Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Sunday, 23 February 2014

From Many Threats to Many Tear by John-Paul Gagliano

It was my first day back in Vancouver after visiting the Toronto HQ for a dose of excellent training, I felt clear and recharged. Being as I had been away from home for a few weeks, I needed to run some errands and headed out to talk a brisk walk to my destinations.

I was walking peacefully on East Broadway (Vancouver) when a man carrying a large "boom-box" was strutting down the street with his music blaring. Noticing the noise first, I turned to look where this was coming from. Many others in proximity were looking, probably wondering the same thing I was "who is this person that is creating such a nuisance?" The man was headed my way, step by step he was heavily planting one foot in front of the other. Even from a distance his demeanor was loudly telling everyone around him "get outta my way!” As he became closer I stopped to pretend to look at a furniture store to allow him to pass in front of me on the sidewalk, as I felt it would be safer to walk behind him than in the path he was carving proudly down the street...

All it took was one look at him, then he suddenly started spouting off challenges and threats to fight. He claimed that it was his "turf" and that his brothers were ready to back him up. I simply stated that I don't like his music, and it's as simple as that. There were a few more words exchanged, and I made sure to not let fear take over my thinking, breathing, or body; knowing that this man was like a predator, seeking out whom he might devour.

After he was satisfied with his attempt to be intimidating, he walked ahead, continuing the same direction. After I had felt he was far enough out of my personal space, I started to walk in the same direction to carry on with my errands. It wasn't long until he looked back, and was struck with fear... he believed that I was following him, in a sense, calling his bluff! Quickly at the next corner, he turns right and was waiting for me to reach him.

As soon as I got to the corner, he had put his boom-box on the ground and started challenging me again to fight with him. At this moment I was able to recognize that I wasn't the one who was reacting to feelings of fear. I softly closed the space between us, put my hand on his shoulder told him something very honestly. I said "I didn't say I don't like you, I said I don't like your music".

At this moment, the whole situation was turned upside down... he began to cry and shout about his family problems, lack of financial stability, and even more details about the dynamic between him and his wife. It was as though suddenly the hard and tough front was destroyed, exposing a soft, vulnerable, and sensitive person underneath.

When I put my hand on his shoulder, I was trying to close the distance between us to give myself an advantage of more control if there was going to be a physical complication... little did I realize that a relaxed hand being placed on him without fear is what would trigger a cathartic therapy session on the East Broadway sidewalk.

Thankfully, I was able to console him briefly, also mentioning that he needs not challenge people who are also his neighbors (being as we apparently live in the same area of the city). I was both relieved and even more surprised by the outcome of the event. To me it demonstrates the power of a calm state, clear thinking, and noticing the presence of fear in a confrontation.

By no means will I ever plan to resolve any future situations the same way, except to keep one factor consistent - breathe, and notice what is happening inside, and honor those feelings. So next time you encounter an aggressive person, remember that it comes from fear, and a lack of love in a person's life, certainly nothing personal. I am ever thankful for our Systema training, that we are not just training our bodies, but also our minds and our spirits alike.

About the Author:
J.P. Gagliano has been training and teaching Systema since 2007. John-Paul has done training with both Vladimir Vasiliev in Toronto and Mikhail Ryabko in Moscow, he currently resides in BC, Canada and is a certified instructor at Systema Vancouver Martial Arts.

Thanks J.P.

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Got OODA? Or is it Something Entirely Different? by Systema Instructor Sonny Puzikas

Observations (no pun intended) through participation and while teaching over the years have led me to somewhat of a strange conclusion...

Is most of the training even conducive to let that illusive process often called OODA work? To function as intended? To be true cycle of observing reality, orienting in real time, making decision to act in most appropriate way based on information present and then, finally- act...

And what I observed has somewhat surprised me.

Through training that is focused on specific solutions of the problems faced- most often very narrow and limited field of "view" is being cultivated. Narrow field of view that is also focusing (and I use that term loosely, as such "focus" will result in blurry picture at best) on given problem through a prism of preconditioned and yet again- very limited- "orientation" tools, which are all geared in reverse direction to justify the preconditioned, trained, premeditated action.

In essence- a lot of modern training methodologies create fighters/operators who are- for the lack of better term- goal oriented with specific action being that goal- often ignoring what can be observed, thus excluding the "orienting" in current situation, with decision being made to chase the action that is not the best, nor optimal, nor efficient in current situation...

