"The Russians were invaded by everyone except the Martians over the centuries and the Russian monks, who are at the root of this discipline, learned from all the different warriors and martial artists who occupied the continent at one time or another," Zamarin said during a demonstration for The Park Record. "The monks processed their own way from these forms and developed their own martial art.
"These days, the art has expanded and the science of systema taps into the subconscious, which makes it a very powerful system," he said.
"After the fall of the Soviet Union 15 years ago, two men Mikhail Ryabko a former Special Units Colonel in the Russian Military in Moscow, and his student Vladimir Vasiliev, the chief instructor of the Toronto School of Martial Art in Canada, let it out and are considered the worldwide leaders of systema," Kidwell said. "They shifted to the idea that the discipline means nothing unless you have the base, core principles of the breathwork and concept."
Those basic principles are what Zamarin and Kidwell teach every Thursday in a class that is designed for people who have no martial arts training.
"It's all about tension-free movement and goes after a subconscious approach where we imprint relaxed movement in our bodies, where if something unexpected happens, we don't react with a tensed movement," Zamarin explained. "How we get into that realm is through our breathing. When we are surprised or feel tension within our bodies, the first thing we do is utilize a little bridge with a flowing exhale, instead of a typically sharp inhalation. Once the breath flows and moves, then our bodies will continue to move as well."
The students participate in a group of exercises that start by inhaling through the nose and exhaling out through the mouth.
"Once they become aware of the rhythm, we have them start some physical activities, such as walking, while maintaining the breathing method," Zamarin said. "What we want to do is to learn to keep the tension off of ourselves, so if we're mountain biking and we come up on a sharp turn, we can flow through it, instead of getting all tense and crashing."
That's where the challenge comes in.
"Our bodies are sensory units and we want to bring an awareness to how our bodies operate, and, in doing so, how we can gain more direct control over them, rather than having them dictate how we react through tension," Zamarin said. "When people begin to understand the technique, they will start to realize how much tension we hold in our bodies."
Throughout the lessons, students will learn about five levels of fear.
"A full session is completed one day a week for one month," Zamarin said. "So, in a sense, we reboot or restart the class the first Thursday of each month and teach different levels in one period.
"However, if someone misses a class last week, they can still come and catch up this week," he said. "We have advanced systema artists who come take the basic classes to get deeper into the core."
Zamarin and Kidwell became involved with systema through another martial art known as aikido, which is very much like systema in that people can flow through an impact motion to prevent hurting themselves.
"Mark and I became friends 12 or 13 years ago when we were doing aikido," Kidwell said. "I was a white-belt student that had never practiced martial arts in my life and Mark had practiced it for quite a while."
Kidwell advanced through the ranks and was chosen to become an instructor with Zamarin.
"We switched fulltime to systema six months ago, because it appeared that more people could pick up on it without worrying about belt colors or ranks," Kidwell said. "Systema doesn't require you to advance through tournaments. You learn things from your perspective and develop your own style.
"In the traditional martial arts, belts can become ego driven, and after a while, like most trophies, have a tendency to become dusty," he said. "You don't have to worry about that with systema."
The basics of the Russian martial art known as systema is offered as a group-fitness course at the PC MARC, 1200 Little Kate Rd., every Thursday from 7 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. Anyone who signs up for other group-fitness courses such as zumba, cardio boot camp or core blast, can participate. For more information, visit www.parkcity.org/index.aspx?page=203.