The short game vs the long game

I am passionate about the martial art that I teach being applicable in life. Not just in a self defence sense but being there to help you during the inevitable difficulties that we all face in life.

The things that really take our legs out from underneath us are things that come when we least expect them.

Things that call on us to find strength and courage when everything that we thought we had has been used up.

A good analogy is between a Sportsperson and a Soldier.

The Sportsperson has conditioned their body to be able to go all out for a set period of time. They have prepared nutritionally for it, had the correct amount of days off to allow the body to recover and adapt and rested adequately for it. They will have studied thier opponent and have a very specific game plan to win. Hugely impressive.

They have a team to make sure that everything goes perfectly in the build up to a contest. The entire focus is on the needs of the Sportsperson or team.

This is perfect preparation for a contest, but not for the life of a soldier, and maybe not for life itself.

There is probably little doubt that most Sportspeople would beat most soldiers in a contest whether that be a race or a match etc. You get good at what you train for and they have trained for exactly that scenario.

A Soldier on the other hand has been trained very differently. He has undergone long periods without food, sleep, rest or comfort. Their individual pride has been systematically dismantled and replaced with a pride in something bigger than themselves, their unit. This humbles you.

They have been trained to be prepared to fight when they are the least ready. When they are injured, have had no sleep, rest, food or when the situation seems hopeless.

In short they have been trained to know that the preparation of an indomitable spirit is more important than physical preparation.

If you are used to fighting only when you are in perfect shape, as per a contest, will you be psychologically ready to fight when it is unexpected?

You are ready for the short game, but maybe not the long game.

I think it is the same with life.

We all hit a crisis sooner or later.

It may be financial, loss of a job, your health or that of a close family member. How are you preparing for it?

Nurturing a strong spirit to aid you in times of crisis is, I believe a duty. When the chips are down, is your only tool one of anger and aggression, a bitterness of ‘why me?’ An inclination to collapse in despair and hope someone else will pick up the pieces?

Or will you be the one calmly facing the inevitable storm. Standing up straight, looking it in the eye, not with aggression or a false pride that is easily shattered, but with strength, courage and humility.

Yes you may still be scared and overwhelmed. You may even fall short of prevailing through the crisis. But you will have prevailed as a human being.

You stood up forthrightly when the time called, exposed yourself to storm and strengthened yourself in the process.

You called out to the potential of your future self and took steps to get there.

Systema training follows the same premise. Mikhail Ryabko says that physical prowess is worthless without a strong spirit.

All of the training in Systema is designed to cultivate a calm, non-agressive approach to your fears.

From breath holds, to strikes, to pressure, to single push ups that last minutes, the training is designed to make you look deep inside yourself, acknoweldge your fears and work through them.

This process builds skill, humility, courage and spirit. I have seen people crying and really struggling in classes. I have been there myself.

A crisis is usually a crisis because we never know when it will strike. Whether it is a self-defence situation, or a problem in life, we probably wont be ready.

I want to help people find the strength through training to be the person in the room that stands up, calmly facing the storm.

My very best wishes for your training and good health as always,

Matt.

Plus, whenever you ready, here are a few ways I can help with our Systema journey:

1. Sign up for the Living Systema Camp from Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 7th July 2019 in Wiltshire, UK.

Details are out for this year’s Systema Camp in Wiltshire, UK. Set in stunning private woodland this year’s camp will take you deep inside Systema. We will explore the health aspects, the healing, the combat, the emotional management, dealing with people and situations. You can get all of the details here.

2. Complete your Systema Assessment:

The holistic assessment is designed to check your overall level of movement quality, range, tension, stress, stability, freedom of movement, coordination, strength and balance. Find out how you score across the 10 Functional Systema areas here.

3. Work with me 1on1 as your personal coach to improve aspects of your health, fitness or Systema Skills:

This is for people struggling to find the right coaching locally. Lots of people don’t have access to a regular instructor, or maybe you are an instructor and don’t have access to a regular mentor to help you improve. You may need to broaden or deepen your knowledge of Systema, get you over hurdles in your breath work, movement, tension or structure in solo or partner work.

