fear

All posts tagged fear

Here is an excellent introduction to Systema posted on my instructor Marc Bresee’s site systemasarasota.com, and reposted here with his permission. We have a great class here in Sarasota. In my opinion Systema is one of the very best self defense systems out there..

Systema is a Martial Art with roots in ancient Russia. It is in active use in top levels of modern Russian special operations groups. We teach Systema as taught by Vladimir Vasiliev and its founder, Mikhail Ryabko. This Style encompasses every aspect of conflict, from the psychological aspects of conversation and posturing, through all aspects of hand-to-hand fighting, grappling and groundwork and group attacks, and weaponry, including firearms. We also study these aspects of combat at different levels (lying, kneeling, standing) and environments (in the dark, against a wall, in a chair, car, stairway or in the water.) You name it, we work with it: It is a big world for self-discovery.

Our practice sessions are usually is a mixture of exercises, drills, and freestyle work. Most drills are done at a slow speed to create a fear-free environment so the body and mind can learn thoroughly. Speed becomes less relevant when the body understands the movement and can comfortably match the speed of an incoming event. Systema uses training in breath, movement and proper posture to achieve a relaxed state. Work can then be free flowing with no need to stop and try to apply a ” technique”. We train to move more from what we feel than what we see: this process is much more subconscious and doesn’t choke or waste time while the brain tries to figure out what to do. Analytical thought is usually too far behind the moment – especially if one is surprised. Systema methodology encourages instinctual work: the learning curve is shortened and a person can more easily maintain strength and manage fear. This provides an energized and creative state that allows free flowing and appropriate work. Unlike sport fighting, life is vastly more unpredictable and may demand effort for an extended period of time. Systema is designed to work when one is tired, injured or weak. This unfortunately leaves little excuse for those who think they need to get in shape before starting to train with us.

Almost anyone will benefit from regular Systema training. It is good for both men and women that want to learn to protect themselves and their families and gain better understanding and control of violence and fear. It is even good for older people that want to gain health and decrease injuries: Systema has students in their 70s. And it is appropriate for professionals because it can be applied judiciously according to the needs of a situation. It is in essence “professional work”. Training in Systema will give a professional more insight into controlling opponents while keeping ones on psyche calm. Really, it is for anyone who wants to strengthen his or her mind, body and spirit in an honest and real way.

It is really easy to fit in. Training is fun, good-spirited and cooperative. There are no belts or ranks. There are no traditions or cultural routines (well there is on: we meet in a circle at the end of training to share insights and then roll out backwards). Systema is universal: there aren’t even named techniques. And you don’t have to fight your way through a hierarchy of individuals who want to challenge you at the door. We are all adults and work with a fun but professional demeanor. It is physically reasonable to start learning. Extreme flexibility is not required: we all must come to the fight “as we are”. Whatever your condition or attributes, that is what you have to work with. Great strength is not required: We use manipulation of form rather than brute force. Systema promotes health: It strengthens and does not injure the body. You will learn proper breathing and relaxation and see a decrease in injuries and huge gains in stamina. Your posture will improve. You will learn to relax –even in a chaotic and dangerous environment. Systema is like a movement therapy that removes fear from the body. Fear is both our biggest ally but also one of our biggest enemies in life if not controlled. Fear management has very widespread daily benefits.

The best way to see what Systema is about is to train regularly for at least month. You can’t really get a good taste in a single session or even a week. If you come once it may be too brutal, or it may be too mundane. There are so many things to study and train that the content of training varies immensely. One time we work on sensitivity, another receiving strikes, then fighting in a crowd, or work against a knife, stick, or gun. It is always different so a commitment to a block of training and tasting will serve you better. I do promise you that it will be worth the experience whether or not you decide to continue training with us.

Read more at systemasarasota.com.

Violence against women and girls is widespread; one woman in three will experience violence during her lifetime, most often at the hands of someone she knows. Don’t crucify me about the title, I just wanted to get your attention, because if you are a woman, what you will read here, and what you do about it might help you. Of course women don’t want to be victims! A few years back, my Systema instructor organized a free self-defense seminar for women. I participated as a “bad guy.” Around twenty five women showed-up. The seminar was great, but you really can’t learn enough life saving skills in four hours.. Not one ever came back to class for training!

Amazing, considering the statistics: Every day four women die in this country as a result of domestic violence. Conservative estimates indicate two to four million women of all races and classes are battered each year. Every year approximately 132,000 women report that they have been victims of rape or attempted rape.

I know a woman who lives with her young child but would never lock her door, even at night. With a double murder two blocks away, I know that door is still left unlocked (she no longer lives alone). Yet, she shops for organic food and is a health-conscious mother. How can you conciliate the two?

The idea of violence is not a pleasant one. Women do not want to think about being assaulted, even if preparing themselves could potentially save their lives and the life of their children. The “It won’t happen to me,” “won’t happen here,” or “I’d just [insert kick-ass TV-kung-fu move here]” mentality prevails over reason. It is a great example of self-deception.

