Russian Martial Art Systema - Relax and be Yourself

We knew nothing of Russian martial arts until Systema instructor Peter Aftanas gave a seminar at our Dojang.

In a 3 hour taster we learned huge amounts about how to fall, how to relax and how to cope with fear.

Afterwards we caught up with Peter to learn more about this fascinating system.


Can you tell us about your martial arts background?

I started my martial arts training when I was in high school at the age of 14. At that time all of my friends were getting into Karate so I started training in Chinese martial arts.

I trained in a number of arts both internal and external very seriously for about 8 or 10 years. Then I was forced to stop training due to a major knee injury. Through this period I started to look at other aspects of Martial Arts as well as focusing more on the internal schools such as Qi Gong and Tai Qi.

I started my Systema training in 2005. I had never heard of Russian Martial Arts when a friend showed me a Russian martial arts Knife DVD. This started my interest. From this point we soon found a training group and instructors and I went from there.

In 2008 I brought Maxim Franz to Sydney. Maxim is Headquarters Senior Instructor. When he went back home I was granted an instructor-ship and told to start a school. So from this point I started teaching.

What is the basis of the training? What do students get from it?

Systema has a few basic principles at its core

  1. Respect the ground and learn to go to the ground softly and safely as possible.
  2. Relax - and try to create all of your movements through relaxation.
  3. Breathe - we need to cultivate constant breathing in order to maintain strength and relaxation.
  4. Constant Movement - will allow your attack and defense to be more effective.
  5. Form - keep your spine straight in order for you to maintain your power and strength.

By practicing these simple principles the student slowly develops their own natural movements and confidence.

How is your martial art different from others?

Systema is more a training methodology rather than a martial art.

It's A Way of doing things rather than The Way. It's is a way to train in order to develop your own natural martial art which is the best way for You to do things. This becomes best way for you to protect yourself and the best way for you to develop your own martial skills.

There are no Forms or Kata in Systema. There are no ranks, belts or levels, there is no uniform. Often you wear your club t-shirt if they have one. As far as levels are concerned it's is a little like boxing - you just keep doing it and you get better. Then eventually the better you get the less you can get hit.

One of the core values within the system is above all to be a good person.

Through your training you are taught to train for the real situation and in doing so you must train 'real'. To do this is a great burden of responsibility to take care of your training partner. If we hit each other hard it is OK. If we hit each other too hard to early it is not OK.

When we train 'real' we are always dealing with fear. First we need to know fear. Then we need to learn fear. Then we need to live with, control, and eventually concur fear.

Do you think this is a good system to compliment other martial arts training?

Systema is a great training system that can be adapted to any martial art, any movement style, and any form of fighting. The principles can be adapted to any sport or any physical, mental, or emotional endeavour.

Is it a good training system for kids, women and men of all ages? Do you need to be fit to start training?

The system is great for everyone, young, old men and women. The system helps to develop your body, mind and your own personal martial talents. The only thing you need in order to start training is the desire to better yourself.

Training can help to make you fitter, stronger and more confident. It helps you to conquer your fears as well as creating a state of calm within you.

Systema is not for everyone - as soon as you try it you will find out.

For more information take a look at Peter's website

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