a major theme overall in the Russian Style - most of the defense work tries to quickly place the opponent in a position where he cannot observe you well or at all.
We had a long talk about the ideologies and religious underpinnings of martial arts and how Kadochnikov's Russian Style compares to Eastern (Asian) martial arts in this respect. Russian Style, being Russian, is based on Orthodox Christian beliefs, and this is how Sergei explained everything to me. Everything from the stance (think of the spine and the shoulders and the hips as forming an Orthodox cross - in the old Russian language, the word for the cross and for shoulders was the same - "rama"), to avoiding strikes ("turning the other cheek"). I had time to go to two subsequent training sessions, and we did more work with strikes, and some very interesting foot work (it was a little more than just kicks and kneeing) and techniques of bringing the opponent's body off balance. This is what surprised and interested me most by far, especially given how the two subjects seamlessly work together and with the strikes. I won't describe this here because I don't yet understand it enough myself.
Overall, I was fairly impressed. The one area that bothers me is the hand striking methodology. I of course need to train more, but it seems to me to be more difficult to train to an effective level than boxing or karate punches. I've had a look at the forum at Aleksey Kadochnikov's official site and there are a few people that seem to share this sentiment. One thing I heard during our post-training discussions is that apparently Sergey's club does not practice the "soft" techniques that Aleksey Kadochnikov sometimes shows - Sergei himself says that he considers them outdated.
I decided I'd like to continue studying this and bought a few books by Aleksey Kadochnikov and Vladimir Danilov about the Russian Style. The biggest surprise came when I opened Kadochnikov's "My view on hand-to-hand fighting" (before anyone asks, it's actually in Russian) on the plane the next day. Biomechanics and physiology and psychology? Where are all the Christian explanations? It turns out things are a lot more interesting than I initially thought. Aleksey Kadochnikov developed his Russian Style with a very interesting philosophy. He was trained as a frogman and then taught hand-to-hand fighting in various places in the Soviet military. From studying experiences of war veterans, he concluded that in modern (WWII up to the present) warfare, hand-to-hand encounters happen mostly in "extreme" situations - when soldiers run out of ammunition after a prolonged firefight, when they are wounded and the enemy is attempting to take them prisoner, etc. So the modern soldier can expect to engage in hand-to-hand fighting while extremely tired and possibly injured, in confined spaces (trenches, buildings), very possibly against a stronger (less tired, more numerous) opponent. After all of that, the soldier is then expected to carry out whatever orders were issued to him (one of the central tenets of Kadochnikov is that the fight is not an end in itself - the Russian Style hand-to-hand fighting is part of a larger system of survival that Kadochnikov has developed). What is needed is a fighting style that uses the least amount of the body's energy and produces the quickest results, and that is what Aleksey Kadochnikov has attempted to create.
Kadochnikov goes about his goal from a scientific point of view. He views the fight as an ergonomic (people-machine) system and uses the principles of biomechanics and the results of experimental psychology to create a style where all the actions in this system take as little energy as possible while producing positive results (that is, control of you opponent - a sort of micro manifestation of the macro tenet that war is an imposition of will by force). This train of thought is already present informally in many other martial arts - Judo's maxim of "use your opponent's weight against him" being the most obvious example. What is different about Kadochnikov's Russian Style is first of all the systematization with which he goes about applying this principle, and most surprising is that the resulting product closely resembles traditional Russian martial arts (or, more precisely, what we know about traditional Russian martial arts, since they in large part have been eradicated by the Soviets). This is why so many of the techniques of Kadochnikov's Russian Style can be explained by Christian concepts.
So where does "Systema" fit in here? Nowhere, as I've found out while trying to find more information about Kadochnikov's Russian Style on the Internet. "Systema" itself is just the Russian word for "system." The official name of Kadochnikov's style is "Russian Style," but to make things unambiguous it is usually called "Kadochnikov's Russian Style." Before coming up with this name, Kadochnikov's style was refered to as "Krasnodar Combat Sambo" (although it has nothing to do with combat Sambo). Some people call it Kadochnikov's System ("Systema Kadochnikova" in Russian), although this is not the official name, and this is where the deceptive marketing comes in. Whoever is marketing Mikhail Ryabko's System ("Systema") in the English-speaking world is attempting to portray it as being similar or related to Kadochnikov's Russian Style, something that neither Ryabko nor Kadochnikov have ever claimed. Neither Mikhail Ryabko nor Vladimir Vasiliev have ever studied under Aleksey Kadochnikov.
Before posting here I did a search and I think this Vladimir Vasiliev "Systema" video has been posted here before:
For some reason it just shows archival clips of Aleksey Kadochnikov's work without any mention of him. Not very honest.
