WTF: Plump martial arts master got famous for ‘destroying’ everyone, he convinced them he’s John Wick

We've never really talked much about Systema here before, but it's time to carve that turkey.

By: Victor Rodriguez | 5 months ago
WTF: Plump martial arts master got famous for ‘destroying’ everyone, he convinced them he’s John Wick

Welcome back to WTF, the weekly look at the impressive, the fun, and the weird fringes of martial arts. We’ve got some choice items for your enjoyment today, so sit tight, behave, and tip your waitstaff.

This Systema ‘master’ convinced people he’s John Wick

Alright, kids. Today we were going to start with something that wasn’t silly for a change. But the world is what it is, not what we want it to be. We have found something that for some reason we haven’t really covered here before. The “art” of Systema. Not for nothing, it’s just that we’ve gotten used to covering other things.

Developed in Russia, Systema is a style that has defenders. There are people that swear by the legitimacy of this, and it’s not that hard to see why. There are very real elements of close quarters combat that we can all glean from. But you’re here reading this, and you know that means we’re not gonna focus on that.


Meet Mikhail Ryabko. He’s been something of an online figure for better or worse for some time now. And this video – ostensibly made as something of a tribute – is full of what I would personally consider some less-than-practical teachings.

Let’s start here:

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Yoink! It’s that easy! Sure, destabilizing an opponent and then striking is smart. But there’s something that is so mesmerizing about how low-effort his movements are and how controlled this environment is. Make note of that, because you’re going to see more of it.

Like here, with this:

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Big wide swing, the way everyone punches. Absolutely everyone.

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Well, just sock him in the mouth. As one does.

You’ll notice that there’s a lot of compliance from the training partner, which is essential to Systema training scenarios as they’re massively hypothetical. Sure, you can’t have people just hitting each other full clip in training. That’s well understood. But to end up like this from a punch that didn’t even connect?

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That’s your brain filling in the gaps with deference to your trainer and belief in the art of Systema. That’s the power of suggestion, baby. And that’s big goofy. But don’t worry, it gets better.

Knife defense! Every martial art worth its salt has some methodology when confronting an armed opponent, especially someone with a small bladed weapon.

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Push the weapon aside with the back of your hand. No problem. But what now?

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And shimmy that baby around your head. EASY!

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My brother, why are your eyes still on the blade?

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Why stop at one revolution? What’s the guy with the knife gonna do, right? RIGHT?

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Flip the wrist the other way and viola! Wizardry! But now what?

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“I know, bruh! There’s nowhere to go, it’s just science!”

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“Welp. Guess I’m just dead now.”

Now, you might be thinking “Hey Vic, what if a fight breaks out on a fine Wednesday morning while I’m minding my honest business?” Glad you (didn’t) ask. I got something for you.

Here we have Mikhail imparting some sort of lesson on how to fight someone that just… walks up to you, I guess.

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(Walks in Russian) “Hum-dee-diddly-doo…”

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Wasted. Continue?
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You again? What are you smiling at? How dare you have a good day unprovoked. Also, who walks like this?

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Come on, man.

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“Oh, you stinker…”
I don’t know about you, but there is nothing funny to me about getting beat up like that. Mikhail should be all smiles, though. Out here scamming people like punching an unsuspecting or compliant passerby in the gut is self defense. Good for him, though.

OK, last one. I promise:

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Push blade aside, simple enough.

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Then nail them with the Ox Baker Heart Punch, which may still be illegal in California.

Alright, that’s enough of that.

Sniped him

African Warriors Fighting Championship always brings the heat, and I’m always happy to feature them here. This week we’ve got a classic Dambe bout, parries, clinches, feints, the whole nine. It ends with a singular bang courtesy of a furious right hand.

Sambo doubleheader

Next up, more from the Youth and Junior 2023 championships courtesy of SAMBOFIAS. First up, a men’s bout where a hard-fought battle takes place, including a smooth sequence involving a shoulder lock escape roll-through that gets the action back to the feet.

This one’s even better. The action starts almost immediately and it becomes a submission scramble. Its beautiful, it’s good, and it’s real. Not like that Systema stuff up above.

Lotta dudes getting slept

We’re back to RADIKAL Videos on YouTube, with a collection of Muay Thai and kickboxing knockouts as part of his “best of” series for the year to date. Some real wild ones in this batch. Can your Systema defense defeat this?

Billy Blanks appreciation time

You may know him as the innovator of Tae Bo and a guy that does a bunch of goofy commercials, but Billy Blanks is very legit as a martial artist. He had a run doing action films, including one with pro-wrestling legend and real-life Judo black belt “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Here’s some highlights from 1993’s Back In Action. Bon appetit.

That’s all for this week, kids. Go watch the Mario movie again, it’s pretty great. And remember – you might think you can fight, but there are many guys like you all over the world.

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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