Systema Trinity

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The Trinity

Systema uses the idea that a human being as a whole has three parts: the mind, the body, and the spirit. In order to use any form of Systema effectively, you need to engage all three parts equally. If one part is significantly more or less engaged than the others, the trinity is broken and your work loses something.

The Mind
Your mind is your first and only line of defense, the rest being better described as lines of attack. If you see a threat developing and you can avoid it, you should always do so.

Though seeing and preventing is a very good system in itself, it does not always work, so you need to be able to use your mind in the presence of a clear and present danger. In order to effectively combat a threat, you cannot blindly attack it with no focus or direction. This will result in much wasted effort, not to mention embarrassment. If your enemy knows what they are doing, or are simply insistent, they will find it very easy to take advantage of this and submit you.

If you can reasonably assume it is a life and death situation, this cannot be tolerated as it will most likely result in the loss of your life. You will never be able to see as many details of a dangerous situation as you would like, but when your mind is engaged you will see the entire system of the threat, as opposed to a single person or object, and how you can neutralize it. How well you can see this and how many ways you can see depends on how well conditioned your mind is and how threatened you feel by the situation.

When practicing, you must engage your mind by thinking about whatever drills you decide to practice and trying to find the important principles and movements and how they can be applied.

The Body
The ideal state of your body is one that is relaxed, with the only tension being in the muscles you need to use to keep your posture or take an action. You should be standing comfortably with your back straight and your knees slightly bent, accepting that your spine naturally curves in the correct position. The muscles holding posture should yield to any significant resistance. The spine should always be naturally aligned. When you take an action, no more than 25% of your strength should be applied, so you should not feel yourself applying effort.

Obviously, these specifications are not generally possible in a stressful situation, however, you can get very close or even achieve them through physical, mental, and spiritual conditioning. Systema drills are generally designed to develop two or three parts of being at a time, but you can develop them on your own without them. This is commonly referred to as going outside your comfort zone. This does not mean that you should do something clearly reckless or dangerous or disturb the peace because it is physically, mentally, and/or emotionally difficult for you. You can start with something small, or do something that could be life-changing, as long as there are no significant risks. You are not fighting for your life or making a split second decision to save the world, so the training should not be a potential cause of serious physical, financial, or permanent psychological harm to yourself or others.

The Official Posture Training Drill

The Spirit
The spirit is seen as something sacred to many religions. In Christianity, it is the place inside every person where God resides. For the more philosophical interpretations, this is the definition. For the purposes of the purely scientific interpretations, this is your mental state or mindset. In either case, it is the source of your will to engage and it defines your outlook of the engagement. Your spirit is the part of you that either creates or bypasses a tendency to ask questions during a conflict.

The ideal spirit is one that does not allow you to become unsure of yourself and give you defensive tendencies. Any perceived problems you question can make your actions insufficient. Even the very act of asking yourself something will slow down your reaction time. Your intent should be focused on a single thing - neutralizing the threat. Nothing else matters, so you should not allow yourself to clutter your mind with questions and uncertainties. In having no mercy from the start, you can avoid doing too little and therefore avoid having to do much more horrific things to stop the person after your initial response. Giving them a sore neck and some scrapes and bruises right away is better than having to break their bones a second later. Breaking bones right away is better than having to take their life a second later.

All viable systems of combat encourage a positive presence of spirit, but the qualities of the spirit varies greatly. In MMA, Krav Maga, or most of the other popular systems you need a burning, almost uncontrolled fury. If your spirit were a river, it would be dammed up until you open the floodgates and send it to the threat all at once. When the spirit is put in almost full control like this, it brings up the level to which the body and mind are engaged. This will work with Systema, however it tenses up too much of your body and mind resulting in a slowed reaction time, unnecessary motion, and damage to your body and mind over time.

For Systema, you need a cold fury. If your spirit were a river in this case, it would flow as it always does until it reaches an obstruction, such as a threat. When it reaches this, it simply flows around it and wears it away until it can carry the obstruction with it. It gives no special effort, yet it is every bit as effective as flooding your enemies with a fiery passion. In this case, you engage your spirit only as much as you engage your body and mind. Your direction must be clearly forward and unyielding at all times, but there should be neither malice nor compassion in your actions. When you take up Systema, you must understand that you are training to be a professional whether you actually are/will be one or not and therefore must confront threats with a psychopathic indifference to any words, actions, or other forms of messages others may give you. Although you must mind these things as part of the protocol of foreseeing and preventing, once you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you cannot afford to allow these things to intimidate or demoralize you and dam the river of your spirit. You must confidently and indifferently deal with it.


  1. Significant contributions to this page were made by Mike, author of Action Heroing Made Easy (blog),, Added - 10/30/14
  2. Kadochnikov System Russian Martial Art,, Added - 10/29/14
  3. Systema Headquarters, Systema, Russian Martial Arts,, Added - 10/29/14

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