Author: sasystema


Kwan Lee Seminar March 11 & 12, 2017

Kwan Lee will be teaching a two day seminar in San Antonio Texas March 11/12th.

Full details on seminar topics will be released after the New Year. Checkout our facebook page for updates.

It will be a well rounded and exciting seminar to say the least! This is a small venue and we are limiting spots due to venue size.

March 11 & 12, 2017 (Saturday & Sunday) 10AM-3PM

$250 Seminar Fee

Location: Roots Fitness – 2334 Jackson Keller Rd San Antonio, TX 78230

Host: Michael & Millie Gonzales

Phone: 210-789-3009

Hurry! Limited Spots are Available.

Being Relaxed During Training


Trying to find tension is easier said then done, first off, the majority of us, don’t really even understand what tension is. So it needs to be discovered first, within yourself, within your training partner and within the drills. We may often hear, “your too tense” or “relax”…..Only to think ….”I thought I was already relaxed!”

But this is only on the surface. A true relaxed body in Systema doesn’t mean just being soft and making fancy wave like movements to evade your training partner. It’s much more then that actually. The body and mind both need to be calm, un-agitated and free of any preconceived thoughts or emotions. Woah! That’s deep. It is deep actually, deep within yourself…..You mean I have to be “present” while I am training? Yes! you must be present while your training.

Just like a yogi must be present when pulling themselves into a deep stretch, just like a painter must be while completing his masterpiece. We must be present first to find the tension, and to truly be relaxed. As the drills progress we and if lucky, we all find ourselves in a present and relaxed state, THEN the true training begins…. our what I like to call “Platonic Fighting”.

Maxim Franz -Seminar April 18-19, 2015


Do not miss this fantastic opportunity to meet Maxim Franz and train with him. Maxim is a senior instructor for Systema Headquarters in Toronto, Canada and he will be in San Antonio for a couple days to teach us techniques about this ancient martial art.

Date: Saturday and Sunday, April 18-19 from 9AM to 2PM

Contact Michael Gonzales at (210) 789-3009 for more information

“Training Hard” by Toby Cowern – British Royal Marine / Survival Professional

The maxim of many an Army and a familiar phrase to most. I want to explore this concept a little though, as I look and see, so often now, varying viewpoints in what ‘Training Hard’ constitutes, and also the fact this is becoming one of the ‘throwaway’ phrase that many like to use, but few actually understand and apply (Same as, “It is better to be judged by twelve, than carried by six”)

From my perspective a lot of the modern Martial Arts/Self Defense and even Survival (Think ‘Boot camp’) training focus is purely on the physical. Now it can be said that arduous physical training has a psychological side to it, but you tend to find once the initial ‘psychological barriers’ have been conquered repeating set physical sequences either requires the same (mental) effort or becomes easier over time as habitulisation and familiarity set in. In fact with a good training regime, ‘hard’ workouts become something you look forward to as opposed to feel any trepidation about. Now while I am a big believer in maintaining a high standard of physical fitness, I do think ‘Training hard’ must go beyond this and incorporate far more of the mental and emotional aspects for us to truly be prepared for ‘Fighting Easy’ (This is why we are training, is it not?)

One of the huge advantages of delivering survival training, is we are working far more in terms of training for hours and days, instead of the more fitness and defensive orientated training that tends to work in seconds/minutes and hours. With this expanded timeline we can get far more into the deeper training cycles that really start to push mentally and emotionally than just physically.

Caveat – Please note, I am not saying it is not possible to stress someone in short term training, just that it is far less likely to be done and to a lesser overall effect than being exposed to extreme stimuli for a longer time.

It is my plan to delve into this subject in far more depth over a series of articles, but here I will do some brief conceptual introductions and provide some examples so you can look to incorporate some of these aspects into your training straight away. Before I do so, I would highlight this type of training is aimed more at people that have a SOLID grasp of foundations, an understanding of their own bodies and are prepared and willing to push themselves further and accept the residual risks in doing so.

On the psychological side of things we need to introduce discomfort and/or increased physical duress, on the emotional side exposure to situations we find intimidating, unpleasant or traumatic. I would highlight, I personally am firmly subscribed to this type of training and will give a brief summary of some of my training goals at the end of this article.

In my progressive model of Survival training, some of the earlier stressors I introduce to students are; sleep disruption/deprivation, denial of food and rationing of water (Not necessarily all at the same time!) To be able to function, think and act clearly, when tired, hungry and dehydrated is ESSENTIAL in a wilderness scenario, but being clear headed when physically compromised also carries over exceptionally well to ‘defensive’ type training as well.

