Archery Classes


You need devotion. You need Commitment

(No Commitment = Failure!)

If you were to type ‘how to achieve success’ into Google, you’d gain thousands of opinions from thousands of people within minutes. However, there’s only one real way you can open the door to success, and that’s by committing to the cause. If you aren’t committed, you’ll be striving to reach something you don’t actually want and your chances of achieving success will fall to almost nothing.

Passion v Commitment – Steph Curry is passionate about basketball, and J.K. Rowling is passionate about writing. As far as enjoying yourself goes, passion is a great way to get started, but you won’t be able to push yourself to the next level if you don’t have commitment. Why? Because passion can’t pull you through those dreaded tasks that offer no fun at all.

As soon as the passion runs dry and there’s one too many hard days, this is where the majority give up hope of ever achieving their dreams. Although the passion is still there deep within, they can’t get those unpleasant tasks done to jump over the hurdle.


If you want to take the next step and ensure you can keep progressing through the hard times, commitment will always be the most important factor. If you work as a waiter/waitress in a restaurant, you might hate the job, but you can also be committed to saving enough money to go on holiday or start your own business venture. Sure, passion would allow you to do well but it wouldn’t get you through those long, hard days working long shifts and this is the main difference.

Promoted from ‘Knowledgeable’ to ‘Expert’ – In life, there are various topics we seem to take an interest in whether it’s sport, cameras, documentaries, mountains, playing an instrument, or anything else along these lines. Whenever we have this interest, we build up a foundation of knowledge required to talk about the sport, play the instrument, take high-quality photos, etc. However, there’s one factor preventing us from becoming an expert on the topic; commitment.

Without commitment, there’s no desire to continue learning and become the best of the best. When you commit, those tough days suddenly seem easier. If we use the instrument as an example, commitment will see you continue even when the fun ends and even when everything seems impossible. Over time, you’ll see real improvements, and you can become an expert on the topic. Since we know that experience is the key to improving at something, the commitment to gain experience when the tough gets going is the best way to keep progressing.

Commitment is Within Every Successful Person – Whether it’s somebody at the top of your field or any other professional at the top of their game, you’ll find commitment in every single one of them. With businessmen and women, they’re committed to becoming the strongest in their field. With sports players, they’re committed to training every day and being able to play the sport professionally. With writers, they’re committed to writing even when the tough days come around. As soon as the commitment had been made, the passion became more than just a hobby for these people and they promised themselves success.

If you want to improve your archery shooting this year, take this simple first step and commit to your archery classes. Practice a little at home with the bands or watch the many good Olympian Archers (on Youtube) and you’ll have the motivation to get through the tricky days (and weeks, months, and years)!

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Fight Club, Russian style


ROB SHAW reports — with bruises

I’ve never stabbed anyone before. But feeling the heft of a Russian bayonet in my hand, I think maybe this will be my first time. After all, the small, sturdy guy keeps taunting me. “Just try to stab me,” he says, standing unarmed in front of me with his hands at his side. I’m the one holding the razor-sharp knife. So I lunge. But he grabs my wrist, bends it backward and painfully redirects the knife — still in my sweaty palm — back toward my gut. Before I know it, the instrument of death is inches from my stomach. I’ve lost the fight, but learned a lesson at East York Fight Club, a different type of martial-arts gym, where there are no white uniforms, no black belts, no kanku katas, or tournament trophies. Just fighting. Lots of it.

Fight Club sits at street level on Coxwell Avenue near Plains Road. Inside, its bright white walls are sparsely decorated. On the fridge, a sign reads: “Gatorade, $2. Water, $1. Ice for bruises, free.”

The club has been open two years and enrolment has almost tripled in the past 12 months. It now boasts more than 50 students who spend hours sparring. Some do it because a friendly fight calms their nerves, others are bouncers and bodyguards looking for an edge. But many want a realistic, hands-on option for self-defence. “You hear the stories in the news nowadays about home invasions,” says Emmanuel Manolakakis, Fight Club’s owner/instructor. “I’m lying on my couch and say somebody breaks in with a knife. I take it from him in a fight, I need to know what to do with it.”

The students are taught systema, an ancient Russian martial art modernized by the Soviet special forces. It has its origins in the medieval ages, when Russia was attacked by Vikings and Genghis Khan’s Mongol hordes. The defending peasants and farmers began passing down functional fighting skills to their children. The modern version of systema shows its roots. At Fight Club, students learn how the mighty shovel, sharpened at the edges, can decapitate an opponent.

