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Systema Strength and Flexibility – Reviews


Nathanael Morrison – Special Operations Instructor
Former U.S.A.F. Special Tactics and Pararescue

Kwan Lee has released one of the most significant DVD contributions to the fitness and martial arts communities ever seen. This is not to come across in an overly glowing or flowering manner. I really mean it. It is not every day that someone finds a way to bring truly unique and relevant material to the world. By and large most of what gets put onto DVD does little to help the end user. This is the first time I have watched a martial arts and fitness oriented DVD and said, “It’s about damn time!”

From the beginning this DVD is relevant to every martial artist, athlete and fitness enthusiast. While the target audience is obviously Systema practitioners, Kwan is rightfully quick to point out that the material is equally useful to athletes and the average Joe. Applicability to the military and law enforcement communities should go without saying.

Systema Strength and Flexibility finally comes out and addresses the issues of combined movement, breathing, functional strength and flexibility on film. Over the years I have written a great deal on this subject and the source for much of my information and experience has been Kwan Lee and his teachers. Kwan begins the DVD with a series of short but powerful statements about the human body and the strength and conditioning requirements for martial artists and athletes. Pay attention because what he is saying there is golden.

The action gets started with a series of exercises that I dubbed as “integrated joint mobility” earlier in 2009. Kwan refers to it as “dynamic stretching” but the result is the same. The joints, tendons and ligaments are exercised and following his example, the body is taught movement under load with proper breathing through the full range of motion in the joints. That alone is worth a great deal to anyone interested in enhancing physical performance in any endeavour.

Early in the DVD Kwan shows partner variations of the exercises shown. This is a very important aspect of training that I would like to address. Partner work builds your experience working with and against another human being. For a martial artist the importance of this should be obvious. But it is also an essential element in physical conditioning. In places like Turkey (which has a rich wrestling heritage) and across much of the world, partner work is an essential part of training. It can be soft and supple or it can reduce both partners to quivering wrecks in a very short span of time. Kwan’s partner work gives the practitioner a nice middle ground to work with while emphasizing mutual support and proper technique. The partner environment is more dynamic than working against a wall or the ground and I think he does a very nice job of illustrating that point throughout.

There is a long list of hidden lessons scattered throughout the DVD. Selective tension, selective muscle control, mobility, pain tolerance, eccentric loading during movement, dynamic core work, hundreds of exercises, hand and fist placement on the body, forced relaxation, breathing to extend endurance and much more. You will also find a good deal of psychological conditioning as you try to do all of these exercises. Few of them are easy! However, they are all fun and challenging in addition to the health and performance benefits they offer.

The strengthening exercises presented are not your run of the mill weight training drills or the standard prescription for high repetition calisthenics. Instead, each exercise has a general and specific application to martial arts and athletics. These exercises are as much, maybe more about tendon and ligament strength than they are about muscular strength. But even more so, they are about the proper integration of the right muscles and breathing. Without that you can never reach peak performance.

Want to know what makes elite martial artists and professional athletes? You’re looking at it here. This DVD will help you to understand what it means to become an integrated human being versus a collection of body parts. Kwan Lee’s approach is simple, intuitive, challenging and fun. Most importantly, it works. I give this DVD my highest recommendation!

Nathanael Morrison was a USAF Special Tactics and Pararescue team leader for 15 years before transferring to the US Army. He is a military skills instructor specializing in special operations. He has written the most complete book on military specific training ever published, Military Fitness: A Manual of Special Physical Training. Visit his web site at www.alpin-gruppe.com

Brandon Sommerfeld – Master Instructor

Those of you who have had the opportunity to work with Kwan Lee and the material he has been presenting over the years on strength, flexibility and dynamic stretching are in for a real treat.

I first had the privilege to work / struggle through this progressive series of exercises some years back during Vladimir Vasiliev’s “Dynamic Limb Destruction” seminar in New York. Kwan later shared this unique set of work with us during last year’s “Systema Summer Camp.” Since then there had been a huge demand for this particular information with the promise of a soon-to-be available DVD. Well the DVD is finally out and I received my copy today. It was definitely worth the wait.

The production is professional and concise, and the demonstrations by Kwan and his assistants are inspiring and at the same time humbling. Kwan leads us through a complete lower and upper body progression that allows you to gradually strengthen and improve your flexibility with varying degrees of difficulty. With a little self-study and research the combative application of each movement becomes obvious. During the Extra Features, Kwan does a nice overview on the important aspects of Systema breathing. He also demonstrates the flow and freedom of dynamic stretching during the warm-up portion.

