The following classes were created for Systema Greenville students during the coronavirus crisis.
They can be adapted for any shelter at home environment, including those who are just looking for some ideas on what to do for training alone.
Sergey Makarenko said at one his seminars held at Systema Greenville, “80% of Systema work is internal”.
If your stuck at home, or just need some ideas for training alone, it is a great opportunity to explore what he meant.
Toward that end I have provided links from Emmanuel Manolakakis and Martin Wheeler on solo work, and an attachment for you to read as well.
Here are the links:
This link is from “Systema” by Giuseppe Filotto. I think he has done a really good job on explaining what he calls brain mapping. In a nut shell, he refers to brain mapping for what doctors in my field would call Engrams.
Basically, if you do an exercise enough your body encodes it. Only Filotto has a twist. He points out that with Systema the brain maps are, you guessed it, different.
The first map Systema teaches is Relaxation. I have attached a copy of his explanation for it. Hopefully, after you read it you will gain a different understanding of “we don’t fight, we do our job”.
That should give you plenty to work on this week. Ill send another brain map, and what ever else I come up with, next week.
Building upon last week’s set of home drills I thought we would work on the four pillars this week.
Systema Martial Art is based upon four principles (I took this off of Systema Greenville’s website):
Breathing – since holding your breath creates tension (or comes from it) we teach breathing techniques to help reduce tension.
Posture – we always try to maintain our “square” so that we are do not lose balance
Constant Motion – continuing the motion of an attacker and something as simple as moving from the line of attack can save your life.
Relaxation – learning to be comfortable with multiple situations helps to maintain relaxation and that in turn makes it easier for you to do your job
If last week was focused on the “relaxation brain map” then this week is focused on the “breathing brain map”.
See if you can do the following time tested drill (as with all systema drills, try and employ all four pillars at once, even though the focus of this one is on breathing):
Inhale, hold your breath, do one push up, and then exhale. Recover.
Repeat, however progressively increase the number of push-ups to eight.
After that start over but this time replace push ups with squats.
Once you have completed that, replace squats with either sit ups for roll ups.
Once you have finished that, start the whole sequence again, however this time start with one push up, squat, and roll up (or sit up) per breath and then progressively increase up to eight repetitions each (all with one breath).
Don’t fret if you can only get to 6, or even three, just do the best you can. The idea is to study where you get tense and what interferes with your ability to exercise breath control while maintaining the four pillars. It is more important that you look inside then it is to get to right.
If that isn’t enough for you then work on movement to restore yourself after completing the first drill. Here is a URL of a buddy of mine, Patrick Van Het Nederend, of Systema Amsterdam. See if you can replicate what he does. If you are a systema greenville veteran you should recognize most, if not all of this.
Stay well until next week.
Constant Motion. Week one I introduced Brain Mapping (which is a different, but closely related paradigm to differentiating the brain from the brainstem). The focus was on relaxation. In week two the emphasis was on the four pillars. This week I would like to build some complex movement into the mix. So, let’s use Forward and Backward rolls.
We don’t spend enough time of forward and back ward rolls in class. One reason is that in order to work on them you don’t really need a partner and I like to reserve class time for those drills that do need a partner.
I don’t mean to say that there is no place for working on rolls with a partner. There are plenty of things you can do that are quite useful. For me at least however, I have found that it took hours of practice and discovery on my own until I could do them comfortably. Now is a perfect time to work on them.
For a variety of reasons rolls challenge your brain stem. Plus, I find to do them well you have to get past the point of thinking about them (so it’s an exercise in letting your body do its work). No doubt, they also require you to incorporate the pillars (don’t forget to exhale as you go through the roll).
Rolls also let you work on the Relaxation Brain Map; as you get past introspection of how to the do the roll you will realized that being relaxed as you enter into it, and as you progress through it, makes the roll much better.
