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,


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