Systema FAQs

The art of Systema often raises many questions about its origins and structure, here you'll find answers to these and more.

We make the following announcement in the beginning of almost every class:

  • Please ask questions!
  • Please do not do anything you don’t want to do! Sitting out drills is ok; doing the exercises at your level (not someone else’s) is expected.
  • Please tell us if something hurts! Let us know of your injuries before the class, and please speak up if you are not feeling too great during the class.
  • Please stop any time you want to stop!
  • Please protect your training partner, as well as yourself, at all times!
  • Please communicate with your training partners, don’t be a strong silent type. Ask your partner to turn things down or up, and to give you feedback on your movement- and be ready to provide feedback to your partner too!
  • Please don’t break anything! We mean- anything- floor, walls, mirrors, your training partners, or yourselves!


Now for the questions:

What is Systema?

It’s a Russian system of restoring balance, of being mindful under any circumstances, of healing yourself and others. It’s a system with the tested and realistic tools that are customised for you. These tools are used to control your emotions, your movement, and help you better interact with the world. It is different from other “mind, body and soul” exercise programs in two ways: first, the movement is customised for you, and it is not a “repeat after me” approach. Second, because so much work is done with the partner that keeps you honest, it is much harder to deceive yourself.

If you prefer a simpler answer- it’s a Russian martial art where the main principles of Breathing, Movement, Good Posture and Tension Awareness rest on the platform of Emotional State. These principles allow you to do your own thing, and not be dragged into another person’s game during the physical encounter.

Shorter answer still: it’s a set of tools for you to get to Know Yourself.


What should I wear to class?

Anything you are comfortable in. For most of us, it is a t-shirt, trainers (sneakers for our american friends:-) and either shorts or “longs”.


I have no martial arts experience. Can I handle the training? I am worried it may be too intense!

You train at your own level, not at someone else’s. Our expectations are reasonable, and we hope you don’t expect miracles of yourself after one training session! Yes, you can handle the training. The more experienced students are happy to work with beginners and guide them and support them.


I have a lot of martial arts experience. Will I be able to learn something from you?

We all learn something every day of our lives… Come and say hello, we’re always glad to see visitors. But if you walk into a class thinking you already know everything- why walk into a class?


How long does it take?

How long does what take? 🙂

What are your goals? What are you prepared to do to achieve them?

We think that if you train twice a week, you will notice pretty interesting changes after about 20 hours of instruction. You will discover much more in a year or two.


Will I get hit in class?

Yes, if you want to. There is regular contact in class. The strikes are done with utmost respect for the partner.

No one will hit you if you choose not to participate in the striking drills, and the strikes you receive are never more than what you ask for. Senior students quite often ask their partner to hit harder, and you may very well be interested in the higher intensity- that choice is yours, and no pressure is ever applied to anyone to “turn it up”.

Are private lessons available?

Yes, private training can be arranged. After the initial discussion via email we will arrange a meeting to discuss your goals, abilities, expectations. In addition to the hourly rate, the student is expected to cover the expenses such as travel and hall hire.

I read on your website about what you do at Systema. Could you tell me more about what actually happens in the class? I am a beginner and I liked what you said ‘Systema is the way to restore physical, mental and emotional balance in your life’. However what does this mean and how does it translate into what we learn in the class?

There comes a time when you become paralysed by analysis, by fear, by laziness, or get so sucked into the virtual world, that you subconsciously look for reasons not to venture into reality. Perhaps the time has come, when you should just go and try that new thing you were curious about. You will either like it, or you will cross it off your list of things to do. Remember, you do not have to pay for your first class if you don’t like it.

As for what we actually do in class- it’s proprietary and effective training methodology. It needs to be experienced under the supervision of a qualified instructor. No other Systema school in UK or abroad has similar curriculum, or similar results achieved by our students. This is why we get hired to put together broken senior executives, to train celebrities, VIPs, professional warriors, aerial acrobats, doctors, bankers, chefs, reporters and other extraordinary people who get off their arse and do things, rather than talk about unfairness of the world.

I’ve seen people with sabres in class, and heard them talk, I don’t get it. What’s this Sword Therapy ™ thing that you do? 

It ain’t what Anne Boleyn got.

Some people in class were invited to participate in a very special programme.

We are the only school in UK that practice with the Cossack sabre (shashka) and have the methodology to teach it to others. There are many pitfalls on this journey, that are difficult to pick up from the videos- training with a teacher, and at home regularly is key to progress. We also have contacts with master blacksmiths and sword-makers in Russia that hand make our weapons for us.

In short, it is movement therapy, with very simple rules. When done under supervision of a qualified instructor (at the moment, I haven’t trained others in the teaching protocols, so it’s only me for now) it will change how you perceive the world, and conflict management. It will kick off the deep healing processes in your body, and in your soul (remember the actual meaning of the word psychology is  the study of the soul, spirit or breath, translated from Greek), liberate you from whatever is holding you back, and change how you interact with the world.

Some elements of the curriculum include movement with the sword with and without partner, cutting drills, massage sessions with the sword, and the “initiation”, for the lack of better word. To use the word from an orthodox church vocabulary, it’s a “mystery”, when an act looks like something, but has far deeper meaning, content and results than what is seen by the outside observer.

It is not the twirling of the swords, or flankirovka (ru- фланкировка), though elements of this are present in the programme.

It is done in private sessions, with real Russian hand-made swords, the challenges, both emotional and physical are set quite high, almost at the edge, the price of an error is high, the results are impressive.

Inquiries are welcome.

Please note, while the regular classes are open to almost anyone, this training is not suitable for all, please do not be offended if I ask you to wait a bit longer before starting this training.