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Systema, a Russian martial art


Lance Rewerts (left) and Martin Wheeler (right) working up a sweat demonstrating some of Systema’s groundwork.

Lance Rewerts (left) and Martin Wheeler (right) working up a sweat demonstrating some of Systema’s groundwork.

Think you know martial arts? Think again. Forget your belts, your uniforms, your stances, techniques or katas (loosely translated as “form”). Systema is a comprehensive system in the fullest sense. Never heard of it?

“Systema can be a little hard to explain if you haven’t had any experience with it,” said Lance Rewerts, organizer and host of the Iowa Systema seminar.

Systema’s apt literal translation is “the system.” Systema is a Russian martial art notable for its hand-to-hand and close-quarter-combat techniques. So how is this different from other martial arts? Simply put, Systema is comprehensive including styles that are “hard” or “soft,” or primarily kicking, striking, grappling or the use of weapons — all are addressed in a thorough, intuitive, consistent and robust way. Building off individual strengths and characteristics, it’s specifically designed for fast learning.

“There is also a strong emphasis in Systema to not only explore the physical aspects of the training but also to be aware of the psychological and emotional effects of the work,” Rewerts advised. “We want to be able to recognize our emotional states so that we can control them, or at least not be controlled by them.”

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Think of it this way: Fear, pride, anger, frustration — any emotion has a huge affect on how people behave. The important thing is to know how these emotions affect you personally, as well as your opponent.

While Rewerts is hosting the seminar and is a talented Systema practitioner and trainer himself, the main attraction is Martin Wheeler. Wheeler, who hails from England and currently resides — and teaches — in California, will be facilitating the entire seminar in Ames as he has for civilians, law enforcement and military professionals around the world.

Rewerts and Wheeler both came to Systema through other martial arts. Each has decades of experience in other arts.

“Martin is an excellent instructor who makes a point to work personally with every student, and he is very good at shaping the material to fit the participants so that everyone from the beginners to the more experienced practitioners can work at their own level,” said Rewerts.

In this two-day seminar, attendees can choose to participate in one or both days. The first day usually focuses on providing a good foundation in the fundamentals — proper breathing, relaxation, movement and posture. The second day involves more advanced work. CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


Systema Russian Martial Arts Seminar
When: Saturday, Oct. 19, from 12-5 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Where: Family Martial Art Center, 231 Main St., Ames
Price: $125/day at the door.
What to bring: BDUs (battle dress uniforms) or T-shirt, sweat pants, shorts or workout clothes are recommended. Training knives are welcome.
More info:

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