The coaching will keep you accountable and progressing in your journey. I have space for 3 or 4 clients, so if you’d like to discuss and see if it’s a fit for both of us, email me and put ‘personal coach’ in the subject line.

4. Come and Train at the Systema Academy in Wiltshire.

We regularly have visitors from all around the world to train at the Academy and they are always made very welcome. Whether you just want to train at the regular classes, take some 1-1 sessions or a bit of both, just email me with ‘visit’ in the subject line.

5. Systema on-line breathing course – an access anytime anywhere course ideal for those wanting to deepen their understanding of Systema Breathing, Instructors who want to broaden their knowledge of drills or for those who spend time practicing on their own. You can find out more here.

6. 28 Day Systema Course – The programme is ideal for complete beginners, people who want to hit the ‘reset’ button, or those who would like to undergo a structured programme that covers the key principles and movements in Systema.

You can find out more here.

Systema Assists to help put your focus in the right area (includes video tutorial).

I received the following email from a 28 Day Systema Programme subscriber last week:

“I find Systema is a much a health system as a martial art. But for those of us with mobility issues, whether from an injury, extra weight, or simply sitting in an office all day, it can be difficult find your path into the basic exercises without building excess tension. Enter Matt Hill, who’s training methods provide an excellent bridge for beginners into this ancient and effective system of total body health, strength, and flexibility.” – Patrick, Washington, D.C.

Patrick’s email reminded me of why I put together this short video on assists for the four pillars and of the positive feedback that it has received from many people struggling with the issues that Patrick referred to in the email above.

The assists are a good bridge and they allow you to put your focus where it really should be in Systema. In the breathing. If the physical work is too hard in the beginning, you will miss the real point of much of the work, which is to notice and improve your breathing skills. The physical work highlights inadequate breathing.

I hope that you find the video useful. Click on the picture or link below:

Systema Assisted Pillars

Systema Assisted Pillars.

My very best wishes for your training and health,

Matt.

Plus, whenever you ready, here are a few ways I can help with our Systema journey:

1. Complete your Systema Assessment:

The holistic assessment is designed to check your overall level of movement quality, range, tension, stress, stability, freedom of movement, coordination, strength and balance. Find out how you score across the 10 Functional Systema areas here.

2. Sign up for the Living Systema Camp from Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 7th July 2019 in Wiltshire, UK.

Details are out for this year’s Systema Camp in Wiltshire, UK. Set in stunning private woodland this year’s camp will take you deep inside Systema. We will explore the health aspects, the healing, the combat, the emotional management, dealing with people and situations. You can get all of the details here.

3. Systema on-line breathing course – an access anytime anywhere course ideal for those wanting to deepen their understanding of Systema Breathing, Instructors who want to broaden their knowledge of drills or for those who spend time practicing on their own. You can find out more here.

4. 28 Day Systema Course – The programme is ideal for complete beginners, people who want to hit the ‘reset’ button, or those who would like to undergo a structured programme that covers the key principles and movements in Systema.

You can find out more here.

Are you a leaking Vessel?

Last week at the Academy I was talking about energy management during training and daily life. It was based on the DVD Breath and Body by Vladimir Vasiliev.

The key is that too much tension will leak your energy away.

You can think of your body like a vessel that contains energy. You obviously want to leak as little of this precious resource as possible.

Any kink in your posture, excess tension, asymmetry etc. will all leak energy through the day.

You can try this as an exercise:

Try to stand in a way that your have minimal leakage.

Firstly stand so that you can feel the soles of your feet even on the floor.

To do this relax the knees slightly. Elevate the chest slightly up and forwards, imagine you lift your heart slightly up and out, but stop before any tension comes into your back.

Then draw your chin back slightly but again stop before any tension comes into your neck.

Now inhale, exhale and relax all of your muscles and let them hang on this straight frame but don’t compromise the frame. Relax your knees and feel even in the soles of your feet.

