In this lesson, I tried to share some of what I learned from Mikhail Ryabko at the Systema Excellence Seminar. I taught some of what I learnt on the first day with him. It was truly an honour and awe-inspiring to be able to watch him demonstrating and to receive some of his incredible strikes. It is a memory that I will hold dear in my heart for years to come. What was more incredible was his demeanour. He was always calm, friendly, kind and was always willing to help people understand if they had any questions. I will never forget, while practising with someone, he came over and with a friendly smile did one of his "stealth" strikes and hit me and my partner on the chin. He walked away chuckling and we couldn't do anythine else but have a laugh. I feel this is what sets Systema apart from other Martial Arts. We can train in a real manner but we don't let our ego get involved and sour the training. You can get hit, have a laugh at the same time and release some demons.
At the start of the lesson, I used a similar warm up to what I did with Konstantin Komarov but I added the stretching and walking/ running drills. We did so much on the first day, so the progression of the lesson isn't exactly the same but it's very close. We weren't able to do all the drills we did on the first day due to time but it gave the students a good idea of what we did.
1) Inhale and stretch the body in different ways while putting tension into the body. On the exhale, you completely relax. This is like when you're waking up in the morning.
2)Walking and running with breathing - 1 step/ 1 In-breath and 1 step/ 1 Out-breath. This went up to 10 steps/1 In-breath etc. and then down again.
3) Push Up, Squat, Sit Up, Leg Raise, Back Extension with feet on the ground and Bridge - A slow ten seconds up and down with burst breathing. I added the Back Extension and Bridge exercises.
4) Lying down on our backs, we did breath hold drills. We held our breath for as long as possible and when we couldn't hold it any longer we did burst breathing until we recovered. Konstantin said to do burst breathing twice as long, or more, as you held your breath.
5) In groups of threes, Partner 1 just stood there relaxed. Partner 2 stood behind them and totally relaxed. Partner 3 took their forearm and used it as a tool, holding the end towards the elbow so they would have a longer lever. It was important for Partner 2 to totally relax and do nothing. Partner 3 then placed the side of P2's fist on the shoulder muscle. Mikhail said "at the point where the fist makes contact, close the fist" so when P2's hand touched the shoulder muscle this is what they had to do. The next stage was to drop it onto the shoulder from a higher position. This then lead to P3 using P2's hand like a hammer to strike P3's shoulder. Mikhail said when doing this to "lift the arm and lower it down". You just use the weight of the arm. The purpose of this drill was to take away the partner's tension and relax them to the ground. At the seminar, Emmanuel Manolakakis, when being demonstrated on, said that " the vibrations are completely relaxing".When I felt it, I could really feel the energy going through my body and coming out of the my knees and thus changing my form. Mikhail was able to relax everybody to the ground using this strike. At the seminar, Mikhail after relaxing the person to their knees proceeded to do small strikes with his partner's hand to relax them even more until they were lying on the ground.
6) We next did the same thing but instead of using a person's hand to make contact, we used our own hand. At the seminar, you really felt the difference in relaxation and power when doing it on your own after having your hand used as a hammer. This kind of training is excellent for getting your arm and body relaxed and only using the weight of the arm. This feeling applies to all strikes.
7) After that, with a partner, we practised relaxing our partner down to their knees by pinching the neck muscle. At the seminar, I initially did this by trying to take hold of all the muscle but after having it done to me by Mikhail I realized I was doing it wrong. When Mikhail did it to me, it felt like he was using his fingers to search inside the muscle. He did it very lightly but the effect was sudden and cringingly uncomfortable. The feeling is difficult to put into words. By doing this, he took control of my whole body.
8) The next drill we did was to practise striking the face. When doing this, we were to place the fist on the soft part of the face between the cheek and jaw bone. As with the drill earlier, at the point of contact we had to close our fist and put tension into it without having tension anywhere else. We only used the weight of the arm and made contact with the whole surface of the fist. This was done from a short distance away from the face. It wasn't done too hard but the strikes progressively got heavier. It was important to work at the level of your partner. We did this 3 times on each side of the face, changed over and then changed over again.
9) While your partner was lying face down on the ground, you walked up their body on your fists. Mikhail said " that your hands will find the place" and " your body will tell you how to do it". This was done on the front and back.
10) In groups of three, two of your partners walked towards you and you stopped them by placing your fist on them. This progressed onto pushing them away with your fist. The final stage was to strike them in the body and lightly to the face. At the seminar, importance was placed on making the strikes subtle and surprising. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Mikhail on this drill. He was using Edgar Cakuls's, of New York's Fight House, hands to demonstrate how to do it. All I remember of the experience, was a constant blur of movement. My body was moving before I knew it. The strikes were sometimes obvious, with the effect of making me move, and sometimes surprising, again moving me. One thing I know and felt, was that all the strikes were done with a purpose and I know if I had not moved away, the strike would've landed and had a deep impact. Even though some strikes landed and some were used as surprising "obstacles", they had a deep effect on my psyche. They initiated my natural instincts to survive and thought went out of the picture. This was a very important lesson for me.
11) Push Ups, Squats, Sit Ups, Leg Raises - ten slow repetitions inhaling on the way dowe and exhaling on the way up.
13) Circle Up