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Systema (Russian: Система,
"The System") is a Russian martial art. It is designed to be highly
adaptive and practical, training using drills and sparring instead of
set kata. It focuses mainly on the six body levers (elbows, neck, knees,
waist, ankles, and shoulders), while also teaching pressure point
application and takedowns. Systema is often advertised as being a
martial art employed by some Russian Spetsnaz units
There is no historical "real name" for these
arts. In many cases, it's common to simply see "Russian martial arts"
used, although that can lead to some confusion. In a sense, the name "Systema"
(the system) can be thought of as a generic title comparable to "Kung
Fu" ("one who is highly skilled" or "time" and "effort").
At least in Ryabko's Systema, "The System" is a reference to the various
systems of the body (Muscle, Nervous system, respiratory system, etc) as
well as elements of Psychology and the Spirit.
Because there have been and still are a number of different fighting
styles common throughout the Russian military and special forces, like
Alpha, GRU, Vympel, several other names and nicknames are commonly
mistaken for Systema. For example, some troops and special forces
personnel train in "boevoe sambo" (combat sambo), which is a separate
art. Also, troops would refer to whatever was taught as "rukopashka"
(Russian slang for "hand to hand"), or "machalka" or "boinia" (Russian
slang for "fighting" and "beating"). The name "Combat Sambo Spetsnaz"
was coined by the Soviet government to misdirect Systema's relation to
Sambo, and there is little relation between the two
The first Soviet practitioners of Systema were Joseph Stalin's personal
bodyguards. After Stalin's death, Systema became the
style of fighting employed by some Special Military Operations Units for
high risk missions in Spetsnaz, GRU and other government facilities.
There were and are a number of different combat arts trained throughout
Russian special forces units, and Systema is only a minor one.
It is due to the Soviet Union's strict ban on non-sanctioned traditions,
and the sensitivity of special forces training, that it was not until
after the cold war that Systema became known. Systema's pre-Soviet
Russian heritage is only recently being rediscovered.
Although there is a lack of historical proof, some believe that
Systema's Russian martial arts heritage dates back to the 10th century
and was practiced by the Bogatyr (Russian heros/knights).
Another theory holds that modern Systema is one product of the intensive
research and development project carried out by several generations of
hand to hand combat instructors at the Dinamo training facility in
Moscow between roughly 1920-1980. If so, that would
place Systema in the same stream of military close-combat training as
combat SAMBO and related styles.
Systema is counted alongside a number of
pre-Soviet traditions which are being actively cultivated by the Russian
government. In 2004, the Dinamo Sports Center played host to a
demonstration and celebration of martial traditions.
It is still a relative unknown, but Systema or relatives to it are being
taught by several practitioners inside and outside of Russia. Of
particular interest is that different people from different backgrounds
were taught subtle variations of Systema.
Furthermore, since practitioners train in their own preferred manner and
with their individual understanding, their style expressed in their art
is unique to them. This is most readily seen with senior students and
other high-level artists.
Ancient Russian and Special Forces System of Self Defense