Now check yourself for the following:

  • Any kink in your posture such as rounded shoulders, concave chest, hips too far forwards or back.
  • Areas of too much tension such as around injuries, in the shoulders, hips, back or legs.
  • Loss of symmetry such as standing too much on one leg, holding your arms in a way that brings in tension, leaning your head to one side or hanging forwards, rounding of the shoulders etc.
  • Too many thoughts.

Imagine that your body is a vessel filled with energy. You want to keep it.

You can also apply this work to sitting, walking and other activities like training and working.

You can practise this whenever you are standing in a queue for anything, or are walking. You will start to feel that you actually gain energy by walking, and moving this way. It feels light and free, almost as if you glide.

In another email I will talk about about how to add to your energy by moving and breathing correctly.

My respect and best wishes for your health and training as always,

Matt.

Plus, whenever you ready, here are a few ways I can help with our Systema journey:

1. Come and Train at the Systema Academy in Wiltshire.

We regularly have visitors from all around the world to train at the Academy and they are always made very welcome. Whether you just want to train at the regular classes, take some 1-1 sessions or a bit of both, just reply with ‘visit’ in the subject line.

2. Sign up for the Living Systema Camp from Wednesday 3rd – Sunday 7th July 2019 in Wiltshire, UK. 

Details are out for this year’s Systema Camp in Wiltshire, UK. Set in stunning private woodland this year’s camp will take you deep inside Systema. We will explore the health aspects, the healing, the combat, the emotional management, dealing with people and situations. You can get all of the details here.

3. Systema on-line breathing course – an access anytime anywhere course ideal for those wanting to deepen their understanding of Systema Breathing, Instructors who want to broaden their knowledge of drills or for those who spend time practicing on their own. You can find out more here.

4. 28 Day Systema Course – The programme is ideal for complete beginners, people who want to hit the ‘reset’ button, or those who would like to undergo a structured programme that covers the key principles and movements in Systema.

You can find out more here.

Would I Survive?

I received this testimonial from Susan, an attendee at last years Systema Camp in Wiltshire. It is a good indication of the benefits at any age and level of fitness or experience.

————

I have written this to to demonstrate how systema is becoming part of my daily life. It is getting me through times that would have challenged and stressed me before.

I had the honour to meet up with some systema practitioners last summer at the Systema Fundamentals camp in Wiltshire under your guidance Matt. I had no idea what to expect and was nervous as to what would face me. Would I survive?!

I loved the experience.

It was probably the first time that my mind and body was able to look past the daily worries and challenges of work and aging parents.

It was also the first time in a long time that I was pushed out of my comfort zone over my 56 years.

Since then I have enjoyed (and struggled with) your 28 day challenge and the online breathing video course.

Unexpectly I have found the new approach to movements, breathing and even something as simple as standing a huge benefit to my overall health.

I have been amazed at how elements of the camp your programmes have naturally become part of my daily routine. This has meant that even during the most demanding times, I am able to find calm, focus on my immediate surroundings and relax the mind.

You mentioned recently in an email Vladimir’s quote “stop feeling sorry for yourself” while performing strenuous exercise.

I realised that this ethos can be applied when I feel life in general is getting too demanding. Just that viewpoint grounds me. Without realising it I had adopted this quote.

I look forward with respect and anxiousness to returning to the camp this year!

Thank you for introducing me to a way of living that I am beginning to include in my daily life.

Susan.

This years camp runs from 3-7 July 2019. The theme is Living Systema.

Among many other things we will be covering how to translate the exercises and drills into a way of living your life with more ease, calm and relaxation. We will then bring this state of body, mind and spirit to the application of Systema in self-defence.

It is a deep 5 day immersion into all aspects of Systema and ultimately a better understanding of yourself and how to live, move, breathe and respond in better ways.

The price goes up in less than two weeks. Here is the link to the page with more information.

If you enjoyed this blog there are more in my weekly newsletters here.

My best wishes for your training and health,

Matt.

How to amplify your health and skills

There is a surefire way to amplify your health and your skills.

Go outside.

Whether you are a runner, martial artist (maybe not a sports competitor) yoga practitioner or whatever, your training will be amplified outdoors.

For a start fresh air and sunlight give you an instant hit.

