FROM THE MASTER;
Excerpts from conversations and teachings of Mikhail Ryabko
by John Giduck
Since I arrived
in the United States, I have been asked a great many things about
the Russian System, especially, how best to train and its application
in actual combat as well as life. Of course, there are differences
between my style and other aspects of The System, and each teacher
adopts the techniques that best suit him. That is one of the foundations
of the Russian System. I would say that less than 100 people in
all of Russia are trained in my style, and so it remains quite
a mystery to many.
I am frequently
asked how I was trained and whether I teach The System the way
I learned it. The answer is no, the way I was taught to fight
was very different from how I teach my students and military personnel.
When I first entered the military I was seen to have natural ability
at this form of fighting. Also, I was very young --- still in
my early teens --- when I was entered into a military cadet type
of program, much the same program for Spetsnaz that my 15 year
old son is now in. Back then, I would be trained in various aspects
of fighting, then, quite simply, I was made to fight. They would
then teach me some more and make me fight again. This went on
for a long period of time. This way, all of the techniques and
movements I was taught were proven in hand-to-hand combat so there
was never any question as to whether something would work.
With my own
students, I will sometimes beat them a bit, but they go through
nothing like the training regimen that was forced on me. This
is one of the problems with all martial arts: a fighting style
will begin with someone who is a very good fighter, but as he
teaches his students less brutally than he was trained, the real
effectiveness of the style begins to be diluted. As his own students
teach the next generation of students it becomes even more diluted
until that, which is left, is a "nice" martial art, but a far
less effective fighting system.
Russian System is one of the most effective because it relies
on natural movements. Because its focus is solely on combat survival
there is no sport application. When new people are introduced
to The System and those who train it, they are often pleasantly
surprised by how nice everyone is, how welcoming and helpful.
That is due to the fact that since there is no sport application,
there is no competition between practitioners, therefore no one
competes with each other. Everyone just comes together in an atmosphere
of camaraderie and helps each other. The martial arts that are
competitive sports do not have this benefit. Of course, I frequently
see people from other martial arts' styles coming to train in
the Russian System. Most often they want to know if it is alright
to continue to train certain skills from their other styles along
with The System. The answer is, of course, "why not?" if you have
skills you do and like, and are good at, why would you not train
them? It is not a problem. With some effort you can adapt these
other skills to The System's movements and techniques and be a
better martial artist.
Do not think,
though, that the Russian System is small in scope and lacks certain
fighting elements. Unfortunately, at the Denver Seminar I could
not even show 1% of what I know and the skills that can be learned.
With only two days, I could show nothing more than the very minimal
skills necessary to begin to understand this style. The most important
thing I try to demonstrate is how to relax. I know it is not always
an easy thing to relax under stress, made worse by modern society
being so stressful. People with other martial arts training, especially
Asian styles, are taught to be tight and tense and do everything
with force. But if you stay relaxed you move better, do not suffer
from fear and can fight longer without tiring. I often say that
you should fight like as if preparing toast in the morning. When
you first wake up and walk downstairs, you are sleepy and butter
your toast without any effort or conscious thought. That is how
you should fight, not like you are hacking the toast to bits with
It is the
same with fighting stances. When you play with your children do
you assume any particular stance or pose? Do you contemplate what
actions you will take with the children? Of course not, you simply
move according to what is natural with them. Nothing is rehearsed.
Why would fighting be any different? While in Denver I got to
see the big rodeo. One of the first things I noticed was how the
cowboys rode the wild horses. They do not get tense and stiff
and fight the horse. They simply hold on with one hand and allow
their body to relax and move as the horse moves. That is fighting
technique. I enjoyed the rodeo and can understand and respect
anyone who puts his life at risk for a living.
from what I have seen is very fast and stressful. Americans work
long, busy days, drive in bad traffic, and try to fit too much
in. No one slows down. Then you decide to exercise to relieve
some of that stress, but the exercises you choose merely irritate
your nervous systems further. You push and pull at weights fanatically,
you race on your treadmills or stationary bicycles while you read
the paper and watch the news. This only makes it worse. You do
not need weightlifting to be strong, and in fact weights only
make you strong while moving quickly through the range of motion.
In my Spetsnaz units, we will use a strength training system which
makes you strong throughout the whole range, gives you power then
for short strikes and relaxes your system at the same time. I
have seen some very strong competition weightlifters try this,
and most could not get through it. Another thing about stressful
society is the music. Everyone seems to listen to music which
is fast and loud, and also irritates people's nervous systems.