If you are just starting one forward roll drill that helped me was to simply imagine that I was standing in front of a waist high fence. Pretend there is tall uncut grass/brush on the other side and that you want to find your tennis ball at the bottom. Lean forward over the fence and at first use both arms to move the brush out of the way, to either side, so that you can find your tennis ball (darn, it was a new one too!).
Next, just look toward your arm, to one side, until you see your hand. Now repeat the drill, but this time get down on your knees. As you are looking down your arm you realize that the ball is behind you, off to one side. So clear off the brush (one arm must still be straight and off the side) and with the second arm put you palm down on the ground, bend your elbow, and look underneath and behind.
By now you likely have extended the leg that is on the same side you looked backwards on. Breath. Kick and move your head under your arm to complete the roll.
For beginners who are learning a backward roll it is actually easier. Just do a roll up and keep working at it until you can touch your toes over your head. Take as long as you need to. Once there, see if you have enough hip control to move your legs off to one side of the other. Watch yourself fall over as you complete the roll. You should find yourself in the same position I described earlier for the forward roll.
I like to do the rolls shoulder to shoulder. If you are more advanced you can practice that, or rolling form one side of your back to the other. You can also start the roll (in either direction) higher and higher off the ground (from keeling, to squatting, to standing).
If you have got that then add objects in the way so that you can steer past them, or purposely on them. I like to use a 1 foot tall by 3 foot wide Pilates box (my wife is into that), and roll shoulder to shoulder alongside it, and forwards and backwards over it, but a rumble roller, shoe, balance ball, or anything else you are comfortable with will do just fine too.
Do all your rolls slow, breath, continue your motion, keep your psychological square, and keep yourself relaxed. If any one thing feels tense, study it and figure out a way to thin slice until you are more comfortable with it.
One last clue: it is generally a good idea bend our ankle toward you as you finish the roll so that you end with a toe strike and don’t hit your knee!
Here are a few links that have helped me (I needed them all). See if they help you too!
Justin Ho (my friend from Systema Sydney). This is what a relaxed standing roll looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQqcl9GQRqQ&feature=youtu.be (WOW, how smooth is that!). Can you figure out what he is doing that you are not?
If you can get a copy of “Breathwork and Combat” with Valentin Talanov do so. I found that one to be very helpful, especially when getting started. It used to be on HQ’s site but it is now out of production. If not, next time we hold class let me know and I’ll walk (roll) you through it!
Until next week,
We are still here. Week 4 and counting. Hang in there, guys!
I am sure y’all know there are several on line, video live classes now available. If you have not already done look into the series being offered by Vladimir Vasliev at Systema Head Quarters. Any time you can get “near” him or Mikhail Ryabko it is worth it. Here is the link. The blue and white tiles in that link are what online class is up next.
This week I thought I would go back to Filotto’s Brian Maps, with a twist of my owned added just to spice things up. To get the idea, refer to this link now.
“Muscular Isolation Brain Maps” are readily described, and drills to work on them included. What I like about the concept is that it adds clarity as to why we try to isolate muscle groups during combat and “Contract – Relax” breathing exercises.
Unless you are new to Systema, that should make sense to you. If you are new, start with these drills first:
Lay down on your back. Inhale and then exhale. Find you natural breathing cadence. Do not create tension with either inhalation or exhalation.
Now, pick on body part (say an arm) and as you inhale contract it 100%. As you exhale relax it 100%. If you can master that you can add variations such as starting the contraction at the shoulder and propelling it down into the hand, or vice versa. You can also vary the percentage of contraction (typically 10%, 30% 50%, 70% and 100%).
Once you can do that, pick two limbs simultaneously. It does not matter what you pick. For example, contact both arms at once and then relax them together too. From there you can progress to as many variations as you can think of, including the entire body, the face and neck only, torso only, upper and lower back only, etc. Don’t forget this one: contract two limbs and or body parts at once and then relax only one.
