Don’t just DO Systema

When to DO Systema?

A common question people ask and one you should consider is “when to DO Systema?” If you think of it as traditional martial arts or even as a sport, then you DO it when you get to the dojo or gym for the time you have allocated for it. The benefits you gain are based on the time dedicated and of course your efforts.

However, Systema is an art that is quite remarkable from others. It’s core principles promote self awareness on the essentials of life towards a state of total well being.

Think about it for a minute: you cannot live if you don’t BREATHE,  can’t stay RELAXED if your body STRUCTURE is tensed and out of balance and finally you cannot MOVE freely if you don’t have all of the above together. You’ll be walking like a robot or zombie which is what you see other people do when you look around. Put this four elements into any combination and you will notice that without complete synergy of all, you cannot DO Systema.

In conclusion, Systema is not something you DO is something you LIVE, everyday and all the time. Its starts from the moment of waking up to the time to go bed; it’s constant awareness of every principle: how is my breathing?, am I relaxed? how is my posture? In what way can I move more efficiently ? How can I improve and apply Systema more effectively in my daily life?

It is overall, at least in my opinion, a  lifestyle and not a sport. It’s an art that develops what you already know but have not been aware of. Like our chief instructor Vladimir Vasiliev says “Systema enhance not only your skills but your health and well-being  as well.”

I don’t just Do Systema , I live Systema!

To health and wellness ~Carlos Guzman


A Year in Systema

A Year in Systema
a story by Carlos Guzman, instructor at Systema Orlando

    My job requirements limited my teaching and training times. As an instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev, I wanted to make sure I kept up with my training and committed to visiting headquarters regularly. But the question was… how to do it? Well, I found a way. I started to take on work assignments nationwide. On each assignment, I checked whether a Systema school or seminar was within the area at that time. I made sure training was on my schedule, no matter how many hours I had to drive. It proved to be a life changing success. I took my Systema nationwide.
    I was either at a seminar or visiting a Systema school almost every month of the year. It started in January visiting Vladimir at Toronto headquarters. Then back for a training week with Vladimir and Emmanuel Manolakakis in March where I took the family along for Spring break vacation. Bringing the family along and introducing my kids to Systema was one of the highlights of the year. I had the unique opportunity to participate in the Systema Camp in August, Martin Wheeler’s Master class in September and finally met Mikhail Ryabko in November. Big events that luckily for me, I was working nearby to attend. Throughout the years, I had the opportunity to train with other senior instructors: Max Franz, Systema twins Brendan and Adam Zettler, Frank Arias, Kwan Lee and Daniil Ryabko. Some, I had the pleasure to train with more than once in different events or classes. I had the honor to train with other instructors from other schools across the nation and worldwide. It was an amazing opportunity to visit the schools in Missouri, Kentucky, Maine, and Seattle and throughout Florida.
    Every school I went to was open to anyone. There was no exclusivity, no membership required. I found that each school had their own variety of drills, their unique style that made the classes fun and informative. There was a significant correspondence with the class style seen in headquarters. Principles were well presented in every session. I’m sure Vladimir would be proud of his instructors.
    Neither students nor instructors had inflated egos. Everyone I met made me feel welcome and open to share experiences. No one eyed me like an outsider ready to test my skills or to judge my Systema. Everyone was focused on doing their own Systema.
    What I found truly valuable was practising with people I’ve never trained before. This added realistic approach to my training. I didn’t get comfortable knowing how my partner moved and striking inattentively like I unconsciously would with a familiar partner. The unpredictably added to the realism of the art. It moved me outside of my comfort zone to be more aware of my surroundings and feel my partner’s movement.
    The rest of the time, when I am not training, I am living Systema. From the time I wake up, throughout the day and the time I go to bed, I consciously breathe, relax, keep good posture and move with purpose. Words of my instructors and feedback from other students come to mind like subconscious cues to correct my posture when I am standing, to check my breathing when I am going up the stairs at work, to maintain relaxation when I face stress and to move properly wherever I go.
    The best of this whole experience is the people I meet along the way. I made new friends from all over the world at seminars and classes, staying connected online. When we see each other again, it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time.
Some people ask me, how I do it? My reply is “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Otherwise, you’ll make excuses. I found that it was better to sign up for a seminar than to be concerned whether I can afford it or not. Signing up sealed my commitment to attend; the means to afford it and other details materialized as the day got closer. What’s more, I was able to bring the family along in some of my trips and that created the perfect harmony and balance that I was looking for.
    I am grateful for this ongoing experience. It has lifted any limitations I had in all the quadrants of my life mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. It opened innumerable possibilities for the future.
    There is something valuable when you go outside and experience the limitless possibilities with those living Systema.

