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A first hand account of Systema from a 3 year student

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    #16
    King of Nigeria,
    Did you encounter any kind of religion being pushed? Did you ever get pressured to convert to Russian Orthodox? Do these rumors about ROC conversions have any basis in reality?

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      #17
      Originally posted by King of Nigeria
      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.
      See, that's what you get for not being a member of Bullshido 3-years ago, we could've saved you a lot of wasted time. It does not surprise me this is the ultimate outcome, thankfully you were able divest yourself of this cult mentality. Unfortunately, you will see others cultists here still advocating the same mantra, "If you doubt the validity of systema go train with Vlad or the fat russian hog." or "Don't judge systema by the some obscure video clip, you're not getting the whole picture.". Needless to say, these people are hopeless.

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        #18
        King of Nigeria, thanks very much for your post. Firsthand information such as you posted is always much more valuable than conjecture and poorly backed-up arguments such as we've seen in so many Systema threads. And yes, after 3 years of training there I'd say you have a good amount of knowledge on the topic and a good basis for perspective. It sounds like you made a very fortunate move in switching schools and arts, and I wish you luck.

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          #19
          Thank you again for the kind words. I have to say, when i first came to Bullshido a few months ago I was so shocked that people could be questioning Systema. "Don't these idiots know it was used by Special Forces?" I thought to myself. Man, is it ever embarassing to admit you've been duped.

          Not everything in Systema is a joke, however. The principles are good and like I said can be applied by someone who has a lot of experience in other arts, namely BJJ or wrestling. However one does not need to take classes in Systema to apply the principles of breathing, movement, and experimentation with takedowns/submissions etc.

          King of Nigeria,
          Did you encounter any kind of religion being pushed? Did you ever get pressured to convert to Russian Orthodox? Do these rumors about ROC conversions have any basis in reality?
          The presence of ROC in Systema is very strong in the Moscow connection, namely through Mikhail. Vlad has attempted to leave out these elements in day to day classes as to accomodate the diverse group of students here in Toronto.

          It was never pushed on me by the instructors, however many students have converted in an attempt to get closer to Vlad and some sort of "secret" knowledge, which is a ridiculous reason to change religions. Systema, much like any other centralized martial arts system, is full of sycophants.

          The only time I was really exposed to any talk of God or ROC is when I would speak with Vlad after class and ask him for help with taking punches, or pain, or something like that. His answer was always "pray, be humble, and ask god for mercy". Althought I didn't like his answer, it was me who asked him a question, he didn't force anything on me.

          Like I said, keep the questions coming, hopefully this thread can turn into a good resource for the forum.
          Last edited by King of Nigeria; 3/09/2007 1:02pm, .

          Comment


            #20
            Originally posted by King of Nigeria
            It was never pushed on me by the instructors, however many students have converted in an attempt to get closer to Vlad and some sort of "secret" knowledge, which is a ridiculous reason to change religions. Systema, much like any other centralized martial arts system, is full of sycophants.

            .
            Totally ridiculous.

            Did you or anyone else ever have to recite "Lord Jesus have mercy" while doing pressups or other exercises?

            And did you ever hear about or experience an exercise where you walk up and down the floor while tracing out a "Jesus Prayer" with your footwork?

            thanks again for coming here and sharing the truth with us. Finally someone who DOES have real experience and cannot be dismissed as someone who "Doesn't know the real Systems."

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              #21
              Originally posted by shmuel
              Totally ridiculous.

              Did you or anyone else ever have to recite "Lord Jesus have mercy" while doing pressups or other exercises?

              And did you ever hear about or experience an exercise where you walk up and down the floor while tracing out a "Jesus Prayer" with your footwork?

              thanks again for coming here and sharing the truth with us. Finally someone who DOES have real experience and cannot be dismissed as someone who "Doesn't know the real Systems."
              We were never encouraged to say prayers by an instructor in class, but I was told to do so when I spoke to Vlad personally.

              The "prayer walk" was described as tracing out your name, although he did suggest using the name of a saint.

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                #22
                Do you think if you had followed Vlad's advice and prayed more and meybe even become Russian Orthodox, you would have done better at the BJJ place? Do you think that is what held you back?

                ;-)

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                  #23
                  KoN,

                  -Did Vlad ever hit you and if so how would you describe the effect? Anything unusual about his hits as some claim?

                  -What is the reasoning against weightlifting? Anything other than it's not natural?

                  -Did any of the other students believe that Vlad/Mikhail had some type of supernatural ability?

                  -Are cross-training & competing discouraged?

                  -Did Vlad spar any martial artists of note while you were there?

