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.

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.

Intrigued?

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.

Matt.

***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:

4 Day Systema Intensive – Wiltshire – 16-19 November


The 4 day Intensive is running on the 16-19 Nov in Melksham.

The aim is to cover the range of systema work, including some outdoor and environmental training (weather dependant).

We will also cover elements from the Systema Twins recent Sweden Immersion Camp and Vladimir Vasiliev’s upcoming UK Camp.

Systema Progression:
The course will progress over the four days covering, ground, standing, stick, knife, multiple attacker, environmental, and testing phases leading to an optional video recording of the final testing phase for you to keep and if desired send to Vladimir Vasiliev for feedback and/or instructor validation/renewal.

Health and Conditioning:
We will also cover the Systema approach to mobility, stretching, massage, deep and functional relaxation and conditioning work.

It will be intense but a lot of fun, with time for relaxation and use of the studio for your own free training. There is already a lot of interest and limited spaces.

The cost is £199.

It will be a small group with lots of opportunity for questions, discussion and peer learning. The aim is to make big leaps in your understanding, teaching and execution of Systema.

To pay by paypal click here: (Cost is £207 to account for paypal fee)

To pay by BACS please email me for details.

Best wishes for your training and health,


Matt.

P.S To help keep costs down there is also the opportunity to sleep on the mat at my gym for a nominal nightly fee. First come first served.

Recommended reading for the course:

Systema Health

Click on the image to order

Systema Combat
Click on the image to order

Dealing with tension in the torso/chest

Chest MobilityI recently posted a Facebook video of a chest mobility exercise. It got a lot of shares and comments, one of which really stood out and I have shared it below.

The audience of these blogs may differ to the Facebook audience, so I thought that I would share here too in case anyone missed the exercise. Here is the comment:

“I have been very much enjoying my career as a BDM over the last four years. Unlike most, one element I very much like is the amount of mileage, my area Being from the M4 up to Scotland. A fair amount of driving. Over the last two years I have become uncomfortable in my driving position to the point where it has obstructed my breathing. Not able to fully inhale or exhale without increasing discomfort. This made me check my driving position. I found I was habitually leaving my right hand at 12 o’clock on the steering wheel most of the day. Even though I corrected this habit over a year ago, have seen several doctors / specialists, had chest scans ect – nobody was able to address the issue ( I just know you are going to be smiling and knodding to yourself knowingly here ) that I repeatedly mentioned I felt was ‘Muscular’.

Last week I watched this post and your reference to chest tension immediately caught my attention. Now, I’m not one to be throwing my hands up and claiming miracles BUT this exercise not only provided INSTANT relief, enabled me to locate and target precisely where to focus but has also noticeably improved my lung capacity. Which I might add – after giving up smoking for 20 years just two years ago – Is allowing me to swim those extra, extra lengths…. just like you said it would.

So, I know this reads like some kind of made up promotional review – which it is 100% NOT – I wanted to say thank you. This really is making the world of difference mate.” Lauson Higgins.

To watch the clip, click here

My very best wishes for your training and health,


Matt.

P.S I am running a 4 day course in November which will include similar exercises that will mobilise tense areas of the body and leave you feeling relaxed, supple and mobile. Click the image below for more information. The course is over half full.

Where do you Train? – Optimise your skill, awareness & health

Systema Logo - Where do you Train?Where do you train?

If, like many others, you only see training taking place inside the dojo or gym, you are missing out on most of your training opportunities. In fact when it comes to practicing a martial art, you may even say that you will never truly get it.

A martial art is a way of life. A way of approaching every aspect of your life. The way that you stand, sit, walk, breathe are all training opportunities. The way that you deal with people, situations or setbacks are some of the best training opportunities. The way that you observe people, rooms or landscapes are again, all opportunities to train. When it comes to Systema, they are ways to not only train your martial skill and awareness, but also your health. In fact one of the reasons that I appreciate Systema so much, is its moment by moment ability to become conscious of and thereby improve your health, mobility, awareness and relaxation skills.

The dojo or gym is where you learn a particular skill, that may be a technique, principle or concept. But you will never master it there. If the next time you think about it, is when you go back to the gym, even if that is every day, it is not enough. It has to be embodied. It has to become part of every thought, every movement. It is a way of thinking, breathing, moving, being.

For me, Systema is a feeling. I am either in a feeling of Systema, or I am not. This feeling is relaxed, balanced, smooth, calm. Wherever I am or whatever I am doing. As soon as I notice something pulling me out of that feeling into tension, I check whether it is appropriate or not, and if not, I release it and drop back into the feeling of Systema.

Our bodies communicate thier to us through feelings: Pain, happiness, fatigue, tension, emotion etc before concepts and ideas. These are our first internal representation of what is going on. So if you can establish your baseline feeling as a good (clean) one: light, relaxed, calm, balanced and notice when you are pulled out of it, you are well on your way to making Systema a habit.

