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  1. melk is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/25/2007 3:51pm


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    Mikhail Ryabko Lineage: A working hypothesis

    From the start please note that this is my current hypothesis based on the best research I have at hand. The Russians are currently being very tight lipped about lineages, mostly because they are trying to clean up their bios. For the most part the contacts I have in Russia say that the founders of the various systems realize how their marketing has hurt them, and are trying to make things right. So I have been putting pieces together, and this is the picture I generally have forming in my head right now.

    First we have the "Young Master" video which clearly demonstrates Mikhail learning something Asian, to me it looks a great deal like Kung-Fu, but aside from KMAs and Judo, I have no real experience with Asian MAs other than what I have seen at tourneys. However what is demonstrated in the Vid(and he was probably only a teen at the time) is definitely not Russian in origin.

    Ok then we have his bio. Not the bio posted on the American sight, I do not know who does the posting there or where the information comes from, but from what his national representitive here in Israel told me and I quote, "the information there is not reliable." I do not hold Ryabko at all responsible for this as he neither reads nor speaks English. So his bio on the english version of his sight and the Russian side says the same
    Mikhail Vasilevich Ryabko one of the founders and developer of Russian warrior traditions and also the main insrtructor of Systema - the martial art of ancient Russia. Born 6 th May, 1961 in Belorussia.
    - In 1976 after completing form 8 he entered Agricultural and Technical School.
    - From 1981 to 1983: Military service for USSR.
    - From 1983 to 1993: he worked in the Security servise of tne Ministry of Interior Affairs of USSR, training security personnel from the Ministry.
    - From 1989 to 1994: he started at the institute of Justice at the Ministry of Interior Affairs.
    For ten years he served in special teams; participated in military operations, hostage release and he was an instructor at the centre of rapid response special teams.
    Currently, works as an advisor for the Minister of Justice. Colonel of Internal Service. A veteran of military service and labour. Has state awards from the President of Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Awarded with personal named arms by the Ministry of Justice: Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika. Has been teaching Systema for over 20 years with students all over the world.
    There is an accompanying picture of him on the sight that seems to be either a Engineering corps uniform, or a tanker uniform(its hard to tell, the hat flashes look very similar). So it seems that he did the normal 2 year conscription stint. That is fine, it does not really affect my thesis all that much. While in the Army even in that stint he most likely came in contact with Sambo, this would be influence number 2.

    After that it says he served 10 years in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, or MVD. This is somewhat of a falsification(though a justifiable one). The MVD was an organ of state under the Tzars, and became the NKVD under Stalin. It then morphed into the KGB. No one in Russia today wants to really claim involvement with the KGB. They either say MVD or FSB(the two divisions that were made of the KGB's directorates after 1991). My guess is that Mikhail served eight years in the KGB and then the last two in the MVD. However due to the negative view most Russians have the KGB it would be rather stupid to put that on your bio.

    Supporting evidence for him have been KGB/MVD is that he has been appointed a post by Putin(also ex-KGB) and 90% of his appointments have come from the KGB, and the other 10% were ex-GRU.

    During the 1980s through the 1990's KGB/MVD/FSB were cross-trained in two fighting arts. The first was the classical Spirdinov system, that even today is held very tight to the vest by these two organizations.

    Putin served in the KGB from 1975 until his resignation in 1991. This is an important fact for it gives a very strong clue to another source for Ryabko's style. Putin has stated often that Retuinskih was one of
    his instructors. He has given Retuinskih an appointment to Russian Olympic Committee as overseer of RMA in Russia. For an easy access English language source for this see the Human Weapon Sambo episode. Why ROSS was on there I do not know, but it was, and they talk about it there. Therefore it is very likely that Ryabko also had some training under Retuinskih. Another note about this. I know that the AMERROSS and AARMACS people tried to claim bad blood between them but from my understanding that was contrived by that organization as an attempt to protect their "turf" in the US.

    Except for the last two years of Ryabko's time in the KGB/MVD Retuinskih was a Kadochnikov instructors. In 1991 he changed the system greatly and developed ROSS. At this time all ties with Kadochnikov were severed. Retuinskih essentially taught the MVD and FSB and Kadochnikov taught the GRU.

    I definitely think that Ryabko developed his own system based on trainings that he recieved. So it seems from what I have been able to piece together that the general influences were an unknown Asian MA, Combat Sambo,Spirdinov Style(aka Samoz), Kadochnikov Style and ROSS.

