Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Source of Strength and Peace an Interview with Vladimir Vasiliev

The following interview was conducted by Rob Poyton, the head instructor of Cutting Edge Systema Academy in UK and the editor of Systema International publication.

Systema International (SI): First of all can I say congratulations on behalf of everyone here on the 20th anniversary of your school, it’s an amazing achievement! Did you have any idea when you first started teaching in Toronto that you would be in this position, with schools worldwide?

Vladimir Vasiliev (VV): Thank you for your kind words and support. When I started teaching in Toronto in 1993, I had no plans to create something particular. Life takes its course. There are currently over 200 schools and over 500 instructors that teach Systema around the world, over 40 instructional films, regular seminars and camps with big numbers of participants. Of course, I try to put in honest work but have no set goals, I also do not depend on these developments.

SI: You obviously trained in a lot of different things with a lot of different people in the past. What is it that drew you to Mikhail and that now makes him your source of training?

VV: What Mikhail does is always interesting and there is always more to learn. I really like that. Seeing his top level of mastery helps me to continue working on myself.

SI: Systema has grown incredibly over the last 20 years, do you have any thoughts as to how it might develop over the next 20 years?

VV: I believe there is God’s will for everything. I have no predictions for such distant future. I enjoy what we have today – great people and accomplishments. What I can say is that Systema is indeed unique and has very positive effect on the practitioners. It will be great if people continue to benefit from it for the next 20 years and more.

SI: Is there a danger that as people splinter away from the central school that the flavour changes?

VV: There is nothing wrong if people “splinter away”. We do not call for people to join, nor do we hold anyone back from leaving. It is good to explore other options. A lot of people return. Usually the ones that do not need Systema move away, they do not understand it. It is hard to comprehend and take in the whole Systema. Many people take bits and pieces of this style and think they have Systema, this is when it falls apart.

SI: We have seen some military styles become very popular over the last few years, with a very different approach from Systema. Do you think people are surprised by Systema’s military background, given its focus on health and breathing?

VV: A good warrior is a healthy warrior, healthy in his spirit and body. Systema makes people stronger physically and also better, kinder, less fearful and less aggressive. A good warrior that is not fearful or aggressive will do a far superior job defending his country.

SI: A lot of Systema work seems to go against the usual martial arts methods. For instance, you can punch without putting body movement in, you counter tension with relaxation and you look at yourself more than looking at the opponent. How do you best get these ideas across to people from other styles?

VV: Practitioners need to recognize the close interaction between the health and the martial art components. Many martial arts mislead their students. In my opinion, what they teach has no relevance to health or survival. Traditionally martial arts had the goal of preservation of their generations, this is now lost. Systema’s solid and natural approach and breathwork foundation brings back the right way to train, fight and live. The way a person can understand this is just by practicing himself.

SI: People see and comment on how your own level has steadily improved over the years. How do you keep improving and what are your goals in training?

VV: Thank you for these nice words. My goals are to gain deeper understanding of the Systema concepts. Systema is alive, it continues to develop, and this process does not end until we die. There are many examples of Systema instructors whose skill keeps growing steadily, such as Valentin Talanov in Russia, Jerome Kadian in Paris, Brendan Zettler in Toronto and a large number of others.

SI: How do you balance being challenged and safety in training? How do you judge how much a person can take?

VV: This is a great and very relevant question. This is a real challenge. If you punch hard or apply a decisive action to the opponent – he and others complain. If you do not act decisively – they do not believe you. It is a testing for any instructor, especially because in Systema we work on the move. It is easy to show a convincing technique while fixed and stationary, while it is a real skill to deliver just the right dosage on the move and see to what extend your partner will let you work. As for judging how much the person can take, this is easier and comes with practice.

SI: Do you have any stories you could share of your time training in the army of with Mikhail? VV: This is a whole story in itself, perhaps we can address it sometime in the future.

SI: Could you give some words of advice to:
- people new to Systema
- people training for a couple of years
- people who are teaching others

VV: An advice to all practitioners is to have patience. Learning Systema is an extensive process, there are challenges and rewards every step of the way. It is very exciting because new discoveries await you all the time and the profound joy of following the right path is always there.

SI: Despite all our technology - or perhaps because of it! - there seems to be just as much uncertainty and bad events in the world as ever. Do you think Systema has a role in helping people in difficult or “interesting” times?

VV: I am sure that it can and will help. Systema has so many applications if it is studied as a whole and not by fragments as we discussed before. Systema training reduces stress and fear, provides health and clear thinking. It really can be the source of strength and peace. To quote Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

SI: Vladimir and Valerie, thank you for your time today and also for all your work over the last 20 years – long may it continue!

About the Author:
Rob Poyton is a Professional instructor. He has been training in Systema since 2000 with Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev. He is the editor of Systema International publication:

For more information visit Cutting Edge Systema Academy:

Thankyou Rob and Vladimir,

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Ancient Russian Systema Practices - 4 Ways to Achieve Optimum Health by Vali Majd

There are many different health and fitness trends and gadgets that appear on the market every season with the promise of giving tight abs or slim waist. Along with new year resolutions come memberships for the gyms or fitness clubs. Some will plug into yoga or Pilates others will decide to take up running or walking. And many will go on a diet. It is a frenzy, a craze.

