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Martial Art Shows You Cant Beat the System

Published: January 23, 2013 (Issue # 1743)



  • Mikhail Ryabko (l) demonstrates exercises during the Systema seminar in Moscow.
    Photo: melinee prochasson / spt

  • Ryabkos style is a system of relaxation.
    Photo: melinee prochasson / spt

Its the middle of a December afternoon, and in a spartan hall in northwest Moscow, a group of men and women of various ages are lying on the floor, while others are defending themselves from opponents wielding whips. This is not some sado-masochistic ritual, but a seminar devoted to a form of the Russian martial art Systema.

Originally developed as a military practice for Russian special forces, Systema remains a relatively unheralded practice. Nowadays this training is also employed in the form of an education based on self-knowledge and control of others through the practice of defensive hand-to-hand combat.

There are several branches of Systema, each following a different pedagogy. The seminar in Moscow is taking place at the school of Mikhail Ryabko, founder and developer of one of the most popular forms of Systema, known as the Ryabko Style. Ryabko, a Special Forces colonel who has been involved in combat training since the age of 15, has seen his passion blossom into what is now a network of 200 affiliate schools around the world.

The main principles of Ryabkos Systema are an absence of rank and precise techniques and an emphasis on improvisation and playful exercises. No physical protection is worn in this contact sport, in which breathing technique is a major focus.

Genius things are simple, and I think that Systema incorporates the God-given principle of power and energy at minimum costs, said Vadim Yusupov, a 24-year-old Ryabko Systema adherent who has practiced boxing for two years and Shotokan karate for nine years.

You can come to [Systema] with a rich experience of other martial art classes and with strength of body and good knowledge. But from this moment, everything is going to change: You come not to get additional information and techniques, but to cut out unnecessary things in your life. You will discover with amazement how great your power is. This power sits in harmony with nature, simple natural motions and relaxation, he added.

The origins of Systema are difficult to assert, but it is believed to have grown out of various foreign-influenced martial arts that existed in imperial Russia and that practically disappeared after the Revolution.

Some things are true, others are basically unverifiable, said Vladimir Vasilyev, a former student of Mikhail Ryabkos school and now an instructor in Toronto, Canada.

The changes in government in Russia [during the last century] didnt help to conserve a trace of what happened, he added.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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