Bite the bones of his hand, hard.

Bite the bones of his hand, hard. Like a hyena“.

The speaker was Jeff, who runs the systema class on Thursdays at the Cardiff Martial Arts Academy. We were coming to the end of the class, and working on responses to an attempted neck lock from the rear. Jeff was pointing out that this is a potentially lethal attack, one that could crush your windpipe and/or fatally cut off the blood supply to the brain – even if the person attempting the lock isn’t actually intending hurt you, this could kill you by accident. In that situation… you try to survive. If the assailant is trying to kill you, well: “don’t feel ashamed about biting“. If the tendons and bones of the back of the hand have been bitten with full fury… they’ll probably let go.

Of course, we weren’t training in such extreme methods! It was simply an aside as we wound down. We’d been training in progressively close-quarter grappling, starting with attempts to grab at long range, up to the aforementioned neck locks from behind.

There were four of us there last night: Jeff, myself, a bloke called Keith who started coming to the class at around the same time as I did, and a lad called Stepan whom I hadn’t met before; we were joined later on by Sean, who runs the Academy, and joins the class for a while when he comes to lock up at the end of the evening. Jeff took us through hip striking and low kicks (using the wave principle), takedowns, locks, and control of the opponent, and then onto grappling. We tried to bear in mind two sets of rules:


  1. Any part of the body is a weapon.
  2. The shortest and most direct path is best.
  3. Use the level of force appropriate to your intentions.


  1. Maintain your centre line.
  2. Flow in continuous movement; don’t stop and start.
  3. Relax.

I may not have remembered those absolutely correctly, so don’t quote me! Anyhow, it was all pretty testing work, and it wasn’t long before I was perspiring pretty freely…

It was astonishing to realize that I haven’t been to a systema class for almost eight months! I’ve intended to go many times in that time, but I’ve been so overworked that when I asked myself could I drive there from work, do a couple of hours of intense training, and then drive home without falling asleep at the wheel..? I haven’t been prepared to risk it – and that’s not counting the times when I simply fell asleep on the sofa to wake up and drag myself to bed in the early hours…

In fact, we were all having such a good time that we over-ran by at least half an hour, and stood around chatting for much longer; in the end I got home not long before midnight. There’s a really good atmosphere in these classes; no bad attitudes at all, just friendly respect. I’m glad to be back into it.


  1. Glad, you are back in training.
    For me, after I got out my steel plate from the left underarm for that broken ulna, things are turning upwards. Finally, I can train without pain, and it should be fun to get where I have been before. In 10 weeks I go back to EU and need to shape uo anyway.
    Welsh summer most have arrived, did you start your veggies and standing in Zhanzhuang amongst your trees?


    1. Thanks, Yiming! I hope your arm heals up quickly!

      As for the garden, well, it’s been a very cold spring. So far the ground has been too cold to plant much, though I’ve put in some heather for the bees, some strawberries, and flower seeds – not to mention extending the drystone wall along one boundary… Chili peppers and tomatoes have been potted up and put in the polytunnel, and a new blueberry bush planted… The cherry and damson trees are putting out blossom; and the apple blossom is starting to come. The fig trees have put out a few tentative, tiny buds – which is good, because I was convinced that one was dead! The purple sprouting broccoli has finally stopped producing, so the next step will be to dig it up and turn over the veg patch… once my ribs have healed up 🙂


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