Friday, November 19, 2010

Great piece about Mikhail Ryabko and some of his history.

I read this a couple of years ago and found it a capivating read so I thought I'd put an extract from the main article on here.

For the full article, visit:

Extracts from an article about the book, “IT IS I, LORD!”, written by Andrei Polynski

The following is a desciption the article gave about the book, "IT IS I, LORD!", written by Andrei Polynski

"We are going to acquaint you with a book by Orthodox Russian journalist and publicist Andrei Polynski entitled “It is I, Lord!” This book is the result of numerous trips across Russia in the period from 2002 to 2005.

The book is about Orthodox Christians. Every one of them, in their own way, attempts to withstand evil, and spares no effort to help others in difficult circumstances, trying to save their souls."

This extract describes the meeting between Mikhail Ryabko and the writer Andrei Polynski.

"Once, my friend and I were talking about various styles of martial art and he said to me:

“I know a man who can send an adversary into knockout without even touching him.”

I was highly skeptical, of course. He was somewhat offended, and retorted: “It’s not at all funny!”

Then he suggested: “He has a training session tomorrow. Why don’t we go? You’ll see everything for yourself.”

“Let’s go!” I agreed, asking: “What is this mysterious combat style of his?”

“It’s a system of combat from Ancient Russia,” he replied.

I was not familiar with this system, although I had long been interested in various martial arts. Besides, for several years I had practiced sambo. I was even Moscow’s silver-prize winner in this martial art. Alas, an injury didn’t permit me to continue practice.

When we arrived at the sports hall, I anticipated seeing a powerful, muscular fellow, a Rambo-type. Imagine my disappointment, when a Mikhail Ryabkothickset, shortish man looking more like Winnie-the-Pooh came up to us. This was no Superman. With a gentle shy smile he introduced himself to me: ‘Ryabko Mikhail Vasiliyevich’, and firmly shook my hand (his palm was surprisingly soft).

Looking somewhat doubtfully at his short legs and protruding belly, I thought: “No wonder I was full of doubts.” However, what happened next was a real miracle…

Ryabko summoned one of those training at his gym and introduced him to me as “Sergei”.

Standing before me was a man of about 40 with a mustache, and a not very athletic, somewhat protruding belly – he really looked like you classic Cossack. I later discovered that he had a nickname – The Cossack.

Mikhail Ryabko suggested I hit Sergei.

“What do you mean by “hit?” I asked, thinking it wasn’t going to be pleasant hitting someone who doesn’t offer any resistance.

“The harder you hit, the better,” responded the coach.

“What if I overdo it? I have a pretty impressive punch?” I warned.

“Just give it all you’ve got, never fear!” he smiled.

Sergei, the guy I was supposed to hit, was also smiling. By that time we had gathered quite a crowd. Obviously, they were expecting something unusual from their coach.

I finally got the nerve and struck a blow – with all the strength I could muster. However, my fist entered his stomach like a bog, and all the while he stood there laughing.

Puzzled, I stood waiting for an explanation. In the meantime, the coach asked another guest – a heavyset boxer fellow – to do what I’d done and also strike a blow at Sergei. The boxer punched Sergei in the stomach longer and harder than I did after all, he was a professional. But the effect was the same as after my half-hearted attempt: Sergei stood like a rock, a genial expression on his face. The boxer, just as myself, stood back, perplexed.

So then the coach Mikhail Ryabko said: “And now watch how you should strike your blows.”

Making a lightning-fast motion with the back side of his palm in the direction of the solar plexus he forced Sergei to fall to the floor. He could not get up on his own. The coach had to hit him on the heels with his foot.

After that the coach changed the trick. Now, after his blow, which was more like a slap, Sergei stood as if paralyzed, and his muscles seemed quite rigid to the touch. To bring the Cossack out of this state, Mikhail Ryabko slapped him on the nape of his neck. In a while Sergei’s muscle tone was back to normal.

I asked Sergei: “What did you feel during the blow?”

“It was as if the blood in my body had first ebbed, then surged with a powerful impact. This ‘wave’ if you like, knocked me off my feet,” he replied.

“And when you were paralyzed, was it hypnosis?” I wondered.

“No,” he said, “I was completely conscious at the time. I couldn’t move my muscles, though, they were rigid.”

“Were you in any pain? And generally, is it dangerous for the health?”

“No,” responded Sergei, “although the sensation was far from pleasant, I wouldn’t characterize it as pain. Right now, though, I feel excellent, just like after a good steam bath.”

In the meantime the coach, as a finishing touch, showed us a quite remarkable trick: he clicked his fingers right before Sergei’s nose and then imitated a clout, all the while never even touching Sergei’s head – nonetheless, the latter fell to the floor immediately.

A round of appreciative applause wound up the demonstration performance by the coach.

