The Russian System Guidebook

Discussion in 'Russian Martial Arts' started by GouRonin, Jul 7, 2002.

  1. GouRonin

    GouRonin Guest

    I hope to be in Buffalo on the 28th for Renegade's :erg: seminar where he is bringing in Jack LaTorre to teach some Pekiti Tersia.

    I was wondering if anyone would be interested in me picking up some of "The Russian System Guidebook" handbooks and bringing them with me for people.

    They retail off the website for 11.95, so I guess I'd just say pay 12.00$ USD for one.

    All of this would be contingent on me getting to Vlad's before the seminar and how many copies he currently has.

    The write up on the book is:
    "The Russian System Guidebook
    by Vladimir Vasiliev

    Find out about the history, philosophy, and principles of The System and why Soviet authorities wanted to keep it secret for over 70 years! Discover the harsh and extreme training methods taught to the Spetsnaz to create professionals that are impervious to the torment of battle and are able to overcome seemingly impossible situations. Learn how to empower yourself through controlling fear, aggression, and pain plus how to optimize your health, confidence, and self-awareness through methods of relaxation and rejuvenation. A highly recommended guide to the instructional training of our video collection.
    It will enrich your life!
    Produced by TRS - 60 pages $11.95"


    Just curious if anyone wanted to do this or not.
    Cheers!

    P.S. - Just in case you all think I'd turning soft or going nice on you all, I just want to say that I don't like any of you.
    :wavey:

    Now if you'll excuse me I have to go try and find the d@mn directions on how to get to Renegade's :erg: place again...
    :disgust:
     
  2. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Can you review the book for us? Can one learn anything from it or just get a feel for what the system's like?
     
  3. RCastillo

    RCastillo Guest

    P.S. - Just in case you all think I'd turning soft or going nice on you all, I just want to say that I don't like any of you.
    :wavey:

    Your mind games do not fool me Lord Ronin!:eek:
     
  4. Jay Bell

    Jay Bell Master Black Belt

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    Hey arnisador,

    The guidebook is great. Most of what it talks about is Spets training and theoritical approaches to what is entailed within Systema training.

    Table of Contents
    A Note From Optimum Training Systems

    About Vladimir Vasiliev

    Russian Martial Art -- A Brief History

    Soviet Special Forces Training

    Training Tips

    The Russian Ssytem of Combat -- Some Philosophy

    10 Guidelines for Achieving Mastery in the Russian System

    Introduction to the Russian Health System

    ...

    All really good stuff...

    Be well,

    Jay

    PS - Gou likes me. A lot.
     
  5. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Sounds interesting then.
     
  6. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Review: The Russian System Guidebook, by Vladimer Vasiliev
    (Interior Title: Inside Secrets of Soviet Special Forces Training by Vladimer Vasiliev with Ron Borland)

    This slim 59 page paperback from Optimum Training Systems (1997) has an interior title and authorship at odds with the title and author listed on the cover and so I assume it's a re-issue of an earlier book or pamphlet. The subject is an overview of Soviet mental training by physical means and of the Russian system of hand-to-hand combat. The book contains a handful of line drawings showing two combatants engaged in empty-hand battle, but the figures are largely decorative--the text does not explain, nor even refer to, the figures.

    The book begins with a discussion of how the Soviet trainers would "toughen up" the soldiers mentally. This mental training is achieved, paradoxically but not surprisingly, through physical means: The intentional infliction of pain, swimming in cold water, and so on. Some training was less physical, as in being required to visit morgues and accident scenes.

    At times the material read like a Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novel, and I expected to be told that when the candidates were children they were thrown into pits to fight with dogs for scraps of meat. There were the usual stories of how this country developed an impressive fighting system because it was always under attack--a story told by every country with an indigenous martial art, it sometimes seems. Yet, I also felt i could see an over-arching theme of preparing soldiers for the horrors of war. Listening to the accounts of Pvt. Jessica Lynch's capture and what happened to her comrades that day, I could see where this sort of toughening would be valuable.

