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Friday, 24th May 2013
Russian Martial Arts History
Russia is a huge country with a remarkable combat history, with diverse population, geography and climate, with rich and fascinating culture and traditions. For centuries these factors have contributed to the formation of an incredible variety of martial arts styles.
Close protection has always been the most vulnerable and challenging area in martial arts. The goal of Stalin's Falcons was to have a system that combined all the best components of the Russian System on all three levels of human abilities - the physical, the psychological and the psychic. And what is most important, to develop tactics that would not look like martial actions, tactics that are so subtle, that when they were applied it would be barely possible to see what happened and how.
Needless to say, this System was kept away from the public by the Russian authorities. In fact, when the Communists came to power in 1917, they suppressed all national traditions. It is only since the late 1980's, with the fall of the Communist era, that these martial traditions and styles started to become available.
Systema was developed by the early Cossacks more than a thousand years ago, with historical record of this fighting style dating to 948AD. For Centuries Russia had to repel invaders from the north, south, east and west. These included the Varangians (Vikings), Sarmations, Scythians, Pechenegs and Drevlinians, Mongols and Volga Bolgars. Each of these invaders brought to bear the peculiar martial skills, physical abilities and weapons of its culture. As a result of the varied skills and weapons of the invaders, the need existed for a fighting style based on adaptability, instinct and ease of learning. While the Cossacks existed as a highly trained, frontier paramilitary society which often hired out as mercenaries, or giduks, many of the early Russian oblasts or regions could not afford professional armies, relying instead on the martial skills of the villagers, farmers and hunters.
From this need arose the System of Russian martial art (Systema Russkovo Boevogo Iskustvo). For many years the Russians trained in these skills were highly sought as warriors, even by the Roman empire. When the Communists came to power after the October Revolution of 1917, the practice of these fighting skills was prohibited except by the elite High Risk Mission units of the Soviet Special Forces or Spetsnaz (Voiska Spetsialnogo Naznacheniya) and K.G.B. bodyguards.
In the 74 years of existence of the Soviet Union, the Spetsnaz further developed the countless striking, submission, kicking and weapons disarming skills of the early Russian practitioners. This has resulted in the highly evolved fighting methods of Systema practiced today. It is only since 1991, with the fall of the Communist era, that these martial traditions and styles have become available to the West. The instructors of the U.S. Systema Academy have been trained in both the ancient style passed on by generations and in the modern Spetsnaz hand-to-hand combat version.
Despite the more recent development of this art, however, it has never shed its roots in Russian life, health and culture. This is far more than a fighting style. The study and practice of this discipline involves a complete system of physical and spiritual health, relaxation, and courage in the face of all forms of adversity. Unknown to most, each movement of the traditional Russian and Cossack dances seen by people around the world is a technique from the fighting arts, enabling the Russian people to practice their fighting skills in an atmosphere of fun and community.
But most of all, it involves a philosophy of life, peace and decency seldom seen. Completely opposite of many Asian styles, Systema teaches no fighting stances, but to fight from all positions. It stresses relaxation, and to slow movements down in combat rather than accelerate them. It disciplines its students to reduce power in strikes, rather than focus to generate maximum power, allowing you to strike at odd angles, to smile in combat rather than adopt a fierce visage or announce your intentions with a blood curdling yell. There are no fixed training patterns of combinations or movements, all training is based on the reality that unexpected things happen in combat. Even in meditation, the Russian system teaches you to relax and become totally aware of all that is around you, never to close your mind off in a state of hypnotic unconsciousness. The purpose of this discipline is not merely to prepare for violence, but to improve one's own mental state, to have a healthier and more limber body, to be more relaxed in a stressful society, to live a decent and peaceful life.
Anyone, in any condition or any age, can learn this form.