Systema is both a martial art in its own right and a way towards your personal well-being, which can be achieved by getting to know yourself. Systema is unique: it doesn’t teach you combat techniques or patterns, doesn’t make a difference between beginners and experts since there is no ranking system, there is no traditional clothing to be worn during practice and the only rule is to respect your training partner. It’s a sport anyone can practice: neither does it require any previous knowledge of other martial arts, nor are there any physical conditions to be met.


The four fundamental principles of System are breathing, relaxation, movement and body structure.

Whereas the importance of breathing correctly is often stressed in martial arts, it is in Systema that this knowledge is applied. When releasing tension through breathing techniques you will be able to move in a relaxed manner without creating even more tension in your body. By working with the structure of your body you will become aware of unnecessary tensions and you will thus be able to move with elegance and precision.

Intuitive approach

Systema is a free martial art, i.e. it is not based on techniques to be mastered in order to succeed. It rather relies on intuition and spontaneity that allow you to confront your opponent and to defend yourself – standing, on the ground and against multiple opponents.

Creativity, adaptation & self-confidence

Systema teaches you how to use your body’s natural flow and allows for slow movements that harmonize breathing and movements. You learn how to adapt to any kind of situation by an almost playful approach that guides you towards the developent of your own techniques. Your actions and reactions are therefore no longer based on strategy but on improvisation.

A regular Systema class is made up of diverse methods that can be combined in a multitude of ways. Their common goal is to make your body stronger, to teach you how to relax, to improve your flexibility, and to manage your stress level. Since you are moving slowly, you learn by letting your own morphology, your abilities and your inspiration guide you.

However, Systema is not only about defending yourself in dangerous situations, but it is also useful in your daily life. Every day we find ourselves in situations where our emotions might take the upper hand, which can easily prevent us from thinking clearly and acting effectively. With a due amount of self-control we will be able to adapt to any challenge we might encounter and master it serenly.

Russia had to deal with a variety of invaders throughout its history (Vikings, Scythians, Samaritans, Mongols…).

Every single one of these peoples used their own arms and combat strategies, making it necessary for the Russian soldiers to adapt and be versatile. Moreover, from a geographical point of view, Russia has everything from planes, to mountains and deserts. Furthermore, its climate can be very extreme, from very hot summers to extremely cold winters. This variety of opponents and conditions is why the soldiers developed a martial art that was adaptable, polyvalent and multifunctional at the same time.

Systema has first been heard of in the 10th century AC. Both professional soldiers and citizens mobilized in times of war used and developed it. The latter returned to their civil lives once a war was over. In fact, learning how to fight was an integral part of every Russian boy’s education and whenever there were big festivals, you would find competitions where men fought with arms or their bare hands against each other. These competitions were a means for the men to train their skills in times of peace.

When communism took over in 1917, national traditions were done away with. The art of Systema was classified as a secret defense technique and became inaccessible for ordinary people, who were given “Sambo” instead, a Russian martial art and combat sport that was less threatening to those in power. Nevertheless, the Systema tradition was clandestinely perpetuated by certain clans and especially inside the military by the special forces known as “Spetsnaz”.

It was Mikhail Ryabko who introduced a modified form of the martial art of Systema to the general public and founded his own school, “poznaj sebya”, which means in English “discover yourself”.

In 1993, Vladimir Vasiliev, Ryabko’s senior student, emigrated to Toronto (Canada) and opened the first Systema academy outside the former USSR, the Russian Martial Art Systema Headquarters. Today, more and more schools and trainings groups emerge throughout the world.

Article about Systema France on the martial arts blog of Le Monde (Nov 10, 2013, Emmanuel Versace, French)


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Systema France: Articles

Systema Lyon: Articles

Articles on Systema: SystemaArticles