One of my personal favorites was the “Outtakes” segment. Without giving anything away, lets just say some of the thoughts you may have been thinking during the main instructional portion may be answered. For me (someone who seems to be challenged with endless tension), this was one of the most inspiring segments of this excellent DVD. Thanks Kwan; I am looking forward to the next in what I hope to be a continuing series of instructional and supplementary Systema material.

Best, Brandon Sommerfeld

Brandon was a U.S. Special Forces combat veteran and Master Instructor/Chief Combatives Instructor at G4S-ITI. We thank him for his distinguished service.  May he rest in peace.

David Hollowich – U.S. Army
Active Duty – Afghanistan

Mr. Lee’s presentation is one of the finest instructional videos that I have had the pleasure of viewing. Though I have a limited amount of exposure with Systema, the principles illustrated by Mr. Lee and his students offer the viewer an immeasurable amount of practical applications for the real world.

After sixteen years of being a professional soldier, attendance at numerous combative programs, and graduation from the Master Fitness Trainer Program, I have to say that the simple and principle-based training offered by Mr. Lee in this video is by far the best!

Having integrated these principles into my own routine I can already notice immense changes in just one week, and will most definitely begin to share these principles to my soldiers. My thanks to Mr. Lee and his students.

David Hollowich, U.S. Army, Afghanistan

Glenn Murphy – Chief Combatives Instructor
Revolution Self Defense

This DVD is not only essential for any serious Systema practitioner, but it is also the highest quality solo training product I have ever encountered. I already knew Kwan to be a first-rate instructor with practically unparalleled knowledge in this area. But nevertheless, this DVD far exceeded my expectations.

The drills are expertly structured and comprehensively explained. The production values are very high, utilizing graphics and close-ups to reiterate key points of structure and form. And the action itself flows from subject to subject with all of Kwan’s trademark fluidity.

Along with Vladimir’s Let Every Breath book, this DVD forms THE foundation for Systema conditioning, but it would also be invaluable to all martial artists, athletes and fitness enthusiasts seeking to take their functional strength, flexibility and physical dexterity to the highest level.

Buy this. Now. Believe me, you will not regret it.

Glenn Murphy
Raleigh, NC

Lloyd Robrecht – Chief Combatives Instructor
Roanoke Systema Group

In this innovative production senior Systema instructor Mr. Kwan Lee takes the viewer on a progressive journey of dynamic kinesthetic exercises and body movement drills which introduce the viewer to a new and deeper understanding and appreciation of strength and flexibility. Rather than merely providing an intense muscle burning workout and encouraging you to push yourself to achieve deeper stretches, Mr. Lee expertly demonstrates unique and creative movement sets designed to target not only the muscles of the body, but also taxing the tendons of the body’s joints. This challenging approach creates superior ability to generate power, enhanced strength endurance, and a vastly increased range of motion simply unachievable through conventional exercise methods.

Aside from heightened physical capabilities, Systema Strength and Flexibility provides the keys to overcoming self-imposed limitations and unlocking your own natural genius for creative movement. Whether you are a martial artist or sports athlete, if you want to be in superior physical condition and to discover your talents, Systema Strength and Flexibility is a must.

A. Lloyd Robrecht
Roanoke Systema Group

Stephane Beaudin – Chief Combatives Instructor
Club Nagaika

Thank you for a beautifully produced DVD. I have watched it many times in the 2 weeks since I have received it and am amazed at the depth of the material presented. This video does presume the viewer is a Systema practitioner, or at least familiar with the practices of the art, but it contains exercises suited to any level of fitness. These exercises will provide you with instant as well as continuing benefits, the level of relaxation I felt after my first try at them was one of the deepest I have experienced.

There is a lifetime’s worth of work here, and it is highly unlikely you will exhaust the possibilities even the simplest exercises from this collection have to raise your fitness, mobility and self awareness. Your nervous system and connective tissues will thank you every time you practice these exercises, they will thank you with capabilities you did not suspect you could ever develop.

Stephane Beaudin
Club Nagaika – Montreal

Ken Harper
U.S. Armed Forces Veteran

Just a short note to let you know that I’ve been using your “Strength and Flexibility” DVD ever since I received it 3 or 4 weeks ago. In fact, I do anywhere from 20-45 minutes or so in the morning to wake up body & spirit for work, and at night when I get home, I’ll do selected exercises to relax.

The instruction is clear, concise, and complete. What I really like are the variations, and the invitation to build my own, free-flowing movement literally from head to foot.

As someone who has had injuries from weight lifting, kettlebell training, and running (live long enough and you can damage just about any body part) I’ve been pleasantly surprised the way the movement in Strength and Flexibility have opened up my hips, knees, and ankles.

At a recent seminar in California, I picked up a second copy for my son to use at college.

