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


Rewiring The GMAN: How I Reprogrammed My Brain

brain_cell-200x151It takes only one person to change your life and that person is YOU. I knew that despite the people around me, the counseling, all the self-help material out there, I was the only one with the power of change my life by changing my thoughts. No one could have done that for me. Many people will open the doors for me, but I alone had to walk through the threshold towards the light. Sounds dramatic but it’s true in some sense. Recognizing this power to change my thinking was vital to my journey of self-improvement. Putting into practice, to change the negative thinking with the positive, I realized was the work I needed to do to make my life better. But how? The quick answer is brain training.

To understand what it took for me to make that change, we will have to sit down for several rounds of beer and perhaps shed a tear. There is a bit of the story here.

Anyways, my current brain training program consist of the following:

imagesThis is my daily breakfast for the brain. Designed by neuroscientists, the Lumosity brain training program is designed to challenge core cognitive functions in the areas of problem-solving, memory, attention, speed of processing and brain flexibility. It is based on extensive research in the field of neuroplasticity or the ability of the brain to adapt. Here is the Wiki on Brain Neuroplasticity. There is a free version and paid subscription. I opted for the paid family subscription. Everyone has fun playing the games.

The program is so easy to use. It only takes about 10 minutes to play and it reminds you when to play. Also, I can tailor the program to meet my  needs. I do this training at least 3-4 times a week!

images (1) Learning a second language can have positive effects to the brain and even change it. More of that here. I love Rosetta Stone for language learning. It is fun and challenging. The program is broken down into lessons and training segments. You can do it online on the go or using the CD’s of the target language of your choice at home. I usually do this right after my Lumosity session. It only takes about 10 minutes up to 30, depending on you.

download (6)Playing musical instruments, like language learning, keeps my mental monkeys tamed. I use Songsterr an online guitar, bass and drums tab player. I started playing bass guitar right away using this software. Very easy to use. It has a free version but the paid subscription has many more features.


images (4)



Neuro-Programmer 3. NP3 is a software application to stimulating the brainwaves. I use it with the Proteus Advance Light & Sound Stimulation System. More about Brainwaves here, here and here.  This is the crown of my personal self -programming tools. It is portable and so easy to use. I can customize my sessions and add my own personal affirmations. Adding my own personal affirmations has helped to anchor my new beliefs and agreements. This is very important for self-programming.

images (5)



The light and sound stimulation system helps deepen my meditation sessions. I put the glasses and headphones on and let the device do the rest. The only thing I have to do is empty my mind by focusing on my breathing. As I roll my eyes back a little, I can visualize the lights pulsating like neurons in my brain.

Once the affirmations start to play, I allow them to flood my brain. I visualize the words sinking into my sub-conscious becoming part of my new self.

download (2)

Books, Audiobooks and Positive thinking. Like I have said before, it is a constant and never-ending process and it is best if it is practiced daily.

I believe that if I have what I need readily available and in plain sight, it will be an easier transition into a positive, fulfilling life. Therefore, I made the effort to have positive visuals throughout my house so I can see them all the time. This exposure to positive things like phrases, quotes and notes encouraged positive thinking and since there were posted in every imaginable place, I had no other choice but to look at it and read it. The result was that it diffuses any attempt of negative thinking to enter  my mind.

One warning to this measure is getting used to it and overlooking it like you would with any picture frame around your house. I had to make an effort to remind myself why they were there in the first place.

images (6)

Since I drive a lot, I don’t have much time to read a good book. Audio-books are my road companions in every trip I have made. It makes the journey much more enjoyable plus I learn while on the road. The audio-book selection should include fiction and non-fiction alike, self-help, and biographies. Whatever I’m interested in as long it is of added value to my life. More about the choice of audiobooks.

download (5)Understanding how the brain works was critical in my brain rewiring program. I wanted to understand how the brain works down to the neuron level. I read this insightful e-book called Brain in Balance by Fred J. Von Stieff. It goes in-depth about neurotransmitters which made a lot of sense in understanding how my brain works. If you would like to understand  how neurotransmitters work and what causes a chemical imbalance in the brain, this is a great book.

