SYSTEMA / New Zealand

Systema Principles

Systema  is very innovative and versatile.  Movement and tactics tend to be very natural and free, and are based on instinctive reactions.  There are no strict rules or rigid structures and movement remains very fluid.  These aspects allow Systema to be learned quickly and thoroughly.

Systema is less a collection of techniques and more a set of principles which each individual uses in ways that are best suited to him in terms of his height, weight, strength, flexibility, natural aptitudes, etc...

Over reliance on 'techniques' tends to limit the mind and body's reactions and does not allow us to perceive the most efficient solution to a particular situation.  In Systema sparring, there are no prearranged attacks and so this more closely resembles a real life situation.

 Techniques do not define the art of Systema, and in fact, techniques are not specifically taught per se.  The principles of a 'technique' may be demonstrated, but then each individual is expected to work out for themselves how to best make that 'technique' work for them.  This encourages creativity, adaptability and sponaniety.  As a principle-based system it conforms to the individual instead of requiring the individual to conform to it, and thus does not force the individual into a 'one-sive fits all' mentality.

Everyone's expression of Systema will be somewhat different.  It is likened to being taught to paint and then expressing yourself in your paintings.

The four main principles of Systema:

 1BREATHING - is calm, rhythmic and controlled even when under pressure. 

By avoiding holding the breath we learn to avoid;

 - Rigidity of the body and mind

 - Slowing of reflexes

 - Giving way to fear

 - Becoming physically exhausted (breathing hastens the removal of the metabolic by-products of muscle metabolism)

The breath is trained through various drills, exercises and experimentation. There are also specific breathing techniques used to heal and energize the body.  Seek out the book - Let Every Vladimir VASILIEV with Scott MEREDITH.  It covers the foundation, principles and exercises used by the Russian breath masters. 


Learning to fight whilst remaining relaxed has many advantages:

 - Mental and physical reactons are faster

 - A relaxed body allows for the diffusion of a strikes impact energy, the energy from the strike has less chance to penetrate.

 - Physical exhaustion is delayed

  - Falls on hard surfaces are less likely to result in injury if the body remains relaxed

3FORM - Keeping the body upright at all times ensures correct structural alignment.  This translates into the body  working as one piece and allows it to work efficiently.

Correct form allows for the practioner to use limbs together or independently.

Having structure and form allows the student to developing a body that can and will do what they want, when they want.

4CONTINUOUS MOVEMENT - in the body and mind

 - Helps to avoid attack

 - Prevents you from being surrounded

 - Boosts striking power, also adds an aspect of the unpredictable as the strikes can come from odd angles/trajectories

 - Puts the attacker on the 'defensive'

 - During multiple attacker senarios, continuous movement helps you to add confusion to the attackers by allowing you to make them interfere with one another - effectively causing them to 'fight' each other.

Benefits of Learning Systema

1.   An increase in stamina and fitness levels

2.  Fast learning curve in relation to practical self-defence

3.  Learning to move and fight in a relaxed manner

4.  Learning principles which each individual then adapts to best suit his/her own physical and psychological characteristics

5.  Simplicity of the 'System' and the economy of motion learned creates a fighter that is efficient, unpredictable, innovative and unexpected

6.  Learning to deal with attacks which are not prearranged and are therefore more life-like

7.  Control of fear in the face of imminent violence

8.  Comaraderie of the group experience

9.  On a philosophical level, Systema is also known in Russian as ''poznai sebia'' which means ''to understand or know yourself''.  This means not just our immediate strengths and weaknesses, but to see the full extent of our limitations and to see how proud and weak we really are, and the impetus to firstly admit to our shortcomings and then the strength to work on overcoming them.


Systema training emphasizes investigation, exploration, and experimentation over rote learning of patterns.  This is done through a wide range of exercises and drills. 

Systema teaches concepts rather than stances and techniques.  Because of this, what develops in each individual is more akin to a set of personalized automatic reactions.

(Above writings taken from/based on ones from - Visit their site for more info.)