The Systema Matrix

At the end of each Systema class we sit in a circle and each person takes a turn in reflecting briefly on the session. They can outline thier key difficulties, learnings, questions or insights.

It is powerful. Because when one shares, the group learns. Like the Matrix.

After my first military operation, my then OC, (Officer Commanding) said to us all, “there is no point in doing something, either training or operations, if we don’t take the time to learn from it. What went well, what went badly, what you would do differently next time.”

The Army is very good at this. In many ways the Army is a training organisation. That’s what it spends most of its time doing. That stuck with me.

When I encountered this in a Systema class, I immediately felt at home, even though I had never encountered it before in a traditional martial arts class. It just made sense. Everyone has equal chance for input, from a first night beginner to the instructor. No-one is elevated above anyone else. Think of any high performance team. They will do the same thing. They will do a review of the match, race, performance etc. and learn from it as a team.

Even long before any formal military was around, Scouts would have done the same thing when they did a sortie, recce, ambush or whatever.

It is not done to embarrass or glorify any particular person.

It is designed to make everyone better.

I know it is tough for some though. In the beginning they feel slightly self conscious. This is normal as nearly everyone is fearful of speaking to a group. However, people soon get used to it and benefit from it.

At home we do it as a family too. Not in a structured way of course, but after sports matches, tests or other events, questions can be casually asked to encourage a little critical thinking: So how did it go… what do you think you did well? What didn’t go so well this time? What would you do differently next time?

Three simple questions, that if they become a habit, have real power for improvement.


These after action reviews form a key element of the Systema Fundamentals Camp. I have a deep commitment to people leaving with real improvements in their understanding and application of Systema for their skills, health and wellbeing.

My very best wishes for your training and health.


P.S. there are still a few spaces left on the Systema Fundamentals Camp click the link to find out more.

Click the links below for Matt’s Systema:

The Worlds Biggest Zoo?

I have an thought for you to ponder…

The following concept makes sense to me and I wonder if it does to you. When the comparison clicked in my head, I was momentarily taken aback.

I was talking with a local forager, and we were comparing behavioural problems affecting animals in zoos such as premature death, pacing, tails drooping (think killer whales), depression, sobbing, hair plucking and weight loss to name a few), and the growing behavioural problems faced by people in urban environments.

In the animals case, they have been forcibly removed from their habitats and put into tiny (in comparison) spaces.

In our case, we have removed ourselves from our natural habitat (or built over the top of it) and I would argue that we are encountering similar behavioural problems:

  • In the UK 1 in 3 young people today suffer from a mental health issue. It takes the average person 10 years to seek help for it. Some don’t make it the 10 years.
  • In the UK 6 out of every 10 women are on medication for anxiety, depression or stress. Men are not far behind.
  • The WHO says that by 2020 depression and anxiety will be the worlds number 1 disability.
  • The Centre for Disease Control states that sleep dysfunction is already at an epidemic level.

These are of course multi causal problems, and I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify. I do think that there is a key factor here though.

Animal Pharmaceutical industries now earn billions from prozac, valium and antipsychotics to keep the animals under control.

The comparison immediately made sense to me. Removed from our natural habitat, neither us nor animals do well.

It is tough to swallow when you are living in a built up area, like nearly all of us. However, upping sticks and moving to the country, isn’t the only way to rectify it.

What does this have to do with Systema?

One of the things that immediately resonated with me in Sysetma was the outdoor training. It just made sense. The outdoors is where Martial Arts and indeed health and exercise are meant to be done. I think that when you practice outdoors you engage both with, and in an outdoor environment. It all comes to life. Your skills, health and sense of wellbeing.

Call to action:

My call to action to you would be this. Try to make sure that just once per month, you take a 3 hour walk and spend time in an expansive natural space. This could be forest, fields, whatever.

Japanese research into forest bathing (I have blogged on this before, click here if you haven’t read it, its fascinating) has proved that just one long walk every 30 days, resets our key markers for health:

  • A 12.4% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol,
  • a 7% decrease in sympathetic nerve activity,
  • a 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.

A lot of bang for your buck there or one walk a month in the countryside.

I hope that it made interesting reading. I would be curious to hear your thoughts.

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


Upcoming Courses:

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 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:

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








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.

Payment Options:

  • Paypal: Click here (£414 includes paypal fee)
  • Go Cardless: Click here (£399)

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