I am currently writing my next book, ‘Living Systema’. It is about taking the concept of training out of the dojo or gym and into your life. A way to bring your training to every moment to improve your skills, awareness and health. A way to make the act of living your training. In short, the way to improve yourself.

I will share these concepts more during the 4 day camp coming up in Wiltshire at the end of June. One of the key benefits of the camp is to make you more aware and conscious in every moment of the 4 days. Training outdoors is a one of the best ways I know to breathe life into your training. 

I look forward to sharing these ideas with you.

Respect and best wishes,


Matt 

I will also be sharing many of these ideas at the upcoming course in Marple, Lancs on the 21st May. Email me for more details.

Click the links below for Matt’s systema:

Upcoming Courses:

  • 20-21 May – Matt Hill Marple Seminar, UK. Contact Chris Wallace of Systema Marple to book.
  • 29 June – 02 July  – UK 4 Day Systema Summer Camp – Wiltshire with Matt Hill. Click here for more information and to book.
  • 22-23 July – River Wye Canoeing and Camping Trip. Click here for more information
  • 28 Aug – 02 Sept Sweden Total Immersion Systema Camp with the Systema Twins. Nearly Sold out. Click here to get one of the last remaining places.
  • 16-19 Nov 4 Day Systema Intensive with Matt Hill – Wiltshire. Click here for more information.
  • More dates to be added soon.

Breathing Masterclass, Melksham 21-22 Jan. Matt Hill.

breathing-masterclass2

Date: 21-22 Jan
Time 11.00-16.00 Sat 10.00-15.00 Sun
Location: Unit S3, Avonside Enterprise Park, New Broughton Road, Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12 8BT.
Cost: £100 advance payment. £120 on the day.
Click here to pay via Paypal

This is a 2 day seminar that will give you the breathing tools to improve many areas of your life. It will give you a no-nonsense functional understanding of breathing applicable for use in everyday life situations. For yoga, mindfulness and meditation practitioners is will give innovative practical exercises to challenge and apply to everyday life activities.

The World Health Authority (WHO) states that by 2020 states that depression and anxiety will be the worlds number 1 disability. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) already puts sleep deprivation at an epidemic level. Six out of every 10 women are on medication for mental illness, men are not far behind. Why is this relevant as an introduction to a breathing masterclass? Because poor breathing is the cause and improved breathing is the cure.

In the US the Dept of Defence now teach breathing to PTSD sufferers because after studies with counselling, medication, and numerous other activities is the the thing that has had the biggest and longest lasting effect.

Yes you can use drugs, but who wants the side effects? Nosebleeds, impotence, reliance.

The seminar will help you if you struggle with or want to improve in any of these areas:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Performance anxiety
  • Athletic performance
  • Stiffness and immobility
  • Phobias
  • Inability to relax and switch off
  • Struggling to sleep at night
  • Chronic pain or fatigue
  • Struggling with endurance or fitness

Breath is the link that connects your mind, body and emotions.

Improved breathing can help you focus yourself on the situation at hand, calm your mind and clear it of noise and fear, your body of pain and tension and your emotions of anxiety and stress, leaving you free to thrive in daily life.

The 2 day session will cover the following aspects:

  • Confirmation of static breathing techniques to:
    • calm and focus the mind
    • connect the mind and body
    • clear out your emotions
    • manage pain, fear and anxiety
    • achieve deep levels of relaxation in the body
    • open up and release tight, stiff muscles
    • develop a stronger connection with your environment

Taking it out of a training environment.
It is important that you have confident that the techniques you learn will work in real life situations. For that we have to test them to give you confidence. You will go onto learn:

  • Dynamic Functional breathing techniques to:
    • make it applicable to everyday situations and life
    • Improve fullness and speed of recovery from physical and emotional stress
    • Manage pain
    • Manage fear
    • Manage stiffness and tension
    • Manage anxiety and imagined fears
    • Innovative exercises to get more out of walking and exercise
    • Improve running technique

When I teach breathing I don’t have to wait for results. I have found that I don’t have to say do this and you will feel better in a few weeks or months. I can say do this and you will feel better in a few minutes. So few people do even the simplest breathing well. We breathe well enough to survive moment to moment. But it can be so much more than that.

Mikhail Ryabko, the founder of Systema sums it up best:

‘Breathing is the essence of life. The greater the appreciation and the more control you have of it, the better and longer will be the life you have no matter what situation you encounter.’

The seminar is inclusive and well paced. There will be active participation, but it is at your own pace. You can of course chose to watch activities if you wish.

Places will be limited.
Click here to pay via Paypal or email me at matt@matthill.co.uk for bank details.

