systema downtown



8:30-10:00 pm


Except seminar weeks when both classes are combined into a 3 hour seminar, usually on Thursday evening. See Calendar for details.





Alex Kostic Seminar – Movement as Defense

Review by Jan Ohm

What a great day with Alex! We started off in pairs, working with gentle massage on each other to relax and inform our bodies about contact, then warmed up with figure eight movements of all the limbs and the torso. Alex explained the importance of liberating the body, and much time was spent on mobilizing the shoulders, hips and torso. Moving back into pairs, we began to apply the circular movement to grabs of the wrists, elbows and upper arms in static positions and then with stepping. The group was moving very well and very quickly into the kind of improvisation and “free play” that is Systema. From here, we worked with escapes from all manner of bear hugs and tackle holds using the same principles of movement and freedom on the body’s interior. Alex demonstrated ways to work with our breath and body to create the space that allows for continuous movement, without struggling or fighting. Alex excels at teaching principle, and a testament to this is how freely and effectively the students were working while maintaining a relaxed and well grounded demeanor.

After a 45 minute break we went into the second half of the day again with some massage, then working with figure eights of the legs for kick defense. Alex built the drills in such a way that conveyed a sense of timing that helped the students get to new levels of fluidity. We practiced many possible kick defenses using the body, the legs, and the arms for straight and round kicks at varying heights. Once again, the students were able to enter into the space of free play and experience the effectiveness of allowing the body to move around the line of attack and find new possibilities.

The final section of the day was working in larger groups of 5 – 7 and using the circular movements to ward off group attacks. We worked drills with pushes to the legs and to the body using both feet and hands. The natural progression was to allow the hands and arms to explode outward with the waves that the body manifested from the hips, shoulders and torso. Alex’s demonstrations were phenomenal here. Using the waves he can explode to a speed that is faster than the eye can see. He showed how every moving surface becomes a strike when it makes contact, and how to control the group attack through movement.

Beyond being a great teacher and a skilled practitioner, Alex worked with the group in such a way that we all stayed relaxed and grounded. There was a smooth kind of focus to the day that generated true appreciation without over-excitement. Moreover, the principles we worked simply don’t communicate aggression to our partners, so even the take-downs and defenses didn’t inspire fear or a lack of safety. There was a great cohesion within the group and people went away feeling great. For me, the gift of this seminar was actually getting to experience the relaxed state Systema expounds without having to constantly remind myself to be relaxed. The progression that Alex took us through created and maintained the relaxation for us. Thank you Alex for a memorable day!