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35 Major Philosophical Principles of Russian Martial Art Systema

Martial Arts Culture and History

The philosophy of Systema as presented in Yuri Serebryansky's book "Russian Martial Art 'Systema'" revolves around principles that integrate physical training with mental and spiritual development. It emphasizes fluidity, flexibility, and the use of an opponent's strength against them. Systema is not just a set of techniques but a way of thinking and perceiving the world, focusing on adaptability, awareness, and internal control. The practitioner is encouraged to be mindful, maintain balance, and harmonize their movements with their breathing, aiming for efficiency and effectiveness in combat, while also applying these principles in daily life.

35 Fundamental Philosophies of Systema Martial Art

  1. Always be half a step ahead of the opponent in everything.
  2. Be very attentive not only in combat but also in everyday life.
  3. In combat, take the space into which the opponent wants to step.
  4. Look for gaps in the opponent's attack.
  5. In battle, be succinct and to the point.
  6. Do not rush anything in life.
  7. Be aware of everything inside and outside yourself.
  8. In battle, cross the lines of the opponent's strikes and movements.
  9. Act according to the situation in a fight, don't get fixated.
  10. Remember: in life, there is no way back!
  11. In battle, press the strong on the weak, and the weak on the strong.
  12. In hand-to-hand combat, create all kinds of inconveniences for the opponent.
  13. In battle, do everything in a way that is convenient for you.
  14. Remember: "The System" is the control of all the opponent's actions.
  15. Control the center of gravity and quickly move out of the area where the opponent's devastating strike is directed.
  16. Remember: to take something in battle, you must first give.
  17. Strike with your body, move with your body, keep your form.
  18. Make all movements in the fight with the opponent, pushing off from your breath.
  19. All strikes should take into account the selection of internal movement.
  20. Move continuously in combat.
  21. Perform circular movements in battle, both internally and externally.
  22. Remember: in combat, legs provide power, and the ground provides support.
  23. Control the space around you, not just looking, but also listening.
  24. Infuse each movement with intention.
  25. Make all movements and transitions in a circle or a cross.
  26. Remember: in Systema there are no fixed techniques; be spontaneous.
  27. Provoke the opponent's inertia.
  28. Work from the point of stiffness in the opponent's body.
  29. Maintain your verticality and balance.
  30. Anticipate the opponent's possible reaction.
  31. Do not cross your arms and legs when moving.
  32. Remember: the power of arm strikes lies in the legs.
  33. There is a law: "There is never enough strength." Therefore, avoid using force whenever possible.
  34. During training, try hard but without fanaticism.
  35. Sacrifice yourself, but save your comrade.

A Brief History of Systema

Systema, meaning "system" in Russian, is a martial art that has roots in ancient Russian combat practices. Its history is somewhat obscure and shrouded in mystery, partly because it was not widely known outside of Russia until after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Historical Background

  • Ancient Origins: The origins of Systema can be traced back to the 10th century or earlier, influenced by the fighting methods of the various peoples and tribes that inhabited the vast territories of what is now Russia. These techniques were refined over centuries of conflict and cultural exchange.
  • Influence of Christianity: With the adoption of Christianity by the Russian people, Systema evolved to incorporate principles such as non-violence, forgiveness, and humility. This led to the development of a martial art that emphasized controlling an opponent without causing unnecessary harm.

Soviet Era

  • Military Development: In the 20th century, particularly during the Soviet era, Systema was further developed and systematized by the Russian military and special forces (Spetsnaz). It was taught as a form of hand-to-hand combat and survival training, integrating psychological and physical aspects to prepare soldiers for various combat situations.
  • Secrecy and Special Forces: Systema was kept secret, taught only to select military personnel, and was used by special units within the Soviet security and intelligence services. Its techniques and methodologies were considered state secrets, contributing to the mystique and allure of the martial art.

Post-Soviet Era

  • Global Spread: After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Systema began to gain international attention. Instructors, previously connected with military or special forces, started teaching it to civilians, both in Russia and abroad.
  • Modern Systema: Today, Systema is practiced worldwide, with schools and instructors offering training in its techniques and philosophy. It is known for its holistic approach, emphasizing health, spirituality, and personal development alongside combat and self-defense skills.

Systema's philosophy and techniques are designed to be adaptable to the individual, focusing on natural movements, internal control, breathing, and relaxation. It is unique among martial arts for its emphasis on the psychological and spiritual development of the practitioner, aiming to cultivate strength, resilience, and awareness both in combat and in daily life.

More information about Systema can be found in this article.

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The most significant life is the one lived on the basis of a personal sense of justice and the desire to see justice realized everywhere.
Mas Oyama