Now for the advanced stuff. Instead of contacting groups of muscles try and do the same drill only this time focus on only one muscle at a time. If you don’t know the anatomy well enough, or can’t figure it out, then contract only a group of muscles that surround a joint or make a joint work.
Next, take a look at these images (Image 1 and Image 2). They are called “Muscle Slings” or “Tittel’s Lines” (Tittel described them). The black is one sling, the red is another. Tittel’s work opines that movement is controlled through muscle sling patterns. While slings vary with activity type, I have included two different activities so that you can get the idea. As one sling “works” the second either relaxes or provides supporting structure.
Here is the drill: instead of working on contract relax by limbs, body parts or joints, do so in muscle sling groups. Good luck! And of course, don’t forget all of this is breath led.
Hopefully by now you are getting to see that muscular isolation brain maps can improve performance, reduce pain, and are integral to Systema’s four pillars.
That’s it for this week.
Boy, here we are at week 5. In case you have not heard talk has started about getting back to normal. It is too soon to tell but it appears that SC will not be ready to implement Phase 1 until sometime in May and hopefully Phase two in early June. We may start limited classes again in early-mid May (groups or of three or less) and go from there. Stay tuned.
This week I would like to talk about movement. Not in the broad sense of the word but in terms of connecting to your legs, moving your body as a unit, and moving with relaxation.
Pick an object such as a tall chair, a post, or anything else you can walk around and place it in an open space. For starters, just walk past it. Try to be aware if your tension is different than if you were simply walking with no agenda.
Next, place two, three or four objects in random order in front of you and walk in between and past them. Try and stay just as relaxed as if they were not there at all. Pay attention to your arms. Are they hanging limply at your side or can you walk past the objects while keeping your arms in a relaxed, but ready position? Ideally, when you are walking all your joints should be moving freely.
Next, repeat the drill but this time do so with 1 inch of bend (squat) in the hips and knees. Keep your chest and knees in the same plane. Now repeat the drill but fire your glutes to generate the movement (don’t forget to continue the previous parts of the drill as well).
If you are comfortable with that, repeat the entire set of drills however this time walk backwards.
Now add some complexity to it. Assume each object is an attacker. Try and feel with each step when your arms might be ready to strike. Do not focus on your fist, but rather your legs. Try and discover when your stance puts the attacker in front of you (in your dinner plate) and when you can generate energy from rooting with the ground such that you can throw the punch with a relaxed arm. When you have this right, you should become aware that you are able to deliver the punch with power.
Once you feel good about that, continue your cadence between the attackers but make sure you never deliver more than two strikes at the same height (so you will have to increase and decrease the depth of your squat).
Now make it harder still. Repeat all the drill components you have incorporated thus far only make sure that you never step in the same direction for more than two steps (you must constantly change where you are with respect to the attackers).
Once you can do that, walk toward each attacker and make sure you end up either on the side or behind the attacker, so that you can both control him and see who might be coming from behind you.
Finally, combine all aspects of the previous drills but this time carry either a gun or a knife. Your job is to pull your weapon, and it put back, while weaving back and forth between each attacker. Remember to do so while remaining relaxed and only when you have power. Also, just to add a bit of sauce to the recipe, be stealth about it. No one should be able to see you pull the weapon, put it back, and you should keep it hidden in the interim as well.
That’s it for this week. Happy Training.
Let’s start out this week with some levity.
For those of you asking how to make sense of it all here is a great video that puts it all together:
and for those of you who are looking for ways to cope, consider this:
Sheri and I have been taking the Online Classes from Head Quarters. In many ways I have enjoyed them even more then the regular classes. In addition, if you have not taken Vladimir’s regular adult classes on line, I highly recommend you do so.
Starting with the next class Vladimir will be covering the four pillars. I have taken as many of his online classes as I can and I highly recommend that you do so as well. Here is the link: https://systemavasiliev.com/store/product-category/systema-online-classes/
At least for the moment, Toronto will be going off Lock Down on May 18. I hope Vladimir keeps doing the online classes, but they may not last. Take advantage of them while you can!