Instead of practising karate stances or judo throws, students of “the system” — as it’s called around the gym — learn how to disarm a thug with a gun or break someone’s forearm while tossing his body into an oncoming attacker.

In motion, a systema fighter weaves in and out of punches and kicks from all sides, blanketing opponents and turning a careful defence into a deadly offence. The moves are fluid and natural. It almost looks like a dance. “You can use [the training] on the street or in the clubs,” bouncer Rob Sorbera says. “It’s practical.” As keeper of the peace in a downtown nightclub, Mr. Sorbera says the system helps him deal with a particularly unruly customer. “And in case you have to take out nine of his buddies.” But the training also helps him relax. He admits he was “a bit of a hooligan” before joining Fight Club. “Now, I don’t have to prove anything any more,” the 22-year-old Ryerson University business student says.

The system has helped Mr. Manolakakis survive at least two gang fights, one in downtown Toronto and one in Acapulco, where he says he was jumped by a group that swelled to about 30 people. He fought them all off alone, he says, and survived. But Mr. Manolakakis says he tries to weed out students who would use the skills for “hooliganism.” Remarkably, there are few injuries in the class and the fights are friendly, thanks to his watchful eye. He offers a $15, two-class introduction for curious students. After the tease, a membership starts at $490 for six months.

Mr. Manolakakis was a star pupil of Vladimir Vasiliev, who is widely regarded as one of the system’s best. Mr. Vasiliev spent years teaching the Soviet Union’s secretive Spetsnaz agents, best compared to the elite American Delta Force commandos, before moving to Toronto in the early 1990s. He opened Canada’s first systema school in Thornhill in 1993 and Mr. Manolakakis opened Fight Club only after his master gave his blessing.

“I love teaching people, but it’s not just about fighting,” says Mr. Manolakakis, a 35-year-old former Bell Canada manager. “Their life improves. You get to a point you just enjoy the movements.”

That is, if you know what you’re doing. I’ve never punched any one. My idea of combat is wrestling the cork out of a California chardonnay.

And so my legs feel like they’re about to fall off as the Fight Club class begins with a gruelling warm-up of oxygen deprivation. I struggle to finish my 12th squat, and 11th set, on empty lungs. After the final dip, I collapse on the ground. From my prone position, I hear Mr. Manolakakis explain how oxygen deprivation forces students to confront their fears and build confidence by defeating them. If you can control the panic when you’re struggling for breath, you can control the panic of being jumped by a gang of armed ne’er-do-wells.

Exhausted after the warm-up routine, I’m not sure I’ll even have the energy to fight. Mr. Manolakakis keeps asking, “Are you sure you’re okay?” and reminding me to concentrate on my breathing.

He has a warm smile on his face, and his easy-going demeanour keeps the class filled with laughter — until students start fighting. One group practises deflecting a punch into the wall, crunching an opponent’s hand.

In the middle of the room, Mr. Manolakakis demonstrates how a hunting knife can slice vital tendons in the neck, arms and legs.

He also shows how an attacker can slice off much of his own arm out of fear if you deftly place a knife by his elbow. “Don’t carry it ignorantly,” he adds, “the knife can filet you.” We move to a corner, where I get kicked by two male students. I’ve been told to loosen my body, dodge the blows, and keep tight to the attacker so his offence is limited. But mostly I just get kicked. “There’s a lot of fear in this one,” Brent Atkins, a senior student who is putting the boots to me, remarks to Mr. Manolakakis. I’d long ago abandoned the system for a last-resort manoeuvre of my own that was not unlike a Ukrainian folk dance.

I leave my afternoon at Fight Club barely able to stand. For the next week, I have trouble walking normally. Despite throwing my best punches and taking my best stab at knife play, I have yet to become a fighting machine.

Mr. Manolakakis tries to put Fight Club in perspective. Fighting is a last resort, he says, but it’s good to know how to do it in case that’s the only option left.

“A fight is a collective misunderstanding,” he says. “Other martial arts are just about you. But Systema training makes you think about what your kicks and punches do to a person.”


