The Systema Singularity
Don’t Miss the Elephant

May 07, 2016 by Scott Meredith  
Maybe the co-author of a book (if only a secondary contributor), shouldn’t write promotions for his own work. It may be construed as prideful. But of all the books I’ve written, I can’t help being proudest of our newest Systema publication: STRIKES: Soul Meets Body. And if few others yet fully understand the epochal nature of the material we’ve laid out, I’ll have to step up to the task of explaining it myself. It has been said since ancient times: Who must do the hard things? He who can. So that’s going to be me, now.

In mathematics, a ‘singularity’ is defined as ‘a point at which a function takes on an infinite value’. What that means is: blastoff! An unprecedented game-changing element has taken the field. Escape velocity has been attained. You get the idea. And ‘infinite value’ is not too strong a phrase to describe STRIKES.

But first I want to point out the ‘challenge’ with this book: we’ve probably given too much there. I know that sounds weird, but consider this comparison: cognitive scientists and neurologists have determined that at every moment, the world presents a massive data overload to our senses. So the brain has gatekeepers, sensory low-pass filters that cut out most of reality as it streams in, and which serve up a highly edited, cramped and gutted view to our conscious minds. In other words, we get overloaded very easily.

STRIKES is so rich in so many dimensions that you can’t possibly toe-tag it as “just one thing”. Anything that people can’t pigeon-hole, they’re tempted to overlook. Remember the blind men and the elephant? It’s a tree, it’s a wall, it’s a spear, it’s a snake… all true in a way, but the sum is far greater and far more surprising than any one element. For STRIKES that would be: it’s a drill book, it’s Systema philosophy, it’s Vladimir’s personal biography, it’s practical fight lessons, it’s a spiritual roadmap, it’s an advanced breathing manual…

Hang on, let’s zoom in on “just one thing” there, which is worth many times the book’s price:

It’s an advanced breathing manual.

This is something that could easily be overlooked. The two breath training chapters of STRIKES (Chapters 2 and 10). Just those segments alone, with a bit more context added, could each have been published as a stand-alone sequel or companion to our earlier book ‘Let Every Breath’.

I want to dig into this because to me personally, those breath training segments have been worth the price of many trips to India. What? INDIA? Yes, India - in addition to my martial arts training, I like to do yoga to stay super limber. Just a side thing, but I find it interesting. I do a rigorous form of contortionist yoga called Ashtanga Second Series nearly every morning. It isn’t just stretching, it puts your whole body through a meat grinder.

Now the yoga training has its own breathwork of course, just like any other physical discipline. But when I was first introduced to the ‘Legkoye’ or ‘Light Breathing’ method that Vladimir presents in STRIKES (Chapter 10), initially I was blown away just witnessing what he does with it. I describe that in the book. Listen - when you write a book, it’s kind of a heavy thing, you want to be buttoned down, dignified, analytical. But for Internet writing like this note, I can take off the gloves. I wasn’t impressed, I was AMAZED. It was inhuman to me how he could perform a series of pushups, squats, leg raises, rolls, getting up, lowering down again – over and over, all on one single inhale. It was plain weird. And STRIKES Chapter 10 contains the only textual guideline in existence for this training.

Then, when I tried it myself, I found the light breathing, when applied to my yoga (contortionism), almost doubled my capabilities in flexibility, stamina, limb strength, and balance. I’m not saying you should learn Light Breathing as an adjunct to yoga. Systema is its own complete framework. I’m making the more general point that this book is packed with riches like this teaching, stuffed to the point that some of you may not have fully understood yet how comprehensive the material is. It’s way beyond just ‘strikes’ though that’s the core method of the art, and dearest to Vladimir’s heart. But the entire physical and spiritual infrastructure of Systema is implicated. STRIKES is a massive catalog of Systema concepts.

But now, look again. I said above ‘the two breath training chapters’. But even that was wrong, because almost every other chapter includes specific, actionable breathwork training methods and insights. STRIKES is shot through with breathwork.

Maybe you’re having trouble categorizing this book in your mind, wondering how to pin it down to some limited genre or topic so you can sensibly estimate its dollars-and-cents value to your life. That’s very understandable. But the normal metrics don't apply to this book.

I want you to ponder, if you will, the original Russian System Guidebook. This slim little offering was the first book on Ryabko/Vasiliev Systema. It’s now out of print. It was an exciting book with a lot of amazing insights for its time, as far as it went, and much beloved by the cohesive student population of its time. When it was withdrawn from circulation, a lot of people expressed regret (it’s now only available from special collectors at anywhere from 70 to 700 US dollars). People clamored for it back, wished they’d got hold of it when it was still there, and so on.

Now STRIKES is the next generation. It far exceeds the Guidebook in the specificity and comprehensiveness of training methods, the profundity of the conceptual material, the amazement of the anecdotes, and the light it shines on Vladimir’s personal history and training background. STRIKES infinitely exceeds the Guidebook on every conceivable dimension. Don’t look back, look up at this higher ground that you can ascend to right now.

Vladimir’s Systema Toronto/HQ Facebook page has over 30,000 likes and tens of thousands of followers. Hundreds of thousands of you have watched his incredible YouTube clips, attended his seminars or visited the HQ school. This book was written for every one of you and I just want to make double sure you understand that. If you decide to take a pass on it, your gut should tweak you a little, telling you something.

If you have even the least interest in Systema, or martial arts in general, or athletics in general, or extraordinary creative genius in any field then someday, somehow you will read this book. Let that day be today, get a head start on where you’re going to end up anyway.

If you have already read STRIKES: Soul Meets Body, please feel free to send us your comments. If you have not, you may get it from our online store personally signed by Vladimir, from in English, or from in Japanese language.

Scott Meredith Scott Meredith, the writer of STRIKES: Soul Meets Body and of Let Every Breath, is a certified instructor of Systema under Vladimir Vasiliev.
He is intimately familiar with the languages and cultures of Japan and China, and is a lifelong student of martial arts.
Scott is a professional technologist who holds a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has worked for over 30 years as a senior researcher in human-machine interface technologies for IBM, Apple, and Microsoft.