Saturday, November 27, 2010

Daniel Ryabko Japan Seminar on the 18th, 19th and 20th of September 2010 - Day 1 Seminar Review

This is a review of Day 1 from the Daniel Ryabko seminar. I will write the reviews for Day 2 and Day 3 as soon as I can. I hope that you find the information useful.

Daniel Ryabko, son of legendary Colonel and founder of Systema Mikhail Ryabko, came to Tokyo, Japan, to teach a 3 Day seminar from the 18th to the 20th of September 2010. He was accompanied by Vladimir Zaikovsky, personal student of Mikhail Ryabko and Senior Instructor at the Moscow Systema Headquarters, and Dmitrij Tihomirov, Instructor of the Riga Systema School in Latvia. This was a rare opportunity for the participants to receive extremely high level instruction. 

This was Daniel Ryabko’s second visit to Japan. On his previous visit in September 2007, he had taught alongside his father and Vladimir Vasiliev at the “Masters in Japan” seminar which was an astounding success. Over the 3 days, 60 participants, some experienced and others with no prior Systema experience, attended the seminar. The event was organized by Andy Cefai, Head Instructor of Systema Japan and it was translated by Ryo Oinishi, Head Instructor of Systema Osaka. The topics to be covered during the seminar were: escaping from grabs, Ground Fighting, Knife Work, Striking, Striking against Multiple Opponents and No -Contact work.

Day 1

With a quick introduction, the day was started with Daniel asking the group to walk around the gym 15 times matching one step to one breath. Each time a lap was finished, a step would be added to one breath. For example, two laps meant 2 steps for 1 breath and 3 laps meant 3 steps for 1 breath and so forth. Walking was to be done with the whole body relaxed, with good posture and making sure that the legs were doing all the work. With this he demonstrated that the arms really shouldn’t be moving while walking, which is very different from the way people normally walk, and said that this action causes unnecessary tension and movement in the body.

Daniel pointed out that this drill is an internal exercise. By this, he meant that you should be paying attention to yourself throughout the movement. Breathing should match the movement and tension in the body should be felt and relaxed. He said that when walking, the legs should be under the body, the knees, hips and shoulders relaxed, the shoulders straight, the arms relaxed by the sides of the body and that you should walk lightly on the foot. An interesting point that he made was that you should imagine that your centre of gravity is in the chest and slightly forward. He said that if you do this, weight will be taken off the back thus releasing tension and making it much easier to walk lightly.

While doing laps, the students walked forwards and backwards with small steps, large steps, hands raised to the sides, hands in front of the body. This was all done with eyes closed in order to increase internal awareness and sensitivity. The next exercise was going down to the ground, rolling and then standing up and walking again whilst continuing to move forward. Daniel emphasized that there should’nt be any interruption in the flow and it must all be done in one movement and said that it was important to be always in control of your movement when going down to the floor and that your posture must be straight as possible. You shouldn’t just flop down.

Daniel then demonstrated a drill where you walk forward for 3 steps, turn around and walk backwards for 3 steps. This progressed on to 3 steps forward, 3 steps backward and then moving down to the floor and up again. Once again these exercises were to be done in one smooth movement. The participants appeared to enjoy this drill but the act of moving throughout the movement without stopping was a difficult one. However, they were motivated by Daniel who was able to do this with such ease and grace.

After finishing 15 laps, the participants were all relaxed, energized and ready for Daniel’s next task, a very interesting, fun, drill where you hold opposite hands with  your partner. You pull your partner towards you, using just the arm. The other partner relaxes, maintains the connection and lets themselves be pulled around. The roles are then reversed to create a never-ending movement. (The pulling action resembled what happens when a broken down car gets towed away; when the slack of the rope becomes  taut the car moves.) As this exercise continues greater speed builds up which ends only when you can’t hang on to each other’s hands any longer due to the force created. The same exercise was then repeated in groups of three, four, five and ten. Due to the centrifugal force created, the participants on the end of the lines were flying around the gym and laughing as if they were on some sort of roller coaster. The person who initiated the movement in the groups, was known as the leader, and had to do it with their eyes were closed. Daniel explained that in this drill it was very important for each person to work and, that when one feels the tension from the person pulling them, one should give tension to the next partner straight away therefore transferring the energy. This tension was not to be given by the entire body but just by the arm itself.

