Sensei Canna offers insight into the real world of self defense!

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Postby Van Canna » Sun Apr 11, 1999 6:50 pm

Among all the crap out there , of systems and techniques of doom , countless seminars and individual megalomania , I have developed an interest in the study of the Russian martial arts system as practiced in their special forces unit {SPETNAZ} as thought by Vladimir Vasiliev ; what an eye opener !

These elite soldiers were trained as well in the way to maximize resistance to psychological stress !

Look at the mind set :

1] Not to be overcome with a disabling fear of death , the soldier was brought into morgues to carry the corpses of people killed in gore and pain from car accidents , to make him less sensitive to the dead !

2] He was tested to see how he perceived and responded to his own physical pain ; he was hit and punished in pressure points !

3] he would discover his sensitive areas in some interesting ways i.e., if he were an handsome man , the trainer would take off his shoe and hit him across the face with it to see if this broke him down !

4] They would rough handle his buddy to elicit emotion and read vulnerabilities !

5] they would attach strings to arm or leg and pull on occasion during a sparring exercise to destroy his balance and handicap him !

6] They would push him into exhaustion and expect him to continue to defend himself in spite of fatigue or he would be punished !

7] They would take out his bedding into the rain and snow until frozen stiff and expect the soldier to sleep in it !

8] There was psychic training ; to learn how to be creative and act spontaneously and decisively and to develop great intuition !

9] Work out blindfolded in order to sense the teaching principles without the use of sight !

10] During sparring , the instructor would walk around the classroom looking for trainees not paying attention and smacking them over the head with a slap !

11] He would be brought into a dark room and he had to guess how many people were in it , if any !

12] Before sleeping the soldier was expected to picture everything in the room , how it looked , sounded and smelled ! At times the trainer would change things around and the soldier was expected to awaken and respond to the changes !

13] One exercise to come to terms with his dark side : go into a dark room , sit down in front of a mirror , light up a candle next to him and stare at himself for 40 minutes without blinking ! His image would be replaced before his eyes with that of an animal that matched his true nature so he could learn to deal with it !

It is said that this transformation really takes place , that we can try it if we like , but should not be surprised to end up in situations of a lot more than we bargained for !

Anyone out there willing to try this in your dojo ? Let me know how it comes out for you ! Remember , NO BLINKING !

Van Canna
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Van Canna
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Postby David Elkins » Wed Apr 14, 1999 10:21 pm

Sensei Canna,

I had to struggle to regain postural control as I laughed so hard I almost fell off my desk chair reading your post in counterpoint to my recent efforts to open a more or less commercial dojo and the accompanying insanity of insurance regulations regarding sparring (in this corner...the Michilin rubber man), the legal morass of the disclaimer release (by the time I finished reading it, I wouldn't want to train in my own dojo), and the active interest of one community group to host my dojo (providing there was "no contact.")

I stop laughing immediately though the moment I consider the geopolitical implications of such cultural differences in the approach to warriorhood!

Thanks as always for helping to keep us awake.

David Elkins
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Postby Allen M. » Wed Apr 14, 1999 10:42 pm

About 2 years ago I worked with a person who practices Sambo, another Russian MA style. In this particular style, there are many circular moves and the practitioners like to grapple a lot. They have a dojo in the Boston area.

Allen - uechi@ici.net - http://www.uechi-ryu.org
Allen M.


Postby Van Canna » Sat Apr 17, 1999 4:01 am

The reason why the Russian System has caught my eye is because it is somewhat complimentary to Uechi in some of the applications [ in cross training] and it maximizes the body's natural response reactions under attack ! It is a refreshing simple concept as opposed to the ongoing bull we all have to endure about systems of doom and traditional hokum littering these web pages and other lists !

According to the history I read , The 'system' is thousands of years old and it was highly respected by the Romans , Greeks , Arabs , Avars , who all tried to adapt it for their own armies ! Under communist rules these great skills were nearly lost and The revolution of 1917 suppressed this tradition along with others ! The masses were supplied with the "sambo" substitute but the true "system" continued to flourish in secret !

