Vladimir has just returned from his annual trip to Mount Athos, one of the most spiritual places in the world. He stayed at the Iveron Monastery, as a guest of Father Leodios (above right), and was able to bring back a limited quantity of a very popular Systema accessory:
Leather Cross, worn during training and sports. A perfect gift for Easter
If you usually wear a cross, here is an ideal option for training.This genuine leather cross is handmade with a clear image of the Crucifix. Just under 1.5 inches (under 4 cm) in length and comes with a thin leather string of 24 inches that you can tie and adjust. Vladimir chooses these crosses during his annual pilgrimage to the Iveron Monastery of Mount Athos, Greece. Most of the proceeds will be donated to the Christian Orthodox Church. You can now also get the Leather Cross as part of a Systema Gift Card.
Systema HQ Toronto will be closed for the Easter weekend from Friday, April 3rd through Monday, April 6th. The office remains open for orders and inquires.
Father – Son Dialog Systema instructor, Yann Christodoulou is interviewed by his son Axel
Axel: How do you view Systema? Yann: It’s quite simple. There are martial arts (internal and external), combat sports, all the close-combat methods and self-defense. All of these provide ways to see and serve fairly well at certain moment of life. We are evolving with experience and through the choices we make.
Systema is all of that. It is not a just a martial art, and not just another method of personal development. It is simply Life. Systema is a big toolbox that helps individuals know themselves, to accept themselves and to do their best in their brief time on earth, while being a good person. As for the means, we apply the warrior mindset.
Systema enhances the whole person because every aspect is taken into account. First, the body is our vehicle driving us through our life. Next is the spirit – it is always better to have a good pilot behind the wheel. Finally, there is a personal choice. With or without belief, a human being remains a human being. The gym is made for training and other aspects of life can contribute to it.
A:What did this art bring to you? Y: I am trying to use this huge tool box the best I can. As a human being, like everybody, I have a lot of weaknesses. I try to remain honest with myself, so that I am able to be with others. Training and practice can reveal the true character, and some realizations are less pleasant than others. It is important not to suppress any moment of our practice if we want to progress honestly. Empathy is the feeling that allowed me to significantly develop my Systema. Perhaps with time, other elements will emerge.
A:How do you see the current development of Systema? Y: To use the tools, we must study with the one who uses it the best or at least the one who knows how to relay their use in a correct way. Currently, the growth is huge. We can see a lot of groups popping up and various methods labelled with the name of Systema in a lot of different countries. Why not! Everyone is free. Teachers can open a school with their name, and students may practice wherever they like. The time will do its job. What is done by good people will stay, and the rest will fade away. I am confident that students will choose the right teachers, the ones who wish to teach for the right reasons. And finally, we need to teach for others, not for us. Give without hoping to get anything in return. For the practitioners, I wish for them to share this desire to help their partners evolve without expecting anything in return. Not waiting for anything allows us to receive much more and more frequently than we could expect. Unless people practice and teach with their heart, I see no reason for Systema training, it would only pass through the martial arts landscape. We have to foster and train those who have skills for teaching. Our teaching time is limited. Preparing the future is a duty from the early beginning of a school.
I hope I have answered your questions. I wish you to keep up with the efforts to improve, with the same curiosity and open mind that you have now. I take those few words to thank your mother who helps me and keeps me on the right path, and all the people who support and encourage me.
Now, I have a question. What does Systema bring to you? You are 18, you must have a different point of view.
A: It brings me confidence, because I know myself better. As well as joy, because we are always practicing in a relaxed way at every level. Nobody is there to get worked up! It has also opened my mind because I meet people from all walks of life. I love Systema so much. Some classes are very physical and some demands great focus. Systema requires us to feel things and that is what I enjoy the most. About the Author: Yann Christodoulou is a leader of a security agency specializing in major events. Trainer in self-defense for several security guard schools. Yann has been practicing and teaching martial arts for over 20 years. He is teaching Systema since 2007 as the chief instructor at Systema Atlantique, France. On May 1st – 3rd, 2015, Yann is hosting CONFRONTATION CONTROL seminar with Vladimir Vasiliev. Registration is on now.
The Chain Always Hits Twice by Adam & Brendon Zettler, instructors at Systema HQ Toronto
I would like to share with you my first experience of working with a chain and why it has become one of my favorite training tools.