    Just when I began to swing from disbelief to belief, however, I read of Psychic Training, where blindfolded trainees must identify the colours of coloured pieces of paper by touch alone. Trainers would charge water with healing energy. My first thought was to dismiss this as nonsense, but then I thought of how active the USSR was in psychic research. Whether psychic phenomena truly exist or not, I can believe that Soviet trainees were exposed to the fruits of that research.

    A third of the way through the book, we come to Mobility, Natural Movement, Center of Gravity, and Training Tips. Here I found much that was thought-provoking. Mr. Vasiliev discusses the importance of being able to use body parts separately--one arm doing one thing, the other another--and the benfits of fitting the art to one's own natural reactions. Many instructors say that an art must be fit to the individual, not the other way around; others, such as those in Krav maga, emphasize the importance of developing techniques that fit natural reactions such as the reaction to raise one's arms when an attack comes at the head. But Mr. Vasiliev takes it a step further--he suggests not merely looking at the common natural reactions of people in general, but at a single person's natural reacytions, then building a fighting system around that, based on certain principles. In reading this I finally understood why R.O.S.S. and Systema consider themselves general training methodologies and what is meant by a technique-free system.

    Overcoming the fear of contact--of being hit--is another point that's emphasized. He also points out that having students put their experiences and insights into their own words after class is an important aspect of learning and understanding. Other training tips discuss fear, where to look (counter-intuitively, over the head), and related subjects.

    This was interesting and thought-provoking material, but sadly the coverage of most topics is just a page or two, and the points are not illustrated. In an inexpensive 59 page book I can hardly complain, but still I felt that some topics were addressed too briefly or would have benefitted from a demonstration in figures or pictures.

    There follows two section on philosophy and guidelines for the system. He disparages planning, and while it appears he means in the limited sense of planning to use a certain move--I am not sure, for he compares it to a King facing the challnges that life presents--it certainly comes across poorly to hear that one should not plan. I'd use a plan that avoids getting myself into a conflict in the first place if possible. It's surprising advice from a military man.

    The final section discusses the Russian health system, teh centerpiece of which is dousing with cold water twice a day. Here the pseudo-scientific explanations become too much to bear. He warns against modern medicine, but states his case much too strongly: "Many health problems and stress agents originate in more radical treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, and vaccines." Much like there are no athesist in foxholes (and he does state that religion is an important part of the Russian system), there aren't many cancer patients who are disbelievers in radiation therapy and chemotherapy. A less strident warning against over-use of pharmaceuticals would have been more believeable. He also states, with respect to dousing the body with a bucket of cold water: "Your body temperature rises to nearly 42.2 degrees Celsius (that's nearly 108 degrees Farhenheit). ...this explosion of warmth will kill off most bacteria and viruses." Call me skeptical, but I don't think that a cold shower is going to cure SARS. (I should note, he emphasizes that one should use a bucket, not a shower.) I can believe that dousing is valuable to one's health, perhaps, but this sort of description of its action is much less than convincing. Fasting is also recommended.

    Overall, for a non-practitioner like me, this Systema precis was worth the $11.95 plus shipping cost, as it provided me with a good survey of the major ideas and made a few lights go on for me concerning the ideas of natural movement and non-reliance on formal techniques. I didn't take away any truly new training ideas but I did see some in a different way. Unfortunately, the larger-than-life claims and lack of detail and reinforcing figures tend to take away from what the other hand gives.
     
  7. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Although I would never venture to speak for Vladimir - I would mention that the 'larger than life claims' are no different than many mentioned in the writings about other MA figures.
    Uyeshiba and his being engulfed in golden light that burst from the ground -- Dr. Hatsumi and his belief in direct communication with the Bu-jin (warrior spirits) -- the things written about Parker, Lee, Hayes and so many others.
    The booklet is not a book of technique, thats very certain. To write a 'he does this - you do that' type of book is very much the antithesis of what Systema does.
    The Soviets did subject the trainees to many unusual training methods - and the Soviets spent alot of time and money in the area of para-psychology and attempted to apply what they believed from that research to their Special forces. I have never seen anyone read colors with their fingers - nor do I know of any controlled scientific studies that prove it can be done. Although part of the training, I have never heard Vlad claim that he could do this - just that it was attempted to be taught by the trainers.
    Rest assured, Vlad does not electro shock students who cant fingertip read. He is merely recounting his experiences.

