River Wye Canoe and Camp Trip 27-28 July 2018

Symonds Yat

River Wye Canoeing and Camping Trip 27-28 July 2018 – Booking Open!

Canoe down the River Wye, one of this Islands most beautiful and spectacular river sceneries, camp overnight on Friday (tent and roaring campfire) and then back home for lunchtime on Saturday.

Yat Camp Fire

This started out as a small trip for the Systema Family Class but has since opened out to all.

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

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.


£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
Child (16 and below)
Children must be accompanied by an adult.

I look forward to welcoming you on the adventure!

Best wishes,


Click the links below for Matt’s Systema:

Pull-ups for health and function – Free Video Tutorial!

I recently uploaded a video to YouTube about Pull Ups.

You can think of it as the fifth pillar of Systema. In my experience it is the one that most people struggle with.

In the video I cover the key reasons why being able to hang and then lift your body weight by the arms in a vertical pull is important for your health, physical function and survival skills. I then break it into 3 simple steps for those who struggle with it.

An overlooked component of the pull up is the passive or dead hang. Health wise the ability to do this is a crucial for the health of your shoulders and back.

So many people suffer with back and shoulder problems. In many cases they don’t have to. With a gentle and progressive programme to reset and strengthen the area chronic shoulder problems can be fixed naturally.

The passive hang strengthens the ligaments and tendons by hanging the bodyweight with minimal muscle engagement. This alleviates the compression problems caused by bad posture and resets the structure of the whole area.

Many shoulder problems can be fixed by regular passive hangs. If you have shoulder injuries, you should of course always use your judgement, go gradually and slowly and breathe out as you load the shoulders. Load the shoulders gradually as per the video. Don’t just jump or drop into a hang. If in doubt, check with your Doctor first.

Physical Function:
For your physical function it is all about balance. Balance of strength, mobility and range. The four pillars of Systema check your ability to move your body smoothly and in control through its range of motion. Are you injured, too stiff or do you lack the strength and control to be able to do it?

The vertical pull is one of the key ranges. I have read that 9 out of 10 adults in the western world cannot lift their body weight. My experience bears this out.

This is not as Bear Grylls as it sounds. Imagine being in a burning building and you have to jump and pull yourself out of a window. Or falling into a river and you have to pull yourself out of a shear sided bank.

The ability to pull yourself to safety is a natural survival skill and there is no reason why it shouldn’t be available to you right to the end.

In the video I go through three simple steps to developing the ability to do a pull-up:

  1. Passive hang
  2. Passive to active hang
  3. Assisted to full Pull up.

I hope that you find it useful and if you have any questions please feel free to post on the video or email me.

Here is the video.

My very best wishes for your training and health,


5 Day Water Fast – My Experiences…

I recently did a 5 day water fast for lent. It is the third year in a row that I have done it, and each year the results have been similar.

Firstly I should say that I did a lot of research before doing it and made sure that I was well informed. You should too. It is not for everyone. Certainly those with diabetes, low blood sugar levels, pregnant, children and the elderly. In fact if you are at all unsure you should seek the advice of a Dietician or Doctor before trying it.

That said, it is of course a very natural practice. Probably the oldest form of diet, (although that isn’t the reason for fasting) practiced across nearly every religion and culture. Regular fasts would of course have been a necessity in the days before cupboards, fridges and shops.

So my experiences:

  • Day 1 – fine.
  • Days 2 and 3 were tough. I felt sorry for myself. Continually questioned my reasons for doing it. Doubted myself and was humbled. I sent lots of little ‘arrow prayers’ and asked for strength. They worked. It came, I got through.
  • Days 4 and 5 I felt fine. In fact better than fine. I felt light, humble, clear and clean in thought and body.
  • It was one of the most creative weeks I can remember. Hugely focused. I literally cleared a, ‘to-do list’ that had been hanging around for months.
  • I continued my teaching, training and home schedule with no change. There were times when I felt tired, but not when I needed to be active. My gut feel is that the body conserves energy better when nothing is on making you want to rest, but provides energy when you demand it.
  • I didn’t feel hungry once. Not in the slightest. I thought about and desired food of course, but that is different to huger.
  • I had some headaches and heartburn. My feeling was that it was the body needing more help to flush itself out, so I drank more water than normal and they went away. the heartburn immediately and the headaches shortly after.
  • Weight loss. I didn’t do it for this reason, but I lost 14lb (6.5kg) I put a few pounds on the week after naturally.