One class years ago at Vlad’s school in Toronto, my brother Brendon picked up a chain before class and said "Adam, come here." So I walked over and he swung the chain at full speed. At that movement, fear came and my whole body tensed. The chain struck me in the arm and because I did not move, the second strike came to the middle of my back. It was a painful experience.
This painful experience made me realize that when I froze with fear, the chain hit me twice. From then on, we began to work with chain more and more. As chain is a flexible weapon, it whips around any tensions and teaches us to remove stiffness from our bodies and to move continuously. One of the greatest benefits of chain work is that it shows us where we are tense, the free end of the chain will accelerate and wrap around the tense area as soon as you stop moving. Also, the pattern of the chain’s swing is not easily predictable and this helps to develop body softness, agility and awareness. With training, we learn to relax deeper and deeper. With deeper relaxation, we benefit tremendously and begin to work free against any kind of attack.
On March 27th - 29th, Adam and Brendon, the famous Systema twins, will be teaching a seminar in Marke-Kortrijk, Belgium hosted by Koen Vanderteene of Systema Belgium. Adam and Brendon will cover real time contact, impact and control in self-defense for real situations. A word from Vladimir Vasiliev: The beauty of Systema is that it always presents questions and challenges. It is not limited by techniques. Instead, Systema contains a huge range in both its freedom of movement and freedom of thought. Thank God, there is always an abundance to study in Systema and to stay young and inspired by the learning process.
Holds, Strikes, Weapons seminar by Vladimir Vasiliev in Bern, Switzerland was a huge success. Great training with over 180 participants from 15 countries, it was skillfully hosted by Dragisa Jocic of Systema Kampfkunstschule. Thank you to the hosts and participants!
Surrounded. Confronted with multiple attackers. Be prepared. • Four-opponent warm up, stretch, body control and redirection • Find psychological restrictions in yourself and your partners • Escape from the holds of 4 attackers standing and on the ground • Use of one opponent to escape and control others • Push and strike against attackers on the move • Work unarmed against 2 knife-wielding attackers • Face the challenge of knife attacks when every person in the crowd is armed Enjoy the demos, study the drills, capture the knowledge and learn to prevail. 44 min.
Two dangers are intrinsic to a crowd: • Destructive physical impact • Brute psychological pressure Major Komarov, a talented commander, experienced bodyguard, and PhD in combat psychology, leads a large and diverse crowd through unique drills in the field. He uncovers the challenges of fear, speed, primitive instincts, awareness, and self-control. Konstantin presents ways to gain agility and stability under pressure, the do’s and don’ts to avoid injury and to survive inside an active and aggressive crowd. 47 min. 2 films in 1 DVD! Total running time 1 hour 31 min
Deeper Connection by Michael J Gonzales, Systema instructor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran
From time to time, people ask where I first heard or learned about Systema. It’s an unusual story so I tried to avoid it. Now, as an instructor, I am grateful it even happened.
In the early 2009, I was assigned to a security detail in Japan, my employer at the time was an Israeli man that had lived and worked in Japan for over a decade. After work one day, he asked if I would like to train in the dojo that was in our building of occupancy. I agreed, and he went on to show me some grabs and escapes, ground movement and soft work. My brain was trying to understand what was happening, all while my body was experiencing something foreign and fascinating. I was hooked. So there I was: an American, in Japan, learning a Russian Martial Art, from an Israeli man. I can’t make that up. Thank you, Avry. Once I returned to my home state of Texas, I immediately searched the Internet for the closest Systema school; there was one an hour drive away, in Austin. So I showed up one day, a little eager, and a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect. Little did I know, I was about to embark on something so profound and life changing. That was over 5 years ago, I met Gene Smithson and started my training, and to this day, I get the same feeling every time I walk into his school.
So, what is Systema?
This is quite possibly, the hardest question to answer as a student and an instructor. Could it be that Systema is by far the most diverse, complete, and unique martial art in the world? I don’t know. As I continue my training the question gets harder and harder to answer. Shouldn’t it get easier to understand though?
