Rus­sian mar­tial art re­vived,

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - NICK WEB­STER

Sys­tema, a lost mar­tial art that trav­elled from Rus­sia to Dubai with the help of a man called Vladimir, could be a hit once more.

As the UAE rolled out the wel­come mat for Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin – a judo lover – a for­mer Bri­tish soldier is poised to re­vive in­ter­est in a com­bat skill born in the post-Soviet era.

Sys­tema is a se­cre­tive fight­ing art prac­tised by the mil­i­tary and oth­ers who want to live a healthy, dis­ci­plined life. The dis­ci­pline dates from the 10th cen­tury and has roots in the Rus­sia’s Ortho­dox Chris­tian faith.

It is also known as poz­nai se­bia, which trans­lates as know your­self.

Steven Fla­herty, 44, has been study­ing mar­tial arts since the age of four and was taught by Vladimir Vasiliev, a lead­ing Rus­sian mar­tial artist and Mikhail Ryabko, chief in­struc­tor at Sys­tema’s head­quar­ters in Moscow.

Although it is no longer taught in Dubai, Sys­tema could be res­ur­rected by the mil­i­tary man, who has learnt from the best.

“My dad first came across Sys­tema in a com­bat mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle in the mid1990s,” said Mr Fla­herty, who lives in Dubai.

“It was about a Rus­sian man called Vladimir Vasiliev, who was the first to bring the dis­ci­pline to the West.

“Dad con­tacted Vladimir and he went over to Rus­sia to meet him and learn how to teach it.

“I saw great ben­e­fit in Sys­tema com­pared with other mar­tial arts.

“It is not tech­nique-based, but more about in­stinc­tive move­ment and a re­sponse to how you are be­ing at­tacked.”

In­struc­tors put learn­ers through a series of con­di­tion­ing drills, rather than a set of spe­cific fight­ing tech­niques taught in other mar­tial arts.

De­fence moves have been de­vel­oped to counter the weapons of the day, whether that be a sword, stick or other im­ple­ment.

Its prin­ci­ples fo­cus on move­ment and how the body re­acts to force, a tech­nique that can be trans­ferred to ev­ery­day tasks.

Sys­tema is built on three foun­da­tions – com­bat skill, strong spirit and a healthy body. It is de­signed to be easy to learn, util­is­ing an in­di­vid­ual’s best as­sets and their in­stinc­tive re­ac­tions.

His­tor­i­cally, Sys­tema was used to re­pel in­vaders who used a va­ri­ety of weapons to try to over­run the Rus­sian peo­ple. The fight­ing style de­vel­oped to be­come a ver­sa­tile self-de­fence skill, with no strict rules or rigid struc­ture.

When the Bol­she­viks took power in 1917 many na­tional tra­di­tions were sup­pressed, with Sys­tema re­served for mil­i­tary spe­cial op­er­a­tions units.

Mr Fla­herty left the Bri­tish army, where he served in the Ir­ish Guards, in 2005, mov­ing to work as a se­cu­rity con­trac­tor in Iraq un­til 2010.

It was there that he learnt Krav Maga, an Is­raeli mar­tial art used for close-quar­ter com­bat.

Mr Fla­herty taught reg­u­lar classes in Dubai and in UAE schools, be­fore suf­fer­ing a series of stom­ach in­juries.

He now works on the health and safety team at La Perle by Dragone, the ac­ro­batic per­for­mance show in Al Habtoor City, Dubai.

“I have been asked about Sys­tema quite a bit, and there is a lot of in­ter­est so I’m con­sid­er­ing start­ing a new class,” he said. “It helps peo­ple achieve their own po­ten­tial and I will push peo­ple as far as their abil­ity al­lows.

“There is no ego and I will not ac­cept any­one who is just look­ing to beat peo­ple up.

“Sys­tema is a mar­tial art, but it is so much more and can im­prove your im­mune sys­tem and cir­cu­la­tion.

“If you at­tend a class open-minded and im­merse your­self in it, you will find huge ben­e­fit. It is not for some­one who is into Mixed Mar­tial Arts fight­ing.”

Steven Fla­herty

For­mer soldier Steven Fla­herty, cen­tre, learn­ing the Rus­sian com­bat skill Sys­tema on Jumeirah Beach in 2016

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE

© PressReader. All rights reserved.