The build up is important:

I couldn’t have done a 5 day water only fast without lots of smaller ones in the bank. I had been doing short weekly 12-36 hour fasts for a few years before.

They always made me feel light, clean and energised.

If anyone is thinking of doing a fast, gradually is the key, and as I said above I would advise doing your research and taking personal responsibility.

For me it works. Short sprints of willpower give me strength. Each successful fast lessens the power that food has over me. It strengthens the spirit and cleans the body.

Personally I find that short fasts coupled with a sensible approach to eating are much easier to manage that a lifetime of willpower requirement in sticking to any kind of fad diets.


I gently introduce fasting, along with the breathing, movement, relaxation and posture elements of Systema, as part of a holistic package, on the 28 Day Systema Challenge programme. You can read more here: http://www.matthill.co.uk/28daychallenge

It starts gently once a week for four weeks building confidence and knowledge to a 36 hour fast at the end.

There are five key elements – the keys to healthy living:

  1. Systema breathing practices.
  2. Tips and exercises to Improve sleeping habits and practices.
  3. Information around proper hydration.
  4. Nutrition plan and the gentle intro to fasting.
  5. Daily Systema exercise video illustrating a different Systema exercise each day to improve, strength, fitness, breathing, mobility, health and skill.

The benefits are profound and go way beyond weight loss.

Give it a try. It may just be the thing that works for you in controlling appetite, weight loss and an unhealthy relationship with food.

My sincere wishes for your health and training.


***New***: 28 Day ChallengeA course designed to gently lead you through the the fundamentals principles of Systema to make you calmer, fitter, stronger, healthier and lighter.
Click the links below for Matt’s Systema:

Testimonial from a former Royal Marine Commando

…”Instead of scanning my environment for threats, I now scan my mind and body for tension…”





The following testimonial is from Billy, an ex Royal Marine 45 Commando Sniper.

Hi Matt

It has been a couple of weeks now since your 2 day systema breathing weekend and the principles have remained solid and constant.
Since 2007 I have been having intermittent flash backs to Afghanistan where I served as a sniper with 45 Commando. The memories would be triggered by a certain smell or landscape. My imagination would wander and feelings and strong emotions would get stirred up. Before I knew it 20 minutes would elapse in complete unawareness of the present moment and my surroundings. This is not ideal at 03:00 when you are flying down the M5 at 80mph thinking the rear car lights are RPG’s) these uncontrolled thoughts and vivid memories had the tendency to ruin the rest of my day and leave me with an underlying bubbling anger.
During the outdoor exercise that you did whilst walking across the field I had a mini flashback to a raid I was involved in. However the difference this time was that instead of getting carried away I remained anchored in my breath which prevented any emotional attachment. It seemed to establish a present awareness that caught the thought before it took hold. Although the memory was still there it seemed more like a dream that faded the more I concentrated on the breath.
I have continued to apply the whole body breathing exercises during the waking day and it is becoming almost automatic. I have realised that for me this is not a one off thing to be done a couple of hours a week but a way of life where I remain ‘on watch’ over myself. Instead of scanning my surroundings for threats, I now scan my mind and body for tension.
An unexpected bonus of this is that the chronic aches and pains I have are also starting to subside and life is becoming brighter. Thank God.
Best regards,

It is not just our Military that suffer from and live with these episodes. They are on a spectrum that we can all suffer from at some point in our lives.