                  -How much do classes in Toronto cost?

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                    #24
                    Teh REEL SYSTEMA:
                    never seen these vids before

                    http://www.russianmartialart.com/main.php?page=clips

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                      #25
                      I try not to be a judgmental person, but those videos are pretty absurd. It is incomprehensible to me that people would be convinced by such obviously hyper-compliant acting. On multiple occasions, the people in the demo seemed to look confused before finding directional cues about which direction to throw themselves once "hit." If Systema has better stuff than this--stuff that's actually realistic--then why are they demoing this obvious bullshit?

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                        #26
                        This all seems familiar Welcome to Bullshido. To bad 3 yrs were wasted but you may be be able to salvage something from that time I hope. Congratulations on your " conversion" and good luck. FWIW my old Bujinkan Dojo shares their space with a Systema class, "Birds of a feather etc"
                        BTW my Judo training is going fine. Lots of Randori. Very hard work minimal compliant Ukes Generally a breath of fresh air

                        JD

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                          #27
                          Do you think if you had followed Vlad's advice and prayed more and meybe even become Russian Orthodox, you would have done better at the BJJ place? Do you think that is what held you back?
                          I wish it was that easy. What holds me back is my bodybuilder's cardio.

                          -Did Vlad ever hit you and if so how would you describe the effect? Anything unusual about his hits as some claim?
                          Vlad does indeed hit incredibly hard, and his punches do bring on some unusual effects. They were almost always body shots, and almost always to the solar plex, liver etc.
                          He was definitely skilled when it came to delivering powerful shots to an opponent not covering up.

                          -What is the reasoning against weightlifting? Anything other than it's not natural?
                          The main reason I gathered was that Mikhail and others would say that punching power does not come from muscles, and use of the muscles tires you out, therefore muscle-building activities are useless. That was their claim.

                          -Did any of the other students believe that Vlad/Mikhail had some type of supernatural ability?
                          Yes, to the point that some even claimed Vlad and Mikhail were "chosen". I was caught up in the hype for a bit too, but at least Vlad and Mikhail never claimed to have mystical abilities and were both very humble, despite the opinion of their followers.

                          -Are cross-training & competing discouraged?
                          Yes, very discouraged. Although Vlad did point a student who wanted to compete to a Vale Tudo school, and he suggested another student try to train elsewhere. Vladimir was always very nice and very intelligent, although I don't agree with what he is teaching anymore, I have no doubt that he has at least some skill in what he does, but how much of this is passed on to students I don't know.

                          -Did Vlad spar any martial artists of note while you were there?

                          -How much do classes in Toronto cost?
                          We had a Russian Sambo champion come train with us and Vlad spent a lot of time with him, but I know for a fact Vlad had extensive Sambo training so he could have just been coaching him on that. He was an accomplished Samboist and boxer in his earlier years.

                          Classes were 7.50 cents each, no contract.

                          Comment


                            #28
                            Originally posted by BackFistMonkey
                            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 .
                            --So, you've never been to a B. K. Frantzis seminar?

                            Comment


                              #29
                              Hi King of Nigeria. It's always good to see a rational discussion of Systema. Last year we had a post called "Is Your Martial Art a Cult". The following checklist was posted as a guide for this determination. I'm wondering how much of Systema's practices qualify as a "cult".

                              The following is an excerpt from the book "Captive Hearts, Captive minds", by Madeline Tobias and Janja Lalich adapted from information compiled by Dr. Micheal Langone.

                              Checklist of Cult Characteristics

                              "Comparing the following statements to the group with which you or a family member or loved one is involved may help you determine if this involvement is cause for concern. If you check any of these items as characteristic of the group in question, and particularly if you check many of them you may well be dealing with a cult and should critically examine the group and its relationship to you or your loved one.

                              1) The group is focused on a living leader to whom members display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.

                              2) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members and/or making money.

                              3) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged.

                              4) Mind-numbing techniques (for example: meditation, chanting, denunciation sessions, or debilitating work routines) are used to suppress members' doubts.

                              5) The group's leadership dictates how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, or get married;) leaders may determine types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth.

                              6) The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, it's leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).

                              7) The group has a polarized we-they mentality that causes conflict with the wider society.

                              8) The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).

                              9) The group teaches or implies that its "superior" ends justify means that members would have
                              considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).

                              10) The group's leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control then

                              11) Members'subservience to the group causes them to give up previous personal goals and interests while devoting inordinate amounts of time to the groups."

                              12) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
                              Last edited by andrewa; 3/09/2007 9:23pm, . Reason: spelling error

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                                #30
                                I could argue for all of them, to be quite honest.

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