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Combat Lab certified instructors

John Piprani

I have trained with Paul Genge for the past nine years. Previous to that I trained with two other Systema instructors, Tahir Aslam and Dave Nicholson, who were both of the Vasiliev / Ryabko school. Over this period there has been a shift in Paul’s approach: from their approach to teaching Systema, to an exploration of Alex Kostic’s Homo Ludens method. Currently we are exploring Kadochnikov Systema as taught by Alexsander Maximtov.

Combat Lab. has a dynamic and exploratory approach to developing a deep and bio-mechanical understanding of Russian Martial Arts. I currently train around three times per week with a mixture of learning and teaching: one session at Paul’s; one session with peers; and a session where I teach students that are new to Systema.

I very much enjoy the free play aspect of Russian Martial Arts. It is a fantastic experience, to simply observe the process of your body dealing with unpredictable attacks. The real acumen comes when structure breaking is through an embodied understanding biomechanics, rather than simply the use of speed and/or the application of strength. The Kadochnikov approach we are using now is useful as a diagnostic tool for understanding what has happened when things don’t work, and more important, how to resolve these issues.  It provides a ‘systematic’ approach to improvement, and therefore also provides a structure for teaching others.  

I see the components of Russian Martial Arts in similar terms to a physical vocabulary, and it is through the use of this vocabulary that we express and develop our individuality. To paraphrase Alex Kostic “We are angry [scared, frustrated] and that’s ok”, that is why we are here."


John has continued his personal development by training with other schools outside of the RMA community including Wing Chun and Krav Maga.  He has also trained with Systema groups outside of the Combat Lab community when he has had the opportunity.


John teaches a small group of students based in South Manchester and can be contacted through Combat Lab.


Sunny Lum


I have been training with Paul Genge since April 2008, with no previous background in any martial arts. I studied medicine for a couple of years at university and have a fair understanding of the human body's anatomy and physiology. I have been lucky enough to experience the changes in approach to teaching and increasing body of knowledge that has occurred as Paul has opened up the variety of sources he is influenced by and draws ideas from. 

When I started it was very much a Vasiliev/Ryabko approach to teaching and learning, which I found to be very effective for me in learning how to free up yourself, improvise and realise that movement is the real key to defending yourself. This approach gives you permission to just move and see what happens, and is a good method to break away from the "what's the right move? Ok, I know now, Oops it's too late, missed opportunity as I was too busy thinking" scenarios that can be common with a huge set of prescribed techniques.

As Paul has expanded his ideas to Homo Ludens, groundwork has improved immensely, as well as refining approach to fistwork, recognizing the inherent differences between symmetric and assymetric fighting, and adapting accordingly. Alex's example and freethinking approach has had a huge influence on the way we train now.

The inclusion of Kadochnikov through Maksimtov has also been incredibly valuable, as John says, as a diagnostic tool to see where you went wrong and a guide to what you could have done better. The prescriptive. I is also valuable is learning basics and concepts of optimal movements. The explanations of structure breaking are second to none and open your eyes to a whole new world, which is ultimately not limited to a single discipline because the principles are universally applicable.

I think the best thing about learning from Paul is that he is not limited by a single source and constantly draws the best ideas from a variety and integrates them in ways which make sense to him.

Sunny's training and testing has been the most thorough of all our students.  

Over the last few months he has carried out assessed teaching asignments at Combat Lab and a non-systema martial arts school. He has had his physical and psycological preparation and knowledge tested including completing a teaching assignment on the Combat Camp and some pressure testing.  

This clip is the culmination of that test.  


Sunny has continued to develop his understanding of the Russian Style through attending seminars with instructors from different schools including Sibirskiy Viun, IZVOR, Systema Maksimtsov, Sistema Homoludens and ROSS. This and his continuing regular training at Combat Lab HQ has given him quite a unique view of Systema and how to teach it.


Sunny teaches in the South Manchester and regularly teaches with John Piprani.  He can be contacted through Combat Lab.