Introducing this training aspect outside of attending courses is very simple (but that does not mean it’s easy) Try setting a repeat alarm for a random time one night every week or so (wake up every 87mins and do 5mins of exercise, then go back to sleep)

Fast one day a week. Yes, don’t eat for a 24hr period, if that is too hard, start with 12hrs and buildup 2 hours extra every week. Within 6 weeks you’ll be at 24hrs. In the beginning go easy, but eventually you want to be able to complete at least your regular daily work load while fasting.

Every couple of weeks limit your fluid intake for a day. Start by only drinking water, remove all of your regular coffee/tea, sodas etc. for one day (You will be amazed at what this will do to some people!) Once you’ve accomplished this successfully a few times in a row then start to limit your water intake. See and feel how distracting and degrading dehydration can be, then appreciate there are many scenarios where this could be the ‘normal’.

These are just some brief examples to get you off to an ‘easy start’ once these are mastered then you can look at some of the deeper techniques in subsequent articles.

What about the emotional side of things?

This obviously is very subjective to the individual, and everyone’s definition of things they find “intimidating, unpleasant or traumatic” is different, so start by listing those. Sit down for 10minutes with a pen and paper and write. I would actually separate these into 3 distinct columns:

Intimidating Unpleasant Traumatic

And write lists in each. For instance you may find ‘Public Speaking’ intimidating. Watching a video of an animal being beaten unpleasant, and confronting a family member about their manner of talking to you as traumatic

It could be more developed for some. In which case, visiting a known problem area could be intimidating, talking to a victim of significant physical violence could be unpleasant and butchering an animal (especially a pet type) could be traumatic.

I should highlight here, you and you alone are responsible for your own safety and only you can decide how far you will push yourself in training (and what training courses you will attend) But starting with your list will highlight emotive areas that have the potential to be worked on.

Now I would highlight, DON’T cheat yourself here. Be brutally honest on the things that bother you. I had student once that clearly and confidently told me that ‘If the time ever came’ she would have ‘no hesitation to kill someone’. Later that day I invited her to kill and butcher a rabbit. She refused. I did it and she was reduced to tears for an extended period from watching the activity. She refused to eat the meat that evening and went into quite the diatribe about how cruel and horrible a person I was for killing the animal (While the butchery was a planned part of the course it nicely coincided with the lesson for her) I highlighted if this is how she felt about a rabbit, having just SEEN it killed, how confident was she now she could end another human’s life…? It was quite the change in perspective for her.

Caveat – I take no pleasure in killing animals on courses, but do feel it is such a valuable lesson it is one that must be incorporated, but is always done in a respectful and swift a manner as possible.

Back to the list. Once you have written your list, you can decide what stimuli you can expose yourself to, to try and surmount the concern or ‘harden’ or inoculate yourself to it. Repeated exposure to events, assists in conditioning to not be as stressed by them. Again, I highlight, you and you alone are responsible for the consequences of this, I am merely highlighting in this article what constitutes a LARGE training gap for many people. Start with these basics, then further examples and practices to follow.

I mentioned earlier I would share some of my personal training goals, so here are a few I am working on:

I am a firm believer you can never have too much first aid/medic type training. However training is no substitute for practice. To gain the most experience but also to push the psychological and emotional boundaries I plan to do one or two weeks’ worth of volunteer ambulance work in S.Africa in inner city areas. Here they have exceptional numbers of patients, massively limited equipment and resources, and being in a different culture and climate it will give me significant physical duress as well, so this is a very well rounded exercise/experience.

I will focus on sparring with bigger, heavier, more experienced partners. Going into training where you know you can’t ‘win’ and that hurts more than normal will be interesting.

Some of my regular scheduled harder work (e.g. moving, splitting, piling wood for my stove) will be done on my ‘fasting days’. This is physical hard and with significant residual risk as you are working for prolonged periods with axes etc.

I have many more plans in mind, but will share those another day. What about you? How do you ‘Train hard?

Zettler Twins – Interview

In a recent interview, Brendon and Adam Zettler answered some great questions. Thanks for letting me share Brendon and Adam!


Apart from Adam being “the talker”, what other differences are there between you?

Brendon:  Well, he’s older by four minutes first of all, bigger in size (laughs), punches harder thats for sure.  Actually we’re very similar.

Do each of you have different focuses?  Things you like doing?

Brendon:  Yeah, I like to move more – a lot of movement, a lot of up and down.  He likes to move less and hit harder.

Watching you teach, I think the main thing that comes across is how much passion you have for Systema.  Its infectious, isn’t it?  How do you keep that level of passion in your training?

