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Learning Ryabko Systema Punches

At seminars taught by Michael Ryabko we see long lines of student cueing for the honor of feeling his methood of punching.  

Though I am not convinced that it is necessary to spend the amount of time on what I call ‘Party Piece’ punches it is of interest to the larger systema community and I will therefore give you a few pointers on how to learn this method.



Basic concepts and exercises

Ryabko’s students spend a lot of their study time performing push ups.  The idea is that the movement is similar to that of punching and there is therefore a motor pattern cross over from conditioning to striking. 

One method of doing this has the student place his fists on his partner and perform a series of push ups, varying their position for each push up.  Another drill has the student walk around his partner finding where the fist fits his body. 

The purpose of these two drills is the same. The idea is to find the gaps between muscle groups and the ribs.  The reason for this is because at these points muscles pull apart when tensed and this gives the kinetic energy an easier path into the body cavity that if it was over the belly of the muscle. 

Also between muscle groups and the ribs nerves are accessible and these when struck cause a lot of the physiological sensations that Ryabko’s punches cause.  Take some time and look at some basic anatomy and you will quickly see that the strikes are often into organs such as the liver or nerves where they run near to the surface of the body.

The next basic concept is the idea that the arm is relaxed and heavy when it hits.  Valeri Riazinov quite rightly points out in his material on what he calls ballistic striking that if we were to cut off someone’s arm and hit another person with it we could kill them because it weighs more than a baseball bat. 


How to analyse a Ryabko punch

They say that if you give a fish to a man you feed him for one day, but if you teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime.  Instead of teaching you specific strikes and before you say there isn’t specific strikes read the rest of this article and I will teach you the method of learning any strike that Michael performs.

Take any video clip of Michael punching people and you will see common themes or techniques.  They are easiest to learn with the aid of a DVD player and the frame by frame play back.  If you look for and replicate these steps you can perform the different methods of punching with a little practice.

  • Look at his feet.  Where is he stood and what direction his feet point in?  Often this is to the side and also side on to the partner receiving the strike.  Range is also important and dependant on arm length of the person punching.
  • Next watch the clip and locate both the target and the part of the fist he uses to perform the punch.  Though the systema fist does not change shape it has many striking surfaces and it is important to use the one that fits the target you are going to hit.
  • Lastly look at the trajectory of the strike both before and after connection with the target is made.  Does the arm simply move as a piston or is the blow circular and downwards at an angle? Is the angle at 45 degrees or towards the triangulation point?

If you look at this clip taken from my first trip to Moscow or any other clip of Michael punching, with these points in mind and you can start to see what is happening.  

For a more detailed and free video lesson on Systema Ryabko punching sign up to our news letter and you will receive a free 30 minute lesson on how you can dramatically improve your Systema punches.