download (1)Systema or Russian Martial Art is my way of life. It is not just for self-defense; it can be very effective in saving my life or the life of others in any dangerous situation but what I like about Systema the most is how it influences my life every day. It offers many health and fitness benefits which help improve my overall wellbeing mentally, emotionally, physically and even spiritually. It signifies a lifestyle that compliments and applies to everything I do. From the very essential like breathing, to keeping a good form, how to stay relaxed and move properly and with purpose. More about Systema here.

download (3) I use Evernote to record my daily events, ideas, pictures and videos. I don’t hold anything back. I write everything that comes to mind and at the end of the day before going to bed, I collect and review to make sure I have accounted for everything that went through my mind that day. This is a good investment to unload or dump whatever dwells in my mind into a digital format that is easily accessible from anywhere. Journalism is a great tool for me. I feel I have accomplished something at the end of the day.

This is what works for me. Brain training and self-programming is a work in progress, not a short-term try. Through repetition and some self-discipline, it will pay great dividends in the long term.

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.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


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.


download (1)

Systema for Kids: to learn something, teach it

wpid-fb_img_1423637180342.jpgThe Teacher learns far more than the student. (Zig Ziglar)

I started a new journey teaching kids the fundamentals of Systema: breathing, relaxation, structure and movement. Strength, courage and humility are qualities found in Systema’s principles going back for centuries, so I will also be focusing on character building and discipline to educate the children to become better people. It can be challenging to teach children; they never stand still and their attention span is short, so I have set the class to last 20-30 minutes. We start with the children falling in a formation rank like in the military; to develop good character and the right attitude, we repeat the code of honor or Scout’s promise and Scout’s law. I chose this because I was a Boy Scout myself, making it all the way to Eagle Scout. It created the foundation of who I am today and I believe in its principles. Scouting even opened the doors to the military which its discipline and values shaped my character and helped me grow as a person of integrity in leadership and responsibility. I believe that if taught to the children early and on regularly, it will be rooted deep into their sub-conscious becoming part of them and their values for life.
We spent time on breathing and movement drills, emphasizing relaxation which I quickly learned that children don’t know how to relax without being calm. They are already “relax” in their own terms without worries, being playful and happy. I have to adjust the drills based on each child reaction and skill level. Overtime I will have everyone going at the same pace once they are familiar with the drills. In general it is all fun and play, rolling on the floor, running around, jumping up and down, and just being kids. To me teaching is also learning because I am involved in the process and I get the best feedback from the children’s position. Learning is finding out what we already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers and teachers. (Richard Bach, Illusions: Reflections of a Reluctant Messiah.)

The Chronicles of Ian Karlo: reflecting fatherhood

It’s been more than a month since my son was born. Throughout this time, my wife and I have been witness of the changes of our growing baby; miracles of God’s creation unfolding right in front of our eyes, his body is getting stronger and fuller. During the day, he is aware of his surroundings and reacts accordingly to sounds around him, he tears up when crying which is a sign that his vision is developing.  He has a ferocious appetite; wherever we go we have to bring a cow in tow. Consequently, “The kitchen” no longer being able to keep up with his growing demand of mother’s milk has closed its doors completely and forever. The well of mother’s milk supply has gone dry and we have switched to formula to satisfy my boy’s increasing demand of milk. This creates additional work since now we have to prepare the formula, have the bottles sterilized and ready for the continuous feeding regiment my boy demands. My job of being the chief diaper changer has been modified with other titles such as master formula mixer and assistant bottle feeder first class. I am not fond about the latter since that includes overnight feeding rotations which I am not keen to perform since I find myself dozing off in the middle of the feeding just to be woken up by my boy’s smacking lips unaware of where the bottle went.

However the changes, our baby boy sleeps, eats and poops around the clock the way it should be. Karymar, the baby’s guardian is always on watch, making sure your hands are clean before you pick up the baby and that the “ring” of safety is secure around the baby. We are proud of her for being such an exceptional big sister. We celebrated Ian Karlo’s first month of life with a small cake at my parent’s house with the family. I thank God for all the blessings we have to this date.

