Systema Striking

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Systema is always characterized by a soft approach to combat that seeks to always be efficient and ergonomic, and striking is no different. Striking is almost always harder on the body and almost always takes more energy than any other element of any fighting system or martial arts. The reason for this is that the main method of generating power is to rotate your entire body and use your center of mass. This way, you can generate enough power to knock out a grizzly bear, but it makes you very tired and sore after a while. The reasons for this are found in Newton's laws of motion.

Newton's third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is known as conservation of momentum. If something pushes an object, that object pushes back with the same force. Conservation of momentum doesn't just apply to a straight push; it also applies to torques, which apply to all spinning or rotating objects. If you rotate your center of mass one direction, something will want to rotate in the other. The result is that you are not only fighting to start the motion of your body, but to keep your entire body moving in the same direction.

This on its own is very manageable with light conditioning, except for Newton's first law which states that objects in motion will stay in motion, and objects at rest will stay at rest unless acted on by an outside force. This means that you need to put out a significant amount of energy in order to strike in the first place, and twice the energy to stop your body and move it in the opposite direction and retract your fist or your leg once you have made contact. If you are not conditioned properly, your second output may quite possibly result in a pulled or torn muscle or tendon.

You should always strive to be in your peak physical condition, however Systema is intended to be usable when you are not. To prevent inertia and conservation of momentum from working against you, it uses different, less conventional means of delivering strikes. There are two ways in which you can strike: with a wave or with rotation. These two methods of power generation are the foundations of every form of striking in Systema.

Rotational Striking

There are two concepts given in this video: rotational striking and the "paradox" principle. The paradox principle is where you twist your arm to make it easier to change the direction of an object. Although an important skill, it pertains to taking strikes in ways that save your arms and give you meaningful contact for structure breaking. For now, I will focus only on the striking aspect.

  • When you use this type of strike, it will never be a true straight strike. There are two reasons for this: your hand will always be physically rotating through the motion and a straight strike is impractical because it is predictable and it pushes your opponent away from you.
  • Remember that all motion comes from your center of mass. Be careful not to lead with your head, arms, or shoulders.
  • When your right hand moves forward, your right leg moves backward. When your left hand moves forward, your left foot moves backward.
  • There are two trains of thought that will both work: you can shift all of your weight to one foot leaving the other free to move, or you can actively swing your leg backwards. The first is easier and the second has more potential in terms of power generation. In this video, the weight shifting method is used.
  • The same effect can also be accomplished by stepping forward with the foot opposite the striking hand.

Wave Striking

Your body is approximately 70% water and contains over 200 bones which form many complex joints and structures. As a consequence of this, if you sufficiently relax, energy put through your body will reverberate as waves which could continue for hours if you let them. The average person has no reason to even know of this property, let alone think about the ramifications of it, but for soft martial arts like Wing Chun or Systema, it can be used to gently take or deliver even heaviest of strikes at any range under almost any conditions.

  • The biggest con of wave energy is that you need to be relaxed to use it.
  • Remember to breathe from your gut and check your body posture. You should be standing straight and naturally and your knees should bend slightly. If you have difficulty using your legs for any sort of motion, bend your knees more.


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