Honoring the lineage of my Russian teachers

October 25, 2011 – 1:41 pm

The older I age, the more respect I gain for my teachers. As I travel from one unit to the next, one agency after another, each outfit holds unique challenges, and peculiar group and individual dynamics. What manner of student was I?

Reflecting upon old PAL/SECAM cassette tapes from my training in Russia with my Spetsnaz hosts in mid-1990s, I cringe at my performance, interrogation of my teachers, and consistent overkill of drilling technique over and over and over again, hoping that if I somehow perfectly replicate my teacher, I’ll gain some sudden insight.

“Sudden” happened closing on 20 years later. An overnight success only takes a couple decades. :)

For the past seven years, I’ve restricted any combative training I do to select outfits, very rarely in public. Why? Primarily because of frustration running into individuals like myself, who so passionately intend to develop the skill before the experience of years and years of practice.

TACFIT developed out of a need to create a “screening process” of providing people with the structural conditioning platform to absorb and retranslate detonation and collision. You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe, no matter how hard you counter-paddle. I tried, trust me. You’re not going to do anything more creatively stupid than I’ve done 10 times over. I was on a mission to be masterful right then and there.

So, TACFIT evolved, and provided not only the attributes needed to perform tactical skills under stress, but also the energy system to recover from combative stress when it threatens to cannibalize everything you’ve been practicing. And now… the athletes that are coming through the system just stun me. I’ve admittedly been fighting off cynicism. These TACFIT warriors are proving me wrong, and restoring my hope that overly-tenacious students like I was have a chance of being funneled into an effective physiological outlet: a crucible to build the detonation platform to launch the silently smooth skills my teacher’s taught me.

So, I wanted to share a little video tribute to my teachers, and to my students. I hope that these videos do justice to the incredibly powerful influence they’ve had upon me, and to the genuinely audacious willpower of my students to succeed. And if you pay attention carefully, you’ll see the movement legacy travel from my teachers, through me, to my students. Just look at them. They make me so proud. For you, my students, I’d like to give you the opportunity to see your “Grandparents” in our martial lineage. They still dazzle the eye and confound the mind with their subtle tenacity.

I must begin with my teacher’s teacher, the original founder who developed and refined Systema into a cultural icon, Alexey Kadochnikov.

Next, my Russian knife combat teacher, Alexander Kisten, known as “The Legend” in the Spetsnaz.

My primary coach, General Alexander Retuinskih, founder of ROSS Systema, honored by the Ministry of Sport with the highest award in the country: Distinguished Coach of Russia. I had the honor of being demonstrated upon by Gen. Retuinskih in this video archive.

Finally, now, watch the performance of my students here in Florence, Italy, at our “TLAB” founded by Coach Cristiano Fallai.

Incredible pride swells when I reflect upon the history implied in these scant images. What an adventure it has been, how honored I am to have had such amazing teachers, and how impressed I am at the privilege of passing that inheritance along to such fantastic students.

I honor those before me, those next to me, and those who come after. Thank you for the odyssey…

Very Respectfully,

Scott Sonnon

  1. 5 Responses to “Honoring the lineage of my Russian teachers”

  2. Good stuff Thanks for taking the time to post these Scott :D

    By Hugh on Oct 25, 2011

  3. We do tend to talk about lineages, but what you were expounding on, a tribute to both your teachers and the students, absolutely reinforces the circular nature of knowledge shared and handed down. One can teach a student, but also learn from.
    Also, duly noted is both the camaraderie and humility you are showing with this yet another gem of an article.
    I am reminded of the great George Bernard Shaw: “Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
    Coach, you definitely have held the candle.

    By Kevin Dougherty on Oct 25, 2011

  4. These are very inspiring videos!
    Just to clarify, are the graduates of your Tacfit certifications the students who you feel are going to benefit from your martial arts training?
    That seems to be the message here, and it makes sense that these martial arts skills will only be developed by those with adequate preparation.

    By Hugh Slaman on Oct 25, 2011

  5. Hugh,

    Yes, Sir.

    By Scott Sonnon on Oct 26, 2011

  6. That’s the epitome of natural body movements. Very very nice.

    By Greg on Dec 11, 2012

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