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What is Combat Lab and Russian Martial Arts Northwest?


In the early days of Systema in the UK the group called Russian Martial Arts Northwest was created to represent the teachings and training methods of Vasiliev and Ryabko Systema within the Manchester area. We continued to exclusively promote this approach until approximately early 2009 when material from other Russian Styles and personal research of biomechanical principles began to creep into the way we trained.

A significant influence for this process was the teachings of Alex Kostic, who not only regularly taught classes at the Toronto Systema HQ, but also spent time in St Petersburg researching other Russian fighting styles. Alex named his approach Sistema Homoluden Integrated Martial Arts and advocated full contact testing and exploration of MMA training. My exposure to this method has confirmed my belief that other training methodologies need to be investigated to really reach our potential as Russian Martial Artists.

Since this time we have experimented with a number training and teaching methods including that of the Kadochnikov school. For some outside our group the question of who are we and how we label what we practice became crucial. They were unsure when they saw our approach and wondered if it was representing the Ryabko Systema organization or any of the rapidly expanding number of offshoots that were opening their own brands of Systema.

For some time I have been a believer that there is no one style of Systema because no two instructors are the same. Each one of them has their own interests and ways of conveying what they teach. For this reason I have kept the Russian Martial Arts Northwest title as the family name for our classes, but each instructor within our group names their own personal brand of what we do.

This is a very personal process and when the instructor names their approach the extended family come together to celebrate it. The nearest thing I can describe this as is a coming of age. To name our own creation is one of the most mature and difficult responsibilities we have within our group. ‘The Combat Lab’ is the name I have chosen for what I teach. It reflects my interest in training for combat and the scientific nature of our approach. By applying scientific principles, carrying out research and testing our theories we hope to continue in the spirit of early Russian martial arts developers who travelled the world and applied rigorous scientific testing to develop their own training methods.

My current area of research is the Kadochnikov system, which I study under Alexander Maksimtov of the Ukrainian Federation of Russian Martial Arts. It is safe to say that this system has had an influence on the majority of schools of Russian Martial Arts and is the source of the emphasis on the study of mechanics that these schools have become known for.

Though my current approach is to immerse myself in this method of training it will not stop my exploration and development of material from other System and martial arts sources. This will continue so long as I feel other arts offer material that is either interesting or relevant to my studies.

Another area of research that I will continue to study and incorporate in my approach is cutting edge fitness and health methodologies. I believe this is essential because to be able to carry out any physical task, with the maximum efficiency, it is necessary that our bodies are fit enough for the task. Inactivity and poor diet simply erodes at our efficiency.

Future research will also the include a study of massage and other holistic health practices that will contribute to students remaining healthy and functionally fit. Hard training places stresses on the body that can be treated with massage and appropriate relaxation techniques. Without balance in our training injury is inevitable.

Students at Combat Lab have full access to all material and research. They explore a variety of approaches and find what works for them. Everyone involved in our school carries out their own research and all material is shared so that the group can continue to evolve.

Research trips are currently being planned for a number of worldwide destinations to continue this process. One thing is sure as a group we will continue to evolve and pass on our findings.