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Zdorovye - The Means to Prepare

by Dave Rusin
The human body is a complex, highly articulated organism capable of incredible movement
potential. As we age, however, it becomes more difficult to maintain the strength, agility and
grace of youth. Daily conditions within the dominant contemporary culture create stress,
anxiety, trauma and fear. This can lead to diminished health, decreased performance and
increased risk of disease.

Many societies throughout history have developed systems for promoting health, preventing
disease, and enhancing performance in activities. The Slavic people were no exception. Over
the course of centuries methods were cultivated to counteract the disintegration of effortless
movement, good posture and proper respiration, the product of which is abundant health.
These methods were later covertly researched for decades in the laboratories of the former
Soviet Union , and exploration continues today in modern Russia . The culmination of this
research is a comprehensive health system. Fortunately, with the collapse of the Soviet Union
came a willingness among the Russians to share with the world their culture, of which their
health system and martial tradition are an integral part.
Zdorovye - The Russian Health System is one of the eight directions of training in the ROSS
Training System. ROSS is the acronym for the Russian words Rossijskaya Otechestvennaya
Sistema Samozashchity, which can be translated as “ Russian Native System of Self-defense”.
Zdorovye is a system of Somatic Engineering (or “bodywork therapy”) which utilizes a three
step approach to development: Recovery, Coordination and Refinement. Recovery refers to
reclaiming the full movement potential, or range of motion (ROM), of the joint systems in our
bodies. Once recovered this full range of motion can be coordinated within a particular
activity. Refinement of these reclaimed abilities within our environment can then occur
allowing movement to be efficient and effortless at all times. Through a technology called
“Errorless Learning,” exercises are broken down into component parts so that they can be
explored and internalized by the practitioner at a comfortable pace.

As with all of the ROSS Training System, there are three main components to Zdorovye. The
first is biomechanical movement called Dvizheniye. The human body can be thought of as
having the capabilities of a system of levers, pulleys, screws and inclined planes. These are
the four simple machines of mechanical efficiency. When we learn to utilize the principles of
these simple machines as they apply to our bodies, the outcome is efficient movement that
does not rely upon muscular development. Strength conditioning is certainly considered in
ROSS, but it matters not what we can do when we are strong, alert, energetic and well-
rested. What matters most is what we are capable of when we are fatigued, stressed or
injured. Because it is under these conditions that martial artists are often required to
perform, the practice of Zdorovye can afford immeasurable benefit to all styles of combat
and to all aspects of physical culture.

Movement is characterized by the ROSS concept of “Plasticity” (or supple elasticity), yet
stability in the joints and a fluidity in the spine allowing for full torso, shoulder and head
mobility. When in conflict, flexibility in the spine and hips allows for evading strikes, moving
around and collapsing over the vectors of applied or incoming force. Three dimensional figure
eights, or hourglass-shaped movement patterns, in the upper body can be used to inoculate
incoming force while simultaneously generating momentum for counterattacking strikes. Most
movement occurs in three dimensions as opposed to along one plane. In order to facilitate
ease of movement, as many joints as possible are recruited to reduce the effort required of
any one particular joint. The more joints that are used, the more efficient the motion will be.
For example, when moving into and out of a squatting position instead of the knees bending
and the legs traveling along one plane, the knees can be moved in screwing motions during
the descent. This removes stress from the knees and also preserves momentum which can
be utilized to continue motion.
The second component of Zdorovye training is called Polozheniye and refers to the proper
alignment of our structure, or musculo-skeletal system. Many exercises are designed to
reclaim full spinal ROM by releasing tension accumulated in the muscle tissue. Poor posture
can over time lead to a number of unhealthy conditions. However, it is not just alignment
between crown and coccyx that is considered but also the most appropriate position of our
structure through any motion. It can take only a moment of improper posture when lifting a
heavy object or executing a throw, for example, to create a lifetime of pain. Through
specialized exercises we learn proper structural alignment to increase the efficiency of our
motion, to decrease dependence upon muscular strength, and to reduce risks of injury.

Too often a technique is taught without conveyance of the proper mechanics. Polozheniye
helps practitioners understand the physiology of the techniques of their particular style of
martial art, to enhance the structural efficiency of its execution. And without proper
alignment the third component to Zdorovye cannot be fully developed.

Breathing is the essence of life and respiratory enhancement is the third focus of the
Zdorovye Natural Health System. Through unique exercises, referred to as Dykhaniye,
practitioners learn to expand lung capacity, expand the ROM of their movements, control
anxiety level, manage energy expenditure and eventually recover energy and control heart
rate. The exercises are broken down into three levels. These are clavical (upper respiratory),
called Prav, inter-costal (middle), called Yav and diaphragmatic, called Nav (lower). These
three levels are then integrated to gain the ability to process oxygen more efficiently. By
helping maintain the proper ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood these methods
allow for respiration, and therefore energy expenditure, to be controlled. One of the quickest
ways to succumb to the efforts of an adversary is through mismanagement of energy by poor
or neglected respiration. Generally speaking, the focus of the breathing is a forceful exhale
throughout a motion with the cessation of breath occurring at the termination of the motion.

Too often we see red-faced heavy-breathers in martial art, due to learned inefficient
breathing patterns. Whenever the body detects effort, it resorts to its conditioned pattern of
breath holding in order to recruit brute force. Technical savvy in all styles lies upon not only
exhalation, but execution at the end of exhalation, called the “control pause.” Advanced
Sports Science in Russia and the former Soviet Union conducted extensive research to
determine that the control pause is the Optimal Performance Zone for ALL aspects of physical
culture. Re-educating martial artists in this technology is the KEY to enhancing the execution
and flow of their technical arsenal, and of course, their health improvement as well!