Brendon:  Well you know for me its really the constant growing as a person – Systema helps every part of the person – physically, psychologically, spiritually.  Its the whole package martial art.  We started when we were about 14 – young, aggressive, this and that – and we started training and it completely changed our life.  We had Vlademir to look up to every day and we tried to be more and more like him.

How did you come to start training?

Brendon:  I looked on the internet and I saw Vlad showing like knife stuff and so I went there to be more aggressive, but the opposite happened.  You go in there, get hit a couple times and you begin to change as a person and become a better human being.  In this style you can’t be too aggressive because you won’t last – its better to try to work with less fear and try to understand yourself better-

Adam:  -Work on yourself-

Brendon:  -which is the hardest part.

What are you working on yourselves at the moment?

Brendon:  Every day for me its just trying to work with less emotion, trying to have more love for people, trying to just become a normal person.  We try to help people, not just show what we like.  There are all kinds of groups, and we try to make it a seminar for everyone.

When you think about what to do in a class, do you plan everything in advance?

Brendon: (laughs) no!

Adam: Not at all, just like here.

Is it just about what comes up organically? What you enjoy doing on the day?

Brendon:  Our first seminar, we wrote everything down.  And we were so tense running back looking at it all the time.  And then, for us we just have an idea of what we want to show and then one question can change the seminar, completely.  We try to be free like that and just teach what people need.

Did you have that kind of moment here?

Adam:  Yeah we came planning to do something else and then we totally changed everything!

Brendon:  They were starting to get the feeling of what we were showing about how to move freely, so from that we went into a whole bunch of exercises.

You were talking a lot about finding inner freedom, freedom inside and in your movement.  What does that mean?

Adam:  Well, like we explained in the seminar if you have too much fear you can’t control it and it starts to lock your body up.  It affects your psyche and your body starts to become rigid and tense.

Brendon:  It’s like your body and your psyche are the same.  If the psyche’s tense, the body’s tense.  So you have to free yourself from all your emotions and your physical tension.  So its hard – we have a lot to work on.  This is why in Systema we practice with a lot of movement.  If you’re free from tension inside you should be able to move and adapt to all sorts of different situations.  If you have too much fear and aggression you’ll always be too tense.

How would you go about helping someone who was naturally very tense, or had a lot of fear?

Adam:  Just teach them breathing right away.

Brendon:  We have a lot of exercises, like breath holds which help the person to deal with emotions, fear – and to see the inner tension that they have.  And through that you start to see how breathing just cleans everything.  So its not just a martial art, its for life.  You can have a problem just walking down the road, stress comes, fear comes, but breathing restores you.  It puts you in a calm state, and that’s what a lot of people are missing.

Have you reached a point where you feel satisfied in your ability to do that?

Both: Oh, no!

Adam:  No, the thing is the more you train the more you see what’s wrong!

Brendon:  That’s why this style’s so hard, you just have to work on yourself and that’s the hardest thing to do.  Its always free, its always changing its not just rigid, its not doing the same thing every class.  Its always growing, its alive.

What do you hope students will take away from today?

Both:  Movement.

Adam:  Movement and relaxation-

Brendon: -and just paying attention to themselves when they train.  Like I was saying in the seminar, even if you have no martial arts skills but you know how to move naturally, its a very good skill to have.  If you see a car coming, if you see danger, at least you can move.  If you have a knife coming towards you, if you have the ability to move, instead of just getting tense and freezing, you can survive.  Like sometimes, people see a train coming towwards them, and just get frozen from fear.  But for us, when we feel fear and tension we try to escape from it and move.

Adam:  When someone is very tense it’s very difficult for them to move.  Like on the ground, people often become rigid and tense.  That’s why once we learn to move properly on the ground our psyche starts to relax more and our body becomes more relaxed – which frees you up for daily life too.

Do you feel constantly connected with your Systema practice in your daily lives?

Adam:  Oh yeah, even walking down the street is Systema.  Its not just at the gym, you take it outside with you.

Brendon:  Systema’s life.  You can try teaching it to your wife if she gets too tense…

You obviously trained mainly with Vlademir, but are there any other teachers who have had a strong influence on your work?

Both:  Michael Ryabko!

Adam:  Yeah, like Michael, I mean he’s the master…

Brendon:  We practice everything.

Adam:  We always watch him, but I think we’re very lucky to be under Vlad.  Vlad has a really strong influence on us, after all we met him when we were very young.

Brendon:  Yeah, and a lot of other teachers as well like a couple of friends I trained with at the Systema HQ.  But Vlad for me is definitely my main mentor.