Systema’s approach may work with everyone, but we all have more power to heal and clean ourselves out than we believe.

What Billy was referring to are not just breathing techniques. They are a deep understanding of how your breathing is linked to and affected by emotions, thoughts, movement, strain, tension and posture. There are tools to learn how to be sensitive to this and then how to manage it. Once we have the tools, they are then ours.

My sincere thanks to Billy for sharing such a powerful experience.

I have listed a couple of upcoming opportunities to explore this deeper. One on-line and one at an upcoming 5-day camp exploring the fundamentals of Systema’s approach.

Matt Hill

The 28 Day Challenge below gives you a day by day guide to Systema’s approach and is great for exploring breathing and movement for performance and healing.

The booking is also open for this years UK Camp on 04-08 July – the camp is now half full.

Click the links below for Matt’s Systema:

Are you really a Martial Artist?

I know some readers will not be Martial Artists. If you are not, please indulge me, and you may still find it an interesting question that can be applied to many fields outside martial arts.

People who study a martial art often overlook the term. It is good to remember that we are not Martial Thugs, or Martial Clones.

Of course in the beginning it is wise to follow a teacher and a trusted path, as any artist would. You need to learn some basics and tried and trusted methods.

But in most cases we looking to go past learning a few quick, effective moves to protect ourselves. We are learning an art.

If you are doing an art, you are hopefully aspiring to be an artist. An artist should strive to begin to make what they are taught his or her own. They have to develop thier own style.

There is deep joy in being expressive and creative in the application of a skill that you have spent countless hours honing. I think that there is something divine in those moments of true creativity. When you do or perform something that seemed to come through rather than from you.

We are all different. We have different skills, strengths, weaknesses, injuries, needs and experiences. Your art should be an expression of these.

This shouldn’t mean that you have to disassociate yourself from your teacher and go your own way. A self-assured, humble teacher should be delighted to see you expressing yourself through your art. This of course goes with the caveat of respect for your teacher and your source.

To be creative, you have to assimilate the skills. This takes time and effort.

You then have to relax. If you are tense you will block the creativity. This is true for anything. It is a whole principle of life.

Relaxation is elusive. We all strive for it, and even the striving can bring tension. However, there are tools that you can use.

Your breathing, movement and posture are the main ones.

Of course we can’t all be Bruce Lee, or Michelangelo, or Mozart, or Springsteen. But we can be ourselves.

Roger Bannister, who sadly passed recently, put in very well, “The aim is to move with the greatest possible freedom toward the realization of the best within us,” he wrote in 1955. “This is the quest of a lifetime, and sport plays only a small part in it.”

So are you an aspiring artist in your field? If not I am sure that just that switch in focus to to strive for the relaxation to allow yourself to come through will lead to good things in whatever endeavour you apply it to.

My very best wishes for your training and health,


Click the links below for Matt’s Systema:

Systema Fundamentals Camp 2018 – Early bird booking now Open!








It is with great pleasure that I can let you know that the booking for this years Systema Camp in Wiltshire is now open.

Click the link to download the full Brochure and information pack:

Systema Fundamentals Camp Brochure

The theme of the camp will be a deep exploration of Systema Fundamentals.

Over the five days we will take the time to work deeply with key concepts of Systema including:

  • Breath-work: for health, psychological state and self-defence.
  • Health: Understanding how to use the principles of Systema (breathing, movement, relaxation and posture) to improve overall health and feeling of wellbeing.
  • Movement: Learn and enhance your basic understanding of distance, timing and precision. Grappling & striking, on the ground, standing, multiple attackers & crowds with & without weapons, in open & close environments, by day & night.
  • Strikes: Working to find the relaxed heaviness that allows for free, fluid and deep strike work from any body part.
  • Tactics: How to use positioning, terrain and obstacles.
  • Awareness: The outdoors is the best place to open your senses and your awareness. You will learn tactics and techniques to improve your general and tactical level of awareness.

