The Warrior’s Path, Systema Part 1

Let me give you a hypothetical situation. Let’s say for example you were going to a foreign country. A foreign country, so you are not allowed to carry concealed, can’t carry your beautiful TZP Custom Kershaw folding knife , but a knife quite possibly could be used against you. In fact, there was a epidemic of people being attacked in that county, often by women and children. A tactical pen is a possibility. Maybe. What do you do? What do YOU do?

The answer to this will likely be different for everyone. For me, this was not a hypothetical situation last spring. It was exactly what I was facing, and I was feeling very vulnerable about the whole thing. I hate that feeling, vulnerable is rotten. I also hate inadequate, it’s right up there too, as is ancient. When I was younger I had perhaps capabilities I no longer have. So, what do you do? What do you do?

I think G-d stepped in on this one. A post by a buddy from the Second amendment arena, Scott Van Kirk, showed up in my Facebook time line. It was about a class that was coming up, a class on knife fighting, blade work if you will. I thought, hmm, perhaps? I asked when and where? The class was going to be close enough I could drive there, but it would be too late to help with the trip. The conversation came off Facebook and became emails. Scott talked to his instructor Joe, and explained the situation, he asked if Joe thought there was anything he could do to help me out. Scott said Joe told him to teach me, that Scott was certainly capable of helping me. So this good man offered to come help to help me learn enough to perhaps keep me alive should such a thing happen. There were a few things we talked about, there were considerations. One is I wasn’t traveling alone, the same girlfriend I had been in Israel with the last two years and I were traveling together again. And yes, I believe something I would try, was to ensure both of our safety. He also had a very honest talk with me about if this happens. Meaning if I’m attacked, I’m going to get cut, I’m going to get hurt, and I’m going to lose blood and quite possibly, likely will not look the same again. Sobering, very sobering thoughts. He stressed my goal, my objective is to live, to survive. That’s it. I will have scars? Ok, scars are tattoos with more interesting stories, but I am to come back, and come back in one piece (pretty much) and alive. And then we worked on tactics and techniques. With knives, pens, magazines (printed) and what I would call a kick pad. I finished up with some bruises and feeling awesome. Not bullet proof, not like I was Chuck Norris, but at least I had a few operating options. Bless that man, bless that man!!

Fast forward to fall of last year.

The blade work class was offered again, and it was in a place I considered close enough to drive. I bought a ticket. I had a lot of concerns.  I was too old perhaps, and my physical condition was certainly not what it had been when I was younger. But I was still game, I still wanted to give myself that chance, so ticket it would be. Besides, it gave me a chance to deliver to my erstwhile mentor the only thing he had requested besides me returning alive. A nice big fat magazine that I was going to carry in my purse with me everywhere.

And that is how I came to meet Joe, Joe Mayberry. Joe is the instructor of the blade work class and Scott’s instructor.

Class was unlike about anything I expected. I found I was perfectly capable of doing the things we were taught, if unable to do them perfectly. Yet. We learned about how to move in such as way as to be less likely to be perceived as a threat while sensing others that may be a threat to us. Fabulous class, I soaked up what I was given like a little sponge.

After class I got up my courage and asked Mr. Mayberry if he would consider doing a interview with me for The Zelman Partisans, because this system was so different from anything I had been exposed to. He listened, asked a couple of questions and then agreed.

And then there were riots in various and sundry cities around the U.S. that weekend. Honest to goodness, some people have no consideration! I had an interview scheduled and they riot. How rude! My interview went down the tubes and for various reasons didn’t get rescheduled.

Fast forward to late winter of this year. There is another class, a yummy class on “Weapons of Opportunity”. Who wouldn’t want to take that class? I did, very much. It was coming to a location close enough for me to drive, so ticket it was.

Another wonderful class. Everyone in class is amazingly nice! The other students I work with are wonderful. I perhaps have a slightly skewed view of people. For example, a comment I made to a girl friend after the class was “oh, and then this one super nice guy Lon, taught me how to do a sleeper hold to neutralize someone unless I needed to do more!” And then “I accidentally stabbed this one really nice guy in the web of his hand because I let my adrenaline get out too high. But he was really nice about it. Luckily he didn’t bleed, much, a lot”. I later apologized to Karel about that. He was very, very gracious about it. And one nice young man, Alex, taught me that there is likelihood that someone with a tattoo will be protective of that area. Hmm, good to know!