A deeper connection by Michael J.Gonzales

From time to time, people ask where I first heard or learned about Systema. It’s an unusual story so I usually avoid it. Now, as an Instructor I am grateful it even happened. In early 2009, I was assigned to a security detail in Japan, my employer was an Israeli man that had lived and worked in Japan for over decade at the time. After work one day, he asked if I would like to train in the dojo that was in our building of occupancy. I agreed, and he went on to show me some grab and escapes, ground movement and soft work. My brain was trying to understand what was happening, all while my body was experiencing something foreign and fascinating. I was hooked.

So there I was: An American, in Japan, learning a Russian Martial Art, from an Israeli man. I can’t make that up. Thank you Avry. Once I returned to my home state of Texas I immediately searched the Internet for the closest Systema school; there was one an hour drive away, in Austin. So I showed up one day, a little eager, and a little nervous, not really knowing what to expect. Little did I know, I was about to embark on something so profound and life changing. That was over 5 years ago I met Gene Smithson and started my training, and to this day I get the same feeling every time I walk into his school. So, what is Systema?

This is quite possibly, the hardest question to answer as a student and an instructor. Could it be that Systema is by far the most diverse, complete, and unique martial art in the world? I don’t know. As I continue my training the question gets harder and harder to answer. Shouldn’t it get easier to understand though? No, it shouldn’t. That’s because each time you train Systema you begin to see “more”, taking you even further down the rabbit hole. What I am trying to convey when I say, “you see more”, I mean you see more of everything. You see more possibilities, more options, more entrances, more exits. Now these are good for you, but this is where the balance of Systema comes in, these positives can also initiate growth of ego, if not careful. You don’t always see what you want either; sometimes you see “more” of your limitations, weaknesses, and bad habits. This is can both frustrate and/or motivate depending on the individual in training.

So a balance needs to come in to play, to humbly except what you are not good at, all while not letting your ego grow when you become better at something that others are struggling with. Easier said than done, right? Well, that’s all part of your growth as a student of The System. In a weird way, one of the best ways to progress at Systema, is to stop trying to progress at Systema! To clean yourself of everything, and I mean everything. Walking into class with no expectations, no thoughts, no preconceived ideas, and no agenda. This is can be a challenge for many, especially in today’s world. We live in a time where we are the most connected we have ever been (social media, internet, instant messaging, email, smart phones) but; at the same time we are the most DISCONECTTED we have ever been. We as humans have lost connection; with the outdoors, with our families, with our peers, but worst of all… we have lost connection with ourselves.

For example: Last year Dr. Emma Seppala a Stanford Psychologist, gave a speech to employees at Face Book HQ where she stated that “The urge to check social media and Facebook has now surpassed the desire for sex and addictive substance like cigarettes ”. Powerful statement if you think about. Research shows that our desire for social connection is one of our strongest needs in life. This social connection is also considered a strong predictor of physical health, psychological health, recovery from disease, and even life longevity. Sound familiar? Most of my students that I have taught or personally trained in Systema have approached me at one time and said “ I started training because I wanted to learn how to fight, now I train because of a much deeper connection”. This connection is not only with their training partners, but also with their spouses, their children, co-workers and most importantly; themselves. This is something we will never achieve through social media or the Internet, and it cannot be replicated. When I wake in the morning, I struggle with the desire to reach over and check my phone. This has become a problem for me the past year. I would wake up, and with out hesitation, reach for my smartphone to check my notifications.

Now, I have slowly progressed to leaving the phone in a different room while sleeping (whatever it is can wait for the next day). Here is where I started to implement my Systema, from a section of Let Every Breath, pg. 55. “Starting your day”. Vladimir articulates that the body over time can suffer when it’s trying to adapt to “cold starts”. He says that the way the body handles the transition from rest to activity is paramount, so it’s best if we do not rush ourselves and try to begin the first moments of our day rapidly. A better way to begin your day is by slowly waking, remain in the laying position and begin with a breath based warm-up routine. This routine has helped my body and me tremendously. It has also helped me to reconnect to myself. If you have not read or do not own Let Every breath, do your self a favor and get it. In these modern times, we are completely surrounded by outside influences, and they are starting to affect our mind, body and soul. The good news is, we all have something much more powerful and special within us, and there is a “System” that can guide and help you find it. It’s up to you determine when that starts. All the best to you and your training!




