Mikhail Ryabko honoured Tokyo, Japan, by teaching a 2 Day seminar on the 16th and 17th of March 2013 for Systema Japan. Mikhail made his second trip to Japan with his beautiful wife Larissa and Vladimir Zaikovsky, a Senior Instructor at the Moscow Headquarters, who assisted Mikhail throughout the seminar. This proved to be Japan's biggest seminar yet with 210 participants, from around Japan and Asia, attending each day. Mikhail introduced everybody to the topic of Internal Work. He showed everybody how to find correct movement where tension doesn't interrupt movement. This was very subtle and had to be felt to truly understand the feeling that Mikhail was trying to share. Mikhail generously worked with literally any student that asked to help them experience correct movement. And this meant Mikhail patiently and kindly helped everybody who lined up to feel the various drills, which meant working individually with 210 people! On the first day, as you will see below, Mikhail struck all of the participants, which amounted to him doing around a 1000 strikes. This was truly a memorable event that nobody who attended will ever forget. Mikhail inspired all attendees with his humility, humor, deep calmness and, of course, amazing demonstrations.
On behalf of Systema Japan and all of the participants, I would like to thank Mikhail sincerely for sharing with us the deeper aspects of Systema and giving us all something so valuable. I would also like to thank Larissa for making the long trip over to Japan with Mikhail and honouring us with her presence and Vladimir Zaikovsky for taking the time to share his knowledge with all of the students. A big thanks must go to Andy Cefai, Scott McQueen and Ryo Onishi, who organised the event and provided everybody with the opportunity to have this memorable experience. And finally a big thank you to Sanbongi and all of the Systema Japan Instructors, IiTs and students who helped during the weekend.
Below is a written description of each drill to give everybody an idea of what was studied throughout the weekend. I've tried to be as detailed as possible but words never do the feeling justice.
All the best,
Mikhail first of all asked students to walk around the gym matching their steps with their breath. For example, they would inhale on one step and exhale on one step. Each time a participant finished one lap of the gym, they would increase the number of steps they would take for one inhale and one exhale. The attendees were asked to to go up to 15 laps of the gym and then back down to one. Mikhail said that this switches on the body and get you rid of tension, which makes the body balanced. Mikhail then asked the participants to do the same thing but this time they ran.
Mikhail then asked the students to run around the gym for ten laps and find their own breathing and the steps that are comfortable for them. After ten laps, they suddenly had to stop and use burst breathing to recover. Mikhail said that you can reduce lactic acid with breathing.
Mikhail asked students to lay on their backs and with their legs draw numbers up to thirty. For example, you started with both legs together and drew up to nine and once you got to ten you separated your legs and drew both numbers with your legs. When the participant got to thirty, they then had to introduce their hands and write from one upwards while still drawing numbers with the legs. Mikhail said that when this exercise is done both sides of the brain are working at the same time. He also said that the power comes from the stomach in this exercise.
Mikhail then got the students to write from one to ten while walking and once they got to ten, they had to start writing from one to ten with their hands while writing from 11 to 20 while walking.
Students wrote their name while walking and with their hands wrote their surname. Mikhail said that the energy comes from the stomach. He also said that before you start moving you should analyze yourself before you start and ask yourself “Where's the energy coming from?”
The students were then asked to to do some breath-hold work. The participants kneeling down, inhaled, exhaled, but not fully, and held their breath and did one push up. Afterwards, with burst breathing, everybody had to fully recover before doing the same thing but with two push ups. Mikhail asked everybody to do this up to 15 repetitions. The important part of this drill was the recovery. We had to make sure our heart rate, blood pressure, psychological and breathing completely returned to normal before moving onto the next set. Mikhail said that this is exercise is good for getting the stress out of the body. He said that it's important for each student to feel what is happening to their body themselves. Mikhail also pointed out that the recovery stage is vital. You shouldn't feel like it's a waste of time when you're recovering. He said that if you can recover 100%, you can clear your mind. Mikhail said that if you don't know how to recover, you shouldn't do Martial Arts. You can do this style of recovery in any situation, such as being attacked or falling over. Mikhail added that when you stop breathing, your Blood Pressure gets higher and blood vessels expand, which makes your circulation better. This exercise is good for people with high blood pressure but they should increase their level progressively.
The participants then did the same thing with squats. Mikhail said it was important to balance the blood pressure by doing squats after doing push ups. He said you should keep your back straight. He also mentioned that when you do the exercise slowly it's good for your nervous system. Fast exercise is bad for your nervous system. Mikhail said that by doing these exercises heat comes from inside, which is good for your metabolism, new blood and it helps many diseases, such as High Blood Pressure and Cancer.
Each student then did a very slow push up while doing burst breathing and once they finished they immediately did a slow squat. Mikhail said that doing these exercises switches the whole body on and gets it ready.
