Matt’s a former officer in the British Paras, so that right there’s enough to win a lot of respect. Before that, he spent a few years in Japan, training in Aikido the traditional way (shades of Robert Twigger, perhaps),
He hadn’t really been on my radar before. I didn’t know about him when I was at home in Wales a few years ago, training with Mark Winkler. In fact, I think the first time I saw his name was when Mark organised a seminar with him last year; again, I happened to notice it on my Facebook feed. It seems Matt’s also published a couple of books on systema; I’ll have to check them out when I’m next back in Wales.
Anyway, like Mark, Matt’s out of the Ryabko/Vasiliev flavour of systema, and has had the opportunity to have in-depth discussion with Mikhail Ryabko. This led to a couple of nuggets in the podcast which had me sitting up straight as I listened.
The first is that Mikhail apparently said that his own original training came from an uncle who was in the wartime Soviet counter-espionage agency SMERSH (see also this article), rather than the Spetsnaz special forces. This makes so much sense.
The second leads on from the first. Matt describes how a SMERSH operative would need to be able to control his (or, indeed, her) emotional responses and body language to an extraordinary degree in order not to give themselves away to the spies, etc, that they were tailing and ultimately intending to capture alive.
This also connects to my last post, which I posted before I listened to the podcast. The combat skills needed for counter-espionage operatives are not the same as those needed for paratroopers or other special forces. Hence the emphasis in Systema Ryabko on the breath, on emotions, on psychological techniques, on knowing oneself…
For me, this was a lot of food for thought, and well worth a hour of listening (during which I was working on xingyi five-element fist, heh). Have a listen for yourself; I think you’ll enjoy it.