Saturday, October 16, 2004 – Page M1

Fight Club, Russian style – By ROB SHAW


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The Right Way to Fall

Rare is the individual who hasn’t tripped over a pet or uneven pavement, tumbled off a bike, slipped on ice or maybe wiped out skiing or skating. Some get injured, while others go unhurt — often claiming it’s because they knew how to fall.

According to paratroopers, stunt professionals, physical therapists and martial arts instructors, there is indeed a “right way” to fall — and it can save you a lot of grief if you know how to do it.

Although often associated with older people, falls occur at any age and are the most common cause of injury seen in emergency rooms in the United States. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimates that more than a third of emergency room visits, around 7.9 million a year, are caused by falls.

“As physical therapists, we talk a lot about preventing falls, but what we don’t talk about is what to do when you actually do fall,” said Jessica Schwartz, a physical therapist in New York City who trains athletes and people with prosthetic limbs to fall without hurting themselves. “It’s almost inevitable you are going to fall, so you really should know what to do.” 

The number one thing to remember, she said, is to protect your head. So if you find yourself falling, pivot to your side and tuck in your head.

“Have you seen those slip and fall cartoons where the characters fall flat on their back or face? Don’t do that,” said Dr. Schwartz. “You’ll hit your head like a coconut and get a concussion,” and the reverse motion, or bounce, of your head after impact “will give you something like whiplash.” Moreover, falling straight forward or backward raises the risk of damaging your spine and vital organs.

The other thing to avoid, she said, is “foosh”, an acronym for “falling onto outstretched hands.” If you do that, all the force of impact will be concentrated there, raising the risk of breaking your wrist. You similarly don’t want to come crashing down on your knee so you break your kneecap or do that maneuver where you kind of pedal with your feet to catch yourself, which can lead to broken bones in your foot and ankle.

Instead, if you feel yourself falling, experts said you should bend your elbows and knees and try to take the hit on the fleshiest parts of your body, like the side of your thigh, buttocks, and  shoulder. “Aim for the meat, not bone,” said Kevin Inouye, a stuntman and assistant professor of acting, movement and stage combat at the University of Wyoming. “Your instinct will be to reach out with hands or try to catch yourself with your knee or foot, but they are hard and not forgiving when you go down.”

The key is to not fight the fall, but just to roll with it, as paratroopers do. “The idea is to orient your body to the ground so when you hit, there’s a multistep process of hitting and shifting your body weight to break up that impact,” said Sgt. First Class Chuck Davidson, master trainer at the Army’s Advanced Airborne School at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Paratroopers’ goal is to fall sideways in the direction the wind is carrying them — in no way resisting the momentum of the fall. When the balls of their feet barely reach the ground, they immediately distribute the impact in rapid sequence up through the calf to the thigh and buttocks. Then they roll over on the latissimus dorsi muscle, the large, flat muscle running laterally down the side of your back, and kick their feet over, shifting their weight so they end up supine with legs bent in front of them.

The procedure is strikingly similar to how martial arts practitioners learn to take a fall when they are, say, thrown over someone’s shoulder or have their legs knocked out from under them. “I would say the principles we follow are: Accept that you’re falling and go with it, round your body, and don’t stiffen and distribute the energy so you take the fall in the widest area possible,” said Paul Schreiner, a black belt jiu-jitsu instructor at Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City.

While martial arts falls often have a gymnastic aspect, with rather elegant and snappy kinds of somersaults, it’s still all about spreading out the force of impact. “There may be an aesthetic component, but what it does is save the body,” said Mr. Schreiner. “If you don’t take the fall in any single place, you’ll still walk out sore, but you’ll walk out of there.”

Difficult as it may sound as you’re hurtling toward the ground — medical bills and disability flashing through your mind — experts said it’s important to relax as you fall. You’re less likely to hurt yourself if you soften up all your muscles and exhale. Rigidity is your enemy, while pliability is your friend. “As unfair as it is, that’s why people who are drunk” tend to be the ones who “don’t get hurt in car crashes,” said Mr. Inouye. “They are loose and just flop around.”