Mikhail introduced a drill where the students raise their arms and legs without excess tension. He said that it was important to move in a natural way so the tension doesn't get in the way of the body. Mikhail said that you shouldn't feel the heaviness of the hand. It should feel like there's no gravity. You should try to use no energy. If you do correct movement, tension won't get in the way of your movement. Using Vladimir Zaikovsky to demonstrate, Mikhail explained how correct movement can be applied to using a knife and sword. He also explained that with correct movement, you can activate each muscle group at a time enabling you to move by each body part naturally following the other. When Vladimir demonstrated this, a few of the students touched him and found no tension in his body when he was doing this. Mikhail explained that you don't need power, you need to to find the right movement.
Mikhail then asked the students to do some similar work but instead of just raising the hand or legs, they had turn over onto their stomach. To do this students had to move from the hand and extend their arm as much as possible, without putting any tension into the body and find the right direction, once the hand extended to a certain point, the body naturally turned over due to the change in the centre of gravity. It was important to continue to breath while doing this.
After lunch Mikhail struck each of the students, which numbered over 200. Mikhail originally said that he would give each student one strike but due to his generosity he gave most students more than this. It was said by Mikhail that he gave a thousand strikes that day.
To end the day, Vladimir Zaikovsky taught a drill where you only put tension into the fists, so that your fists feel heavy while your arms, shoulders and the rest of the body feel relaxed. With a partner, he then placed his fists on them, while in a push up position, making sure that tension didn't creep up the arm and into the shoulders. He placed the whole surface of his fists on soft areas where there was good support. He also said that it should feel comfortable and relaxing for the partner, not painful.Vladimir then walked around the body placing his fists on different parts of the partner's body. The person on the bottom also had to work without being tense in order to reduce damage. With breathing, relaxation and the appropriate tension, they needed to make sure the push didn't go inside the body.
Mikhail first of all asked students to run around the gym matching their steps with their breath. For example, they inhaled on one step and exhaled on one step. Each time a participant finished one lap of the gym, they would increase the number of steps they would take for one inhale and one exhale. The attendees were asked to to go up to 15 laps of the gym and then back down to one.
Mikhail demonstrated with a sword, but he said it could also be done with a knife or stick, how to move the body by moving the sword. He started off by holding the sword in an upright position without using any power or any tension in the body. Mikhail said that if you hold it naturally, you can move smoothly and don't put a burden on your body. He said you need good form and have to hold the sword in the right position without creating any tension. He demonstrated this by asking everybody to touch his back and body to see if there was any tension when he lifted the sword. Literally, Mikhail was surrounded and touched by a lot of the 215 attendees, who were trying to find some tension.They couldn't find any. He then showed how you can connect the body with the sword. He said that if you find the right position, the weapon and body become one and when this happens the sword and body can move together. And by putting the body's gravity into the point of the sword, he was able to move himself by the using the weight of the sword to move him. He showed how you can walk forward and backwards just using the weight of the sword. He said that you have to feel the heaviness of the body first and then keeping body's gravity in the tip of sword and making small movements with the sword, you can move forwards and backwards. Each small movement of the tip created a large movement in the body. Mikhail said that if there's tension in the body, the movement will stop. This was again about finding natural movement.
Mikhail demonstrated an application of this work with a knife against a partner attacking him with a knife. The participant tried to attack him with a knife but with the smallest of movements, Mikhail completely controlled and stopped the attack. Mikhail said that the knife should be as it should be and it shouldn't be an obstacle that restricts your movement. By doing this you can defend and attack at the same time. The movement came from the knife and Mikhail's body followed. The attacker said that he couldn't perceive Mikhail's movement. Mikhail said that there was no tension in his body, so it was difficult for the attacker to sense the movement. He also said that his right movement is very short and nothing is wasted.
Mikhail demonstrated the same work with swords. Mikhail had a katana (Japanese sword) and his partner had a shashka. Mikhail said that you first need to learn to move your body without tension. He said that you can use the sword for defense. Mikhail pointed out that your whole movement should be rational and if his movement is correct, the attacker will never win. Mikhail said that you should remember your comfortable movement and there should be not tension or burden on your body.
Giving a female participant a feeling of correct movement that Mikhail demonstrated previously , he asked her to demonstrate it for the rest of the attendees. She said that the she felt like her brain was in the knife and it was like the knife was guiding her movement. Mikhail then invited another participant to join and then after “charging up” the original attendee with the correct feeling of the movement, she let the movement of the knife lead her body while affecting the other person, who was trying their best to escape the knife. Mikhail then progressively introduced 5 people into the demonstration who tried to get close to the lady with the knife. The effect was the same as with one person. She was able to control them very effectively. She said she felt very safe after being “charged up” by Mikhail. She said she felt like she had a force field around her and had no fear.
After this, most of the 200 students lined up with their sticks or knives to feel the movement. Mikhail very subtly extended the body but in a way that one part linked to the other making the whole body connected. After the movement was given, feeling the direction of the knife or stick, the attendee followed and felt the direction.When I received it, it felt as if my body was being drawn by the knife.