While there are several other online opportunities. Martin Wheeler is always a favorite. His classes seem to be more fitness based (they are hard) and only 30 minutes, but they are free. All you have to do is provide him with your email address and you will get the passcodes. Do so! Here is the link: http://wheelersystema.com/
This week I thought I would borrow from Vlad’s last class on “Fatigue and Tension”. You guessed it. He worked us hard (fatigue), made us look at the tension that goes with that, and then tried to help us dissipate both through breathing.
So, let’s go for it!
Start by lying down and breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. If your new on what to do from here refer to Week 4 of Systema Greenville’s Stay at Home series.
Once done with that, let’s do it differently. With each inhale find a body part and create tension in it, and then when you exhale move that tension into another body part, without changing the tension in the first (so, for example, breath tension into one arm and exhale the tension into your other arm).
Repeat into all limbs, the torso, the kidney, the chest, and even the eyes and ears.
Repeat, but this time make the exhale cause relaxation into your body. Learn to take the tension in an arm for example, leave it there, and then use it to cause relaxation into a different body part.
As Vlad puts it, “you are learning to create channels between limbs and body parts”. You just have to trust that it works and practice it until you get it.
Next, there are several exercises to create fatigue. After each exercise repeat the above drills only replace tension with fatigue and heaviness.
Start with a 3-minute plank. The goal it to have to “fight” to have to do it. So instead of doing what you are used to, Vlad wants you on your palms, with arm internally rotated (fingers pointing backward toward you, or at least inwards). You can use your fists if you want, but the idea is to make yourself uncomfortable.
Repeat the plank but with 10 degrees of elbow bend. Then with 20 degrees. Then at 45 degrees. Then at 70 degrees. Then with your body just barely off the floor.
Start all over but this time with 3-minute squats (remember to keep you back straight and heels down). First time with only one inch of knee bend. Then 2 inches, then three, etc up to 10 (by 10 you should be all the way down).
Repeat, but start at the bottom and come all way up.
Next, do one squat after another, but each squat is progressively lower, broken down into 10% increments. By the 10th one you should be all the way down.
Repeat, but start at the bottom and work your way up.
Now move onto leg raises. Start for 3-minutes at 90 degrees straight up. Then 70 degrees; then 45; then 25, and then where your legs are just barely off the ground.
If you are still alive, repeat in the reverse direction.
Remember to breath to exhale tension, and to unify, or disperse tension while doing each exercise.
Also, don’t forget the first part of the class. You are doing this to help yourself find channels between fatigued or tense areas that you can wash out with breathing.
Now for the finale. Do as many push ups as you can until you get tired. Then change immediately to squats. As many as you can. Then change to leg raises. As many as you can. When done cleanse yourself with breathing.
That’s it. You did it. Go have a Beer.
Until next week,
I hope all is well. In an effort to “open” Systema Greenville again, last week we started specially designed classes that accommodate social distancing. The plan is to continue with this format, and then to start regular classes back up either at the end of May or first of June, depending upon how things pan out. To that end, this will be the last of the “stay at home” solo classes that I send out. I hope you have found them useful and I look forward to training in person with each of you again soon.
In case you missed it, the Lloyd Robrecht Systema Connections seminar has been rescheduled to June 20 & 21. If you have not signed up for it yet, or any of our other seminars this year, you might want to take advantage of the current special anti-virus prices that expire on May 15th. Here is the link to sign up: https://systemagreenville.com/#events
This week’s solo class is a review of a stick class put on by Martin Wheeler last week.
You will need a stick of about 4 ft in length. Depending upon you size it can be a bit shorter or longer.
Start by just holding the stick and moving it about in as many ways as you can think of. Be creative and stay relaxed. If you are adept enough, bring in your legs and then your feet to assist your hands as you move the stick about.