No, it shouldn’t. That’s because each time you train Systema you begin to see “more”, taking you even further down the rabbit hole. When I say, “you see more”, I mean you see more of everything, more possibilities, more options, more entrances, more exits. However, if not careful, this positive skill and knowledge can also initiate growth of ego. This is where the balance of Systema comes in. You also start to see more of your limitations, weaknesses, and bad habits. This is can both frustrate and/or motivate depending on the individual in training. So a balance needs to come into play, to humbly accept what you are not good at, and at the same time not letting your ego get bigger when you become better at something that others are struggling with. Easier said than done, right? Well, that’s all part of your growth as a student of Systema.
In a weird way, one of the best ways to progress at Systema, is to stop trying to progress at Systema! To clean yourself of everything, and I mean everything. Walking into class with no expectations, no thoughts, no preconceived ideas, and no agenda.
This is can be a challenge for many, especially in today’s world. We live in a time where we are the most connected we have ever been (social media, Internet, instant messaging, email, smart phones) but at the same time, we are the most DISCONNECTED we have ever been. We as humans have lost connection with the outdoors, with our families, with our peers, but worst of all… we have lost connection with ourselves.
For example, last year Dr. Emma Seppala, a Stanford Psychologist, gave a speech to employees at Facebook HQ where she stated, “The urge to check social media and Facebook has now surpassed the desire for sex and addictive substance like cigarettes”. Powerful statement if you think about. Research shows that our desire for social connection is one of our strongest needs in life. This social connection is also considered a strong predictor of physical health, psychological health, recovery from disease, and even life longevity. Sound familiar? Most of my students that I have taught or personally trained in Systema have approached me at one time and said, “I started training because I wanted to learn how to fight, now I train because of a much deeper connection”.
This connection is not only with their training partners, but also with their spouses, their children, co-workers and most importantly, themselves. This is something we will never achieve through social media or the Internet, and it cannot be replicated.
When I wake in the morning, I struggle with the desire to reach over and check my phone. This has become a problem for me in the past year. I would wake up, and without hesitation, reach for my smartphone to check my notifications. Now, I have slowly progressed to leaving the phone in a different room while sleeping (whatever it is can wait for the next day). Here is where I started to implement my Systema, from Let Every Breath, pg. 55 “Starting your day”. Vladimir articulates that the body over time can suffer when it’s trying to adapt to “cold starts”. He says that the way the body handles the transition from rest to activity is paramount, so it’s best if we do not rush ourselves and try to begin the first moments of our day rapidly. A better way to begin your day is by slowly waking, remain in the laying position and begin with a breath based warm-up routine. This routine has helped my body and me tremendously. It has also helped me to reconnect to myself. If you have not read Let Every Breath, do yourself a favor and get it.
In these modern times, we are completely surrounded by outside influences, and they are starting to affect our mind, body and soul. The good news is, we all have something much more powerful and special within us, and there is a “System” that can guide and help you find it. It’s up to you determine when that starts.
On April 18th - 19th, Michael is hosting a seminar with one of the top instructors from Systema HQ Toronto – Maxim Franz. Maxim will cover: Striking, Defensive and Offensive Tactics, Multiple Attackers, Clothing as a Weapon, Escapes, Knife Defense, Movement and Structure, Psychological Aspects of Fighting.
-Breathwork to prepare for training, fighting or any stressful situation -Overcome holds, locks, grabs, and chokes from any position -Control every stage of hold application -The structure of strikes, heavy fists and precision -Subtle striking, stealth for the opponent and his co-attackers -Control knife stabbing, cutting and slashing movements -Famous Systema short work, unarmed and with weapons -Dynamic and pre-emptive work with holds, strikes and weapons on the move, single and multiple opponents -Learn to avoid "freezing of movement" and to choose the right distance -Tactics of eliminating tension before during and after confrontations Early Registration discount ends on January 25th
Topics include: To strike or not to strike - ways to minimize deliberation Foundation of effective strikes – distance, body position, arm and hand Choice of distance to evade strikes Avoiding injuries while delivering and taking strikes Stealth striking in place and on the move Ways to remove excessive tension during striking Strikes to eliminate aggression of the opponents How to foresee a strike coming from the front, back and side How to identify intension to strike and number of upcoming strikes Transitions from static to dynamic structure Difference of Systema strikes from other martial arts
Instructor evaluation and renewal available at both seminars.