These three components of Zdorovye integrate to enhance performance and each is vital to
the other. For example, one cannot reclaim full biomechanical movement potential if
respiration and posture is not correct. Efficient movement and respiratory enhancement
cannot occur without proper posture. These must be trained together for a synergistic effect.

A corollary process to the integration of biomechanical movement, structural alignment and

enhanced respiration ROSS calls “Tempering.” Though not quite accurate in English
translation, this refers to methods facilitating incremental adaptation to environmental and
situational demands placed upon the organism. These include rituals such as cold-water
dousing/immersion. This purports to have numerous benefits such as lowered susceptibility
to and decreased recovery time from illness, a boost in energy levels, stimulation of the
immune system, and development of spiritual and intestinal fortitude.
Zdorovye also considers human locomotion. Slavyanskiy Byeg, the Effortless Running Gait, is
a form of endurance running designed to have a restorative effect upon the body by
minimizing impact to the ankles, knees and hips. It is a form of trotting that utilizes a
smooth, relaxed gait. The body carriage is raised or lowered depending upon the surface
grading. The shoulders and upper body are kept relaxed. Stride is generated from the hips,
followed by the knees which are rotated slightly through the motion to remove stress. The
foot then strikes the earth on the outside of the heel and wraps around the outside of the
foot. This is a natural stride that allows for constant feedback from the ground. Through
reliance upon over-engineered running shoes we can lose awareness of and sensitivity to the
ground. Use of this method can restore sensitivity so that the body can feel the way of
running with the least impact. There is also no conscious focus upon inhalation. This occurs
naturally when focus is shifted to a forceful exhalation every few steps.

Front line military CQC, rape prevention courses, street self defense courses and the like
often need to be taught in an expedited manner. Techniques are intended to inflict maximum
trauma in the shortest time possible. However, this type of training can be brutal to the body.
In order for martial arts training to be sustainable over many years of practice, it must be
health promoting. It is very rare to see active military combatives or other hard style fighting
practitioners that are in their fifties, sixties, or seventies. That is not to say these systems
are not effective. Indeed, they are. But we must realize that as we grow older we may not be
able to continue training in certain fighting styles that appealed to us in our youth.

Contrarily, systems that promote health can be practiced throughout life. Tai chi is one
familiar example of this. We have all seen images of elderly persons performing Tai chi forms
with ease and grace. Likewise, Zdorovye and the other directions of training in the ROSS
system are health promoting and can be practiced well into the twilight of our lives. Through
continued use of ROSS methods we truly can be better with age.

The practice of Zdorovye is a process of self-exploration and is a practical and experiential

study of the human body in general and our own bodies specifically. Inasmuch as Zdorovye is
an integral part of Russian Martial Art as represented through the ROSS Training System, it is
also a holistic system in itself that can be practiced for its benefit to daily living. For the
warrior it represents the opportunity to continually improve performance, manage energy,
increase adaptability and survivability, prevent injury and accelerate healing. A warrior’s
general state of health can have tremendous impact upon performance. In a competitive
situation, performance can mean the difference between winning and losing a match. In a
combative engagement it can mean life or death. Zdorovye, and all of ROSS, provides the
means to prepare ourselves to adapt to any conditions imposed upon us and to improvise the
most appropriate response as any situation demands, in daily life or in human conflict

© 2009 American Annex to the Russian Federation of Russian Martial Art

For more information, please contact Scott Fabel.

The reason there were no given applications of the material is becuase you don't want to limit your
perspective on what something is and should be used for .
Why? Limit your options, limit your survival.
Take the gun for example many people would think that since the a gun has no ammo left it is
useless, but allow your self to improvise, and that gun becomes the just the right instrument for your
self-preservation at the time.
When we are allowed to improvise we won't know how our training or how the movements in GTB
will aide us until they are needed for your unique situation.
If someone premakes those applications for you then you may compartmentalize the pattern and
limit its ability to aide you in unique situations. Our goal is to develope overall control of our
organism in 3 dimensions to be able to move safely in and out of any position or movement that
might limit our survival in combat, sport, street defense ,etc
Also these are not conventional exercises, meaning you don't just do ten then stop. These are
developemental this why as ROSSifarians we tell every one to "just play with them" because this
lends you the ability to create your applications for these, rather than rehearsing fixed applications
that leave you limited and tatically unenlightened.
Try this!
Create a new application for the movement every time you train.
It doesn't have to make sense and be appropriate right now in your personal practice. This performs
the same function as "Free-writing" for writers to stimulate creativity. This kind of exploration may
seem trifling at first, but once the creativity begins to flow you will start to create more realistic
applications. You also will be putting the ART back into your own Martial Art, a fundamental many
people miss.
Have you ever been training and then all of the sudden you figure some thing out that has been
there the whole time yet you didn't "get it" until just then?
This type of break-through event is more likely to occur when you are just playing around rather
than trying to get to the end result directly. ( read the Book "FLOW" by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
for references to "end-gaining") We all instinctively get good at things that are fun or that we enjoy.
This improves not only our ability to improvise, but also our morale when we are engaging in
activities we find enjoyable. These two factors,(improvisation and morale) are what Karl Von
Clausewitz,( title of the book is "On War") states are the things that help us navigate through the
"friction and fog" of combat.
The way the material is presented is deliberate my friend and the approach to training is woven
seamlessly through out ROSS.
My advise is to give up any preconcieved notions of what the gun, exercise, and ROSS is.
Just play with it, becuase you CAN play all day , but you probably CAN NOT exercise all day.
Limit your options, limit your survival.
Hope this helps,
Dani'l Chomycia