All of your senses will be much more engaged making the whole experience a more holistic and embodied approach than the cleansed, de-risked environment or a studio, dojo or gym.

In most cases it takes more effort to get outside and therefore more willpower. You strengthen this a little each time you use it. Rather like a taking a cold shower.

Your awareness will be heightened.

Your movement has to be more mindful because of natural obstacles. You also begin to see more opportunities in the environment for use as defence, weapons, obstacles, challenges and tools. You become more adaptable to a random number of variables in weather, terrain, surface etc.

A natural environment will make you move more naturally.

Traversing rocks, logs, trees etc. sitting on the floor or on a log makes you step properly, sit properly and move properly. Nature is the perfect teacher for heathy, organic movement: soft, steady, balanced, smooth and powerful.

The detox from the cyber hive of screens resets your eyes and posture.

Going to sleep with firelight and waking with the sun resets your body clock and will give you an immeasurably good nights sleep. Being able to look at the stars in the heavens can reconnect you with the bigger picture. Who we are, where we come from, where we are going. Perspective.

The outdoors for me is the best place to hone your skills and your health.

The more urbanised we become, the more wild we need.

Try to get in touch with your wild side more often. Get outside to a natural area and train, walk, move.

Study after study has shown that just a few hours in nature, even once a month, is enough to lower key biological markers:

  • 12.4% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol,
  • 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity,
  • 1.4% decrease in blood pressure and a
  • 5.8% decrease in heart rate.
  • On subjective tests, study participants also report better moods and lower anxiety.

Th upcoming Living Systema Camp in Wiltshire will really hone in on the benefits outlined above and the price goes up in a few weeks time so lock in the early bird price now.

I will also be covering how to get the most out of outdoor training this weekend in Lancashire and in the Highlands of Scotland in June:

  • June 8-9 Aboyne (Scottish Highlands) Systema Course. Contact Steve Murphy for details.
  • July 3-7 Wiltshire 5 Day Intensive Camp. Click here for details. Price goes up in a few weeks time!

If you enjoyed this blog there are more in my weekly newsletters here.

My very best wishes for your training and health as always,

Matt.

How to relax more (includes tutorial video)

Everyone wants to know how to be more relaxed. More at ease. Unfortunately like most things this takes some effort. It is a bit of a paradox.

It is useful to educate and train yourself in the art of relaxation.

A good method is to stress yourself under controlled conditions. One way to do this is with a simple breath hold. There are many varieties of these in Systema.

A useful variation is to do a breath hold whilst doing exercise.

What comes next is the crucial part:

You go straight into learning how to properly relax and restore yourself after the breath hold exercise.

This gives your psyche and your body the knowledge, skill and therefore the confidence that you can feel very stressed, and then within seconds bring yourself back to full recovery.

You begin to understand this deeply and intuitively though a gradual progression of the exercise. Done properly it can take over 30 mins, as I explain in the video below. It is a tough exercise, but It will reveal deep lessons and great benefits to you.

Several variations on this theme can be used in Systema:

  • Breath holds.
  • Physical endurance.
  • Pain.
  • Fear.
  • Physical contact and pressure.
  • Exposure to things that scare us.

The result is a deep and rounded understand of your stressors, a sensitivity to the effect that they have on you and the knowledge of how to restore yourself to a relaxed state.

The key is that it is all is done with full consciousness of your psyche and physical state through the connecting thread of your breathing.

In summary the key benefits are that :

  • The level of your relaxed state deepens.
  • Your length of time in which you can maintain the level of relaxation in everyday life expands and;
  • The speed with which you can consciously relax yourself increases.

There is real magic and power in the simplicity and ‘anytime anywhere’ accessibility of these tools.

Below is the video. It is one of 36 sections of the Systema Breathing Course.

Breath Hold Pillars

It is 6 mins long. The first four minutes detail the exercise, and the second part answers a question on overcoming doubts.

I am teaching three upcoming courses over the next few weeks and months. I hope to see you around!

  • May 19th – Marple Systema Course. Contact Chris Wallace for details.
  • June 8-9 Aboyne (Scottish Highlands) Systema Course. Contact Steve Murphy for details.
  • July 3-7 Wiltshire 5 Day Intensive Camp. Click here for details.

