“Systema: Principles of the Russian System” by James Williams

“If someone had told me a few years ago that out of a western Christian tradition would come a martial art as deep, sophisticated and evolved as the best of the oriental arts I would not have believed them. Yet there is such an art coming out of the ancient Russian culture with deep roots in the Russian Orthodox monasteries. At its root in the present day is an exceptional man, Mikhail Ryabko. Trained by one of Stalin’s Falcons from the age of five and beginning his operational career in the Russian Spetsnaz (Special Forces) at the age of 15, Mikhail Ryabko was not only given the secrets of this ancient art, he was put in the position of repeatedly applying both the art and its principles in life and death combat on, what for much of his early life, was a day-to-day basis. This System, taught by Mikhail Ryabko, is not a shadow of what once was, it is a living practical art that even now is being applied by warriors in combat. When working with Mikhail and his foremost student, Vladimir Vasiliev, one is struck by the calm depth of these men. Enormous knowledge and ability taught with calm, deep conviction. ”

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  1. Jerry Wang says:

    Hi Jim, thanks for sharing an “insider look” at Sistema.

    After years of watching Mikhail and Vladimir’s videos, I milled about waiting for military-pants attired Mikhail to start the morning workout. Unlike the vocal signal, clapping and seiza opening of some Aikido classes, the Sistema class started without any fanfare marked by the absence of any verbal cues. Mikhail commented that he learned a lot by watching the Aikido classes in the previous day of the Aiki Expo held at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Mikhail then proceeded to Uke the randori of a female Aikido instructor. In typical Aikido fashion, throwing her around like a rag doll returning the vector of force.

    Mikhail was kind enough to give me one of his famous punches in the stomach which I took a bit hard (Note, I think I was hungry for lunch). Vladimir was also cool as a cucumber during the knife-at-the-throat, hostage-rescue, and don’t-let-the-knives-penetrate-deeply drills. Quite eye-opening and an honor to see how Mikhail could walk up to someone and miraculously take their knives away from them as part of the “take your enemy’s knife” drill. It was a bit voodoo to how Mikhail could take someone’s knife who was doing everything to keep it.

    O’Sensei said something like the universal order is peace and when you attack someone, the universe will defeat you. There are physical and spiritual principles in restoring peace. Universal or timeless principles or the truths are self-evident, repeatable with predictable results, and works for anyone anywhere anytime regardless whether someone is aware of the principle or not. An example of physical principle is the gravity. Since we live in a dualitic world with the principle Personal Truths, we can’t find the truths through opinions and values. It’s hard to argue that gravity is not a principle but you might not be as ready to accept some spiritual principles. Buddha said something like don’t believe a word I say. Try it for yourself and if it is true for you, then you can use it.

    In the Family Is Golden System, I have compiled a “Harmony Versus Coercion” exercise program that extracts the physical principles which can be applied in one’s home and at work. These principles transcend Aikido and Sistema. They are applicable to fencing, golf, (e.g., you also need to be balanced and relaxed in these and other sports), or presidential debates.

    Some Family Is Golden Principles:

    1. (The following calms the ego to not hold on to space and location as fists come in to connect with our faces)
    Precise Reflection principle – All entities in our world perfectly reflect all that have transpired against them. There is a precise set of reasons why it is the way it is. For example, the shape of the finger nail on your thumb or big toe reflect the exact time you cut that nail last time, the exact growth rate of that nail, the exact sharpness of the nail clipper and the angle and the force with which you cut the nail. The degree of tan on your skin is an exact reflection of the intensity of the sun, how much sun you had, and what kind of skin pigment you have. Likewise, how much weight I carry is a precise reflection of how much I eat and burn.

    How much gas I have in the tank of my Honda Civic reflects how fast I accelerate and drive, the Octane level of the gasoline, and the total weight of the 5 books I have in the trunk. In addition, the pressure of the tires, the incline of the roads, the head or tail winds, how many red lights versus green lights are all reflected in how much gas I have remaining in the gas tank. I am sure you can think of many other factors that affected gas consumption but regardless whether we know how much the two passengers weighted or how heavy was my burrito or the can of soda I had for lunch before driving back to work, the gas level in the tank reflects all of that. Our universe does not lie so accept and respect all that is happening. This principle is a logical path to surrender to prevailing reality like the faith James talked about.

    2. The Personal Truth principle is the reason why we resist and fight for what we believe to be right. We become agitated. Understanding this human principle, we know why we can’t relax and lose our mental balance when we fight with our spouses or coworkers. All personal opinions and filters are holographic. The Genesis of any personal truth is from repeating a thought. The greatest freedom is to be free from your personal truths and then always give others the permission to be who they are. The next level is then to harmonize with other’s personal truths. Once you establish yourself in other people’s personal truths as a reliable and trustworthy guide, then they will ask for your guidance.