I was totally astounded by what I had seen and in all honesty admitted to the coach that I was puzzled and needed an explanation. “The martial art of Ancient Russia,” said Mikhail Ryabko “is the only type of combat in the world, based on Orthodox Faith. The fact is, there were only rare instances in Russian history which passed without war — too many set their sights on our land. The necessity to continuously repel enemy attacks brought into being professional warriors who founded their own martial art, the secrets of which they passed on from generation to generation. We can read about this in Russian epic tales. For example, the epic tale about bogatyr hero Ilya Muromets, who was canonized as a Saint. It’s a pity our people have traditionally regarded epic stories as no more than fairy tales. While, if we look closely they are a priceless source of information.

Or take the times of the Tatar yoke on Russian land the famous battle of Kulikovo field, when Russian warrior-monk Peresvet entered combat with the Tatar Chelubei. To this day Chinese people come to Holy Trinity St.Sergius Lavra and ask our monks to tell them the secret of Peresvet. They ask how he could have possibly defeated the Tatar Chelubei, who was one of the so-called ‘initiated’. Prior to the battle of Kulikovo he hadn’t received a single scratch in combat and was considered invulnerable. Yet, the monk Peresvet had killed him with one stroke.

The almost forgotten martial art of Ancient Rus interested me so much that I decided to reconstruct and systematize part of the forgotten legacy.”

“So what is the secret of the Holy warrior Ilya Muromets and the monk Peresvet?” I asked.

“It is in hesychasm,” replied Mikhail Ryabko.

Let me explain for those who do not know: Hesychasm is a Greek word meaning ‘peace, tranquility, silence, detachment’. It is a Teaching aimed at towards perceiving the Holy Spirit. The highest aim of hesychasm is the transformation of Man in the image of the resurrected Jesus Christ. “The system of ancient Russian martial arts is based on the union of breathing and heartfelt prayer,” said Mikhail Ryabko. “This is the science of sciences in Orthodoxy, a tradition passed on to Orthodox Russia by the Holy Fathers of the Eastern Church. Before you start to learn the system of Old Russian martial arts you must cleanse your heart through penitence and subdue your pride. Then, during prayer, the Holy Ghost enters man and grants him His help.

There can be but two sources of superhuman power – either from God, or from the demons.

The secret of Orthodox warriors, such as the Holy Ilya Muromets and the monk Peresvet lies in the power of the Holy Spirit, acting inside them.”

In response to my request to tell me about himself Mikhail Ryabko sighed heavily and said: “There is nothing good that I can tell you about myself.” He preferred to speak of his pupils. However, he doesn’t call them ‘pupils’. “They are my students,” he says, “because I am no teacher. There is but one Teacher for us all – the Lord.”

I learned more about Mikhail Ryabko from his ‘students’. They said he had been an officer in the Chechen war. Among the soldiers and officers he was known for being fair, incorrupt and far-sighted. The soldiers had complete trust in him. The Generals sought his advice before launching serious operations. In the soldiers’ ranks there were legends circulated about how Ryabko single-handedly and unarmed seized bandits; how he never deliberately ducked fierce enemy fire. Once Mikhail Ryabko was assigned to join a special task unit that was to pass through mountain ranges swarming with well-armed gunmen. The group commander, who knew Ryabko well, said to him: “You shall go first.”

The other troopers looked at him in puzzlement, but he simply said:

“You will see why. Just do everything he says.”

And Ryabko led the unit through the mountain maze, all the mine fields and past snipers, lying in wait in crevices – all without a single gun shot. They reached their point of destination without losses – nobody was even wounded.

Today Colonel Mikhail Ryabko is a retired officer, an adviser to the Justice Minister of Russia. The school of Ancient Russian martial arts that he founded works under the patronage of the Ministry of Justice.

Mikhail Ryabko tries not to use his martial art in everyday life with the exception of critical situations. Once, late at night, he was driving his wife and children to a different town. Armed men stopped his car on the deserted highway and demanded that he come out of the car. He did. When he was getting back in, the five thugs were lying face-down on the concrete…

Since then he vowed never to show aggression in critical situations, always trying to get away by joking and thus relieving the tension. For example, not long ago he dropped in at a cafe at a snack and a random bloke there approached him saying: “Hey, you! I don’t like your face!” “Well, neither do I,” replied Mikhail. And he smiled at the man so genuinely that the latter had no chance to argue with him any further.

In another situation, when hassled by some aggressive young fellows, he told them he was a saxophonist, and if they beat him up and smash his face and lips he will be unable to play his instrument, and earn a living for his family.

“Really?” the guys queried at his logic. “OK fellow! Live!” They thought they were being magnanimous, unaware whom they were dealing with!

The distinctive feature of the martial art taught by Mikhail Ryabko is the transformation of evil into good. You need to nip aggression in the bud, he believes. The most important thing in life isn’t to learn to fight, although, certainly, at times there is no avoiding a fight. The main thing is to save your soul. "

(From the book, "IT IS I, LORD!", written by Andrei Polynski)

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