    I am not sure that this was a complete list of influences. If anyone has any additional information or contradictions to any of this I would be happy to hear it, as I mean this more as a discussion starter than a final word.
    Last edited by melk; 12/26/2007 3:45am at .
  2. Jack Rusher is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/25/2007 6:39pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by melk
    First we have the "Young Master" video which clearly demonstrates Mikhail learning something Asian, to me it looks a great deal like Kung-Fu
    Do you have a link to that video? Someone here might be able to tell you what it is.
    “Most people do not do, but take refuge in theory and talk, thinking that they will become good in this way” -- Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, II.4
  3. melk is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/25/2007 7:10pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by jackrusher
    Do you have a link to that video? Someone here might be able to tell you what it is.
    Unfortunately I do not. I saw the vid that someone else owned. It is put out by Ryabko, however all I can find are broken links to it. It is really rather sad because it shows Ryabko doing some really live sparring. It is not instructional in any way it is simply old training footage/sparring tapes. Now he is young and his training partner does at times beat him, however I would have to say there is a good amount of skill shown and some very live situations. For instance there are several minutes of him practicing unarmed defense against a knife. A few times he gets "stabbed." Mostly he manages a fairly well defense against a very resistant opponent. I will see if I can get links to it, but I have looked everywhere I know to.
  4. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/25/2007 11:05pm

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    That sounds very similar to a video that was referenced in a previous Ryabko Systema thread here on BSD. Unfortunately I can't recall whether there was an actual link to the video, or whether someone just described it.
  5. mrblackmagic is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 1:49am

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    I remember that conspiracy theory too. It involved doctored photos and pay offs to the russian government. Funny stuff.
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  6. melk is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 3:43am


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    Quote Originally Posted by mrblackmagic
    I remember that conspiracy theory too. It involved doctored photos and pay offs to the russian government. Funny stuff.
    Conspiracy theory? I am not sure what you are talking about.
  7. DdlR is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 9:17am

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    That was another previous thread. Someone asked, effectively, "is Ryabko really the ace ninja Spetz warrior he is claimed to be", which set the tone for some speculation about whether the photograph of him in the engineering or tanker uniform could have been photoshopped, etc. The conspiracy theorists came out to play briefly, but nothing much came of it.
  8. Tacitus is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 11:49am

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    This is hearsay, and not having seen the actual tape, I can't verify any of this. But these are the counter points I've heard.

    1. Mikail wasn't doing Kung Fu, but he was sparring someone who does Kung fu.

    2. In the footage he's wearing a dogi and a belt, apparently this is because he was told he had to wear it.

    I'd like to more about this subject. Meik, can't the dvd be ordered from Mikail's site?

    Now I read this post on Vladimir's forum, the original poster had asked about Mikail's teacher:

    [...]My knowledge of the subject is limited to what Mikhail had said during one of his seminars in Toronto. That is; it was his uncle, dads’ brother I think, that taught him the foundation of Systema. He then became part of spetznaz, not because of his knowledge of Systema but more due to his talents being recognized by a 'recruiter'. During his training his ability and knowledge of Systema grew.[...]
    This seems like the most likely scenerio to me, in regards to his training. I think he was indeed taught the principles that now make up Ryabko Systema before he was in the army, and likely from a young age. Later, upon joining the army, he was most likely trained in the arts availible at the time...The Retuinskih system, Spirdinov system,a nd Combat Sambo. Perhaps there were other influences.

    I think that whatever Mikail studied, he organized under the earlier principles he had learned when he was younger. For those that study Ryabko Systema, you'll know that many practicing here do the same thing today, with arts such as BJJ, etc. In the end, this may be what formed the style.

    What's of interest to me is how old that initial principle based system (assuming it existed) was?

    This is, of course, all hypothesis, and not being able to read or speak Russian (something I'm trying to remedy), I'm held back quite a bit in my research.
  9. melk is offline
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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 12:41pm


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    Quote Originally Posted by Tacitus
    This is hearsay, and not having seen the actual tape, I can't verify any of this. But these are the counter points I've heard.

    1. Mikail wasn't doing Kung Fu, but he was sparring someone who does Kung fu.

    2. In the footage he's wearing a dogi and a belt, apparently this is because he was told he had to wear it.

    I'd like to more about this subject. Meik, can't the dvd be ordered from Mikail's site?

    Now I read this post on Vladimir's forum, the original poster had asked about Mikail's teacher:



    This seems like the most likely scenerio to me, in regards to his training. I think he was indeed taught the principles that now make up Ryabko Systema before he was in the army, and likely from a young age. Later, upon joining the army, he was most likely trained in the arts availible at the time...The Retuinskih system, Spirdinov system,a nd Combat Sambo. Perhaps there were other influences.

    I think that whatever Mikail studied, he organized under the earlier principles he had learned when he was younger. For those that study Ryabko Systema, you'll know that many practicing here do the same thing today, with arts such as BJJ, etc. In the end, this may be what formed the style.

    What's of interest to me is how old that initial principle based system (assuming it existed) was?