It further aggravates them and adds to violent outbursts. When
in Denver, I liked listening to the country western music, especially
the rodeo songs (by Chris LeDeoux). One time, some modern music
was put on the radio, and I did not like that at all. But all
this is part of the benefits of The System. It teaches you to
relax in stressful times no matter what the cause. Its lifestyle
will help you be a better person, which is the most important
thing, after all.
of Mikhail Ryabko during the Russian Training program
by John Giduck
So many people
in training want to focus on combat and on sparring. I have seen
that this is particularly true of westerners and we will sometimes
refer to them as "Rambo". But those parts of a combat training
program are in fact the easiest things to master. What requires
more work and attention are the foundations that allow such combat
techniques to actually work. These foundation skills and exercises
must be perfected to make you not only a superior fighter, but
a better, healthier and calmer person.
I wish to stress the most is breathing. People need to see that
breathing is truly a miracle. So much is made of childbirth, sight,
and other human experiences as "miracles". But breathing is the
foundation of all life and all of those other miracles. It is
not a coincidence that all cultures have sayings such as "to breathe
life into" something. Yet it is probably the gift which is most
unnoticed and taken for granted by people.
arts and sports training programs will teach people how to breathe.
But these really are functioning at the lowest level of actual
awareness. They simply teach you to breath in order to perform.
They recognize that one cannot perform without breathing, and
that by disciplining one's breathing to an extent can marginally
increase performance. The next level of awareness of breathing
is found in the eastern meditative disciplines, such as yoga and
others. These practitioners have mastered control of breathing,
but only in a static body position. Breathing becomes the means
to allow the mind to be controlled. But what of the body? The
System of Russian Martial Art requires another level to be achieved.
The depth of the eastern meditation masters must be achieved,
but for a performing, functioning body and alert mind. Too many
exercises are conducted without adequate attention to breathing.
While training the Americans this summer, we have begun every
morning with upwards of 30 minutes of slow rolling on a hard floor.
The rolling is relaxed and slowed by a focus on breathing. Breath
must come in through your nose and out through your mouth. You
must relax your breathing all the way to your toes. If you are
resisting with your breath, your body will be hard and therefore
easy to hurt.
between professionals do not result in beating each other up,
but passing each other with strikes. The winner is the better
breather. Even top level professional boxing matches in the US
will count for you the small number of strikes that actually result
in contact. Out of that small percentage how many are strikes
of any consequence? In a 12 round fight, you can count on one
hand the number of punches of any real substance. In real combat,
this is all the more important to realize. Breathing can and will
save your life.
of breathing is its benefit on your muscles. You must continue
to breathe deeply to break up the lactic acid that builds in your
muscles from exertion. In the Russian Martial Art, we focus our
breathing on the enormous network of nerves and blood vessels
in our chests. This is the source of your energy. Not that there
are never times to refocus your breathing, for instance, from
your abdomen like the Asian styles teach. This is all just part
of the over all mastery of your breathing. The Russian stretching
system is also unlike the Asian approach. In less than 2 hours,
I can take a person who is completely inflexible and have him
accomplishing feats of stretching that seem unbelievable. Much
of it is due to breathing. When confronting pain, continue to
focus only on your breathing. That complete concentration alone
will push most pain far from your conscious mind.
stretching, best results come from the use of a partner knowledgeable
and dedicated to improving your mobility. Beware that you can
be injured if you and your partner are not trained in proper stretching.
As your limbs or body are pushed beyond what you believe to be
the limits of the flexibility, follow a pulsing pattern with your
muscles and breathing. As you inhale slowly and loudly, tense
your muscles slightly; as you exhale relax them. This is not American
jogging or aerobics, your breathing should be deep and controlled
and loud enough for your partner to hear and gauge the increasing
stretching from. When you reach points in stretching, or combat
or life, where the pain appears too much, simply alter your breathing
for a short time to shallow panting, much like a dog. This allows
your body and mind to pass through the brief period of pain then
return to the deep controlled breaths. Even here you are defeating
pain through discipline of breathing.
train on a hard floor, even when doing ground work. But the floor
to us seems very soft. That is because we have learned to breath,
and relax our bodies through our breathing, when rolling or being
thrown. Again, if you are resisting force of impact with your
breath your body becomes rigid which causes pain and injury when
contacting the floor. When training for combat, you must realize
there will be no soft pads or wrestling mats to soften your impact
or protect your body if on the ground. After a short time, the
Americans were very comfortable on the ground, and I have heard
a number say they wished they could train without mats back home.
how you train though, remember that the essence of life is breath.
The greater the appreciation and the more control you have of
it, the better and longer will be the life you have no matter
what situation you encounter.