King of Nigeria wrote:
I'll start this post off by listing my martial arts history prior to beginning Systema.
I had a year worth of experience in Chinese wrestling, but wanted a more "complete" System. Not knowing the merits of cross-training, I simply wanted to find an all-in-one, which is what led me to find Systema in the Martial Arts section of the local yellow pages.
When I saw the ad for Systema I thought "fantastic!". A history of special forces use, no katas, no gis, no rituals or archaic principles that would hinder my combat training. I checked out the website, saw some of the clips and was once again very impressed by what I saw. I paid over $200 for a "foundations" package from the website and couldn't wait to start.
I started my first class right at the mecca of Systema, the club of Vladimir Vasiliev. I was immediately paired up with people who were considered to be the more seasoned practioners, and of course I was quickly subdued in all of my attacks. The principles of this system seemd to me to be solid. Movement and exploitation of your partner's very exagerated movements.
Over the new two years I was thrilled at my progress. I was taking people down with ease and using my own "intuition" was able to submit most people on the ground, as well as effectively strike people while standing up.
The one common theme I noticed in all my years of systema was that the top students always have years of other training behind them. The top student at Club Vlad is a rather large fellow who was a national wrestling champion in his home country, as well as a ranked boxer. Someone like myself, having only trained in Systema at this point in the story could never hope to out-wrestle or out-strike this man.
All of my fellow students, as well as myself, were routinely brainwashed by each other into adopting this sort of "do without effort" method of training, in that we would be so relaxed and so free-flowing that anyone who applied any strength or effort would immediately move us. This was however a good thing in systema, as the idea was that you can then work with this person's aggression to dispatch them.
The explainations of how exactly to fight were not very educational. The instructor (Vlad) would explain some obscure principal and then the demonstrate 30 different takedowns and defences he could perform against his unrealistic, although fast-moving opponent. For a student like myself who was almsot completely green to fighting, this was not useful at all as it simply made me rely on my own wrong perceptions of the right thing to do in a situation. I developed incredibly bad habits but at the same time felt invincible because I could easily beat most people at the club.
We were never taught ANY techniques at all. Not a single time in my 3 years was I instructed on how to do something properly, like a choke or a double-leg. I was so insulated in the group-think cult-like mentality of most systema practitioners that I convinced myself I didn't need technique.
The physical aspect was laughable. most of the people at the club were 40, overweight and in bad shape. They didn't understand the benefits of weight-training, cardiovascular exercise, or even things like shadow boxing. We were constantly told about breathing, and very vague and downright confusing explanations were given to us. I was always told the essence of my breath would deliver power to my punches, however when I tried to apply this in real life to a seasoned striker, it didn't do anything. not to mention the simply ridiculous ways that we were told to punch, namely rotating the body and keeping the arm still, etc.
When my friend offered to take me to his BJJ and boxing school I was thrilled to be finally able to use my Systema on some people who were trained. I went in and received the biggest ass-kicking I have ever felt. I was getting tapped in seconds, was unable to bring anybody to the ground, and during the striking portion of the class I was outmoved and out powered. Simply put... I sucked.
A top student at Vladimir's school, with 3 years of Systema training. I was incredibly angry at the fact that I wasted 3 years of productive training time. The very next day I enrolled in the school and have been attending for the past 2 months. In these two months I have learned so much more than in my three years with Systema.
In summary... Systema on its own is a joke. The Principles can be applied by someone who has training in other forms of combat, but on its own, it is worthless. Let this be a final nail in the coffin to the already dying debate on Systema. I seasoned student of Vladimir himself has come out to share his experience, so I hope I am seen by Systema apologists as credible.
Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about the system, the teachers, students, etc.