Systema ukemi is far beyond the limits asked for in simple Martial arts one-on-one encounters.
Mark - I've only seen it from afar, so to speak. It looks very intelligent. I've seen guys roll - really mold their bodies - over projecting surfaces, for example. Systema (and other related Russian arts) brings to my mind moving like an octopus - an alive connection throughout the body without a focus on hara at all.
You can do aiki and relaxed movement, with or without hara. It is far better with hara, it is a different animal all together with a developed hara. In fact, while going for that looseness the greatest way to achieve it while retaining raw power and fluidity at the same time cannot be had without hara. Their breath training accounts for some, but to date after sparring with 5 teachers I have no seen any significant hara development in any of them.
My question would be this: (and for me, it would bring the question into internal strength/aiki questions, where, too much digression should start another thread). Ukemi is "of a piece" with the rest of a martial art. If one takes ukemi like they do in systema (and ukemi, of course, not merely being falling), what would that do to a) aikido waza b) would that contribute to training a the particular type of "inter-connections" to move and execute the aiki/kokyu ryoku that O-sensei exhibited, and some others are looking for?
I've never seen a person be able to demonstrate for me any relevance of ukemi to internal training or aiki. Ukemi helps you in all sorts of ways, it is not a requirement or even beneficial to internal training or Aiki that I have seen qualified.
If you think of warfare and military training; Systema does an amazingly effective job at using ukemi or falling for far, far better reasons then something as improbable as a one on one fight which I will address below. Think moving over open terrain, in web gear and pack and keeping weapons retention and target acquisition, lack or tightening the body in fear response, bullets and bombs etc. With that in mind, who gives a rip about a fight!
This is not a criticism of Systema - rather, to my eyes, they are developing their bodies in a different way. At "lower" levels, this is not an issue - adding some whip and flexibility to one's body in aikido would only be a plus.
I am a huge fan of systema on so many levels it would take me three pages of writing to spell it out. In fact I think it should be thee system the U.S. military uses for our personale. I can think of nothing better for movement through a combat theater under stress. I also think what they teach is fantastic for health and overall mindset, even down to forgiveness and not carrying emotional baggage stored in the body. Bully for them.
That said I do not think it wise to try to be all things for all men. I think the single greatest flaw they have is in their one-on-one combatives. Since they put out so many one on one combatives videos and make it look like that is what they are teaching, (it's not by the way, the system is much deeper and more complex) some explanations as to what folks are seeing would give them a lift instead of add to the critiques.
The continuous fluid evasions help for their job and their approach to things, but for fighting? The continuous evasions I have seen in the past will not cut it with many external fighters I know, much less someone versed in fighting and in internal strength. It's hard enough to take the balance of an external well trained fighter, with an internal well trained fighter it's a fecking nightmare. It is all too obvious that the attackers in these many videos have little no structure. If they had the connection I would be shooting for, they would never move, much less "respond" the way they do.
Plug in an internal fighter, or plug in a good external fighter and you are not going to get the same video.
The evasions they use will be used against them to take them apart. Too many good fighters will use that to set you up and play you like a string. Reading and seeing repetitive responses to what a fighter is offering are the first step in failure.
In general I think the single greatest weakness I see in any arts training model is its ukemi
; Aikido, Daito ryu, Systema on and on. A good example is in watching Systema or Aikido, knife videos.
A popular comment to Systema videos is: "Why do Systema knife attackers look like systema people with a knife?" You can plug in an Aikido-ka and get the same response. Their ukemi training preprograms their people to mold themselves into their own model both giving and receiving. This opens them up to some very serious flaws in one-on-one combatives, which I have seen first hand
All in all benefits to their ukemi far outweight one on one needs. They even go past their excellent choice for military work.There are other aspects that are rarely talked about on the net but that would greatly aid a martial artists regarding, health, flexibility, mindset, dealing with stress etc., that are stellar. While not necessarily fighting per se, it sure won't hurt either!