Spotlight on Systema Striking by Black Belt Magazine

January 14, 2016 by  
by Floyd Burk, contributing editor
December 2015 / January 2016 issue

Many followers of the Western ways of self-defense know the Toronto-based company called Systema – Russian Martial Art because of its leader Vladimir Vasiliev. In an effort to spread his art of Systema, Vasiliev, who was Black Belt’s 2013 Instructor of the Year, travels the world to conduct seminars. He’s appeared in the magazine many times, as well. What most people don’t know is that Vasiliev and his organization also produce books. The STRIKES: Soul Meets Body.

First, the art: Systema was born on the battlefield centuries ago and refined by Russian military and spec-ops personnel. It continues to evolve for maximum effectiveness in our ever-changing world.

Next, the man: Vasiliev’s interpretation of systema isn’t just about combat. It’s much bigger than that. Browse his website (, and you’ll see pages devoted to breathing, fear, massage, stress management, and the cultivation of things like strength and peace. That’s not to say he gives short shrift to self-defense. Vasiliev has released dozens of DVDs on topics like mass attacks, gun defense, knife use and defense, improvised weaponry, and even defense inside a car and fighting in the water.
NOW, THE BOOK: “I have been in martial arts and combatives for so many years, and I see people being compromised and injured by the very martial arts training that is supposed to be strengthening them,” Vasiliev said. “The majority of people have never even been in a fight, but their bodies are damaged and their psychological condition is unhealthy.”

Those unfortunate facts motivated Vasiliev to write STRIKES: Soul Meets Body. The bad practices he set out to remedy are serious. “They have ruined their joints by delivering strikes the wrong way, their organs by taking strikes the wrong way, and their combative effectiveness by [having] stiff movements, restricted stances, tension, fear, aggression and self-pity.

“As a result, they are not really prepared for a confrontation, they cannot deal with everyday stresses and their health is messed up.”
Vasiliev’s view of martial arts is that training should benefit all aspects of life. “A good warrior is a healthy warrior, not just in the short term but for all his life,” he said. “Then he can be truly helpful to his family, friends, colleagues and country.

“This is what Systema offers, and I always tried to share this with my students. I’m very fortunate that one of my students and Systema instructors is also a super-talented writer and analyst. Scott Meredith, Ph.D., agreed to help me bring this knowledge and experience to the readers. He has done it in the most outstandingly comprehensive and entertaining way.”

So does this new book reveal any “secrets” that lead to martial arts proficiency or perhaps longevity? “I don’t really like to create secrets around what Mikhail Ryabko and I teach,” Vasiliev said. “Systema knowledge is something you want to share. It is the training and skills that actually make you feel good, as do all the right things in life.”

Vasiliev said the purpose of STRIKES: Soul Meets Body is to share that training and those skills with a wider audience — anyone who’s interested in the deeper meaning of the martial arts or anyone who wants to understand why a family member is devoting his or her life to the arts. “This book is for those who hit and those who might get hit, those who wish to get rid of their tensions and fears to gain power from within, and those who wish to explore a cool and powerful way to ‘hit different.’”