Mikhail Ryabko / ‘Faith is the most important’


What exactly do we mean by ‘the new school’?

It’s inner work, something you cannot see with the eye.  It’s not the shape of the body – its the reason, the process of how muscle works.  To know it, to understand it… this is what we mean by the inner school.

So have these internal aspects always been a part of Systema?

Yes.  Its always been one thing.  For example there is Aikido in Japan.  And it was split into two halves – and they exported it, but only one half of it.  And so, there is something always missing in Aikido.

Does this idea of the ‘new school’ mean a departure from the original form of Systema?

No, Systema is not changing.  Its about reaffirming the fundamentals.

For a lot of beginners, certainly for me, grasping some of these concepts can be very difficult.  Is there a way that we can check ourselves to make sure we are doing the right thing?

You start with the visual, the exterior thing, and then you continue on to the internal work.  This is how you start Systema.  Everyone is the same.  There is also a limited school in Russia, where they train only people from the Orthodox church – I don’t want to put aspects of religion in the training but there is this limited school.  Everyone is of course free to choose their own religion – It’s not my aim to convert anyone.

But I understand that faith is a very important aspect of the way you practice?

Of course, it’s the most important one.

Can you tell me a bit about how faith has informed your practice?

This is a way of living.  Its how I live with my beliefs – its always the same.

Do you feel that through training you have deepened your relationship with your beliefs?

No, the belief is something thats always there.  Its constant.  Its with you every day, and every day you know more and more – you have this aim in communication and in daily life.

In this seminar we’ve been talking a lot about making a connection with a partner.  When you and Daniil work with a partner it seems that you can make this connection very fast – is it a conscious process?  Do you try to scan or read the opponent?

Its just a feeling.  Its instinctive.

How can we cultivate that kind of sensitivity?

First, you have to have a good attitude to people – you have to be a good person.


Daniil Ryabko / ‘It means knowing yourself better’

Welcome back to Japan! How many times has it been?

Five times… I don’t know maybe six!

You must really like it here

Well you know the Japanese come to train with us all the time in Moscow.  They practice very hard and they have good hearts – very open.  When I’m in the US or Europe a lot of people don’t believe anything I say until they feel it for themselves.  Even, you know, don’t put your hand in the fire, it burns!  But the Japanese, they just get on with it.

What does Systema training mean to you?

It’s like everything, you know… More than anything to me it means knowing yourself better.

Is there a single aspect of training that speaks the most to you, or that you are espcially comfortable with?

(Laughs) Which do you like better, your fingers or your toes?  With Systema it has to be everything, and everything is connected.  What matters isn’t what you’re doing but the feeling inside.

What are the most important points for a beginner to keep in mind?

You have to learn to use everything, you know.  You have to know what it is that you’re doing all the time – know yourself, completely.  And relax.

How should we aproach eliminating fear or tension?

Everyone has their own fears that they have to confront.  Some people are afraid of the knife.  For other people its the whip…  You have to learn to face everything one thing at a time and learn to accept it and relax.

Does it get easier?

(Laughs) There’s always more, you know.  It’s something that keeps going, even all the way to god…

What did you do before you became an instructor?

When I was growing up I went to Police College for seven years.  It’s a bit different from in other countries – we learnt about everything – all the kinds of things you learn in a normal school as well as things like social studies and law… after that I was in the Police doing the same work everyone does.  Then I became a Lieutenant, working as a detective in Moscow for a few years.  I was a Captain when I left.  After that, I came to work with my father.  There were some Special Forces guys  who came in to train and finally they said, ‘we like what you’re doing, why don’t you come work with us at the training center’, and you know, that was that.

How did your experiences as a detective affect your attitude to teaching and practice?

Mainly it’s about psychology, you know?  What the bad guy is thinking.  What he’s going to do.  How people work on the inside.

Did Mikhail being your father make training with him more complicated?

In martial arts there’s often this idea that you have to learn with this person, then this person, and so on until one day you can go to the top – like a pyramid.  It’s all about money.  But with Mikhail, whoever you are, whatever your level is, you know he can work with you.