Hope to train with you soon!

Carlos Guzman, Systema Orlando

Combat Mastery Systema Seminar with Vladimir Vasiliev

I had the great opportunity to experience three days of intensive training in the Russian Martial Art of Systema with  Vladimir Vasiliev and fellow Systema practitioners. It was the Systema seminar in Combat Mastery hosted by my friend and instructor Kenny Gonzalez from Tampa.  Training started on Friday night with Frank Fileti from the New York Systema school. It was a good preparation for the two days ahead, focusing on movement and relaxation. On Saturday morning, I was ready and so other 120 friends who share the same passion for this practical and effective martial art.

For those who have trained with Vladimir Vasiliev, and even those who had their first experience in Systema, we were not disappointed. Watching Vladimir move is like watching someone dancing but with precise movements and effective strikes. His movements are relaxed with no tension and thus very powerful when connecting with the opponent.  Overall the seminar met my expectations. I learned how to move properly without creating tension, how to release tension when it builds up in my body with proper breathing techniques and  how to strike to move my opponent.

The best aspect of this seminar is the attitude of everyone who attended. There were no ego’s involved so there were no conflicts. It is so awesome to train with so many people from different backgrounds and martial arts disciplines and come out satisfied, in good camaraderie and even a good laugh. That alone is what I love about Systema Looking forward to the next event.


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Systema Seminar Review with Major Konstantin Komarov

This seminar was part of the Systema “Unbound” weekend seminar with Major Konstantin Komarov and Vladimir Vasiliev. It was organized by the Charlotte Systema group. Our venue was the Ultimate Gym in Charlotte, North Carolina. A huge warehouse converted into a one of a kind gym. I was very impressed with the facility’s  open space for training. It provides the right environment for the kind of training we were about to endure. Over one hundred Systema practitioners attended the first day of the weekend seminar with Major Konstantin Komarov. Major Komarov is an expert in Russian military reconnaissance, has a PhD in combat Psychology, a professional bodyguard for Moscow’s elite and one of the master instructors of Systema.  The seminar started on time and went on without missing a beat. Time flies when you’re having fun and for me the day went by very quick. This is a short review of what I got out of the day’s training. Most of it cannot be told in words but shown in actions.

The training was focused on basic exercises and precision movements. No matter how much one trains in Systema, it is always good to go back to the basics of movement. One of Systema’s principles is doing precise movements. Major Konstantin says that “there is no point of going through a Systema workout if your body is not listening to you.” When training, ask your-self, what is the purpose of my movement?  The body should be fully engaged to create proper structure or form and maintain conscious movement without breaking that form. Without proper posture/form you cannot do the right “technique”. Moving your big muscles equals to big movements  where as small movements next to the bones equals precise movement. One should move effectively, from the feet/hip. The body should be stable and collected. All movement is connected to the breathing. This is fundamental; match your breathing cycle with your movement cycle. More importantly is to understand your breathing emotional psyche. It doesn’t matter how well you do the “technique”, if you don’t know how to control your psyche. Keeping your body and your psyche relax, it releases the tension and allows you to move effectively without fear.  Fear happens when we stop moving. It happens when we are not confident about our movement. By feeling your opponent, one can feel the tension and move without fear. We performed a lot of crawling exercises alone and with a partner. This was the fun part. These exercises are good to detect tension in our bodies. One of the remarkable aspects of Systema is that people seems to have a lot of fun doing these odd exercises. It is the only martial arts that I know of where you hear people’s laughter  instead of grunts and yells while training. No other art can be as intense as Systema while also be fun and entertaining. When egos and titles are left at the door, people come in to train with a comradely mindset. The result is a more enjoyable and long-lasting experience.  Unfortunately, I was  able to take part  in only one day of the weekend seminar. I met new friends from all over the states and places as far as Argentina. Overall, this experience  enhanced my Systema mind and body awareness. I look forward for the next seminar on April 2012.

