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Martial Art Shows You Can’t Beat the System

Published: January 23, 2013 (Issue # 1743)



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

  • Ryabko’s style is a system of relaxation.
    Photo: melinee prochasson / spt

It’s 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 Ryabko’s 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 Ryabko’s school and now an instructor in Toronto, Canada.

“The changes in government in Russia [during the last century] didn’t help to conserve a trace of what happened,” he added.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBA’s ongoing “Breakfast with the Director” series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at “Sounds of the Universe,” a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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