Action- especially conditioned habitual action- should not be the ultimate goal of Boyd's loop. The two O's are the most crucial components. Yet- aren't they excluded from this new "loop"? By the virtue of a fighter "looking" for an opportunity to execute specific action, in the process he is missing so much- mainly the reality in real time. Where targets, opportunities abound... Call it CPHA cycle... Chasing premeditated habitual action... 

About the Author: 
Sonny is a highly skilled operator gaining his experience from the special purpose unit (Spetsnaz) in USSR MVD. Sonny entered military service in late 1980’s and after the basic training was chosen for service in special purpose unit of Soviet MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs). The reality of violence was exposed from a very different perspective with many revelations and learning experiences coming not only from very intense and brutal training regiment, but also from operational deployments to central Asia and Caucasus regions with his Spetsnaz unit, as well as work in some correctional institutions in Siberia and Far East. Extensive interaction with personnel from special purpose units from KGB, GRU and other entities provided opportunities to learn and polish new skills in areas of armed and unarmed combat, tactics and field craft, fighting methods based on native Russian combat arts. After the military service Sonny traveled extensively throughout Russia and Middle East providing protective services.  Because of unique combination of skills and experience, Sonny became very highly sought after authority in the areas of rifle fighting skills, unarmed combat and field craft. He was featured in numerous publications, TV programs and a recent Discovery Channel special. For more information visit:

As always thank you for your insights Sonny,

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Instructor David Quaile Seminar in Hamilton New Zealand

Veteran Australian Systema instructor David Quaile will be conducting a System seminar in Hamilton on 12 & 13 April 2013. This event will be hosted by Systema Waikato.

David Quaile (left) is Australia’s longest serving Systema Instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko (Right). Having Studied with Vladimir Vasiliev since the mid 90′s, David has always acted as a pioneer of Systema in both Australia and New Zealand giving seminars to training groups and clubs interested in studying the System. David has also had the opportunity to travel to Moscow Russia, to train directly with Systema Master Mikhail Ryabko.

David is also a retired Operative from the Australian Military. With his extensive real life combat experience in some of the harshest circumstances and environments that a person would have to survive, he has a thorough and intimate knowledge of how understanding of Systema can help an individual maintain him or herself in such situations.

An amazing and genuinely good natured human being with a wealth of knowledge and experience, David Quaile is highly skilled practitioner and teacher of Systema, and for a long time has been one of the best kept secrets of this art that you will find on our shores.

For more information on this seminar or to book you place contact:

If you are interested in finding out what a seminar is about feel free to read the following review on one of Dave's seminars in Sydney in July of 2012.

Thanks to Dan Miles and Les Hayes for arranging this :)

See you in NZ,

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Quotes from Systema Masters by Alexander Shostko

The quotes below are from my (Alexander Shostko's) notes taken at Systema camps and seminars in the past two years. With some things lost in translation, I hope they can still be useful to Systema practitioners.

Mikhail Ryabko

If someone attacks you or your family and you already know that you will be fighting – do not be nervous and do not add emotional content, just work.

Do not break the person; break his desire to attack you.

Provide an illusion that your opponent still has control, but make sure he does not.

Those who think they are very strong die first in conflicts.

Every person that works with you is your instructor. And those who want to beat you up are your best instructors.

Vladimir Vasiliev

When you know there will be a fight – start relaxing beforehand. Do not try to fight, just work.

Control the situation in such a way that nobody understands how you control it.

Remove yourself not just from the line of attack, but from line of opponent’s attention.

When you counter on the move, the strikes seem to come out of nowhere.

When you hit somebody – remain human.

People die from non-lethal wounds, yet do not die from lethal ones, all depends on whether you mentally give up.

Konstantin Komarov

Endurance is a psychological phenomenon.

Your emotional base controls the situation.

The more you discover yourself, the more tension you see in yourself.

There are several ways to remove stress, the most important are breathing and movement.

The stronger someone grips you, the more you need to relax.

People do not die from wounds or impact, they die because they cannot handle psychological effect of the impact.

About the Author
Alexander Shostko is a Certified Systema Instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev. Alexander is teaching Russian Martial Art at RMA Northern Virginia, USA. He was a Master of Sport in Russia, has over 20 years of martial arts experience and can be contacted at:

Thankyou Alexander,

Justin Ho
Principal Instructor
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art