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Shifting focus: I want to experience Systema

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I want an instructor certification in Systema! That’s what I had as a goal since 2009 making videos and send them over to Vladimir for evaluation. The feedback I got was to continue to work on the basics, do this, don’t do that, etc…and it was back to the training floor, do more videos and send them over to headquarters for review. Over time, I’ve come to realize that I want to EXPERIENCE Systema rather than earning the certificate. Shifting my focus to experiencing Systema rather than training in Systema has allowed me to let go of my ego, the frustration of whether I am doing this right or not, the anxiety of getting reviewed by my peers and the focus of getting that certificate. All this was causing tension; my breathing was affected, my body and, therefore my movements focused in the “technique” not the principles of Systema. Going forward in 2011 I want to experience Systema, applying the principles by living it, focusing on myself, my breath, my body, and my emotions. The rest, I learned, will come naturally, becoming part of me, because Systema is part of me.

Systema study: movement and presicion

Recently I participated in a conference in which our group had a demo and two-hour training session to present to whomever wanted to see what Systema is all about. I don’t remember when was the last time I laughed so hard and had so much fun. Despite the bruises, minor cuts and aches, I felt happier and in my element. Out of these intensive training sessions, my friend David and I collected  key points  that have helped us in our movement and precision of executing Systema. There is work in progress and much more to learn but these key points help us define our Systema:

  1. Work as a whole, not as parts: body in aligned structure, balance and connected with energy and direction of the attack
  2. Work from the ground up; that is, move your feet first: feel energy and direction of attack and move feet in that direction (escape)
  3. Keep your eyes on opponents but do not stare. Soft focus: aware of surroundings never leaving opponents sight while moving
  4. Move with the pace and speed of opponent: do not anticipate movement, redirect away from your body or block the angle or direction of attack.
  5. Work on all 6 levels ( wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle): look for the opportunities to break structure and connect for take down
  6. RELAX and keep breathing:   unrestricted breathing keeping the body free of tension.


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Principles of Systema

download (1)I came across this definition of the principles of Systema, doing research online. I believe is well described and to the point in every sense of what Systema is all about.

The four main principles of Systema:

1.  BREATHING – is calm and 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 Breath…by 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 reactions are faster

– A relaxed body allows for the diffusion of 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

3.  FORM – 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.

4.  CONTINUOUS MOVEMENT – in the body and mind

– Helps to avoid attack

– Prevents the fighter from being surrounded

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

sources: source:

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Systema, Russian Martial Art : Relax, Breathe, Move

1510973_568642949901673_986024075_n The Russian Martial Art of Systema focus on the fundamentals of breathing, relaxation which encourages proper body form and movement. The origins of Systema dates back to ancient Russia. More detail information about it’s origins here



Systema is the only martial art where you can see people laugh and have a great time at the same time. It is not as strict as in other martial arts; there are no belts ranking or dojo protocols. It may sound odd to you, but I have witnessed people take strikes and kicks to the body, and recover with a smile on their faces. Once you have  experience Systema, you will know what I am talking about.

The scenarios for training are real and practical. Whether is for self-defense, survival or just learn to stay relax, Systema is a martial art anyone can experience in a self-defense form, to supplement other martial arts of your background or as a way of  life. The key is on the breath, keeping you relax, maintaining a good posture, allowing movement with precision and purpose. Without proper breathing a person can get tensed, thus can’t focus well on its surroundings or the attack. The body is prone to more injuries during  training because is not structured properly. Relaxation comes with breathing, keeping the body free of tension, posture is loose and nimble yet feeling grounded and strong. The movement comes last, natural and deliberate. In Systema, there are no techniques or katas to remember. The movement is fluid aiming to control and neutralize the opponent.