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Figure eight movement of the arms

In this article I will discuss the figure eight movement and why it is so important to learning Systema.


A Little Background Information

I first heard about the figure eight movement in 2000 whilst training at the Toronto HQ of Vladimir Vasiliev whilst training with one of his early instructors Jim King.  During one warm up Jim explained that the figure eight was a very important movement within the Russian Style and had us use it to warm up our hips.

Also some of Vladimir's work clearly made use of this movement performed with both the arms and legs, but further explanation of how to perform it properly was not forth coming at the time and not making the connection I failed to pursue it further.

It wasn't until I started training with Alexander Maksimtsov that the connection to the proper execution of Systema became clear to me.  Alexander bases his work on the foundation of the figure eight and all his students study a series of movement patterns that his school shares with the Kadochnikov, ROSS and many other schools of the Russian Style.  


Why the figure eight?

My article on the principles of movement explained how continual movement of our center of mass was one of the three core principles of Systema movement and this principle is one of the reasons for the use of the figure eight.

Take a moment to do this exercise.  Rotate you hips in a circle as if spinning a hula hoop in one direction. Now, without first stopping their rotation, change direction that your hips circle in.

If you have solved this problem you will have cut the circle drawn by the hips at a diagonal similar to this diagram.

To return your hips spinning in their original direction you simply need to cut the circle on the opposite diagonal and you can now see a figure eight being formed by this movement.

Now let us consider this hip movement driving the arms moving up and down in a vertical figure eight movement.  One hand covers the face while the other covers the groin. Both hands move continually with the little finger side of the hand leading the movements. 

This figure eight movement can easily be reversed so that the hands movements are led by the thumb side of the hand which travels in the opposite direction by performing a semi-circular movement with the hips around one side of the figure eight.

While this is done the hands move in separate semi-circles either side of the figure eight to reverse their direction of travel.

This process can also be done in a horizontal figure eight and these movements form the basis of defense using the hands or any weapon. More importantly it is exactly this movement that allows our center mass to continue moving and yet change direction without stopping.


For more information on using the figure eight within your own Systema check out our video download on this important topic.