    In the small sections on philosophy - I dont see a rejection of planning as much as a discussion differing between 'action' and 'activity'. Action being of the moment, activity being something of a pre-planned response.
    The example cited is eating. Eating because your hungry = action.
    Eating when you are not hungry (say - out of boredom or because its noon) = activity.
    I would go so far as, when discussiing military type matters; IMO Vlad was stressing that one's success is dependant upon being able to take action as battle conditions change. Two forces meet - one decideds and plans on moving right up the middle. the battle begins and the forces head up the middle as was planned. the countering forces dont oppose but divide, flank and encircle. if the original plan was set and followed and our original force keeps moving up the middle - they will be destroyed from behind.
    I find the zen concept of mindfullness to be a pretty acurate fit to the 'action' idea and the unfocused mind to activity.

    If I am having difficulty in expressing the difference between the two -- it is easy to understand that Vlad might have had difficulty in expressing this from his native Russian -- particualrly back in 97 when his understanding of certain nuances in English was not what it is today. Even today, he might depend on the ability of a translator to express precise concepts.

    In reading your review, Arnisadore; I felt you might give a misleading impression of the Guidebooks statements regarding the Russian health system so I will try to give those a clearer view by extending your quote "He warns against modern medicine, but states his case much too strongly: "Many health problems and stress agents originate in more radical treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, and vaccines." (the book continues with) -- "It has been reported that in the countries of Western Europe and North and South America, almost 30 percent of all illnesses are caused by medications. In the United States, medications play a significant role in 25 percent of all deaths.
    We dont want to go back to the middle ages, of course. There are acute cases where pharmaceuticals and the newest techology is necessary for proper treatment. But far too often chemicals are used to treat symptoms while the cause of the disease inside a person is left untreated".
    Taken in light of the larger quote -- I feel that the reader of your review will get a more complete view of what Vlad was attempting to express. He was raised during a time when the Soviet system was in charge and, like most people of the time; saw standards of medicine that would be questionable in the West. I know he takes advantage of the Canadian health care system for himself and his family when necessary.

    The use of using cold water dousing is also abit off point in your revue -- IMO. There is no mention of this being used to treat a disease such as SARS, it is used as a method to strengthen the bodys immune system to a degree. An aid in preventative health care. I 'douse' daily and cant remember the last time I had a cold or flu and I work in an environment where relatively large numbers of people will be sick at any given time -- due to the close proximaty. Due to the water? I cant say this scientifically -- again, this is my personal experience.

    In a larger view, it is just a small handbook -- written over 6 years ago and taken from conversations with Vlad by Mr. Borland. It reminds me of a little booklet written by S. Hayes and sold by Larry Beaver. That handbook was rudimentary and left much detail out also. It was Mr. Hayes later work that shone light on the grey areas.
    Perhaps Mr. Vasiliev will write such later works -- perhaps one of his students will. I can assure you, though; that any following book by Vlad will not be coming from the TRS company.
     
  8. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Absolutely. I had that same thought--I've read stories about Chi/Ki and so on that were in the same category or beyond. In fact, the psychic theories, or at least the habit of serious investigation into them, were backed up by Soviet science, and it would not be unreasonable for someone familiar with Soviet research to accept them to some extent. It is a less outlandish claim than the claims made in support of Ninjutsu, and I agree that Mr. Vasiliev is clearly stating his experiences in this section.

    If the colours is not the best example, though, directly below is a passage on charging water, and in the paragraph below it a clear statement regarding psychically detecting poisoned glasses of water.

    As I tried to indicate, I wasn't sure I fully apprehended his meaning on planning. In fact, I took it largely as you indicate until the sentence The way of the King is to not anticipate or plan but to "act". The king realizes that life is unpredictable and presents an unending array of potential challenges and responses. I allow for the language and translator issues but this seemed to say, fairly broadly, that since life is unpredictable, one should not plan (at all). I can easily believe that what you state is closer to Mr. Vasiliev's actual beliefs on the matter, but to my defense let me say that I was reviewing what I had before me, and only that.