Incidentally, you're probably asking yourself "why are they rolling around with their arms sticking out like that?" Everything about Kadochnikov's ground movement technique starts to make sense when you see someone do it with a pistol, rifle or knife. It is all about presenting the smallest target to shoot at while having a stable position to shoot from while being able to move as fast as possible while remaining aware and having your weapon sight in front of you at all times while not stabbing or discharging your weapon into yourself while crawling, rolling, jumping or diving onto asphalt or concrete or other hard surfaces without bruising yourself. It looks weird but oh man does it WORK! If you're used to a Judo roll like I am things are a bit hard to (un)learn at first, but it is actually quite intuitive (the body is always in a relaxed state, the only parts touching the ground during the roll are the outside of the thigh, side of the torso and the shoulders). The same basic technique applies to all variations of the roll (forwards, backwards, diagonal and even sideways - sort of like a cartwheel roll) from all positions and situations (rolls can be combined with the falling techniques to place yourself in any desireable direction after a fall). It doesn't look as nice as a Judo roll but in contrast the Judo roll does not feel nearly as nice after doing only a few rolls on even a smooth hardwoord floor - standard set when I was training with Sergei was 20 rolls of each type, but basically you can do them until your skin starts chafing and not get any bruises.
So where does ROSS ("Russian Native System of Self-Defense") fit in? Alexander Retuinskih was a student of Kadochnikov's and wrote the first publically available book on the Russian Style in 1991 (it's in Russian, out of print, you can find it on the Internet, worth getting for the good illustrations). Later he went on to create his own style (ROSS) and incorporated many aspects of Kadochnikov's Russian Style into it. I don't know anything else about it, but I hope this clears up the details of the relationship between them for other people.
Now a little bit about websites. Aleksey Kadochnikov's official website is http://kadochnikov.tih.ru/. There are also websites of the "International Center "Russian Style"" (http://www.kadochnikov.org/ and http://www.kadochnikov.ru/). The "International Center" is headed by Vadim Starov. In 2003 Aleksey Kadochnikov has ceased all contact with the "International Center" and with Starov due to the latter's unethical behavior. In a written statement Kadochnikov claims that Starov is not qualified to teach the Russian Style. I don't know what this means about the quality of instruction and seminars offered by the "International Center."
Just curious, did Sergei explain how to strengthen that "cross" structure at all?
Originally Posted by KaraokeKarateka
I take it the basic training also consisted of lots of pushups and squats??
He gave a big hint right there mentioning that... I assume he's got skillz if he mentioned that at all.
(And no I don't do Systema, the stuff he mentioned is common highlevel bodymechanics found in virtually all high level MAs)
Good first post, thanks.
The political relationship between Ryabko Systema and the Kadochnikov style was touched on briefly in one of the recent Systema mega-threads on this forum. The Ryabko style is better known over the Internet and it has attracted a great deal of controversy here at Bullshido, but that's another story.
The historical relationship between these two styles (and other modern forms of RMA) is an interesting study.
I've just started to look at the post-1900 history of the Russian martial arts. Right now I'm speculating that both Ryabko Systema and Kadochnikov's Russian Style are diverging streams from a common source, that being the "combat SAMBO" and "self defense SAMBO" courses developed by several generations of researchers and instructors based at the NKVD's Dinamo society and especially their physical training facility in Moscow. For practical purposes, that dates the foundation of modern RMA to the early 1920s.
Working to a specific, government mandated and funded brief to create the "ultimate fighting style", the Dinamo teams drew from a very wide range of Russian folk sports and fighting styles, military CQB, Asian and European martial arts and combat sports, recent research into biomechanics, sport science, psychology, historical combat systems, etc.
The most influential contributors during the 1920s and 30s seem to have been Vasili Oshchepkov, K. Voroshilov and Victor Spiridonov. I hazard a guess that Spiridonov's SAMOZ style had an impact on the curricula of Kadochnikov and especially Ryabko.
I don't mean to derail, but what exactly is a "high level" MA?
Originally Posted by Upyu
Tai chi, Aikido, Wing Chun.....stop me when you can't take anymore.
Last edited by mrblackmagic; 7/04/2006 8:11am at .
Sumus extra manum tuam.
:eusa_hand Ok, no more please. I just had a good day, and I donīt want to ruin it. Beating in the ring is one thing, but any talk of "high level MA" at this point.....urrgh! The migraine. *Must watch boxing to forget this*:XXsmoker:
I kind of wonder to what extent Systema is really even used by the Russian military. Here's a clip of "Spetsnaz" training from a Russian documentary, and the trainees in it are doing what looks like hard contact kick boxing or Muay Thai sparring (see beginning of the clip and again at about 4:42 onwards) :
So "high level" in the same way COBOL is high level...
Originally Posted by mrblackmagic
Crappy, outdated, and slow, but still in widespread use because people are too lazy to switch :-)
Stop me if I get too dorky.
Think of it like strength training.
Think of the ross/kadochnikov/systema stuff like strength training.
High level MA could mean BJJ done by Rickson, or Muay Thai done by a extra accomplished player.
Originally Posted by IzzyDaHedgehog
I wasn't reffering to a "style".
And if you doubt what I'm takling about Luan on this board's already felt what our instructor can do, -> http://www.bullshido.net/forums/show...hlight=Akuzawa
See the review by Luan (Who's crazy enough to have gone toe to toe with Asia in striking)
I guarantee 90% of people out there aren't making efficient use of their biomechanics when striking/grappling etc.
Anyone who doubts is welcome to come to Shinjuku Sports Center here in Tokyo and roll with myself and some of the other shooto kids that're starting to incorporate this stuff :icon_lol:
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