    3. The Holographic principle dissuades us from being righteously indignant at our opponents. A hologram changes as you change the angle from which you look at it. Everyone has an opinion and the opinions of the same person can change from day-to-day or even from moment-to-moment. Everything is relative, some are tall and others are skinny, but compared to what? We look at the world with filters based on our personal truths derived from past conditioning and emotional baggage. It is what it is and different people make it mean different things. People say hysterical reactions are historical and that all conclusions are illusions. As we compensate for our subjectivity, we become more compassionate to other’s points of view though they want to hurt us. Empathy-induced Compassion can work as well as faith when fully developed.

    4. The Mirror Identity principle says when you see your mom, a child identity arises in you. Likewise a husband, father, teacher, and student. Your identity arises in relationship to others. There is no independent identity according to the referential reality principle (i.e., you can’t talk about anything or identify yourself with referring to something, even if only a thought). Mirror Identity Principle enables you to see that there is no enemy unless one arises in your mind. This leads to spaciousness and an understanding that allow you to remain accepting, relaxed, and balanced as you confront the enemies you have agreed to have in your mind. If you do not have this internal agreemnt, the person attacking is merely angry and confuse but s/he is not your enemy since you did not arouse the enemy in you. All afflictive or any thought is holographic and any emotion is internal by nature. So if you are going to project something, project soemthing that allows you to be the most powerful you can be as when you are physically and mentally balanced.

    And ever has it been known that
    love knows not its own depth
    until the hour of separation. – Kahlil Gibran

    Some Harmony Versus Coercion Principles:

    Harmony is when you use external or internal forces and Coercion is when you go against external or internal forces. You will be handsomely rewarded for devoting your precious time to recondition yourself to create peace in your family and at your work. As you deepen your practice, you will stop bumping heads with your spouse, boss, the traffic, the stock market, or the weather! If you love peace in your family & at your work, then create the beauty of what you love by what you do!! It’s easier than you think.

    the following principles are extracted from a workshop for living with harmony is daily life. Some fantastic principles will be clearer when seen in a video:

    1. Setting clear limits and define boundary early-on. Look for leverage points. Boundary issue is the source of all conflicts.
    2. What you resist/persists – feel pain and persevere anyways. If pain/intimidation stops you, might not go home. If you run, you might be running for the rest of your life. Perseverence.
    3. Balance on balls of feet; step/push off from the back foot; mental balance – (anger, fear & any resistance) in your mind stream upsets your balance. Keep balance & know you are bigger than any problem/feeling. When you go off balance physically or mentally, you pull others off balance. Move with balance & keep others in balance); Toe lifts
    4. Toe walk, keep balance in difficulty & keep advancing- Withhold nothing, no reserves, always Advancing/no Retreat, No Regrets – What u can/where u are.
    5. Floating & Draping arms–shoulders&hips 1-piece. Centrifugal – unstoppable because it does not push or pull but re-directs; pointing/hipbone
    6. Projectile whip arms–projectile/contact with soft-side of arm;flop versus pointing. This is an application of relaxation and assertiveness.
    7. Massage-fingers relaxed: face, eyes, (4 fingers on temple, 1 finger on jaw,(left thumb/index–right presses) nose & gum, cheekbones, thyroid, interlace fingers – thumb in neck, base of skull–tip head; finger, palm, forearm, upper arm, shoulder; upper, middle, lower intestines, kidneys, ribs. Pat hand/arm/underarm/collar bones. Shake hands. Self Care&Love. Care 4 others begins with self-care.
    8. Knee-bends & pulsing downward. Preparation/Warm-Up.
    9. Backbend-sit – tuck chin, curl up, rock on back/stretch. Recover safely.
    10. Shin-Sit&rock. Fall 7, up 8. Everyone loses. It’s the ability to Bounce back!
    11. Create your own bumpy road – push hard on right hand while holding the position with your left hand. Notice that the harder you push, the harder the resistance. Respect & harmonize with the boundary set by your opponent. Use your opponent’s energy as you re-direct. Feedback. Be aware, listen & adjust.
    12. Relax & let go of all tension in your body and mind. To be relaxed with others, We must be relaxed first. Top-hair to bottom-sole; listening; Profound Foundation of: self-control; self-mastery – genesis of world peace; soft overcoming hard, seamless, continuous, and non-selective. Being relaxed as a permanent state of no-mind and non-judgment. Self-awareness and self-control; tit-for-tat is where you surrender self-control for other-control. Instead, relax & respond using universal principles. Simple & yet most profound tool in achieving harmony & to blockade your opponent’s negative energy & coercive forces.
    13. Dead Weight – Windmills with limp hands, forward step and backward step with limp arms & hands; if you point hard, deadweight is gone. Connectedness.
    14. Lift up the other hand limp & deadweight. Hand freefall & flop; pointing lightly, flop is gone; point hard, no drop. Sticky-hand. Degress of control & sensitivity of connectedness. Be skillful to be connected & use appropriate amount of energy.

    I had deleted principles which are easier to understand when seen. Let mw know if you are interested to get a video of the Harmony Versus Coercion video. If so, I will try to make it avaailable online so there won’t be any need to pay for shipping or anything.

    Thanks for seeking the Truth!

    Best wishes,

    Jerry Wang


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