Living Systema. At the camp we are together 24-7. It is an ideal time to begin to understand and refine how we build the feeling of Systema into everyday life. For 5 days you will live, train and immerse yourself in a holistic approach to Systema and life.

Accommodation: Accommodation is camping. You can bring your own tent, or basha (tarp).

Cooking. All cooking is done over a camp fire. Hearty, wholesome and healthy. Vegetarian options are available.

Dates: This years camp will increase to 5 days. Wednesday 04th July to Sunday 08th July.

Cost: The cost is £399. This is inclusive of all food, accommodation and training. See below for payment options.

Early Booking Discount! There is an early booking discount of £50 for all bookings made by April 31st if paying the full amount here.

Payment Options:

  • Early Booking Discount (only available when payment made  by April 31st):
    • PayPal: Click here (£361 includes PayPal fee)
    • Go Cardless: Click here (£349)

Places will be limited.

Click the link to download the full Brochure and information pack:

Systema Fundamentals Camp Brochure

I look forward to welcoming you to another week of great training. Please feel free to reply if you have any questions.

My very best wishes for your health and training,


“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” –    Henry David Thoreau

From a drawer full of painkillers to none…

Below is an email from a student and friend, Antony. This is an email that he sent to a friend a while ago explaining how Systema training, and specifically a better understanding of his breathing, movement, tension and relaxation, has helped him with back pain:


Morning Dan,

Further to our chat last night…

I cleared my drawer in my desk the other day, this is what I had in it and it took me back to where I was.

I first saw Matt around September last year as I was using these pills all the time. I was struggling putting Milly my 6 year old daughter on my shoulders and was stiff getting in and out of the car. To manage I was having a massage regularly and seeing doctors and physio’s.

I was off for a month last year with my back not playing badminton, and I had some really strong medication after seeing the doctor which helped a lot, but of course it never really identifies the underlying issue. I had lots of exercises to do, but once the injury goes you carry on as normal don’t you.

Since I was 18 I have always have had issue with stiffness in the lower part of my back (bottom 3 vertebrae). The pattern kept repeating: It would be fine for a while, then I would tweak something, then I would have to see someone and take some pills.

Since starting with Matt in September, I have used no painkillers or Nurofen type products at all.

Don’t get me wrong; there is still some pain, but no-where near as much as there was. My movement and flexibility are improving, the pain is getting less, and I am able to manage it better and not lock everything up when I tweak or cramp.

Matt has taught me, (and is still teaching me), to relax, move and release the muscles in my back and surrounding areas. The use of a breathing technique to release pressure in certain parts of my body has really helped.

There are 4 basic types of movement that all connect together to help focus on strengthening your core and also allow freer movement by relaxing muscles. I can isolate individual muscles now by tightening them and unclenching them, which is actually pretty hard to do.

Systema Massage is also very important as it lengthens the muscles and teaches them to release to where they should be. He is really good at this, he uses his body weight and is very careful when he does it.

When a muscle is squeezed, he teaches you to release the pain and resistance that you naturally have at the pain point and to relax the muscles, which allows him to apply more weight where he can feel the tension through his feet.

Once again this can be painful but in the long run you can take more of his weight which means you can control and release tension in the body. When he started doing this to me, I could barely take any pressure at all on my calf muscles, just a light touch resulted in me clenching the muscle in protest. I can take about 70% more now I reckon. He does not use his full weight on me on the calf but it is much more than when he first started. He can stand on my quads and back now and uses his feet to push the muscles around.

He also talks about lifestyle, I now drink at least 3 pints of water a day and I have lost weight, (about a ¾ stone), which has made me feel better, and the relaxation techniques help reduce the stress that we all seem to have thesedays.

There are lots of other things he talks about in his blogs and newsletters; everything from posture to walking which really help in improving and easing movement.