    This is, of course, all hypothesis, and not being able to read or speak Russian (something I'm trying to remedy), I'm held back quite a bit in my research.
    A couple of things I will say to that. First without doubt Mikhail took everything that he learned and formed it into Systema. Second I know several Russians who study regularly with him in Moscow and he freely admits to studying Asian MAs when he was younger, and that does not detract from his study. Third Mikhail was never Spetz nor does his bio say that he was. He was MVD, that would me Alfa or Vimple. MVD didn't start calling their teams Spets until around '95-'96, after he was out. Possibility exists that he uses the term as it now applies to the unit he was in, however strictly speaking he would not have been Spets.

    Regarding as far as him sparring a Kung-Fu guy. I have seen the whole video, he spars with three or four partners over what appears to be several years(judging by his size and physical development). The tape is cobbled together footage.

    As far as ordering the video from Russia, he will not ship outside the FSU... don't know why. Or at least the last time I tried it couldn't be. Feel free to try. DVD in Russian is DVD. Click on the video and hit the order button. Google will even do a half decent job at translating the page for you. One of the guys I roll with here was going to his camp this summer, I am nagging him to bring me one back, but that is a long way off.

    Tacitus, you quoted from the Vlad's forum:
    My knowledge of the subject is limited to what Mikhail had said during one of his seminars in Toronto. That is; it was his uncle, dads’ brother I think, that taught him the foundation of Systema. He then became part of spetznaz, not because of his knowledge of Systema but more due to his talents being recognized by a 'recruiter'. During his training his ability and knowledge of Systema grew.
    I am not going to immediately say he didn't have an older somebody that taught him something. It does stick out to me that it is omitted from his own Bio on his webpage.

    If it did happen my guess would be that it was Spirdinov. The reason for this is that the principles, and the huge similarity between it and Kadochnikov. Frankly, from the little I have been able to find out about Spirdinov's Samoz, it would seem that this is the foundation that Mikhail chose for his later development. If you want a detailed reason for that I would be happy to give one, however it will be longer and probably worth a post of its own.

    Second this still smacks of some of the early TRS marketing, and frankly anything that came from there I find suspect. My general feeling is that they(TRS) probably took advantage of Russians who didn't/don't speak good/any english.
  10. EricH is offline

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    Posted On:
    12/26/2007 1:39pm


     Style: systema/RMA

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    I don't think that the general thrust of Ryabko's bio (learned from family with bodyguarding background, started service early) as understood in the US should be so easily dismissed. I have a missing piece of the puzzle that corroborates those elements pretty nicely.

    I have trained under Viktor Sirotin here in Seattle since late 1996. Viktor came to the US in 1993 and sometime prior to that trained under Ryabko for 5yrs. This puts his latest start date with Ryabko at 1988. Viktor is at least 10yrs older than Ryabko and was already a very accomplished martial artist (multiple styles from boxing to aikido to other native russian styles) and military veteran at the time he was "asked" to go train with Ryabko. Viktor characterizes this training as "professional" and brutal. He went on to train body guards for Soviet VIPs. When the soviet union dissolved things got dicey among this population and after a couple of years he left for the US.

    This is all of the info I have been able to get out of Viktor on the subject. Viktor teaches a small public group in Seattle. He is not involved with the larger "systema" community.

    Relevant points:
    1. Ryabko must have had quite a reputation at a very young age if older "professionals" were being sent to him for training when he was still in his 20s. In fact, in Viktor's earliest marketing for his class his bio stated the he had trained under the "legendary" Michael Ryabko. This was 1996 and we had no idea who this supposedly legendary person was.

    2. There is definitely a body-guarding connection. This is of additional interest to me as a result of Melk's interesting inference above of a KGB background. As Melk has previously pointed out, back from the time of Stalin body-guards were provided by the 9th directorate of the KGB. There are dots here that may or may not connect.

    Regarding the "Young Master" video. I have seen it and it looks to me like he is playing around, experimenting with things. Based on what we do know about the training of these soviet soldier fighters it would be suprising if he did not have significant experience in asian arts. They all seem to have trained in multiple styles.

    At the risk of sounding like a nutrider I will close by saying that I have had the pleasure of training with one on one Ryabko. He operates at such a completely different level from anything I have felt that whatever his background is I can assure you it is profound. Viktor, who is proud man that does not give praise lightly, has said of Ryabko, "he is good, oh, he is good".

    It is the experience of working with him and Vasiliev, I believe, that gets people in the systema Ryabko/Vasiliev community beyond questioning the bios. They come off as a couple of good men who are exceptionally skilled and insightful. The rest is details.

    Postscript: I just reread this thread and noted that the info & dates I have from Viktor fit nicely with the bio details quoted by Melk above
    Last edited by EricH; 12/26/2007 2:04pm at .
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