    For that particular quote, perhaps--but for the section as a whole, I cannot agree. I think I captured the flavour of his argument in a fair manner. On the next page he writes: "But we also have natural reserves in the body that help us fight stress and disease. Scientific research tells us that every cell in our body has at least 20 times more energy potential than any virus or bacteria. If these cells are strong, most disease cannot live in them." The word "most" means in particular more than half--I find that an exaggerated claim, and one that argues that we should avoid medication and work on strengthening our natural reserves. If put mildly, no one could disagree--but destroying "most" virii and bacteria is not a mild claim. Similarly for the quote on dousing destroying "most bacteria and viruses" (my emphasis). He also writes "If you've got a cold or flu or feel like you're getting one forget the medicines at the pharmacy. Cold water is a much more effective treatment" (my emphasis). For a cold perhaps, but influenza is still a leading cause of death (Influenza/Pneumonia is #7 in the U.S.). He comments negatively elsewhere on modern medicine's recommendations for drinking lots of liquids.

    I find him overly dismissive of modern medicine. He's in the right direction but the statements made are much too strong. He may say different things in person, but I think my read of what he wrote--which is not influenced by ever having met him--is fair.

    I knew some Soviet emigres who told me horror stories of Soviet medical and dental treatment. I can see where that would influence a person toward avoiding modern medicine. That's fair, but the book says what it says and does not refer to medicine in Russia. He begins the discussion of medicine with "Conventional western medicine relies on drugs and other foreign substances to treat these symptoms but drugs can create even more problems for the patient." Yes, he does later add that "[t]here are acute cases where pharmaceuticals and the newest technology is necessary for proper treatment" (my emphasis), but this seems rather restricted.

    I believe you that he makes informed use of the Canadian health system, but again, I was reviewing the book. As to dousing, I think there is some evidence that hydrotherapy of various forms can be beneficial--I take no issue with that.

    I hope so! There's much I find interesting about Systema, and the brief in-person demo I had has left me wanting to see and learn more. (I never believe it until I feel it!) I don't mean to criticize Systema--I don't know enough about it to do so. Perhaps I am not the intended audience for this book. But, I read it and those were my impressions. I appreciate you taking the time to give me a fuller impression from someone who has studied with the author.
     
  9. Furtry

    Furtry Green Belt

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    Well said.
    I'll split hairs for a second here; the main difference between the two systems is that R.O.S.S. is focused more on performance enhancement, sport oriented. While Systema is more of a life style, survival oriented. Given the methodology involved both achieve their goals and have a large cross over of the desired results in each system.
     
  10. jellyman

    jellyman Green Belt

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    My 2 cents:

    The Russian Health System isn't really systema per se, but a folk tradition founded by this guy Porphiri Ivanov, who iirc lived for a loong time through incredible hardships. VV does this stuff himself, and here's an interesting thing - I've never known him to be sick, in the 5 years I've known him.

    Regards medications for colds and flus antibiotics etc:

    Well, the thing about antibiotics is that they put evolutionary pressure on the viruses they attack. This causes viruses to mutate. Thus we get new viruses such as SARS etc. When this book first came out, btw, SARS didn't exist, or wasn't generally known to.

    I got the sense that he was arguing against over-reliance on medical tech - that the first line of defense should be a healthy lifestyle (however you define that - in his case, the fasting, dousing, excercises etc), as opposed to your doctor. That medicine and vaccines are no substitute for a healthy lifestyle, and the concominant increase in the effectiveness of your immune system. To counterpoint the curing SARS comment, ask an AIDS sufferer if medical technology is any substitute for the natural immune system.

    How far this goes is another point to consider. When he says 'most' is he really, as a layperson, considering every known illness to humanity? Or is he saying that in most cases of people catching a flu or cold, there's no need to break out the antibiotics?
     
  11. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    I can easily believe that that was what he was trying to express--first try living healthy and then folk remedies and then modern medicine if needed. As written, for someone like me who has never met him, it comes off stronger, but I suspect you're right.