The other women I trained with were awesome, as we poked, prodded and stabbed each other with various weapons and learned what did and didn’t work well. They generously shared knowledge of things they knew with great kindness, many of these women I think train in Systema on a regular basis. Throughout the whole class we had Scott “Buzzkill the safety squirrel” circulating making sure we had safety goggles on, and utilized safe practices. Yes, as we stabbed and tried to attack each other. He and Mr. Mayberry moved amongst us offering advice and ways to improve. We were all trying our best to duplicate the damage Mr. Mayberry had demonstrated inflicting on his willing victim, his son Joseph. Tough kid!

Do you have a cellphone, a comb, car keys or better yet a Mayberry key? You have a weapon.

I tell you these stories so you know I’m not just telling you about something I read, but something I am experiencing, a path, a whole path. It encompasses more than just a method of self defense, although that certainly is a huge component. But the path is Systema, the Russian martial art of self defense, and a philosophy of living.

I survived class, again. This time with a slightly ripped shirt, some blood on it, mostly mine I think, and elated. I again asked Joe, who kindly remembered me, for a interview. He again agreed if I would give him a riot free weekend. We got the riot free weekend, and I got my interview.

Ready to meet Joe? Because there is a whole lot covered in the first book by author and teacher Joe Mayberry.

Systema Warrior Guidebook

Yep, it’s available on

The Systema Warrior Guidebook: A Systema Guide to Life


6 thoughts on “The Warrior’s Path, Systema Part 1”

  1. I used to travel overseas a lot on business when I was younger, generally to godforsaken places where a knife would never make it through customs unstolen. Forget about guns. I didn’t worry about it, I just went to the nearest souk or other market and bought one. They’re always easily for sale, the more godforsaken the destination the more easy.

    This wasn’t primarily for combat, though I carefully watched where I wandered. It was because the water was generally so bad you didn’t even want to eat fruit that had been washed in it. So I used for peeling fruit. And also for fending off opportunists. Then I generally ditched the knife on the way to the airport to go home; they make great gifts for taxi drivers.

    1. Awesome idea Joel! It wouldn’t have worked in THIS case in THIS place, but something to remember for other places for sure! In this place purses and people can be subject to searches. And rightfully so. In one place they had a cat near the door that reminded me so much of my beloved Maccabee. They knew I didn’t have a cat in my purse going in. 😉

      More seriously, I remember hearing of one arrest of something like a 15 year old girl near a checkpoint. She had a knife in her purse. Her mother explained it as she always carried a knife in her purse to “cut up salads and such. She is always eating salads”. Yeahhhhh, probably no.

  2. Two things I travel with when I can’t have an edge weapon nor firearm on me, a steel reinforced belt with a large buckle like;

    Great belt and I would not want to get hit up beside the head with it.

    A steel pen;

    Not nice to be stuck in the neck with either.

    What do you think of Krav Maga;

  3. Oh my gosh Comrade X !! We DID use Zebra pens in class! That’s not the pen I carried, I carried a tactical pen because that’s what Scott “Buzzkill the Safety Squirrel” trained me with and told me to carry. I did deviate from orders in that he said carry black. But I couldn’t help myself, I found a really really pretty one that I just had to have. So I compromised and carried black while en-route and the pretty one once I was there. It came home in my suitcase too. But you are spot on about the Zebra pen! They work well, my little ding is pretty much healed up now. But oh yeah, they work just dandy!

    The belt buckle, GREAT idea! I bet if I added a TINY bit of bling, I could make that thing look girly.

    Krav Maga? Stay tuned for part 2, appearing in moments. It’s not what I think, but what Mr. Mayberry’s answer is that is interesting.

  4. I really do not understand why canes are ignored as weapons. In the USA, if they temporarily confiscate your cane for some reason (museums, et al), they have to give you another to use until you leave. The extended reach and immediate accessibility are obvious to advantages. The only time I can see that a pen or knife would be more useful is in an area where a cane could not be used, as in a vehicle (taxi, bus, airplane) or other places where your movement may be restricted (restroom). Is it the stigma attached? The inconvenience?

  5. I don’t think it has anything to do with stigma, in this class at all. Be sure you catch Part 4 coming up soon!

    But in the classes I’ve been in, a big part of it has been if someone comes at you with a knife. I want to know how to be able to deal with it, and turn it to my advantage. The other thing would be if I need to use one, it is easier to conceal.

    A cane is a brilliant idea, but I suspect it has to fit the picture, in other words, the person would probably need to look in some way as though they needed one. BUT, that being said, that’s me talking, not Joe.

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