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.

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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.

Systema Strikes and Massage Seminar – 22-23 Sept

 

A 2 Day In-Depth Look at Systema Strikes and Massage – 2 sides of the same coin.

Systema strikes are characterised by their depth, power, effortlessness, unpredictability and healing power. Yes you heard that right.

This seminar will look at all aspects of Systema strikes:

  • Preparation. How to prepare yours and your partners body and psyche for strike work.
  • Structure. How to deliver the strike with minimal loss of power.
  • Short work. How to hit from close range for infighting and unpredictability.
  • Multiple strikes. How to hit multiple times in one strike and against multiple opponents.
  • Control. Learn how to control your depth in order to allow you to work without protective gear with all skill and age levels.
  • Feeling. Correct striking is a feeling. Learn when a strike feels correct in order to replicate it at will.
  • Strikes to heal and relax. How to heal and relax people with strikes. ‘What is in your heart comes out through your fist’

We will also end each day with massage. It is important to understand how to restore an recover from strike work. 1/3 of each day will involve deep recovery and restoration from the work. We will focus on how to take the same skills of releasing power and energy into strikes into releasing healing energy into massage. The focus on both is relaxation.

Over 2 days on Sept 22nd and 23rd I will lead you through training to understand:

  • Healing hands.
  • Percussive massage.
  • Bodyweight Massage.
  • Optional use of massage tools such as sticks and cossack whips.

Details:

Date: 22-23 Sept.
Timings: Sat: 11am Finish 5pm | Sun: 10am Start Finish 4pm.
Venue: Systema Academy, Avonside Enterprise Park, New Broughton Road, Melksham, Wiltshire, SN12 8BT.

Accommodation:There is plenty of good accommodation in the Melksham Area. A quick search on booking.com or airbnb will reveal all!

Personal touch:
The course size is going to be limited in order for me to spend maximum time with individual participants to address individual problem areas.

This course has been advertised already and is filling up.

Payment Options:

Paypal: £124

GoCardless £120

 

 

or email me for BACS details.

My very best wishes for your training and good health,

Matt.

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.

Matt.

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,

Matt.

Upcoming Courses:

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.

Health:
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.


Survival:
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,

Matt.