If you have any questions you are of course free to contact me at matt@matthill.co.uk or directly on 07584025206.

My very best wishes for a great 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental Health Day – Just Breathe…

just-breatheThese days we seem to prize all the wrong things. Does any of this sound familiar:

Good session last night?
Yeah, I beasted myself, could hardly walk out of the gym!
Wow, good job. 

Is it really a good job? In my opinion, if there is one thing that most people do not need to add to their life it would be overly stressing their system during a workout.

or a more general scenario
How are you?
Great, manic! You?
Yes, same. Ah well, better than the alternative!

Really? I know that we all need enough to keep the lights on and food on the table but do we really need to prize being manic?

Late nights, massive workloads, exercising and overtraining ourselves to a frazzle, being manicly busy and stressed are the new chic, and we are paying the price.

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.

I bet none of this surprises you.

Some people of course need medical intervention. But self help is also paramount. Breathing and moving correctly are the oldest, simplest, cheapest, most ‘side effect’ free option available to us.

The main aim of a workout, even (or especially), a walk, for me should be to relax your muscles, mind and spirit. I know that it doesn’t sound sexy, but it doesn’t have to be music, mats and soft lighting either. You can work hard, at a high tempo and even high adrenaline, but what counts is where you put your focus.

When you focus on managing your breathing properly, applying natural correct movements, releasing muscle tension and doing a conscious recovery, even intense workouts can be relaxing and beneficial to your overall health.

Oh, and its not enough that breathing and moving properly are a once or twice a week thing. You need to be doing them daily, every moment and movement is a chance to remove stress. Life is putting stress into us all day long. We need to rediscover what children and the animal kingdom do naturally. We need to learn to let go. 

If you are interested to learn more the Systema Health book below outlines breathing and movement exercises that can be done solo and incorporated into daily life to have a big impact on your health, fitness and wellbeing.

Finally, inspired by my friend Dan Furlong, I would say this: if you know someone that you think is suffering, ask them about it. Even better go our for a walk and talk. It may just make the difference.

Training Tools – Systema Combat

Systema CombatThe short extract below is from one of two books being released shortly. This extract is from Systema Combat. It highlights some useful tools that can enhance your training and be applied to any martial art.

Begin with pushes not strikes. In many of the drills you push or strike. As your skill develops this will naturally progress to faster and stronger pushes and/or strikes over time. Try to spend a lot of time with just pushes. Your reward for this patience is a strong, deep strike that is readily deployable when needed.

You are both working, all of the time. With all drills in Systema whether you are feeding attacks or receiving attacks you are both working, so make sure that no part of the work is done mindlessly. In many ways you learn Systema by having it done to you. The skill is transmitted body to body. So when you feed attacks in to your partner, be completely aware and conscious and do it with every fibre of your being.

Adjust the volume. First work at a slow walking pace to build the skill, then at a fast walk, then at a run. If you find yourself continually making mistakes slow it down, find and fix the problem and then gradually speed up again.

Variety is the spice of life – and Systema: Don’t always stand straight on. Vary it. Stand side on, with your back to the partner, oblique. Work all of the angles. Remember that Systema is not training for a ring or mat where you are ready, it is for outside where you could be in any position at any time and in any state of readiness.

Play, experiment and explore. Systema does not teach through a set series of kata or techniques. It is important to note that the pictures shown are intended as a guide only and show just one way of doing things. There are in fact an infinite number of ways to respond in almost every case. Play with the principles, experiment and explore infinite variety. Try it with your eyes closed, in a corner, in a tight space, with hands tied etc. Have fun but stay safe. My deep desire is that through the logical progressions in these drills, you will begin freely creating your own drills, to the extent where you are training in Systema in every moment. By all means use my progressions as a guide, but you then have to just move randomly and naturally. Try not to form patterns in your movements.

It all boils down to movement. Really Systema is the study of movement. We study body movement, relaxation, breathing and footwork so as not to rely on strength or speed. There will always be a time when you lose those. In Systema, we train to survive and prevail through superior movement.

Work from contact. An inevitability of combat is that you will get hit. In Systema we do a lot of work from contact, for practical and psychological purposes. There will be times when you haven’t had chance to block, redirect or move. Contact drills teach the body and psyche to deal with hits and to  look after themselves. You learn body intelligence.

Finally, it begins and ends with the breath. Systema begins and ends here. Try to notice every time you hold your breath. Every time you hold your breath and move, tension and fear will come into your body. To be truly free in your movements, you have to be free in your breath. Always look to make your breath the engine or driver of your movement, not a ‘byproduct’ of it.

You can read more about Systema Combat in Matt’s new book, Systema Combat, available through Amazon and all good bookshops.

Best wishes with your training and and for your continued good health,


Matt.