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What is Systema? A Complete Beginners Guide! (2023)

Are you feeling bored and looking for a new hobby to dive into? Systema might just be the activity you’ve been searching for.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll explore the fascinating world of Systema, what Systema is, and discover why this Russian martial art is worth giving a try.

2 men on red mat in a hold, systema, Brazilian jiu jitsu

What is Systema?

Systema is a Russian martial art that focuses on self-defense and personal development. Unlike other martial arts, Systema emphasizes fluid movements, practical techniques, and psychological training.

It teaches individuals how to defend themselves effectively using their own body and natural instincts.

Systema Techniques

Unlike rigid martial arts, Systema values adaptability, flexibility, and effective responses.

1. Breathing Mastery

Systema’s foundation lies in mastering breathing techniques. This involves controlling your breath to remain calm under pressure, handle stress, and conserve energy.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing aids in relaxation and boosts power in strikes and movements.

Learning to synchronize breath with movement is vital for maintaining efficiency and endurance during training and combat.

2. Fluid Movements

Systema places a premium on fluidity over rigid forms. Practitioners embrace natural movement, adapting to each situation.

This adaptability enables seamless transitions from strikes to grappling, defense to offense, and between multiple opponents.

Such fluidity proves invaluable in real-life self-defense scenarios where quick adaptation is key.

3. Effective Strikes and Joint Control

Systema incorporates soft strikes, emphasizing precision and targeting over sheer force. By targeting vital points and soft areas, practitioners can incapacitate opponents effectively.

Joint manipulation and control techniques are also essential. Leveraging body mechanics allows Systema practitioners to immobilize or disarm opponents efficiently while minimizing harm.

4. Handling Multiple Opponents

Systema training covers defense against multiple attackers.

Techniques revolve around constant movement, situational awareness, and using the environment to your advantage.

Practitioners master evasion, deflection, and redirection to prevent being overwhelmed by multiple opponents.

5. Weapon Disarmament

Systema equips practitioners with techniques to disarm attackers wielding weapons like knives, sticks, or firearms.

Practitioners assess situations, create openings, and safely disarm opponents—a crucial skill in self-defense scenarios involving weapons.

6. Ground Fighting Skills

Though Systema primarily focuses on standing combat, it also includes ground fighting skills.

Practitioners learn to defend themselves on the ground efficiently, including regaining their footing when necessary.

Ground fighting emphasizes mobility, vulnerability reduction, and escaping disadvantageous positions.

Why Try Systema?

There are numerous benefits to trying Systema.

Here are just a few:

  • Self-defense skills: It equips you with the knowledge and techniques to protect yourself in real-life situations.
  • Physical fitness: Training in Systema improves your flexibility, strength, and overall fitness level.
  • Stress relief: It incorporates breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, helping you manage stress and improve mental well-being.
  • Self-awareness: This martial art trains you to be aware of your body, mind, and surroundings, promoting mindfulness and self-discovery.
  • Confidence boost: As you develop your skills, you’ll gain confidence in your abilities both on and off the mat.

Skill Levels and What to Expect

Systema is suitable for all skill levels, from absolute beginners to experienced practitioners.

At each level, you can expect to:

  • Beginner: Learn the fundamentals of Systema, including breathing techniques, movement principles, and basic strikes.
  • Intermediate: Build upon your foundation by exploring more advanced concepts, such as joint locks, takedowns, and multiple attacker scenarios.
  • Advanced: Master complex techniques, refine your movements, and deepen your understanding of Systema’s principles.

Systema Equipment, Materials, Supplies, & Tools

To practice, you don’t need much equipment.

Here are the essentials:

Comfortable clothingWear loose-fitting clothes that allow freedom of movement.
Training shoesChoose lightweight shoes with good grip to ensure stability during training.
MouthguardFor added protection during partner drills and sparring.
Training knifeA rubber or plastic training knife can be used for practicing self-defense techniques.

Cost Breakdown

The costs are relatively low compared to other hobbies. Here’s a breakdown of the initial and ongoing expenses:

ExpenseInitial CostOngoing Cost
Training fees$100-$200 (varies)$50-$100 per month
Protective gear$50-$100N/A
Training knife$10-$20N/A

How to Get Started with Systema

Follow these steps to get started:

  1. Research local schools or instructors in your area.
  2. Visit a few schools or classes to observe and talk to the instructors.
  3. Choose a school or instructor that resonates with you.
  4. Complete any necessary paperwork or registrations.
  5. Purchase the required training clothing and shoes.
  6. Attend your first Systema class and enjoy the experience.

How to Do Systema

To practice effectively, follow these step-by-step instructions:

  1. Warm-up: Start with light stretching exercises to prepare your body for training.
  2. Breathing exercises: Practice deep breathing techniques, focusing on inhaling and exhaling fully.
  3. Movement drills: Engage in dynamic movements, such as walking, running, and rolling, to develop agility and coordination.
  4. Striking techniques: Learn and practice different types of strikes, including punches, kicks, and palm strikes.
  5. Groundwork: Explore techniques for fighting on the ground, such as escapes, submissions, and sweeps.
  6. Sparring: Engage in controlled sparring sessions with training partners to apply your skills in realistic scenarios.

Tips for Success

To excel in Systema, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Consistency is key: Regular practice is essential to build muscle memory and improve your skills.
  2. Focus on relaxation: this martial art emphasizes the importance of relaxation to maintain efficient movements and conserve energy.
  3. Be patient: it’s a lifelong journey, and progress comes with time. Enjoy the process and embrace the challenges.
  4. Listen to your body: Pay attention to any discomfort or limitations during training and communicate with your instructor.
  5. Embrace the psychological aspect: it incorporates mental training to enhance focus, awareness, and adaptability.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Systema may present challenges along the way, but with perseverance, you can overcome them.

Here are some common obstacles and how to tackle them:

  • Fear of failure: Adopt a growth mindset and view failures as learning opportunities.
  • Lack of flexibility: Regular stretching and mobility exercises can help improve flexibility over time.
  • Stamina issues: Incorporate cardiovascular exercises into your routine to improve endurance.
  • Mental blocks: Practice visualization techniques to overcome mental barriers and improve focus.

Similar Hobbies or Activities

If you’re interested in Systema, you might also enjoy exploring these related hobbies or activities:


Is Systema suitable for beginners?Yes, Systema is beginner-friendly and welcomes individuals of all skill levels.
Can I practice Systema alone?While practicing with a training partner is beneficial, you can also work on certain drills and movements alone.
Is Systema physically demanding?Systema can be physically demanding, but the intensity can be adjusted according to your fitness level and capabilities.
Are there any age restrictions for Systema?Systema can be practiced by people of all ages, but it’s essential to consult with your instructor regarding specific age requirements or limitations.
How long does it take to become proficient in Systema?The time it takes to become proficient in Systema varies for each individual. Consistent practice and dedication will lead to progress over time.


Ready to embark on your journey? Take the first step and explore this unique martial art today.

Remember, Systema offers not just physical training, but also mental and emotional growth.

So why not challenge yourself and unlock your full potential?

2 men on red mat in a hold