-Michael J Gonzales San Antonio Systema

About Author: Michael J Gonzales is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, the founder and chief instructor of San Antonio Systema and is currently pursuing his Bachelors in Psychology at the University of Incarnate Word. He can be reached at:

Contentment, Time and Icy Water

This past week made me think about two things mostly: Contentment and Time. How are these two related to health and wellness? Well, first, you have to be happy with yourself and know you are a good person that is doing good things for your health, if you truly want to keep positive and on track (Contentment). Secondly, you need to understand what time truly is! This is a major factor for health and wellness, especially in today’s society. How many times in our life have we caught ourselves saying, “I don’t have time” for this, or that? Just think: time was here before we were born and it will be here once we are long gone, so why sweat it?


When it comes to our health and wellness, sometimes it seems we don’t have time for it. We tend to say or think we are too busy to go to the gym or workout on our own. So this year I am going to change my  “Philosophy of Health” to understanding time and contentment. I am happy with myself, but I know I need improvement in some areas. I am now 34 years old and just now realizing I am happy with myself, my weight, my body shape, my height. For once in my life, I am not striving to be someone else or like someone else. Each day we are inundated with movies, pictures and internet videos of these models and people with amazing physiques. These images get into our heads and lead the masses to believe this is who we should be—NO! You should be yourself, and you should be happy with yourself. If you cannot be happy with yourself, how can you possibly live a happy life in the first place?


Now, back to time. Since I stopped looking at the time, my phone, or my watch, and stopped trying to “squeeze in a workout,” I am seeing more physical achievements, more gains, and more success. This was not easy for me to do. I’m a Marine Corps veteran and we were always taught to be 15 minutes early for every meeting and make sure we are always on time, causing me to constantly check my watch. What I didn’t realize was that by me always checking the time, I was making myself neurotic and anxious (not good for your health). So by trying to do something productive and ahead of the game, I was actually ailing myself without realizing it.


If you think you don’t have time to work out or commit to a physical activity, then you should reevaluate your priorities. That being said, I want to go into this New Year without hesitation (less talk, more doing). Too many times I find myself talking about what I am “going to do” or “what my plan is,” but nothing ever materializes, ever. When I was in the Marines, I remember an older Marine telling me “hesitation kills,” after watching me balk on something during a live fire training exercise. Well, the same goes for physical fitness. You either train, or you don’t; nothing about it is rocket science. But battling excuses and fighting with hesitation always seems to sneak its way in somehow, only to be followed with some chocolate-covered guilt later on.


For the past three months, I have been Cold Water Dousing quite regularly. This procedure seems psychotic to some and intriguing to others, depending on what your concept of the two are. So twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, I walk out to my backyard and slowly pour five gallons of icy water over my semi-naked body. Then I grab a second bucket and do it again. Nothing I have ever done in my life comes close to the feeling I get afterwards. It’s like five hours of silent mediation was compressed into one minute of time. This practice helps me physically, psychologically, and spiritually. Physically, because I am feeling the blood flow and increase its vascular flexibility. Psychologically, because I have to defeat my own thoughts of backing out, quitting, and just trying to put the whole thing off until another day. Spiritually, I feel a little different each time. Sometimes, it’s just me standing there in silence and trying to listen to my thoughts and feelings. Other times, I feel as if the water has just washed away everything and anything negative that I had been carrying around with me, giving me a fresh start. Dousing has absolutely nothing to do with health and wellness, and at the same time it has everything to do with health and wellness. Let that marinate for a minute.

From Grappling to Striking by Arseniy Grebnov

Arseniy is an internationally recognized instructor, holding multiple certifications from world-renowned masters. A third degree Jiu Jitsu black belt and instructor of Russian Martial Arts, his teaching style and effective techniques appeal to professionals and beginners alike.

Martial Arts & Wellness Topics Covered:

– Essentials of Grappling

– Traditional & Unorthodox Striking Techniques

– Finding the Advantage in any Position – Standing & Ground

– Joint Utilization & Manipulation

– Detection & Elimination of Tension

– Performance Enhancing Exercises & Breathing

Our goal is to make training accessible to all, therefore this class fee is an affordable$40/person.

Date: Saturday March 7th, 2015

Time: 9:00 to 11:00 AM

Address: 2334 Jackson Keller Rd, TX 78230 San Antonio Systema

Systema Classes For Kids Coming Up

SIGN UP NOW!! for Systema classes for Children 7 to 12 years old.

They will learn the basic principals of Systema: Breath, Move and Relax, combine with Mindful self defense drills full of energy and lots of fun!

Classes will start the first week of September, 2014. Monday and Wednesday 4:00 to 5:00PM Call (210) 618-5673 for more information Limited availability

San Antonio Systema Presents Russian Martial Art Seminar

Leading Brazil instructor Nelson Wagner will be in San Antonio August 30 and 31 for a 2 Day Seminar.

August 30-31,2014 Seminar