Interview with Vladimir Vasiliev

Question: We can see that Systema keeps rapidly growing. Many
people enjoy practicing Systema and eagerly share it. It would be
helpful if you gave some guidelines and directions to those who
teach Systema as Certified Instructors and those who share
Systema training informally with friends, colleagues and family

Answer: I agree, this is a much needed topic to discuss. With
the growth of Systema, we are moving to a deeper level of
understanding, this makes our discussions and training more
interesting. First I would like to say that if we present or
explain anything to another person we have to know what we are
doing. We are responsible for anything we give to another

“First – do no harm” is our fundamental rule. We have to
understand what we are teaching and ensure that it does not
damage the individual physically or psychologically in any way.
It is fairly easy, in Systema everything that destroys is wrong
and everything that strengthens and builds is correct. For
example, if we do exercises with proper breathing we enhance our
heart, circulatory system, nervous system, enhance our psyche to
become calm and efficient. In any sport if training is done
without breath work – it will strain, damage and destroy every
parameter of our physical health and will make us unstable,
fragile and weak psychologically.

The same goes for straight and natural body positioning, smooth
and continuous movements and correct state of mind while training
and fighting in Systema. These are general principles that
interact and influence one another. Keep in mind that Systema is
not mechanical but alive, therefore we cannot just make a list of
categories and memorize techniques. The learning process is not
technical but intuitive and dynamic.

Question: Could you give an example of things to do for a good
training class.

Answer: First of all, the instructor has to be aware of the
condition the practitioners are in. During exercise the heart
rate, blood pressure and temperature go up. May be someone came
to class tired from lack of sleep or was drinking the night
before. If we put that person though rigorous physical exercise,
we might needlessly strain him or even cause injury. The ideal
rhythm of heart work is 60 beats per minute. If we can maintain
that beat and after each exercise make sure the pulse rate comes
back to 60, then the onset of fatigue is much delayed. Whenever
we raise the parameters we have to reduce them back to normal. Of
course, the key to control of all the parameters is proper
breathing. Breathing and movement have to go hand in hand with
each other. As you know, the blood pressure is not always the
same in the right and left sides of the body and in various
areas, top to bottom. Breath work evens the blood pressure in
both sides and throughout the body and periphery.

We can tell if the training session was not done correctly. The
participants would then be somewhat stirred emotionally. If they
have a feeling of being ready to fight after class, we know the
training process and breath work were not done properly.

Slow exercises done with breath work are extremely good for
working with tendons and developing strong and elastic body. They
allow to get rid of lactic acid. They also provide unique work
for the fascia tissues and therefore, give us endurance and
explosive potential. In addition to that, the nervous system gets
stronger and balanced, because there is no stress. Breath work
removes the stress as soon as it arises.

I will say it again, we should understand the implications of
everything that we do. I see so many people coming to my class
from other martial arts or sports that have injured themselves
not in a fight, not during an accident… but just from training
in a gym. I see so many that are strained psychologically, not
from being in a battle… just from everyday stresses…
including training in a gym. This is because we do not notice or
analyze what we are doing and why.
We will cover this in greater detail at the Summit of Masters
this summer. For now, please be more attentive to and wise about
what you are doing. If you are taking instruction, take a look at
your teacher. A lot of times the teacher is no better than his
students, he is just as tense and inefficient in his movements.
If that is the case, what can he pass on to his students?

Question: So what can student do if he finds his teacher has
certain problems? Answer: We should realize that we do not come
to train to a particular person, we come to study Systema. No one
is perfect and we should be independent too. Also known as
“understand yourself”, Systema is so deep, rich and diverse,
there are ample opportunities to learn it just by working on
ourselves. We do need training partners, it is good to have
teachers and instructional materials, but eventually the onus is
on us. People we train with and DVDs we watch are ultimately ways
to understand ourselves too. Knowledge obtained though serious
work with ourselves is real and rewarding, it cannot be taken

Question: Vladimir, I know in the past you have said that often
times when people teach they rush to get results, they have a
wrong approach to such basic things as striking and walking. Can
you address these and other common errors.

To be continued in the next newsletter…

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