The Master Key

When I find myself feeling under par health wise, struggling emotionally, in an emergency situation, or in a confrontation, my first check is to come back to the basics. In my experience, the right path in all these situations is to be found there. It’s just so easy to overcomplicate things. That said, basic is far from easy.

Health wise these are my first checks:

  • Is my breath nasal, light and easy? Can I take a full breath, into any part of my body, from my head to my heels? Or is my breath stuck somewhere?
  • Am I sleeping well? Getting to bed well before midnight? Waking feeling rested?
  • Am I drinking enough water, especially at this time of year, at least 3l per day.
  • How about my diet? Am I eating mostly real food, not too much, mostly fresh fruit and veg?
  • Have I been too sedentary? Am I moving my body through its full range daily? The pillars will do that for you.
  • Am I getting outside enough? Taking long, easy walks in a natural setting, doing some breath ladders?

During times of high stress, emotion or confrontation similar basic checks can be made, but these are more like scans. They are simple, but require daily practice under artificial stressors as we do in Systema classes. Unless you have practiced them and tested the skill under varied circumstances they will desert you in times of high stress.

  • Firstly you have to manage your breathing, and adapt it to the situation consciously and constantly. Left unconscious it will inhibit you in all but a very few emergency physical situations, and even then you want to be able to adapt your response. This will give you the mental flexibility to manage your way through.
  • Then you have to check your tension. Is the situation tensing you in a way that you are inhibited in your movement and thought. You need to be moving and scanning your body for tension, relaxing and releasing this, correcting the crumpling of posture that anger, fear, anxiety and stress bring, so that you are physically and mentally free to respond with different options.

There is a tendency to overcomplicate things. Looking for quick fixes such as drugs for health and wellbeing, the perfect technique in martial arts, the latest faddish diet, drink, supplement or piece of equipment in exercise. They may mask things for a short time, but rarely, if ever, stand the test of time.

The fundamentals underpin it all: your health, wellbeing, skills and situational management:

  • For health look to your breathing, sleep, hydration, nutrition and where and how you are moving your body, get outside. We need fresh air and open spaces, not poky rooms with artificial heat, light and a/c.
  • For combat skills and situational management, develop the skill to notice and manage your state. This is NOT easy. Especially under stress. You need to go through the cycle to achieve unconscious competence. The ability to notice when things are going awry and to self correct. This blends to a feeling, for me it is the feeling of Systema. Where my breathing, movement, relaxation and posture come together not as separate parts but merge as this feeling. As soon as I feel myself being pulled out of that feeling by a situation, I drop back into it. When I am in that feeling I know that I am in the best state that I can be to meet the challenge.

This is the key in Systema training. There is not a requirement to master every aspect of what is taught. You are there to grasp the master key that all of the aspects are allowing you to look at, and once you have grasped that, you have grasped the basics, and you are on the way to unlocking it all.

I am committed to sharing these concepts with as many people as I can in order to walk healthily and calmly through life together.

My very best wishes for your health and training.


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