Systema of a Looking Down: Why you never make eye contact with a Systema player

The Russian martial art Systema includes a range of combat disciplines, from grappling to knife fighting. But the real hallmark of the sport is the almost mystical idea that a person’s psychological state can transfer like an invisible hadouken down through their unconventional slaps and punches. And so, Systema players spend a lot of time freeing their bodies and minds of tension in hopes of translating that psychic wizardry into explosive, deep-penetrating strikes that defy our materialistic conceptions of modern combat.

If you practice the art, I am sure you’ll observe that I’m simplifying things and sounding patronizing. Well yes, I am. But there is no doubt that the discipline includes a magical component. It is the Merlin to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu’s Sir Lancelot. As a woman said in a famous bullshido video that looks absurd to the untrained observer, “You’ve gotta see the person’s soul.” 

Systema is a strange looking art. But how you look doing it is less important than where you look. In this curb-side instructional by Frank Arias, he demonstrates the tiny window that opens for the perfect strike the moment you make eye contact.

“You need him to look at you, and then you hit,” Arias explains.

“If you look in his eyes, you’re screwed,” says his sparring partner. According to him, it is worse than if you don’t even see it coming.

And sunglasses won’t save you. No, he is wearing a nice dark pair of them and still finds himself redirecting phantom energy flows through his chakra centers like a violent air traffic controller. So if you find yourself in battle with a magician with a Russian accent, take this advice: close your eyes.

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