A first hand account of Systema from a 3 year student
I'll start this post off by listing my martial arts history prior to beginning Systema.
I had a year worth of experience in Chinese wrestling, but wanted a more "complete" System. Not knowing the merits of cross-training, I simply wanted to find an all-in-one, which is what led me to find Systema in the Martial Arts section of the local yellow pages.
When I saw the ad for Systema I thought "fantastic!". A history of special forces use, no katas, no gis, no rituals or archaic principles that would hinder my combat training. I checked out the website, saw some of the clips and was once again very impressed by what I saw. I paid over $200 for a "foundations" package from the website and couldn't wait to start.
I started my first class right at the mecca of Systema, the club of Vladimir Vasiliev. I was immediately paired up with people who were considered to be the more seasoned practioners, and of course I was quickly subdued in all of my attacks. The principles of this system seemd to me to be solid. Movement and exploitation of your partner's very exagerated movements.
Over the new two years I was thrilled at my progress. I was taking people down with ease and using my own "intuition" was able to submit most people on the ground, as well as effectively strike people while standing up.
The one common theme I noticed in all my years of systema was that the top students always have years of other training behind them. The top student at Club Vlad is a rather large fellow who was a national wrestling champion in his home country, as well as a ranked boxer. Someone like myself, having only trained in Systema at this point in the story could never hope to out-wrestle or out-strike this man.
All of my fellow students, as well as myself, were routinely brainwashed by each other into adopting this sort of "do without effort" method of training, in that we would be so relaxed and so free-flowing that anyone who applied any strength or effort would immediately move us. This was however a good thing in systema, as the idea was that you can then work with this person's aggression to dispatch them.
The explainations of how exactly to fight were not very educational. The instructor (Vlad) would explain some obscure principal and then the demonstrate 30 different takedowns and defences he could perform against his unrealistic, although fast-moving opponent. For a student like myself who was almsot completely green to fighting, this was not useful at all as it simply made me rely on my own wrong perceptions of the right thing to do in a situation. I developed incredibly bad habits but at the same time felt invincible because I could easily beat most people at the club.
We were never taught ANY techniques at all. Not a single time in my 3 years was I instructed on how to do something properly, like a choke or a double-leg. I was so insulated in the group-think cult-like mentality of most systema practitioners that I convinced myself I didn't need technique.
The physical aspect was laughable. most of the people at the club were 40, overweight and in bad shape. They didn't understand the benefits of weight-training, cardiovascular exercise, or even things like shadow boxing. We were constantly told about breathing, and very vague and downright confusing explanations were given to us. I was always told the essence of my breath would deliver power to my punches, however when I tried to apply this in real life to a seasoned striker, it didn't do anything. not to mention the simply ridiculous ways that we were told to punch, namely rotating the body and keeping the arm still, etc.
When my friend offered to take me to his BJJ and boxing school I was thrilled to be finally able to use my Systema on some people who were trained. I went in and received the biggest ass-kicking I have ever felt. I was getting tapped in seconds, was unable to bring anybody to the ground, and during the striking portion of the class I was outmoved and out powered. Simply put... I sucked.
A top student at Vladimir's school, with 3 years of Systema training. I was incredibly angry at the fact that I wasted 3 years of productive training time. The very next day I enrolled in the school and have been attending for the past 2 months. In these two months I have learned so much more than in my three years with Systema.
In summary... Systema on its own is a joke. The Principles can be applied by someone who has training in other forms of combat, but on its own, it is worthless. Let this be a final nail in the coffin to the already dying debate on Systema. I seasoned student of Vladimir himself has come out to share his experience, so I hope I am seen by Systema apologists as credible.
Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about the system, the teachers, students, etc.
I'm sorry, but it's pretty obvious that you didn't have the REAL Systema. j/k
I know a guy from my karate class who does Systema, and he says that they start you out by seeing how you react naturally to something, and start from there. Ex: you move away from a punch, so they teach you dodging first, etc. Did they do this at your class?
And what do you mean by no technique? They never taught you to punch or do a choke hold or ANYTHING?
Good thing you got out of there when you did, before you ended up in a real life or death situation and ended up in a bad way.
Also did they happen to go over any use of chi/ki to disable a person?
There was very little attention paid to me by the Vladimir when I came to the school, but that was probably because he had about 30 students at the time. So no, no teaching based on my reactions.
Originally Posted by Nickeroon1987
The "no touch work" was never really explained or touched on much, which I suspect was because Vladimir thought it might have potentially turned away some customers due to it's outlandish appearance. The only way it was described to me was by a student of Mikhail's (the fat guy in the videos). He stated that the principle behind the work was that you would give support to your opponent and then take it away as to throw him off balance. I wanted very much for Vlad to demonstrate this work on me, but he was reluctant to.
Also did they happen to go over any use of chi/ki to disable a person?
I'll add a funny story from a class before I go to bed...
One of the shittier of Vlad's instructors (a guy who had trouble rolling around and landing softly without making a huge thud) suggested we try to immitate some sort of strange walking that Mikhail does which seems to put people off balance. It was sort of like stepping forward with your knees pointing out and then stepping in another direction quickly, like a square dancing session for people with scoliosis of the spine.
Of course no one, not even the instructor could do this (he admitted he is trying it for the first time) and so 30 grown men were dancing around for about 20 minutes. It was one of my worst classes. Needless to say, I never saw a few of the first-timers again after that fiasco. And I saw less of that instructor teaching, too.
Keep the questions coming!
So I assume you live in NYC? Make sure to come to the Throwdowns. What school do you train at now? Good story by the way.
Thank you for the kind words. No, I live in Toronto, where the HQ of Systema is located. Although I'm aware of RobGreen, the NYC Instructor (ex?) and prison guard. I'm sure he's a nice man in real life, but from his years of posts at the Systema forums and some of his posts here, he seems like a loon.
Originally Posted by LI GUY 1
Not knowing musch about Systema, other than what I've read and videos I've seen, I thing all it is is a Russian version of Aikido and just as useless.
Originally Posted by King of Nigeria
Welcome to Bullshido!
Out of interest, how did you find us? And I would love a link to some of Rob's post at the systema forums, his posts here are consider dillusional comedy of the highest class, so over there must be quite something!
FYI - You might find that this thread will soon be the victim of an attempted hijacking by said lunatic systema practioners and friends.
Oh I can't wait for the Systema Camp to come and check this out .
Bless your soul if you are a troll .
If for some reason you are exactly what you seem , wow ... I am sorry I was right about Systema . That must have sucked big time . I hope you are under going the proper rehab to straighten out any problems that may pop up later from exposure .
Did you ever go to Moscow ?
I can't imagine "waking up" in a room with 30 duck walking overweight men idolizing and imitating a sadistic closet homosexual who is literally three or four times the man I will ever grow to be .
Originally Posted by ghost55
“I don't mean to sound bitter, cold, or cruel, but I am, so that's how it comes out.”
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