Despite of all the changes, things are falling into routine around us. That is all, but our sleeping routine. Recently, we decided to take shifts during nights, each rotating every time the baby wakes up. This allows us to sleep at least for four to six hours each night which is a pretty good slumber. We also resumed going to church, presenting its new member to the community and even went on a road trip to Miami, his first of many.

The family along with my Mother in law, which I respectfully call her our “portable- sitter” spent the weekend in Miami.  I participated in a major seminar of the Russian martial art of Systema with Maxim Franz. We enjoyed two days striking, punching and kicking people, who like me, love Systema. It was a great seminar and although bruised and beaten, I enjoyed very much. This is one of the few arts, if any, where you can hit someone in the face or stomach and later shake hands and even laugh about it. I truly love this art; even Ian Karlo was there with his camouflage onesie watching Daddy have a lot of fun. The girls obviously not getting the gist of getting punched and kicked went shopping instead, taking my boy with them.

After the Miami road trip, I took a working-solo- retreat to the Florida’s Panhandle for a week, inspecting multi-family housing properties. I wanted to take time to work on my personal projects ; organizing my life’s priorities  and goals, getting clear with strategies and action plans for myself, my lifestyle and my businesses. Instead, I bummed along the clear waters and white sandy beaches of the “Redneck Riviera”.  I had no schedule, obligations nor curfew so I was free to roam around aimlessly. I started at a property in Tallahassee then Marianna, visited the Florida Caverns State Park where I was invaded by a nasty swarm of bloody mosquitoes and one mean super jug bug. They made sure my visit to the park’s trail was speedy and without stopping.  I could not stop even to take a picture. I was quickly surrounded by the swarm and that mean bug buzzing and hitting my head, prompting me to speed up my walk. I knew that I will have to add one essential item to my road trip bag of essentials, insect repellent. In other areas of the trail that were not mosquito infested, I was able to unwind in solitude and reflect on my life. From Marianna, I drove to Panama City where after my inspections, I found myself inspecting the beaches of the so called “Redneck Riviera”. The day was perfect; warm sunshine, clear and refreshing waters. I spread out on the sugar white sand, feeling the ebb and flow of the cool waves, surrendering to the elements, tuning out with the outside world. Time stood still, my mind calm in meditation as I absorbed the moment.  Later, I drove up to Pensacola and was once again captivated by the serenity of the waters and the beaches of the Gulf Coast.  Overall it was a 1,000 mile road trip living life with no schedule or timeframe, roaming free. I did nothing that I so carefully planned and organized and after all, it was o.k. Taking time for myself and reflection on the current changes in my life was all that I really needed, so I drove back home feeling at ease with the priorities in my life. When I came home late Friday night, I saw a change in my children that took me by surprise. My boy grew up a lot over the week as I saw him sleeping on his crib and when I went to pick up my daughter, who fell asleep on our bed waiting for me to arrive, I felt her heavier than the last time I held her and saw her limbs much longer. I don’t have a little baby girl anymore. What I saw is a little girl growing beautifully.

In concluding this chapter of Ian Karlo’s chronicles, I celebrated my 36th birthday this past weekend. As of today I look back to reflect on where I was a year ago and where I am today. I am grateful for all the blessings that I have received and for all the blessings I will receive. My life has changed in so many levels; my attitude towards life has improved since I made the irreversible step of becoming a better person, husband, father, friend, brother and son. I understand more my feelings, emotions and aware of my thoughts and what they say. What I look forward to as my birthday turns is to continue on getting to know myself even more, understanding my emotions,  what I think and what I attract in my life,  always looking with the eyes of progress, opportunities, compassion and happiness. I know my priorities which its foundations are on the family, my children. Everything that I am today, what I choose to be and do, I do with fatherhood in mind for my children, to provide them the  structure, the values, the love, compassion and respect they deserve to help them grow into life loving  individuals, self-starters and leaders with  the courage and humility to do wonderful things for others and for themselves.

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:

code 759RJJ249PWG