    The point about antibiotics and the resulting changes in the bacteria they fight is a scary one. Old diseases could become new threats as they change to become drug-resistant. I think this should be a much bigger concern than it seems to be. One hears of parents wanting antibiotics for their children for every sore throat, no matter the cause--that hurts us in the long run.
     
  12. jellyman

    jellyman Green Belt

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    You do have a point - it helps if you know him for context.

    That's how it goes when you have someone from another culture working through an interpreter, try to transcribe his thoughts into the written word. The more conduits, the more the message is corrupted - doesn't matter if you're talking about a speech or a movie on a DVD. Your questions/criticisms are reasonable, and I should add that compared to some people I can remember, remarkably objective.

    yer alright with me pally.
     
  13. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yes, I tried to just review the book in isolation. Having had jaybacca72 demo a little systema for me, and seeing how many people whom I respect have converted, I remain very interested in experiencing it for myself! I've seen arts gain converts en masse before--Ninjutsu comes first to mind--but never so many people who seem to have such thoughtful, rather than flashy, reasons for switching.
     
  14. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Off to the side comment --- A few years ago, I was assigned to 'The West Facility' on Rikers Island. Its the communicable disease unit - where inmates with TB (and now, I would guess SARS) are incarcerated. There, they receive medical treatment while going to trial.
    If they are released while treatment is ongoing, they often return to NYC and stop taking their medication (TB med is a 1 year course), and get sick again. The cycle gets repeated and now we are seeing the drug-resistant TB which, basically; is a death sentence in some cases. At 'The West' they also house AIDS victims and other serious illnesses. Some inmates were 'multiples' - they would have AIDS, TB and other things gone wrong - with a drug addiction on top of it. (Remember, before their arrest, they were in the community - making all sorts of contact with other people) I remember one doctor saying to me "I have seen guys here with diseases I didnt know people could get" and he attributed it to the 'drug culture'. He was referring not only to the use of 'recreational' drugs but also to the 'get sick=take pills' school of thought. That, combined with illegal drugs and a debilitating life-style was - to this doctor - the reason that these inmates were doomed to die very early.
    They had compromised their immune systems six ways from Sunday by their way of life.

    In my 3 years of working there, I must have seen almost 2 dozen inmates die of their illnesses.
     
  15. NYCRonin

    NYCRonin Purple Belt

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    Side note #2 -- Arnisadore, I also remember the great 'ninja boom' and was a convert back in the early to mid 80's. It seems we would have some common MA experiences in our background. I agree with Jellymans last post re: your objectiveness. As he said "Yer alright with me pally" -- same here.

    Rob
     
  16. arnisador

    arnisador Sr. Grandmaster

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    You were a convert! I wasn't anywhere near legitimate ninjutsu training but I certainly bought a shelf's worth of books on it. If there was a school nearby I would have tried it.
     
  17. Cruentus

    Cruentus Grandmaster

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    The ninja craze got me started in MA when I was 7 yrs old...that and the fact that I got beat up enough.

    I never actually took Ninjitsu....but I do own a few books! :eek:
     
  18. Brian King

    Brian King Master Black Belt

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    To paraphrase from somewhere inside one of the author Dan Millman’s books. Mama Chia's words I think.
    If you are walking down the sidewalk and you see a curb half a block ahead do you start to plan on which foot will step off it first and will you be inhaling as you do it? Planning is usually a waste of time and energy. Preparation on the other hand is never wasteful! Even if the event you were preparing for never happens, you grow through the preparation.

    See you on the mat soon
    Friends
    Brian
     
  19. RMAX.tv

    RMAX.tv Guest

    Scott Sonnon's work is completely about "lifestyle" which is why there is great cross over with Vladimir Vasiliev's work.
     
  20. Furtry

    Furtry Green Belt

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    From the material I’ve red and viewed from S.S. it all slanted heavily toward "sport" application. Vlad has never explained any of his material in such context.
    Just to clarify: I'm not saying anything derogatory of Scott Sonnon or R.O.S.S. I'm simply pointing out MY OBSERVATIONS.
     

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