After the break, Daniel started with an exercise where he kneeled down with his partner and held hands with them. It looked like they were shaking hands. Daniel then put tension into them by turning his hand and affecting their fingers, wrists and shoulders in different directions. With a minimal amount of movement, Daniel made the attendee move around with ease. Daniel wasn’t twisting the joint, he was putting tension into the whole body through the particular area he was holding. The purpose of this drill was to move the body to escape and release the tension. The receiver had to be sensitive to the direction of the movement, release their own tension and escape with relaxation and movement. Above all this, breathing was the main tool that allowed the participants to do this. When Daniel demonstrated how to escape from a lock, he did so in such an easy and fluid way and, at no point, was in a state of tension. He was always ahead in the movement and, because of this, the participant couldn’t lock him.

After the participants had got used to escaping with their whole body, Daniel demonstrated a drill whereby he lead his partner around by the hand. The person being lead had to perform the same movements as Daniel and stay with him without being left behind. They moved from being standing up, to the ground in a variety of ways. While on the ground, they performed front rolls, back rolls and an assortment of different movements. The aim of this drill was to keep a connection with the partner and to develop an awareness of movement. Daniel, when being lead, didn’t look like he was being lead at all. This was on account of him being totally connected to his partner’s movement. There was never an instance where he was left behind. At times, the partner moved themselves into positions of tension but because of how relaxed Daniel was, he never had any trouble. It was almost as if he was taking a stroll in the park. That’s how naturally he moved.

Kneeling down, Daniel asked one of the participators to put tension into his wrist, thus trying to affect the body, but instead of moving the whole body to escape he just used a slight movement of the wrist. The principle was the same in that he breathed, relaxed and moved his hand in the same direction as the lock was being put on. By doing this, he caused the person to lose their form and balance. It didn’t matter how much effort and strength the person put into his wrist, Daniel, with an almost joyful nonchalance, repeatedly lead his attacker where he wanted with a playful grace. By the amazed looks on the faces of the group, this really impressed them.

The next stage was what Daniel called “Internal Work”. Somebody would grab him by the wrist and, with no apparent movement at all, he would be able to put tension into their whole body thereby controlling them, changing their form and making them gradually go down to the ground. He said to “use the muscles” and with this he gave a more obvious demonstration of what he was doing. When the person grabbed his wrist, he said to “turn on the muscles”. He showed this by tensing and relaxing the muscles in his forearm; they looked like they were wiggling. As he did this, the person again progressively collapsed to the ground. He mentioned that you don’t need to do this but he just wanted to give a clearer idea of what was going on. When feeling this, it was very sudden and clear that your whole body was being controlled through that point. You would hold as hard as possible, thinking you are in total control and then “click”, your body is full of tension and easily moved. It was very impressive. Another interesting thing he did was, when grasping his wrist with all the strength you could muster, his hand felt like it turned to water and it kind of flowed out of the grasp and took you down. The weight of this felt very heavy. Even though you were going down, you still wanted to maintain the hold for some reason. This was difficult to understand but easy to feel. It is important to mention that his wrist felt very light, relaxed and gave no resistance. Daniel demonstrated this with anybody who wanted to experience it. Vladimir Zaikovsky was also helping and demonstrating with anybody who wanted to feel it. He applied the same principle from all parts of the body. For example, he would touch the knee and say “chook” and then move the person’s whole body as a unit. He said that he says “chook” because that’s the noise Mikhail makes when using a knife. After that, everybody was saying “chook” and for some people it really helped. Maybe the next level is saying “chook” internally! Anyway, he pointed out that this principle relates to strikes as well. When you first make contact with a strike, you instantly connect to the whole body therefore being able to to affect the body as a whole. The participants were lucky in that they were being exposed to some higher level concepts.

The last drill of the day that Daniel showed was applying the previous work to standing up. I was lucky to have the chance to work with Daniel. At all times, when working with Daniel, I felt under complete tension. When there was a respite, it felt like it was given to me in order to lure me into more tension. The use of “obstacles” was also very clear. I felt under constant pressure due to the obstacles that were being placed in front and around of me. During this experience, I was constantly trying to escape in order to find a comfortable position but I would just move myself into an even more tense position. The feeling of having no room was very apparent. The pressure caused me to lose my breath thus increasing the tension in my body. There were so many important lessons in this one experience.

It must be noted that throughout the day, Daniel was open to all kinds of questions and invited anybody who wanted to feel it for themselves to come and ask. Of course, this meant that Daniel, doing it in a joyful and kind way, was constantly sharing what he knows and working with everybody throughout the day. Vladimir Zaikovsky and Dmitrij Tihomirov also did this. This really shows the kind of people that are cultivated by doing Systema. It was a great day and everybody was looking forward to the next day of training.

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