The Thunder of Mikhail Ryabko

June 07, 2011 by Brandon Sommerfeld  

Please keep in mind what I am about to share is coming from my own limited personal opinion and experience. With that being said I will make this bold statement “I am thoroughly convinced that Martial Arts Masters that possess Mikhail Ryabko and Vladimir Vasiliev’s skill level come around, maybe once every 200 years”. Never before in the history of Mankind have we enjoyed the opportunity to have so much incredible information literally at our fingertips.

The striking methodology of Systema is brilliant, subtle, simple, yet layered in sophistication and nobody personifies this more than the founder Colonel Mikhail Ryabko. I have been a student of the fighting arts since 1971 and have always had a very strong lean toward striking during this time I trained, witnessed and felt the power of many types of strikes from amateurs and professionals alike. I came away convinced that there was nothing that could take the place of a good Boxers skill set in the striking department.

One thing bothered me though, you could have two Boxers with identical physical characteristics and the same amount of training, yet one would possess knockout power and the other would not, even if the mechanics of delivery were the same.

I along with many others came to the conclusion that one had to be born with the gift of heavy hands in order to become a one-punch knockout artist. Then in the spring of 2003 my foundations where rocked as I watched Mikhail Ryabko give a Master class on striking, he was delivering strikes that would totally incapacitate a person. Strikes that would energize strikes that would localize pain to certain area for prolonged periods of time, strikes that would take the pain away, strikes that would make people feel good and dare I say it yes, healing strikes.

I have never seen anything like it I found myself moving further back towards the rear of the gym, as Mikhail continued to work on a few more seasoned individuals. I know it sounds crazy but I am not the only one who remembers this at one point you could not only hear the thunderous impact from Mikhail’s punches but you could feel the vibrations emanating from the walls and floor. It was about this time a little voice whispered inside my head “I don’t think you are ready for this, maybe some other time”. Just then Jim King came bee lining toward me with that big smile on his face “You’re going to let Mikhail hit you right? It’s awesome!” I smiled and made my way to the back of the line not really knowing what to expect.

When it was my turn, looking into Mikhail’s face, he had that slight smile and his eyes seem to be grinning as well, I am told to relax and breathe. Boom, the strike penetrates just below the surface I start to burst breath and relax myself, I think to myself “that wasn’t so bad”. Boom, the next strike goes in slightly deeper it took a little longer to recover and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my brow. Mikhail looks at me and says this one will go in a little more deep. POW! The strike penetrated deep, taking my breath but not knocking the wind out of me; in fact, it felt like all my air was stuck in my head and I could not release it. The crowd was yelling, “Breathe, Breathe!” I was jumping up and down trying to breathe at the same time my head felt like it was about to explode! That was when Mikhail rubbed his hand across my chest and took the pain away at the same time eliminating the blockage that prevented me from receiving oxygen. What just happened?

I was blown away, I then watched Colonel Ryabko direct a variety of strikes to my good friend who was a Medical Doctor and to many others whose experience was different yet none the less profound. Watching Mikhail teach and demonstrate takes a keen eye and a lot of patience, I honestly do not know how he can do the majority of the things he does.

I do know that nothing can replace experiencing this power first hand. It can give you a vast amount of information to draw from in the years to come I also believe that with an open mind and attention to detail one can internalize some of these rare Systema gems that have been made available to us through these excellent DVDs. I have proven to myself time after time and more importantly to the Professionals I have the had privilege to work with that you can use this striking methodology from Systema and make someone who is not naturally heavy handed into a very powerful striker. Quick.

About the Author: Brandon Sommerfeld is a Certified Systema Instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko, U.S. Army Special Forces Combat Veteran, Founder of the International Combative Science Association. Brandon teaches Systema at Russian Martial Art West Point Virginia.

Four of Mikhail Ryabko’s awesome instructional lessons on STRIKES are now available on DVD in 16:9 WIDESCREEN great production quality. SYSTEMA LESSONS DVD also includes five of Konstantin Komarov’s thought-provoking sessions on FEAR.


Brandon Sommerfeld Brandon Sommerfeld was a certified Systema instructor under Vladimir Vasiliev, teaching at Russian Martial Art West Point Virginia. He was a combat veteran of the U.S. Army, Special Forces and a Master Instructor.
Brandon passed away January 2013.