Be that as it may , a few of the concepts are very intriguing to my way of mind setting :

1] Pressure points are said to NOT be fixed as in other martial arts ! The message is that different points evoke different emotions in different people at different times , i.e., fear , aggression etc.

2] it teaches that overall mood of the combatants plays a role in pressure points strikes under combat /survival mode and the system teaches to seek the appropriate points by ' intuition' !

3] It espouses the concept of mobility as opposed to fixed , stable stances found in the oriental arts evolved from life in the mountains conducive to seeking a lower center of gravity !

4] European conditions were different and stability principles were second to mobility mind set !

5] In contrast to Oriental arts < cultural focus on imitating animals > … The Russian system believes that the world of people is much different than that of animals , and animal -like moves do not naturally comply to human body patterns !
" Every being , in nature , has it's own identity "

6] Humans playing the roles of Snakes , dragons , tigers, cranes etc. disrupt the path of nature and limit and bind their natural reactive movements !

7] It takes the position that traditional martial arts are not really spontaneous , heavily dependent on prearranged stimulus response routines [ i.e., kumites ]

8] Each person is unique in reacting with his own brand of natural responses to fear and attacks ! Something we are born with and revert to naturally under attack in spite of traditional martial arts training !
Spetsnaz forces are trained to build their fighting abilities based on the individual 's first observed " natural reactions" under sudden surprise strikes by trainers !

9] Whatever the natural response , learning to move properly is the primary goal of the Russian System !

10] It teaches the "flying center of gravity" , the pelvis moves ahead of the shoulders which also spin on their own horizontal axis in figure eight continuous motion ! The body moves and slides as a pendulum , hitting power comes from the pelvis !

11] It teaches the body to "think" to find a spontaneous solution to any unexpected situation !

12] The whole body moves as a complete system !

13] It mindsets to absorb the concept that " conflict can take place day or night , heat or cold, heavy forest or open park , elevator , a car , virtually anywhere " and the body will react to it's peculiar natural reactions from a variety of positions i.e., lying down , sitting etc. ; sick or wounded , close quarter or distance , crowed hostile environment !

14] It teaches energy conservation under extreme stress !

15] It teaches that no two combat situations are the same and it discards ritual prearranged moves in favor of developing consciousness of the person's natural unique individual movement under extreme stress ' nudging' the body to think !

I find these concepts refreshing and very much in accord with my mind set beliefs !

The human body does funny things under panic situations ! Lots of karate students I debriefed after a real fight always wondered why their stylized kata skills were very minimal in the conflict !

Imagine for a moment the so called "torture chamber " at our Brockton dojo where we retire for hours on end with the high dans for intense training in darkness / semidarkness ! Now imagine all the lights shut off with a flickering candle light from around a corner !

Then imagine all the doors shut after someone throws a live rattle snake into the room and you are not allowed to leave until after you have completed sanchin, seisan, sanseiryu and a full contact sparring match past the snake you won't see in the almost total darkness !

Van Canna
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Postby gjkhoury » Sat Apr 17, 1999 4:54 am


I have heard of the exercise you discussed with the mirror and have tried it!

In a matter of minutes, it is as if you are looking into the eyes of the devil himself!

GOOD LUCK completing the task of 40 minutes of this mental trickery and torture! If anyone does, PLEASE contact me! I sincerely want to hear of your experiece!

With total curiosity,


As an aside, we were hazed in my fraternity years ago by listening to hours of the William Tell 1812 Overture on end, without being allowed to move.

Years later, I was at a social function and began to feel very nervous and upset. As one who is usually quite at ease in these situations, I searched my feelings and surroundings for what might be wrong.

Man was I shocked when I realized that the William Tell 1812 Overture was playing in the background and that I was responding like one of Pavlov's proverbial DOGS!!


Gary J. Khoury
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Location: Tewksbury, MA USA

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