But feeling good and healthy is simple. No membership required. No gimmicks. No gadgets. Achieving and maintaining health should not be an activity. It should be part of your every move, every decision and every action. Then it feels good...all the time.

Here are 4 Ancient ways to become and stay healthy. They are free, require no gadgets, and on top of that will save you money.

Interact with Cold Water
One of the best ways to fully engage your circulatory system and to get rid of viruses and bacteria is by interacting with cold water. The ideal way to perform this water dousing is to be naked in your yard (or tub), bare feet, with a large bucket of as-cold-as-possible-water. As you inhale through the nose, lift the bucket above your head, and on the exhale you slowly, very slowly empty the water on your head, face and neck. It is important to allow the water to reach the arm pits and groin areas. Do not hold your breath at any point as you perform this. Avoid freaking out, stay calm and move slowly. Do not rush to dry up. Take a moment to breath and enjoy what beauty is offered to you. Maintain healthy, positive thoughts throughout the whole process.

If you find the dousing difficult for whatever reason, at least find one way or another of interacting with cold water. You can finish your hot shower with a cold blast, or go for a dip in a snowy creek.

There are many folds to this ritual.

On a purely physical level, when done right, the shock of the impact of cold water on your body will create a "mini internal explosion", somewhat of a short term fever, where the body increases its temperature rapidly to counteract the cold. This sudden change of temperature kills many viruses and unwanted bacteria. It also eliminates sick and dying cells.

On a more internal level, this practice is a battle between our internal voices. One devil on a shoulder whispering to forget about this "cold water stuff"... "just stay in bed, it is nice and warm...", while the voice of reason, of health, calmly reminds you that it is good for you.

The choice is yours.

Cold water will teach you to listen to your better Self. It will also toughen you in many different ways.

Fasting is an ancient practice. Once a week, take a break from eating and drinking for 24-48 hours. All animals do it occasionally, either by choice or by circumstance. Again, on a physical level, it is very good for the internal system to get a break. Weak and dying cells get eliminated and organs get to purge. On an internal level, again it becomes a battle of will. Ideally, you should retain your daily routine, work, sit at the table with your family, play with the kids, dance or train. But seek no medal nor praise. Don't brag about it, or complain- in fact, avoid bringing it up. A bit of hunger will teach humility. Overcoming it will bring strength and willpower, failing it... calories and a bruised ego.

If going without food for 24 hours is too difficult (in fact, the first 24 hours are the most challenging), then try 18, or 12 hours. If you find that too hard, then try do remove an ingredient out of your diet, typically meat, or dairy.

Push ups
The push up has been around forever. And this simple approach takes all the guessing out of it. Ideally you want to perform your push ups with a good form. The back should be straight, the body planked. Depending on whether you do them on your fist or the palms of your hand, your chest should get within inches of the ground. Try to do as many push ups as you can in 3 minutes. Take breaks as needed. Do not sacrifice quality for quantity. If you cannot do anymore push ups, but time is not up yet, at least hold the push up position until the end. As a guideline, 70-80 well executed push ups in 3 minutes is very good. Make sure you breath- in the nose, out the mouth.

There are many benefits to the push up. Remember that we are not trying to build muscle mass. Instead, we want to maintain healthy, connective tissues. If you find your back slouching, you may need to work on your core strength. There are many physiological changes that happen to the body when you are on your fours for an extended period of time. The internal pressure on organs, along with heightened neurological functions are partially responsible for this. The push up, or any variations of it, remains a rather obscure field of research and needs more attention.

You do not need to be religious to pray. This practice recognizes that we can seek inspiration, strength and guidance outside ourselves. Prayer allows us to free ourselves in many ways by recognizing forces and powers beyond us. All 3 previous practices may require you to pray. But ideally, one should not wait until "the boat is sinking" to start praying. It is a great practice to take the time to pray. This can be done in the morning, as you wake up, or in the evening, before sleep. However, many maintain prayer throughout the day to much benefit. To a large extent, not unlike fasting, prayer teaches humility and fosters community, both being integral to our health.

These practices come from traditional Russian martial art known as Systema.

Seek a doctor's advice prior trying any of these practices.


valiheadshot2Before being named as Founder and Chief Instructor of Roots Dojo, Vali Majd, since 1996 had been, and still is a student of traditional Ryabko – Vasiliev Systema. Vali Majd brings along an army of talent and could be considered honest and dependable; his lengthy exposure to the art, along with his abilities to practice, to teach, to demonstrate and to clearly articulate subtle concepts of Systema makes him and his dojo worth visiting.

2009-Founded JTFCanada
 2002-Formed Comox Valley Systema 
1999-Founded Pacific Coast Systema (now Roots Dojo)
1995-Started at Russian Martial Art HQ, Toronto

Vali is a Medical First Responder and a Firefighter with the Denman Island Volunteer Fire Department.

For more information visit:

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art