Bryan Bateman wrote:
Stan Pranin over at Aikido Journal has a bit of time for this chap. They've been on the mat at Aiki Expo, so there may be a few people on here that have experienced it and are able to comment more.
George Ledyard also has/ had some Systema people training up at his place, or next door. I believe he holds it in regard too.
Michael Ryabko is the O-Sensei of their system. There are several branches of this Russian tradition but the one that is Systema is his. He has taught a numebr of seniors. The one whom we know best is Vladimir Vasiliyev who is the number one guy in North America.
A number of my students and former students have trained with these guys. They continue to do so. These guys aren't the woo woo crowd one finds in Aikido. One has done karate and judo since he was a kid, has yudansha rank in Aikido from me as well, another has done club security work for years, the third is a WA State Patrol Officer... These guys have journeyed up to Toronto to train with Vladimir and Michael on a number of occasions. I have trained with Vladimir a couple of times and with Michael at the Expo. Suffice it to say that they didn't even scratch the surface at the Expo of what the eneregtics involve in systema practice.
Once again, it's one of those things where you have to feel it. Period. I personally think that the systema folks are seriously on the something. We keep having these discussions about Aikido in which we acknowledge that the real top level folks have failed to pass on what they know. This is not the case with the systema folks. My students and I have experienced some of the top people in North America, they come to Bellevue, WA to teach next door to me.
If you look at the people whom Vlad has taught directly, they have a phenomenol level of skill. Most of these guys trained with Vladimir under ten years. In fact, their exposure to Vladimir and Michael is about the same as most of the uchi deshi had to O-Sensei before they were sent off to teach. I can honestly say that these guys are operating on another level entirely. The systema teaching method is very straight forward, If you have access to the top teachers, they can and will pass on what they know to you.
Michael is off the charts as far as I am concerned in terms of the sophistication of what he can do.You definitely feel like the so-called primitives who labelled anything they didn't understand as "magic". He and Vlad are as close to "magic" as anyone I've seen but with them, there's nothing hidden. They will show you exactly how to train to develop these skills. Their senior students can do what they do, not as well as they do, yet, but they CAN do the magic as well.
One of the things that has really struck me with systema is the extent to which people will almost foam at the mouth in their efforts to de-bunk the system but they refuse to get on the mat with any of the top people. Folks have a lot of investment in hanging on to their notions of what works and what doesn't.
I can tell you that Ikeda Sensei views these guys as the real deal. I convinced Gleason Sensei to play with them at the Expo a bit. He let Vlad hit him... He told me later that Vlad hit him with a strike which looked like nothing and it hit him harder than the hardest karate punch he'd ever been hit with. He said he had no idea what Vlad had done... And what they showed at the Expo was purposely restrained...
I saw Vlad (at a seminar in Colorado I attended) do a sort of massage on a guy who held taken down in a knife free style. When Vlad got up and walked away, the guy couldn't move... Now this isn't some Dillman thing where suggestion has a lot to do with it... This fellow was just some guy who came to the seminar, not a personal student of Vlad, and there was no prior suggestion that Vlad was doing something. We thought he was given the guy a massage. But whatever he did, it temporarily reorganized the guy's nervous system and he was genuinely helpless for 20 or 30 seconds.
Jim King, one of Vlad's seniors, did a seminar at our place. He took one of my big brown belt boys and literally shut him down with a strike that looked like a flick of his hand. Scott was unable to move or breathe until Jim took it away... about the most fake thing you've ever seen til you've felt it. Scott told me he would never have believed it if he hadn't had it done to him.
The problem with systema training for Aikido people is that systema takes the opposite approach. We focus in the physical form first and consider getting to the energetics and letting go of the form as the "advanced" stuff ie shu-ha-ri... The systema folks start with no form right from the start. Their training is entirely about breaking you free from any constraints of form. And they start from day one on developing that internal power through devloping kokyu. Now it may be a different version of the energy than what Mike talks about.. I don't know. They don't train it the same way... But they have one of the most developed systems for teaching breath control that I have seen and it is integral to the system. It can't be separated out. What they do is actually a health system. the healing aspect is central to what the main guys like Vlad and Michael do. Fighting skill for them is a by product of the systema but not its point.
The reason Stan Pranin had these guys to the Expo was his belief that they had a lot to offer Aikido people. I think so too. Just make sure that you train with someone good. It's easy to do the relaxed movement stuff and look like you are doing systema. But its the internal kokyu training that is the goods. Find someone good to train with.