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Vladimir Vasiliev on Why He Regards Systema as the Best Form of Self-Defense

Interview by Glenn Murphy

Unlike the general public, Black Belt readers know a thing or two about systema. In large part, that's because of the never-ending efforts of one Vladimir Vasiliev, the most visible systema teacher in the West. Vasiliev has appeared in Black Belt numerous times, and in 2013 he was the magazine's Instructor of the Year. In this exclusive Q&A, the Russian martial arts master talks about the essential components of his self-defense system and how it differs from the traditional martial arts and combat sports.


Where are you from, and what is your background?
I'm from Russia, born in the city Tver. When I was a little bit more than 30, I came to Canada. I met my wife, and now I'm here.

You studied both competitive and military-style martial arts, is that correct?
Yes. I was 13 when I started to box. And in the army, we studied hand-to-hand combat. It was more [for] military applications. Then I did a karate competition — I was fourth in Russia, but now some people tell me I was third. (laughs) I forgot already. Then I met Mikhail [Ryabko] and started to study systema.

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Dr. Craig's Martial Arts Movie Lounge

When The Fast and the Furious (2001) sped into the psyche's of illegal street racing enthusiasts, with a penchant for danger and the psychotic insanity of arrant automotive adventure, the brusque bearish, quasi-hero rebel, Dominic "Dom" Toretto was caustic yet salvationally portrayed with the power of a train using a Vin Diesel engine.

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The skill of stick fighting as a handy weapon dates from the prehistory of mankind. The stick has got an advantage over the stone because it could be used both for striking and throwing. In lots of countries worlwide when dealing with martial arts there is a special place for fighters skillful in stick fighting. ( India, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, countries of Africa, Europe and Americas etc).

The short stick as a handy weapon has been used as a means of self-defence from animals and later various attackers. Regarding its length it was better than the long stick, primarily because it was easier to carry and use. The short stick as a means of self-defence was used namely in all countries of the world long time ago.

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On the women's side, Akira Sone helped Japan break its own record for most judo gold medals in a single Olympics when she claimed her country's ninth gold of the tournament capturing the women's +78 kg division against Cuba's Idalys Ortiz. The win came in somewhat anticlimactic fashion as no throws were landed and Ortiz lost on penalties in overtime.