Of course, you will be better able to loosen up, pivot to your side, tuck, and roll if you are in good physical condition. “If you have a room full of soccer players and computer desk workers and go around knocking people over, you can bet the soccer players are going to be less likely to get hurt because of their superior strength, agility, and coordination,” said Erik Moen, a physical therapist in Kenmore, Wash.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be an elite athlete or paratrooper to fall the “right way.” Young children are arguably the best fallers because they have yet to develop fear or embarrassment, so they just tumble and roll without tensing up and trying to catch themselves. I have also witnessed the same observation in teaching Kid’s Martial Arts at FightClub


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Youth Martial Arts Training


Youth Systema Training at FightClub

by Emmanuel Manolakakis

This is a topic that has generated significant attention and questions of late, so I thought I would share with everyone my thoughts and experiences about kids martial arts training

I’ve been teaching youth (ages 8 to 15) at my school for over 10 years now. Repeated requests from enthusiastic parents convinced me to venture down this path. I will admit initially the thought of teaching such a deadly art worried me.

What to show youth?

Everything – just take the edge off it a little. I try to cover all the topics that we do in the adult class. I have found that the youth really enjoy the variety from class to class. In the very beginning, I tried to avoid scary or fearful topics, but I found it difficult, it was like I was lying to my students. I was assuming that they were not ready to understand. The reality is youth are born ready to understand.

Their understanding is phenomenal!

Over the next three week, I will be sharing some of the key points that have helped me develop this great program.

Here is the first one…Explain, explain, explain!

Youth are naturally curious and can really absorb information, so spend time talking about why you’re doing things the way you’re doing them. Be patient – they are listening, it just doesn’t look like it! In many cases, kids are just tired of listening to their parents so another voice such as mine can really resonate, even though I’m sure you have said the same thing. Such was the care for me when I was a young kid. My daddy told me everything the way it was I heard it but was not listening. Influential teachers played a big part in developing my character and making me listen to what my father already told me. This is what I try to do with each child that trains at FightClub.

Thank you for your dedication to this program. I am constantly developing it and looking for ways to give your kids the very best. If you know of other parents looking for something special to get their kids involved please feel free to forward them this email.

See you at FC this week,


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Consider Your Shoulders


You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders’

This simple phrase says it all – our shoulders tell us a lot about ourselves. In many cases, where the shoulders go, you go! Just watch people going to work and those on vacation. Shoulders tell it all!

I have compiled a few of my favorites Systema Russian Martial Art stretches, exercises and drills for ‘activating’ or ‘awakening’ this very intricate part of human anatomy.


• Stand and roll your shoulders in every possible direction.

• Stand and rotate your body left and right from the spine. Let your arms swing freely around your body. Stay relaxed and focused on rotating the body from the spine.

• One at a time, spin your arms around like propellers at your sides. Stay relaxed and generate power from the body, not the arm. This will help get the blood flowing to your arms.

• Outstretch your arms. Have two people grab your arms and begin to twist and rotate them. This is a stretch, so go slowly! Remember to relax and breathe.

• Towel wish – Hold your arms out to your sides and parallel to with your shoulders. Twist your arms so that they are rotating in separate directions. This can be done with and without tension through the arms.


• Push-ups – roll your shoulders forward and down. Roll shoulders back and up to starting position. Think of it as a set of small circles with the shoulders going up and down.

• Wheel barrel push-ups – Start in a push-up position, take one arm and rotate it behind to the floor (your chest should now face upwards to the ceiling). Take your other arm around so your chest is now facing the ground again. Continue to repeat.

• Roll-a-Squat – Start in a squat position. Have your partner place his/her hands on your shoulders and push you down slowly. As you ascend, roll your shoulders. It should feel and look like you’re going down from the shoulders and not your legs. Once you reach the bottom rise in the same fashion by rolling your shoulders. The main key here is not to power your way up or down with your legs. Focus on the shoulders.

• Positional Tension – Can be done with a partner or using a wall. Stand straight and extend arms forward, do not bend elbows. Have your partner push down on your hands slowly (hold 10 seconds). Next push up on your hands, then from outside to inside, and finally inside to outside. Each time hold the arms straight and resist the directional force.


• Push your partner around the room with your shoulders. Try and use as many possible directions. Focus on creativity more than power.

• Have your partner place both his/her hands on your shoulders. Lift one shoulder to your ear. Bend your head under your partners raised shoulder and travel under their arm. Once on the outside, lift your head up and rotate your chest back towards your partner. The hands should pop off with the rotation.

• Crawl along the ground from your back and then your front using just your shoulders, try not to use your legs.

• Place your hands behind your back as if you were handcuffed. Have your partner start to grab you around the head, and try to escape using just your shoulders. Same can be done with kicks, punches and a knife – just begin slowly and progress as your confidence grows.

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