Ryabko’s Systema

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Ryabko’s Systema is a type of martial art headed by Mikhail Ryabko. Ryabko is a Colonel[1] in the Russian military, and has past military, special forces, and traditional Russian martial arts training.

This art is variously called Systema, “The System”, “Russian martial arts” and “poznai sebia” (Russian language: discover yourself). Although this art uses the same name as Kadochnikov’s Systema, it is different in a number of ways, most notably because it doesn’t directly study biomechanics. The practical philosophy, training methods, views on history and many other subtleties are completely different.

“The System” is a reference to the various systems of the body (Muscle, Nervous system, respiratory system, etc) as well as elements of Psychology and the Spirit.

Note: The Systema article describes history common to these arts.

The strongest influence of Ryabko’s style is from traditional Russian martial arts, originally through a member of Sokoli Stalina (Russian: “Stalin’s Falcons” – Joseph Stalin’s personal bodyguards.)[2]

Ryabko operates the Systema headquarters[3] in Russia, and continues to train students and military personnel, and also acts as an advisor. Lastly, belonging to the military, he still performs those duties. Students of various kinds travel to Russia to train with him.

Vladimir Vasiliev is Ryabko’s senior student, who emigrated from Russia and presently heads the official Russian Martial Art Systema Headquarters outside of Russia, located in Toronto Canada.[4] He has regular classes, and some students travel from international locations to train with him. He travels, mostly in North America to host seminars.

Emmanuel Manolakakis is one of Vasiliev’s senior students who also operates Fight Club[5] in Toronto Canada. He also hosts and guests in seminars throughout North America, and has had appearances on television and radio. He has also produced instructional videos. Manolakakis is also one of the first instructors with a youth class.

Systema is taught in Port Hope, Ontario, by Sascha Lutz, a student of Vladimir Vasiliev.

Alexander Kostic is also an instructor who has produced his own video while working with the PTJ (special anti-terrorist unit).[6]

Edgar Tsakouls teaches Systema at Fighthouse[7] in New York, New York. Seminars that Ryabko has taught in New York have been released on dvd[8].

Although as of 2006 there are students who are three and four generations away from Ryabko, both Ryabko and Vasiliev remain the strongest influences and most capable practitioners.

Training can vary widely between classes or the focuses of each student. For example, instructors may have their own unique preferences and students may have injuries or fears which complicate certain exercises.

In general, though, there is no set curriculum and no two classes even by the same instructor are the same. Commonly, training will include general calisthenics, stretching, breathing and exercises which dramatically enhance strength through body weight and one’s natural range of motion. Despite generally being categorized as a martial art, training includes many of these health-enhancing exercises. Some training exercises could be seen as forms of meditation or self-psychology.