Next, take the stick and tap your self with it, basically everywhere that there is muscle on your body. Use the stick to loosen up muscles (for the cooks in the group think of pounding out meat to help tenderize it).
Next, repeat the last exercise however this time use the stick as a deep friction massage tool and “rub out” the muscles in your arms, legs, stomach, etc.
Now work on different ways to grab the stick. Hold it with both hands, horizontal, in front of you. Try a top grip first. Rotate the stick forward with both hands. Work your wrists. Keep doing that but start to move the stick around; up, down, vertical, and in all planes. Repeat, but this time rotate the stick backwards.
Next, move the stick about your body, and try to use your hands as little as possible. That means you will have to grab it with your elbows, armpits, neck, head, hips, knees, ankles, and if you good enough with your toes. Use your body to move the stick up and down your body and try not to use our hands.
Next, grab the stick horizontally on both ends in front of you, and pull It overhead and behind you. Stretch your chest, pectorals, arms, etc. Once you are comfortable with that move it down your back as well (don’t let go as you bring it from overhead down toward your buttock and waist).
Next, from standing, with the stick still behind your neck, do 10 squats. Keep your back straight and try to keep your heels down.
Next, grab the stick horizontally on both ends in front of you, plant your feet, and rotate your trunk so that the stick is now facing backwards. Just do the best you can and go from side to side. 10 reps each side.
Next, go one inch down (start a squat). And repeat. Do this 10 times, each time going a little bit lower on your way down into the squat. Then repeat the whole series as you come back up.
Now get into plank position to do a push up, but hold the stick on both ends (it should be horizontal in front of you and on the ground). Do 10 push ups while holding onto the stick. Repeat.
Next, without letting do of the stick, from plank position, lift one leg off the ground, bend the knee, and rotate that leg behind you so that the foot of that leg crosses your body while you do a push up. If you are good enough tap the foot of the bent knee on the ground at the bottom of the push up. 10 reps each side.
Next, you are going to “jump” or “hop” the stick around you as you do push ups. So, from push up plank position, holding the stick on both ends (it should be horizontal in front of you and on the ground), do a push up but on the way up lift the stick off the ground (both ends at once) and on your way down make sure the stick has been moved along the circumference of a circle around your body. Keep your feet in the same place.
Keep doing push ups, moving the stick a little more each time, until the stick become as parallel to your legs as you can get it. This should take you about 10 push ups. Then repeat as you move your trunk back to the mid line. Then repeat in the opposite direction. If you can only do a few push ups, or five in each direction, that is fine. Just do the best you can.
Next, sit in the floor with your legs extended in front of you. Hold onto the stick with both hands and hold it behind your neck. Do 10 sit ups. Repeat only do 10 leg raises instead.
Next, repeat the sit ups again, but this time keep your legs off the ground the entire time, just a little bit. After 10 reps, do it again, but this time with your legs 25 degrees off the ground; then repeat at 45 degrees and at 65 degrees.
Keeping the stick behind your head, without using your hands, stand up. Now do 10 pistol squats on each leg. Keep the stick behind your neck and don’t use your hands to get up or help you go down.
If by some miracle you have not taken a rest break yet, you might want to do so. Naturally, you should be working on your breathing the whole time.
Now stand up. Put the stick behind your neck, and then get flat on the floor, on your back. No hands. Preferably you should not let the stick ever touch the ground either. Try not to use your elbows. Stand back up. Repeat, only this time end up face down as you go to the floor. 10 reps each.
Stand up again. Put the stick behind your neck, get flat on your back and then do a sit up. Then stand up. Then go back down on the floor but this time face down, and then do a push up (the stick is still behind your neck). Then stand up. Do 10 reps of that entire sequence.
Lie down on your back. Put the stick on your chest, length wise, parallel to your body. Breath and recover. Calm yourself. When ready get back up. You are done!