Systema – The Killer Russian Martial Art

The Russians have been know for centuries by their brutality in combat and ruthlessness when it comes to dealing with an opponent. This holds true in the martial art they are most well-known for, Systema (Система). Systema is best known as the fighting art used by the Russian Spetsnaz, or Special Forces. Its origin goes back hundreds of years and has been developed for warrior combat.

There are a couple of branches that you’ll hear about, although I’ll really only focus on one. Due to the teachings of a couple of more recent celebrities in the field, Systema has gotten something of a bad rap, which is not hard to understand.  Take, for example, Systema Ryabko, which many refer to as “magic” since so much of it is highly unbelievable when you see the techniques (or lack thereof) that do indeed look like hokum:

Personally, it kind of reminds me of those televangelists who grab you by the head and “heal” people from their “demons” as they ask for tithes and offerings. Ryabko claims he can control a person’s energy force and, well, see for yourself if you didn’t watch the video already.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in chi or ki, depending on whether you are from a Chinese or Japanese school, but I’ve been around long enough to know it doesn’t really work that way. So yeah, I’ll let Ryabko do Ryabko and look at what works for real world martial artists. That’s not to say he’s incapable of fighting effectively, but one damages his own credibility when he does stuff like this.

The other branch that you’ll see more of these days is called Kadochnikov, which is generally more in line with what you might expect to see from the military. Yes, these techniques are done relatively slowly, as well, but the martial application is much more realistic and combat-ready.

One of the things that stands out about Systema is that there are not any katas or drills to speak of. It is taught based on concept rather than specific technique. I really like that idea. When you practice, you do it by acting freely, not according to a pre-determined response that might or might not work the way you expected in any given situation.

That’s how we practice in our bujutsu training – free thought when drilling, not “sets” of any real kind, though you might make some up that work for you. I love it. 🙂

Anyway, being a combat art, Systema is very aggressive and to-the-point. It doesn’t waste movement and is designed to get the job done right away so you can get out of there. Here’s another cool video that shows some fun techniques to give you some ideas:

Okay, so maybe that isn’t real combat, but we can forgive him for the video name. Still pretty cool and gives me some inspiration for things to try in my ninja training. I love how fast and efficient it is!

A great resource for Systema Spetsnaz is a group called, well, Systema Spetsnaz. Here’s a bit of a recent seminar they put on not long ago. Check out some of the things he comes up with and how devastating they could be to add to your repertoire.

russian martial artsWant more? Check out Systema Spetsnaz HERE and see all the training they have!

Personally, I find this to be the best deal they have going, but you might or might not want to get a whole set versus a single video. But with this one, you’ll learn

  • Fighting elements and exercises
  • Strikes
  • Punches and Kicks
  • Grabs and Chokes
  • Takedowns
  • Spetsnaz History and Combat theory – plus it’s 20% off! Just click the picture!


I'm Steve D'Agostino, founder of Martial Arts Weapons and Training. Thanks for visiting and reading my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Nick Hoyt

    Yeah, that first video on Systema Ryabko totally does look fake. I’m not saying that it absolutely IS fake, but that’s just what it looks like from watching it. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen other YouTube videos of similar kinds of “martial arts” and they also made me laugh.

    On the other hand, the Kadochnikov was awesome! I don’t really see a lot of martial arts training that show you have to attack while holding a weapon like a rifle or a knife. I’m sure it’s something all military troops go through since they could very well end up in that kind of situation.

    But that last video was the best! I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say before that the way to overcome a bigger opponent is to “overwhelm their brain with attacks.” The instructors movement’s were so smooth and automatic. I’d hate to end up on the receiving end of that!

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Yeah, he’s pretty awesome! I’d love to meet and work out with him, but I don’t know if I’d survive! 🙂

  • Matthew Owen

    Damn!!! That old guy in the video is lethal, I wouldn’t want to mess with him. I have heard of systema before but hadn’t realised it was used by the Russian special forces or that it was so effective. Great videos and great article. Thanks

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Yeah, it’s pretty badass, and Vadim is crazy good. Thanks for the comment!

  • http://combatyourdepression.cm Rob

    Really enjoyed this insightful info and the videos were great demonstrations! I want a new practice over my head. I used to take kick-boxing and MMA for a couple months and life got to busy. I wish I had never stopped as self-defence and just learning a new way of combat is important I think. Thanks for sharing!

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      It is important to be able to defend oneself, but I do understand life and how easily it gets in the way. I took a few years off for exactly that reason, but I’m glad I made time to get back into it. It does help to be able to do it with the kids, though. Mama certainly doesn’t mind the time off! 🙂

  • Jean

    I’ve always wanted to take up some form of fighting art but could never really commit. And watching these videos I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to. I’m a very small guy and have always felt weak. Mostly because I grew up in my old man’s shadow who is a 110kg police officer who use to play rugby and has seen action. Even now at 51 he’s still te scariest guy I know.

    Regardless, very informative post.

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Jean, no need to feel that way! Look, I grew up in my brother’s shadow, and he used to gang up on me with his friends and beat me up all the time. I always was a small guy and was picked on for years. Even now, I’m 5’8″ and 150lbs (1.73m and 68kg). That was the main reason I originally got into martial arts. Changed my life. Now I can’t imagine NOT having it. The old saying is absolutely true – “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog!”

  • http://naturalautoimmunetreatments.com/ James

    It is always interesting to read of subjects of other cultures that are on the esoteric side.
    Thanks for an informative read.

    • http://martialartsweaponstraining.com/ Steve

      Thanks, James. Yep, there are all kinds of cool martial arts out there. Keep your eyes open for the next one. I think I know what one I’ll write on!