Being ready doesn’t mean becoming a Cynthia Rothrock or emulate Jennifer Lopez in “Enough”… Prevention and awareness is your best tool. By awareness, I don’t mean marching in the streets with a sign to end violence on women; that does as much as pissing in a violin. I mean awareness of your surroundings and listening to your intuition. I read an excellent book on the subject, see below:


Every woman should read this book. I remember one story from it that really drives the point home: A young girl was hitchhiking when a couple stopped. They had a baby with them. For some reason, the girl had the urge not to go with them. She reasoned that a couple with a baby couldn’t be of any danger to her and climbed in the car. Later, at a rest stop, she again had the urge to run away, but could not explain it, and decided that it was silly, and again, went along for the ride. It turned out to be a seven year ride as a sex slave to the couple.. You have to listen to that little voice. We humans are the only animal capable of self-deception. A wild animal would never stop at a suspicious noise and think “it’s probably nothing.”

Prevention is not enough. After all, it is a sad truth that women are most often attacked by people they know. If a boyfriend hits you, leave now, don’t hope it will never happen again, because it will, guaranteed. That first time though could be much more than a slap in the face. There is always the possibility of an unforeseen random act of violence, like a mugging, or rape attempt. Criminals attack women because they either do not resist or do not know how to resist. Even if they do, they lack the physical strength to do so. Strength can be replaced by skills. Unfortunately, there are a lot of martial arts out there that are not worth a dime for self defense. There are also good styles but bad teachers. I would suggest trying to find a school or style that emphasizes principles over form and techniques. Avoid styles that are too stiff in their movements or teachings, and promote violence or aggressiveness. Going nuts in a fight won’t help you. Emotions won’t help you. Also avoid styles that use excessive protections, have too many rules (like not hitting the face, etc.), or simply avoid contact. The style you choose must also consider multiple attackers, armed or not, and fighting on the ground as well as on your feet. If you see twelve-year-olds with a black belt, run! If they promise you a black belt next year, run! Actually, be suspicious of belts altogether. My favorites are, almost in order: Systema, Bujinkan, Penjak Silat, Kuntao, Kali, Wing Tsun, Aikido, Krav Maga, Boxing, and I am sure I am forgetting some. I would not suggest TaeKwonDo, traditional Karate, and other styles based on outdated forms of combat, geared towards competition or dancing, like Capoeira. Some combinations are good, like boxing and JiuJitsu for example. Shop around before you sign-up, and don’t bother spending time on martial arts forums on the web, there is nothing to learn from them. If you don’t have a good school nearby, get the DVD below and start a study group in your town (also available at russianmartialart.com):


Your group should not be comprised of women only. You need to face a screaming angry large man (acting for training) to have a glimpse of what you might face. Getting comfortable with the idea is am important step in your self-defense system. I suggest that you visit Marc MacYoung’s site: nononsenseselfdefense.com. He has great articles on the subject. If you live in Sarasota, visit: systemasarasota.com, tell Marc I sent you, and I’ll see you in class.

Guns are the great equalizer. They instill fear in many women, but it does come from ignorance. I once accompanied a girlfriend to a gun store. Shee looked a different models and finally said: “I want something I’m not afraid of.” To which I replied “If you?e not afraid of it, a robber certainly won’t either.” The salesman laughed.. A gun is only a tool, an assembly of metal parts that alone, couldn’t hurt a fly. Contrary to the common misconception, guns don’t just “go off” they only time we hear of guns going off by themselves is in courtrooms. Sure, some dingy Saturday-night-special could have a defective safety, but modern guns are impervious to accidental discharge. Gun manufacturers have too much to lose in lawsuits to be casual about safety. If you decide to buy a gun, and I can only encourage you to do so, you have to consider a few things before you spend your hard earned money:

You will need training. Not just a few sessions at the range, but consistent training, at least two or three times a month, and start with a knowledgeable instructor. Learning gun safety will be your first objective. If you have kids, buy a safe! They make small ones that can be opened very quickly by a combination of finger-pressing. Then you should move on to shooting immobile targets at about fifteen feet. Gunfights rarely happen any further. Actually, most gunfights take place with the opponents only ten feet apart. You will then practice on moving targets, which is another ball game altogether. Finally, you should practice on moving targets while moving. Believe it or not, it is easy to miss ten feet away in those conditions, with the added stress of a real situation.
The most important aspect of your gun training however won’t be shooting, but gun handling. Bringing the gun into action, drawing, moving around with it, rolling, taking cover, reloading, gun retention, etc. Finding an good instructor for this is not easy. Even Law Enforcement Officers are often not trained properly with their weapon. Do not copy anything you see on television, most of the time, it’s awfully wrong.
The last, but very important aspect of owning a gun is to know the law. Study concealed carry laws in your state and self-defense laws, castle laws. If you shoot an attacker, DO NOT talk to police, even if you think it will clear you of any wrongdoing. Ask for an attorney right away. If you don’t know what gun to buy, get a Glock model 19. Don’t listen to anyone telling you not to get one…
There is great book by Massa Ayoob you should read:


Are you willing to set aside a couple hours a week for your self-protection studies? Honestly, it is a small price to pay, even if you get a few bruises occasionally. It can even be fun, and training will keep you in shape. Actually, don’t forget about running, it should be your first option! I am thinking about mothers in particular. It is one thing to disregard your own safety, but if you have a family, or plan on having one, you have no excuse. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below (you must register for free). If I can’t give you a good answer, I know people who can. Be safe!