Each of the sessions is different, so we may be outside, focusing on balancing which you may think a bit odd, but when you are 5ft off the ground trying to balance on a tree trunk you do feel tension! So you have to feel the tension and breathe it away so you can carry on the walk. Then you do it with your eyes closed!

Try balancing on one foot brushing your teeth for a minute, and then try it with your eyes closed. This was just one thing we did 6 months ago that I remember vividly as I could see straight away the power of identifying the tension and relaxing through it and away. We have done similar things since. If you think about, that test may be something you might have to do at some time in the future, whereas you would only lift weights in a gym, not in the real world.

He is very flexible in an initial meeting, it may be best at his Gym in Melksham but you can sort this out with him, and he does quite a few evenings, and a class on Saturday as well. I reckon a 1-1 would be better for you as it is more focused about your needs. He has always said an initial chat would be best so he could understand what you want to achieve. Of course if you are interested in the Martial Art then it all actually fits together, the movement and the Art. You have the hour with him, and you should try and do something every day.

Good luck!



Antony runs a company called Crea8tive Interiors. They specialise in carrying out office fit outs and refurbishments and thier hallmark is a strong attention to detail.

With my very best wishes for your training and health,


Click the links below for my Systema:
  • Upcoming Courses:
    • 7-8 Apr Systema Seminar Bordeaux, France. Click here for more info
    • 21-22 Apr Systema Seminar Marple, Lancashire, England. Click here for more info
    • 08-09 June Systema Seminar Aberdeen, Scotland.
    • 04-08 July 5-Day Wiltshire Systema Camp, England.
    • 28-29 July Annual River Wye Canoe Camp Trip, England.
    • 29-30 Sept Systema Seminar, Melksham, England.
    • 21-25 Nov 5-Day Systema Intensive Wiltshire. Melksham, England.

A Disarming Quality

In one of my confidential reports whilst in the Parachute Regiment, my then Commanding Officer wrote of me that, ‘Capt. Hill has a certain disarming quality.’ At the time I didnt really understand what he meant, and happily passed it off as something akin to a ‘charming’ quality.


The more I have studied Systema, the more I realise my misunderstanding and the comments worth.

This is what we strive for in Systema. In the military, people strive to have a certain, ‘grey man’ quality about them. Certainly in the Special Forces community. In most cases, the last thing that a soldier wants is to stand out on a field of battle.

If he can, a soldier would like nothing more than to get in, do the job, and get home to thier family and friends without anyone ever knowing they were there.

In Systema, it is the same approach. In most cases, you want to, ‘disarm’ anyone that would like to do you harm. You want them to relax around you and let their guard down. Not be constantly on edge.

If there is going to be a fight, you want them to think that the fight will be easy, to underestimate you. Even better, you want them to miss you entirely. If you are walking through a crowd, you want people to see you but not notice you.

Ideally you don’t want people to be able to latch onto, understand you or predict you.

This takes a humility that is rare in this age of needing attention and needing to stand out. In the military of course, it is born of the desire to survive. Nature is the same. In general, animals don’t stand out in nature, they blend in.

In martial arts the term, ‘blending with you attacker, is often used. In Systema it is the same, but we can take it a step further and talk about blending in before you are ever attacked.

A disarming quality is a good one to cultivate. It is one that puts people at ease. That relaxes them.

This then becomes very transferable, because you can’t help but transfer your state. Whether you are in a state of anger, fear, frustration, or one of ease, peace and relaxation, it will spread to those around you.

Have a think about your own interactions. Do you rub people up the wrong way? What about the people that you enjoy spending time with? Are they abrasive? or are they a balm to your soul?

One of the best definitions of leadership that I have ever heard is that it is the communication of emotion.

What emotion do you communicate?

Whether in self defence, or personal and social relationships, a soothing, calm and relaxed persona is a useful one to cultivate.
My very best wishes for your training and health,


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You can read more about Systema and the approach to it in the books below:
Click here to find out more about them.