The above martial art was developed by Stalin’s senior NKVD bodyguard (Nikolai Vlasik -1896-1967) who had studied a number of Western and Asian martial arts! His task was to develop a ‘Socialist’ martial system superior to anything extant within the capitalist West – and which could be immediately used by the common Russian people to ‘Defend the Great Socialist Revolution‘! This bodyguard unshackled the effective (material) martial content from the spiritual dogma and cultural structures the techniques had been preserved within (working upon the logical assumption that it was battlefield experience and not religious belief that had formulated the original and effective combat techniques). This was more applicable at the time to Western (unarmed) martial arts due to their deterioration into irreligious combat sports. My main point of reference for this understanding came from a Chinese-language encyclopaedia article I found on Baidu – which I then cross-referenced in Soviet Archive sources. Despite all this general knowledge, I think their are different martial lineages in Russia just as there are in China. The skill is to gather general knowledge about Systema whilst avoiding any direct interaction or clashing with the different extant schools – as they all have their own histories and interpretations – with some not liking any obvious associations with the USSR!
Interestingly, this is the aligned movement and use of dropped bodyweight that is seen in genuine Taijiquan development and practice (when taught properly by a genuine Master) – but which is rarely seen today (outside of China) due to the often superficial and overly mystified interpretation of Chinese martial arts, which are used as just another vehicle for making ‘money’ with the equally weird idea that somehow ‘moving slowly’ is good for your health (this only has efficacy if one’s ‘awareness’ capacity has been developed far beyond the normal)! Although there definitely appears to be an association between ‘Systema’ and ‘Taijiquan’ – I cannot find any historical connection between the two arts (despite Russia and China being geographically next to one another). Many Systema practitioners seem to think that it is Japanese Jiu Jitsu that is the Asian foundation to ‘Systema’. Certainly, mastery of all these arts seems to arrive at a similar or advanced place of being and awareness.
The cultural and religious baggage within Asian cultures generally means that it takes decades to finally arrive at the ability that Systema teaches from the first day of training (and only then, if the practitioner of the Asian arts has found a competent Master). This signifies the ‘Socialist’ egalitarian nature of ‘Systema’ where there were no coloured belts representing a fascistic and hierarchical grading system – as is common within Japanese culture. In the original Soviet – (and now ‘Russian’) – martial system (Systema), the highest form of inner and outer awareness, body-alignment, organisation and movement, as well as advanced technical manifestation – is taught first without any hesitation, whilst an individual’s psychological and emotional (spiritual) understanding of what a practitioner is physically experiencing has to catch-up over the many years of training.
Carrying more bodyweight only adds to the available power (this stems originally from the completely different concepts of ‘health’ as developed and understood from within the tradition of Chinese ‘medicine’ as of yet unsullied by its Greek counter-part). We are seeing here, the ‘correcting’ of the generally ‘inverted’ nature of religious thought (i.e. ‘spirit creates matter’) by the Marxist idea that ‘matter generates spirit’ – placing everything in the martial context the right way around (from a Socialist – Marxist-Leninist – perspective). To the Western ‘eye’ (and ‘mind’) this type of mastery of mind, body and environment looks ‘odd’ because it is so natural! In other words, although Systema is a product of the Soviet System ‘de-mystifying’ Asian martial arts, the end result appears to be ‘transcendent’ of the dictates of ordinary logic and seems to lay outside of the boundaries of common-sense! This is because the basic assumptions of humanity are designed for a general level of species survival – with Taijiquan (and other Asian martial arts) and Systema representing the end product in a long and drawn-out process of spiritual, religious, psychological, emotional and physical development! Although Systema presents the final lesson (containing all the martial secrets) which is taught first in ‘lesson one’ – it can be argued that despite all the physical advantages the Systema technique grants the practitioner in the realms of self-defence, years of corresponding practice must still be undergone BEFORE the inner understanding develops to the point where it ‘equals’ the standard (and ‘level’) of the advanced outer (martial) technique. The main training points of Systema (which are identical to ‘Taijiquan’) are:
1) General conservation of energy
2) Leverage (through skeletal alignment and postural positioning)
3) Using minimal force to generate maximum power (through harnessing ‘dropped’ bodyweight)
4) Maintaining a relaxed mind and musculature
5) Special breathing technique used to dissipate incoming power.
Having said all this, this understanding is only relevant when viewed from within an ‘inverted’ capitalist society. I suspect the Soviet Authorities were looking to completely ‘transform’ human existence and elevate society (both psychologically and physically) to a new and higher level of understanding and physical being! This would mean that through non-inverted educational teaching – Soviet Society would eventually generate ‘new’ Socialist people where the starting point for human development (during each ‘new’ Soviet life) would begin where ‘Mastery’ ended (during old age) in the archaic, feudalistic and capitalistic systems of the world! Indeed, this is exactly the up-levelling of human consciousness (and physicality) that China, Laos, DPRK, Cuba and Vietnam are attempting, and perhaps various left-wing societies throughout South America. Of course, as modern Russia is a capitalist country, the ugly head of Russian nationalism sometimes intercedes and attempts to convince the world that ‘Systema’ is purely ‘Russian’ – it is not. Soviet Archive material clearly records how Systema came about – with even its name – ‘The System’ – being entirely Socialist and typical of the no nonsense and matter of fact approach the NKVD (Revolutionary Police) when ordering, developing and codifying reality!