Again, my appreciation and thanks,

Ken Harper

Marlin Leybold
U.S. Corrections Officer

Mr Kwan Lee, Sir, I am a 52 year old Corrections Officer. I started Systema last month by attending a seminar in Chicago. I have plenty of experience with kettlebells and bodyweight conditioning, however It wasn’t until I did the work presented did I begin to realize how much damage I was doing and how limited my range was, and I am considered very flexible by those who know me. This material is excellent and I thank you very much for your contribution to all practitioners of Systema. As a person just starting I would consider these movements invaluable.

Marlin Leybold


Ivan Butsan
Artist and Systema HQ Instructor

I am fortunate to be among the first Torontonians to own Kwan Lee’s ‘Systema Strength and Flexibility’ DVD. Viewing the video has been a delightful and instructive experience and the DVD certainly earned its place in my collection. One can admire the effort, mind and heart Kwan put into this project.

Understandably, purchasing a DVD is always a challenge; you don’t know whether you’ll be able to make use of it until it is played (Eastern Europeans jokingly refer to this predicament as ‘buying a cat in a sack’).

Admittedly, I used to be prejudiced in this respect, as well, mostly due to the commercial ads for Aerobic or Boxercising videos abundant on TV. Those usually feature lean and handsome people sporting firm six-packs and biceps suggesting that you will become ‘like that’ once you buy their product. Unfortunately, many a time the instructor in such videos does not go far beyond ‘follow me’ and ‘this is good for you’, and you end up watching the video once or twice in its lifetime, mostly because you don’t know if you are ‘following’ correctly or doing it right.

Systema DVDs are different altogether and ‘Systema Strength and Flexibility’ certainly meets the high standards set by Vladimir Vasiliev and his fellow-founders.

Kwan’s instructional video is truly a learning aid; it keeps you engaged and interested from the beginning to the end, equally due to the lively visual presentation and interesting content. Kwan takes the viewer step by step through various exercises of increasing complexity while providing the necessary background information and helping avoid common mistakes. What’s more important, after watching the video, the viewer will understand that the goals stated on the cover and demonstrated are realistic and effective; one can achieve or make a significant advance toward the goals and will be much better for it.

On the subject of the goals, no DVD that I knew of before was focused specifically on developing strength and flexibility by working on one’s tendons as opposed to growing muscles. Kwan did an excellent job in summarizing and presenting effective methodologies for doing so. These exercises are beneficial to all and noticeably improve one’s day-to-day life, they reduce injuries, build confidence, and allow to breathe through any type of tension while exercising, among other things.

This subject goes hand in hand with non-destruction, another fundamental concept in Systema. Regular exercises for building muscles, such as weight lifting, are associated with tension, which is stressful and ultimately destructive to the body, especially as the practitioner grows older. Needless to say, they suppress natural reaction and speed of movement. ‘Strength and Flexibility’ shows you a way to avoid the stress and tension while making your body firm, relaxed, and by naturally increasing your range of motion.

The DVD is very well planned – as you try to follow the instructions and get questions, the answers are there (or, at least, the video will put you on the track to find the answer that works for you on your own, so long as you follow the guidelines that Kwan outlines). There is something new to learn each time one watches the instructional and this makes it an active learning aid that follows and helps your progress.

A final word – my several years in Systema led me to believe that there comes a point in your development when you can and should improve not only by training yourself, but also by sharing what you already learned with the others. It is very inspirational to see Kwan’s advancements. As far as I know, he is not from the Russian Special Forces like most Systema founders and if he can measure up to the masters nevertheless, so can you and I.

In other words, the DVD proves Systema is not an ivory tower; regular people who are not pros like Vladimir Vasiliev and Mikhail Ryabko can get there, too!

Great job, Kwan!

Ivan Butsan

Ivan was born in Kiev where he has had over 8 years of experience in boxing, kick boxing, taekwondo, and hand-to-hand combat. For the past 9 years training under Vladimir Vasiliev at Systema Headquarters School in Toronto where he has become a full instructor.

Yuri Talalaev, MD
Medical Doctor, Tucson, Arizona

Did you ever watch the work and movements of other practitioners and wondered how they did it? Now you can do it too with clear, concise, step-by-step instructions to develop your strength, flexibility, and continuously flowing movements from one of the Systema’s top instructors. This DVD is indispensable for your training.

Yuri Talalaev, MD
Systema Tucson

Pietro Vitelli
Professional Chef and Instructor for Systema Arizona

In this DVD, Kwan clearly demonstrates functional training methods. It is easy to watch, easy to learn from, and the principles can be instantly applied to your training. With precise explanations of how each piece of work can help you and what you can achieve with it, this DVD can only help to take you to a higher level. I really enjoy the fact that Kwan explains how you can perform the work solo, with a partner, and also with multiple partners. A push up will never be the same.

