'Systema': An Ancient Russian Martial Art that is Rooted in Christianity

Finally, a cohesive fighting system exists that derives its principles from a Christian religion

Editor's note: This article was written by a Mr. Vasilev, a well-known Systema trainer in Canada (you can find his site here). It's fascinating that, despite the widespread misconception that Martial Arts are an exclusively Eastern inventions, based on non-Christian philosophies, a cohesive fighting system exists that derives its principles from a Christian religion. Notice: the Systema 'textbook' recommendations are actually core Russian Christian texts.

Throughout the history of this huge country, Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east, and west. All attackers brought their distinct styles of combat and weaponry. The battles took place on different terrain, during freezing winters and sweltering summer heat alike, with the Russians often greatly outnumbered by the enemy forces.

As a result of these factors, the Russian warriors acquired a style that combined strong spirit with extremely innovative and versatile tactics that were at the same time practical, deadly, and effective against any type of enemy under any circumstances.

The style was natural and free while having no strict rules, rigid structure or limitations (except for moral ones). All tactics were based on instinctive reactions, individual strengths and characteristics, specifically designed for fast learning.

Russian special forces practice extremely complicated techniques. What you are seeing is a slightly exaggerated demonstration, in a real fight, these situations are a lot more dangerous and complicated than they look on screen. So please don't try this at home, folks.

When the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. Those practising the old style of fighting could be severely punished.

At the same time, the authorities quickly realized how viable and devastating the original combat system was and reserved it just for a few Special Operations Units.

In Systema, the synergy of three components creates a TRUE WARRIOR - Combat Skill, Strong Spirit and Healthy Body.

  1. The body has to be free of tension, filled with endurance, flexibility, effortless movement and explosive potential.
  2. The spirit or psychological state has to be calm, free of anger, irritation, fear, self-pity, delusion and pride.
  3. The combat skill includes movements that are powerful and precise, instant and economical, spontaneous, subtle and diverse, the signature of a true professional.

There is a reason why Russian Martial Art is called SYSTEMA (which literally means 'system'). It is a complete set of concepts and training components that enhance one’s life. In this case, acquiring the martial art skill is a way to improve the function of all seven physiological systems of the body and all three levels of human abilities the physical, the psychological and the spiritual.

The key principle of the Russian Systema is non-destruction. The goal is to make sure that your training and your attitudes do no damage to the body or the psyche of you or your partners.

Systema is designed to create, build and strengthen your body, your psyche, your family and your country.

Systema has another name “poznai sebia” or “Know Yourself”. What does it really mean to Understand Yourself?

It is not just to know what your strengths and weaknesses are, that is good, but fairly superficial.

Training in Russian Martial Art is one of the sure ways to see the full extent of our limitations - to see how proud and weak we really are.

Systema allows us to gain the true strength of spirit that comes from humility and clarity in seeing the purpose of our life.

As the roots of the Russian Systema are in the Russian Orthodox Christian faith, the belief is that everything that happens to us, good or bad, has only one ultimate purpose.

That is to create the best possible conditions for each person to understand himself.

Proper training in the Russian Systema carries the same objective - to put every participant into the best possible setting for him to realize as much about himself as he is able to handle at any given moment.

One of Mikhail Ryabko’s words to the beginners is “Be a good person and everything else will come to you.”

In a simple, yet comprehensive way Systema helps you choose and follow the right path.

The Heart of the Church: There is an imperishable treasure deep inside the human soul - God’s gift of endless joy of the eternal life. This gift is hidden in the heart - the center of our spiritual life (This link is highly recommended by Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev).

Related readings in English:

Title Author Approx. Price Available At
The Spiritual Life and How to be Attuned to It St. Theophan the Recluse Approx. $20 US Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church Bookstore
25 Henry St., 
Toronto, ON
Phone: 416-979-2990

Holy Trinity Monastery Bookstore
Order by Mail or Fax only 
Mail to: P.O. Box 36, 
Jordanville, NY
13361 - USA
Fax to: 315-858-0505

St. Nectarios Press
10300 Ashworth Ave. N. 
Seattle, WA 98133-9410
Telephone: (206) 522-4471
Fax: (206) 523-0550 
In U.S. and Canada: 

The Law of God Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy Approx. $50 US
My Life in Christ St. John of Kronstadt Approx. $35 US
With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man 

Spiritual Awakening

Elder Paisios Approx. $45 US
Family Life Elder Paisios Approx. $45 US

You may get these and many other Orthodox books at the Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church

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