Mikhail while using a stick, knife and his fist showed how to control someone's body. Mikhail showed each of the above three things to his partner, who was standing in front of him, and said that even though each is different the feeling is the same. Mikhail made simple movements using the stick, knife and fist and affected the person, who tried to avoid the movement. The student said that he felt a pressure from each thing without there being any actual contact. Mikhail said that when you control your body, you can give the same damage with any weapon you have. Mikhail said that he adjusts his power to the movement of the person and that his movement should be easy and rational. He said that it's not important what you're holding. Whatever your holding, you put the power into it. For example, Mikhail said that when he uses a knife, his power goes into the knife. He said that the person can feel the force of his movement.
Mikhail demonstrated using the stick to affect someone. Mikhail, using short movements, continually tapped and poked a participant, who was trying to escape while moving on the ground. He said that the idea comes from mathematical thinking. You should find the shortest distance between A and B. Mikhail said that you shouldn't dance and that you need to point it at the person soon and in a straight line. He said that if you don't understand the staff, there's no meaning to the movement.
Mikhail asked Michinobu Motoshima, an Intructor from Kyushu, who stayed in Moscow for two months and had already practised this, to demonstrate work using a Jo staff. Michi first with short movements and then gradually with larger movement demonstrated how to use the stick to stand up and go down to the ground. He used the movement of the stick to lead his body in a variety of directions. This could only be done if there was no tension in the body to restrict the movement. This again was about natural movement. Mikhail said that this movement switches on each muscle one after the other. Mikhail said that it's like the Jo is pulling the person. He said you have to find the right position and stand up. He also said that as long as the hand is in the right position, the stick can pull him up. The main thing is not using the weapon but controlling yourself. Mikhail then asked Michi to demonstrate the same movement using a shashka.
Mikhail asked the attendees to practise a basic exercise to understand the above principle. Michi demonstrated a movement where you kind of throw the stick up, which leads the body, so that your reaching up as far as possible and on tip toes. The body then kind of rebounds back, due to elasticity and the movement of the stick, and the person bends over at 90 degrees so the hands are stretched above them. With the movement of the stick moving backwards, the stick takes them directly to the ground. Once on the ground, and laying flat down, allow the stick to continue it's movement, so that it goes above the head. From there, being lead from the movement of the stick, the person traces the previous movements back until their standing up again. This movement was one movement and didn't stop. While doing this it was important to continue breathing, in order to reduce tension. If there's tension, the movement will stop. You had to find natural movement where no tension gets in the way. Michi also demonstrated the same movement with a knife. Mikhail said that you hold the Jo with both hands, you can keep you balance but with one hand it's ok.
In order to help the participants gain the right feeling of this idea, he asked a student to lay down on their back and hold the stick with one hand in the air at about a 45 degrees. From here, Mikhail by pulling the tip of the stick helped lead the person up in a gradual way up into a standing position. Mikhail helped them progressively so that they could do it on their own. As before, Mikhail said that you needed to find the right direction of movement where no tension gets in the way. He also said that you need switch each muscle on one at a time. He said that the person has to continue to push the stick in the correct direction until their on their feet. It's like their passing the stick to someone. This movement enabled the person to stand up with minimal tension and energy. Mikhail said that you need to keep a good form while doing it.
Mikhail asked his partner to push him with his fist. When Mikhail was in an off balanced position Mikhail pushed back affecting his partner's form and balance. Mikhail said that the person's power returns to them.
Vladimir taught how to protect yourself from a strike. With his partner laying flat on their back on the ground, Vladimir pushed the person with his fist all over the body. The person laying down had to breath out when they got pushed. Vladimir said not to grip the fist too hard and leave a little bit of a hole and not to use full power. He also said to push inside the person. For the person receiving the push, they had to push the strike out with the air in the body. Vladimir pointed out the person must concentrate and push the air out of the mouth while keeping their mouth closed. The person should always have air inside of the body so their prepared for the strike and have less fear. They need to inhale directly after each push. He said not irritate the person. He said that if you don't affect them, you can push a little harder.
Vladimir applied his fist to the front of his partner's body, who was standing up. He said you have to do it in a way that allows you to completely control his whole body. He said you shouldn't just push. Thin feeling that you need to experience. Because if you push too hard, tension will come back into you and there'll be no effect. But if you don't push enough, again there will be no effect. Vladimir said it's about giving your partner the right amount. He said that you should ask your partner to see if it has the right effect on the body.
Vladimir then showed the same work but did a light strike on the front of the partner's body.The light strike was done in order to not lose the feeling from the last drill. Vladimir said that the quality of a strike is better than the damage it can cause, so it's important to pay attention to your partner. He said that it's important to ask your partner after receiving the strike. If it's the wrong strike, the partner will feel very uncomfortable. He said that the right strike is a very good feeling.
Vladimir then asked students in pairs to face each other and strike each other 20 times. For the final drill of the day, In order to remove the strikes, attendees were asked to do 30 push ups, squats, sit ups and leg raises with very powerful breathing. Vladimir said that it was important to do the repetitions at the same tempo.