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The Best Martial Art to Learn Self Defense in Lisbon

After realising how high the demand for self defense martial arts in Lisbon is, we searched for the best options around. While looking for a pearl, we suddenly came across the whole chest of treasures - SYSTEMA Lisboa Martial Arts School. They have only been around since 2014 so no surprise if you haven’t heard of the defense based martial art, but trust us, it’s worth knowing. And who would be better to tell you about it if not the founder Stefan de Moncada.

What is Systema martial art?

Systema is based on four principles: breathing, structure, relaxation and movement. Those principles are dependent on each other – I can only move if I am relaxed and I can be relaxed only if I breathe right. The last element is structure which is important to feel calm. Being relaxed is one of the most important things in the combat world as it enables you to use your skills to the full and be ready to react. You are only able to do so when you are fully aware of your surroundings, listen to your body and think clearly – this is what Systema is all about.

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Stefan de Moncada

How is Systema different to other martial arts?

Systema is the most practical self-defense martial art I know. The difference between Systema and, for example, Krav-Maga*, which involves a lot of self-defense, is that Systema is a martial art based on relaxation. We are not fighting against the person. In Krav-Maga, the idea is that if the attacker is aggressive, you also need to be aggressive in return. When I see people attacking while screaming, there is so much tension which is unhealthy for the participants. If I wish to practice martial arts, I want to practice the kind which is healthy for me and doesn’t cause stress. We work hard every day, but also think about how it will affect us in the long term. Imagine a soldier at war: is he going to use all his energy to bring down one enemy? No, he will try and find an intelligent way to stay productive in the long run. This is Systema – we define ourselves as the peace warriors. Nevertheless, it is important to understand tension and fear so that we can overcome them, therefore relaxation in Systema doesn’t mean that we train in a relaxed environment. It means we don’t let tension or fear control my psyche or movement. 

How long has Systema been around?

Vladimir Vasiliev, the founder of Systema, opened it to the western world in the 90’s. Before that it was practiced in secret.

How did a guy from Portugal became a Russian martial art instructor?

I started the journey in martial arts with Aikido, which I practiced for ten years. However, I was always curious about what else is there. So one day, together with a friend, we came across Systema while browsing the internet. We were so amazed by its combat techniques that we began practicing by ourselves by watching videos online. Eventually I bought tickets to Canada where Vladimir Vasiliev, the founder of Systema, and the main training centre was. It was back in 2014, when I transitioned from Aikido and realised that I wanted to practice Systema full-time. Since then, Systema has been my main focus, however, I still practice other martial arts like Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Kickboxing to keep an open perspective.

What influenced your decision to leave Aikido and become fully dedicated to Systema?

Main reason was the way Systema made me feel. In Aikido, my body hurt most days of training. However, with Systema, I was amazed that during the practice, there is a lot more power but much less pain. The training was less aggressive for my body. I intend to do martial arts for the rest of my life and with Systema after each training I feel great.

Has practicing Systema affected your everyday life?

One of the most important things that I implement in real life is how to handle stress. Usually, when you become stressed, you can’t talk or even move straight. Breathing exercises practiced for years of training with Systema brought me the possibility to think clearly, bring myself together.

Do you offer classes to kids? If so, what are the benefits of practicing Systema at a young age?

For kids, Systema is very important – it is going to teach them body gymnastics and how to free their bodies, improve the posture, how to fall down without getting hurt, because that’s what kids are best at, right? We train kids the same as adults, but we insist more on structure, movement, and a playful environment. We explain the importance of movement skills, how to avoid injuries and how to play with each other.

At what age can kids start practicing?

Kids can start to train from the age of 5 to 6 years old.

Book a class at SYSTEMA here.


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