Crime-Fighting Pays at St. Louis Gym

St. Louis, MO, September 06, 2012 --( Crime doesn't pay. But Joe Mayberry is making a fair living teaching others how to respond against criminal violence.

His St. Louis self defense academy, called The St. Louis Combat Institute, is the only one in the St. Louis metro area that teaches Systema or "The System" employed by the former Soviet Union's elite Special Forces.

Mayberry, a 10-year veteran of the St. Louis Metro Police Department, opened his school in August 2010.

"In traditional (karate and judo) schools you learn how to stand first, and you go through kata: the movement patterns. You just drill them and memorize them. Here there's none of that," explains the 43-year-old native of St. Louis.

"From the very first class, you learn real street-defense situations: how to protect yourself from an attack with a knife, from choke holds."

Systema is based on intuitive reactions: what your brain tells you when the adrenalin is pumping at full force. Students master defense against all forms of attack, including kicks, punches, chokes and holds. Students practice overcoming multiple attackers simultaneously, and learn to fight sitting, lying down and blindfolded.

As part of that street-smart, no-holds-barred philosophy, Mayberry dispenses with fancy uniforms and colorful belts. On a recent day, a few dozen men ranging from their teens to late 30s were exercising in his gym casually dressed in track suits or khaki pants and T-shirts.

The gym, located in a cinderblock industrial building, has simple rubber mats on the floor. There are no floor to ceiling mirrors in which to admire one's physique. Flags of USA, Czarist Russia, and the post-Communist regime are the only decorations. The gym has a change room, but no showers. This is no place for posers.

"You progress a lot more quickly this way," explains Mayberry. "You can protect yourself after three months if you're serious about it. After a year you become fantastic, really good, the equivalent of a black belt in karate."

Though derived from a 1000-year-old Cossack fighting technique, Systema as Mayberry learned it, was designed for the Soviet Army. "There they had no time to waste."

The St. Louis Combat Institute currently has 100 part-time students ranging in age from 15 to 68. Some attend daily, but most exercise a few times a week. Almost all are male. Mayberry's wife, Jennifer, a former semi-pro kickboxer, handles the front office. Their three children all assist in the teaching of the kid’s classes every Saturday morning.

All students sign a release. But aside from a few black eyes, Mayberry says, his school has never had accidents.

As part of his training in Systema, Mayberry learned to do instant psychological assessments. Based on a person's body language, appearance and gait, he says, he can readily tell if a candidate is who he purports to be. Mayberry refuses to instruct criminals or undesirables.

Not surprisingly, Systema has attracted a number of recruits from police forces and the US military.

"You learn to defend yourself against any possible weapon, even chairs," says Metro Police officer Steve Trikenskas.

Sales people also find the training helpful, Mayberry notes. It promotes self-awareness and divergent thinking, skills that allow you to influence people.

Mayberry also encourages his students to practice the Russian health system of daily dousing with ice-cold water, preferably outside, although that's not an integral part of Systema. The dousings strengthen the body's immune system, improve sleep and even make your hair grow better, Mayberry says. It's all part of learning Systema. "You not only acquire greater power as a fighter, but also as a person."

The St. Louis Combat Institute
5017 Northrup Ave.
St. Louis, Mo 63110
(314) 289-9906
St. Louis Combat Institute - Authentic Krav Maga
Joe Mayberry