Smooth Moves

New Studio to Offer Martial Arts, Mind-Body Connection

Combining acrobatic yoga and Pilates can effectively improve martial arts skills needed for Russian Systema. Photo by Andrew Middleton

Flow Space is a new, multi-disciplinary studio in Montreal offering to kick your ass in a variety of classes that work to stimulate the body and mind.

Andrew Gordon Middleton, the owner of the studio, is extensively versed in yoga, acrobatic yoga and Pilates, but his main interest is Russian Systema—a martial art developed in tenth-century Russia that was later adapted by Spetsnaz, an elite Soviet military unit.

“A lot of these [classes] are things that I am personally interested in and they are things that I think are complementary to each other. [Like] Systema and Pilates, [which] are very empirical systems,” said Middleton.

The theory is that different aspects of each discipline are not mutually exclusive and can be combined to achieve a greater effect, rather than studying just one discipline.

Middleton continued to explain how the physical conditioning of Pilates helps in Systema training, while the fluid nature of the movements in Systema help to loosen Pilates students.

“A Pilates cliché is that people walk around like ironing boards, they’re all stiff and can’t move,” he said.

“Systema is very much about the smoothness and fluidity of movement and adaptability, as opposed to some [martial arts], at least compared to Systema, [which] are very tense and very rigid,” said Middleton.

Middleton has been toying with the idea of a multi-disciplinary studio for quite some time, but in September of this year he finally amassed all of the people necessary for his dream to come alive.

According to him, the name Flow Space reflects the nature of Systema as well as the interdisciplinary mentality that they are trying to promote at the studio.

“I like the variety because it keeps it interesting and it’s a different challenge. A lot of what Systema is about is adaptability,” said Middleton. “The mind-body connection really develops well if you have to improvise with the movement.”

“Andrew’s vision was really to have a place where people could come to not necessarily just practice one type of movement,” said Kate Stashko, a Pilates instructor at the studio.

Stashko was recommended to Middleton by another yoga studio in Montreal. It became apparent that Montreal’s yoga community is pretty friendly.

“They’re not ruthless cutthroats, they are trying to make a living but they also want to be supportive of other people who have the same approach to this,” said Michael O’Brian, the manager of Flow Space.

“Also because of the niche, there aren’t necessarily a lot of places that would be competing in the things we’re offering.”

Rhetta Parnas is a yoga instructor at the studio who met Middleton through the yoga community in Montreal.

“I was really excited about this project because I like the idea of different disciplines complimenting each other but I also like this idea that each teacher will have become quite specialized within their own disciplines,” said Parnas.

“We can explore [without] necessarily creating something new or entirely outside of this idea of traditions. So I like seeing how the traditions come from a common base of support of understanding about the human body or mind.”

Flow Space Studio offers classes in Russian Systema, yoga, Acro-yoga, Qi Gong and Taiko drumming. As well, Flow Space offers massage therapy and live performances from local artists on special occasions.

Flow Space is located at 429 Viger Ave. Visit their website at