If you enjoyed this post you may want to sign up to my weekly newsletters (this was taken from there) here.

My very best wishes for your training and health as always,

Matt.

Jungle training makes you a better soldier in any environment.

I wrote this piece for the team coming with me to Borneo for the Systema Jungle Trip. However, I am sending it out as a general email because there are thoughts in it applicable to all forest environments. Not as intense maybe, but present none the less.

Jungle training takes you back to basics. Your core skills have to be at the top of your game. Especially but not limited to:

  • Personal administration of yourself and your equipment.
  • fitness,
  • strength of character,
  • map reading,
  • command and communication,
  • team spirit,
  • observation and awareness,
  • obstacle crossing drills and
  • movement.

The emphasis that the Jungle environment puts on these skills makes you a better soldier in any environment.

I remember hearing and experiencing this during my Jungle Training. I read it again recently as I was prepping for the Systema Trip to Borneo.

Here is how I think that it will apply to Systema and our Jungle trip:

  • Breathing. With 95% humidity, the weight of a pack and very steep hills, there will be ample time to practice breath work. The moment to moment awareness of breath and requisite adjustments will be invaluable:
    • Recovery breath.
    • Endurance breath.
    • Light breathing for soft, smooth movement.
    • Nasal breathing to improve hydration retention.
    • Focusing on your breath to maintain calm during tougher moments.
  • Soft movement. You can’t fight your way through the Jungle. You have to move with it. Softly. Sensitively. If you try to tug, rip and hack your way through the Jungle will claim its first victim within hours.
  • Awareness. There is so much to see and hear. Sights that you wont see anywhere else. Key to this will be the ability to relax your eyes, open up your senses and appreciate everything that the jungle has to offer.
  • Managing fear. Everyone will be a little scared at some point. Whether during a river crossing, when seeing some jungle wildlife, When feeling the oppressive nature of the trees, or the pitch black and unbelievable noise of the nights. A refocus on breath and or burst breathing will bring you through these moments.
  • Selflessness and humility: It will be vital to work as a team. Sometimes you will feel great, other times not. People will wax and wane at different times. The key will be supporting and working for each other.
  • Sensitivity. There will be the chance to feel your way through the environment. To get in tune with nature. We will be as far from civilisation and man made things as many people will go in their lives. There will be a chance to plug in to this environment and try allow yourself become part of the forest. To spread your awareness outside the walls of your skin and see how far out into the forest you can feel.

The Systema Jungle trip will be unique but many of these skills will be apparent during the Living Systema Camp in Wiltshire and in the following upcoming courses:

  • June 8-9 Aboyne (Scottish Highlands) Systema Course. Contact Steve Murphy for details.
  • July 3-7 Wiltshire 5 Day Intensive Camp. Click here for details.

You can sign up to get more newsletters like this here.

My very best wishes for your training and health as always,

Matt.

River Wye Canoe and Camp Trip 27-28 July 2019

River Wye Canoeing and Camping Trip 27-28 July 2019 – Booking Open!

Symonds Yat

Canoe down the River Wye, one of this Britain’s more beautiful and spectacular river sceneries.

Camp overnight on Saturday (tent and roaring campfire) and then back home for lunchtime on Saturday.

Yat Camp Fire

Start time – 11.30am Saturday 27th July in Symonds Yat.
Finish time – 10.30am Saturday 28th July at the Campsite.

Symonds Yat Swim

Basic camping kit will be needed (tent, sleeping bags and mats, cooking equipment, food etc. full list will be given on booking).

Wye Sun

This is a fantastic trip down the River Wye. A timeless trip of high adventure and the the kind of trip that childhood memories are made of!
Numbers will be limited. Please let me know ASAP.

Costs.

£50 per child and £60 per adult.
To pay via paypal click below (£3 added to cover paypal fee):
Please email me matt@matthill.co.uk for BACS details to pay by bank
Adult
Child (16 and below)
Children must be accompanied by an adult.

I look forward to welcoming you on the adventure!

Best wishes,

Matt.