Pietro Vitelli

Gaston Pratt
Retired NYC Fire Fighter / EMT

I have viewed The Strength and Flexibility DVD more than once and find it fills in the gaps. Evertime I watch it I understand and gather new information. It is easy to follow as the explanations are clear and concise. I must say from my years as a Systema practioner and as an instructor this is a must have item.

It is truly a one of a kind revolutionary instructional DVD.

Gaston Pratt

I find it to be very pleasurable to do, especially the upper body flow (wrist-elbow-shoulder sequence). Sometimes time flies when I practice. Despite, I still have had a chronic pain in my left shoulder blade that nothing seems to help completely.

But the whole thing change when I followed your DVD today. I was performing a certain move in your DVD, which you describe as a move that will help open the chest. I have practiced this move before, but did not notice that you instructed that wrists should be straight.

So, I adjusted my wrists and elbows. Then something amazing happened ? my left shoulder began to relax COMPLETELY. Then, my mind dissociated. I saw my self a child, holding my shoulder and neck so tight in front of my mother who was scolding and telling me to shut up.

I have always believed that this chronic pain in my left shoulder is psychosomatic. Indeed, I have been a long-time meditator. Through Qigong, Open Focus, Feldenkrais and so on I have healed most of my psychosomatic pains, except this one. I kept wondering why. But I have found this today through your DVD.

I can’t thank you enough. I really wonder how I could have found the cause of this pain without your DVD.

Ben C. – Toronto, Canada

Keith Whatley
Chief Instructor, Triangle RMA

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased a copy of Systema Strength and Flexibility by Kwan Lee. I have viewed it twice now and had a chance to start putting the information on this DVD into practice. This video is quite simply superb.

I have 27 years of martial arts experience, which includes Japanese Karate, Aikido and most recently Systema (about 3+ years now). I have trained with a wide variety of people and have seen an equally wide variety of conditioning methodologies and strategies for martial arts fitness. The information on this video surpasses all of that. It is simple and straightforward, yet it contains a huge amount of insight and information, as does much of the training we do in Russian Martial Art. Veteran practitioners of Systema training will likely recognize a few of the things presented. What stands out however is Mr. Lee’s strong command of the subject matter and excellent, concise explanations of the principles and methods. These explanations leave the watcher with a very solid and pragmatic understanding of the information presented.

What also stands out for me is the fact that the drills and methods Mr. Lee presents on this DVD are adaptable to most any level of skill or fitness. The practitioner can make the exercises as easy or as challenging as they wish depending on their ability and level of conditioning. If you follow the advice of Mr. Lee and do the exercises properly, they are also very safe as opposed to some of the more extreme methods I have encountered in other styles. Don’t get me wrong, there are some VERY challenging exercises on this DVD. However, they are presented in such a manner that you can build up to them and still get maximum benefit as you do so. They are not the “all or none” type methodologies I have encountered in the past. This is a real boon to those who teach mixed groups that have varying levels of experience in their ranks (which I think describes most martial arts teaching environments).

On top of all this, I must say that the filming and editing of the video was also extremely well done. All exercises are clearly illustrated and easy to see. The manner in which it is filmed and perspective of the camera allow the viewer to see exactly what is going on so there is no confusion about what is being presented. Mr. Lee also makes plain, logical and easy to understand use of diagrams and illustrations to ensure the viewer understands the exercises. It is not presented in the “monkey see, monkey do” manner that many instructional DVDs are made. This DVD gives you a solid foundation to work with and learn from. It is the next best thing to hands on instruction and I highly recommend it to any martial artist.

Keith Whatley

Nate Zeleznick
Founder / Instructor, M.P. Silat USA

I just finished watching your Strength & Flexibility DVD. Wow! I only made it through about 1/4 of the DVD yesterday before I went to work, and did the exercises I had viewed as part of my warmups and felt great afterwards. I will be working on the rest of the exercises from here on out. My joints and muscles are more relaxed and feel better than they have in years!

As a Pencak Silat stylist, I have trained my body to be maximally tensed in my training, but it didn’t dawn on me just how much I kept that tension throughout my daily life, especially in my jaw, neck, trapezius and glutes until you helped me awaken this awareness. Now I have the opportunity to address those things which have been hidden from me my entire life. I feel that your training will continue to help me improve and strengthen myself not only as a martial artist, but also as a human being.

Kwan, I cannot say “Thank You” enough for every single second of your training at the recent seminar in Park City, and now I can also honestly say “Thank You” for producing such an excellent DVD. I can only hope that all who watch it get as much out of it as I have. I plan on watching it many more times as repeated exposure is sure to bring even more to my mind that I didn’t catch on previous viewings.

Warmest Regards,

Nate Zeleznick
Merpati Putih USA, Huntsville, UT