N A M I -R Y U- A I K I -H E I H O

A School for Training in Ancient Samurai Military Arts
instructor- -schedule- -corporate training- -tactical training

FROM THE MASTER; Excerpts from conversations and teachings of Mikhail Ryabko

Compiled 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.

Still the 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 a sword.

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.

American society 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.



The Teachings of Mikhail Ryabko during the Russian Training program

Compiled 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.

The thing 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.

Some martial 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.

Most fights 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.

Another aspect 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.

When attempting 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.

We always 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.

No matter 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.