Internal Work Intensive

It is often said that without internal awareness and control one cannot learn Systema. Konstantin Komarov goes so far to say “There are practically no techniques in Systema; rather only the state and potential of the psyche and the body. If you are learning techniques you are likely not learning Systema” (Komarov, 15). For the sake of understanding Komarov’s position on martial arts methodology, consider the first passage in Morihei Ueshiba’s book, The Art of Peace, which reads “The Art of Peace begins with you. Work on yourself and your appointed task in the Art of Peace…you are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment” (Stevens, 3). Great masters have often taught that success in martial arts comes from within; not from wrote technique. Continue reading

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Principles of Breath – Leading

The following is an excerpt from the 7 principles of Russian Breathing according to Vladimir Vasiliev with commentary by Systema SLC. For more information pick up Let Every Breath: the Secrets of the Russian Breath Masters.


2.Leading – Breath leads action (action is delayed slightly behind breath.)
Breath, mind, and body exist in symbiosis with each other. The mind follows the breath, and the body follows the mind. Consider the following: When your body works harder, your breath rate increases. When your breath rate increases, your mind becomes considerably more agitated.The opposite also happens, when your breath rate is calm, your mind and body will reflect that. Continue reading

Breathe Deep, Center Yourself, Stay Soft and Ride!

Whether or not you are a horseback rider, this is article is a concise and informative work that shows “Tai Chi in practice.” I don’t often see Tai Chi principles “used,” but I love it and I think it is the only way to practice Tai Chi (or Systema for that matter.) My Tai Chi instructor, Bill Parkinson, often compared our bodies with horses. Bill would say, our spirit needs a healthy horse to lead us to the afterlife. As I have only ridden a horse once or twice in my life, I read this article with my physical self in mind rather than a horse.

I was also reminded of what Mark Zamarin teaches about how our emotional and physical state effects those around us. When we are tense, those around us will respond with tension. As such, we can use tension and relaxation to communicate with our training partners (consider the “half-halt” mentioned in the article,) but to do so, we must first know how to control tension in ourselves. I would like to reiterate an exercise we use in Systema to understand and control tension.

While lying or standing, relax and breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Inhale slowly and tense up the body starting with the head all the way down to the feet. Feel every muscle tense up in a wave-like motion down to the feet. Go slow. When the entire body is tense, pause and exhale as you relax the body from head to feet. Now inhale and tense the feet all the way up to the head, pause when every muscle is tense, then exhale and relax the feet all the way up to the head. You must time your inhales and exhales with the rate that you tense up or relax your body. Next practice rapid inhales and exhales. Inhale and tense the whole body at once, exhale and relax the whole body at once. Exhaling through the mouth will help disperse tension quickly.

This exercise teaches us to recognize the difference between relaxation and tension so we become aware when tension arises. It also teaches us to use the breath to control tension. Inhalation is a naturally tense action and exhalation is naturally relaxing (sighing or the sound “shh, for example.) Thanks!

Leading With Intention - Equine Training

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Previously, I listed three key ingredients that I feel are important to develop as a rider.  We have discussed the importance of straightness, and now it is time to focus on the value of breathing properly, and the development and use of ones “core.”  When I use the term “core,”  I’m not talking about developing a six pack, or the need to have super strong abs.  Some “traditional” core strength is very helpful, but my focus in this article will be on developing your core energetically.  Learning to release tension in your body and breathe more effectively will make a HUGE difference in the quality of communication you have with your horse – whether you are riding, or working with them on the ground.  It will also improve every other aspect of your life.  This may sound grandiose and abstract, but it really isn’t.  The quality of energy, centering and…

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“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn” John Wesley

Fire is a great analogy for energy. We have a few additional comments.

Scott Meredith pointed out in his book, “Let Every Breath: the Secrets of the Russian Breath Masters” that oxygen is required to fuel a fire, or breath is required to fuel energy. In fact, correct breathing may help restore energy that is consumed by negativity.

Please consider breath as a method for tempering energy to produce the appropriate flame for the moment. If we are in the business of refining ourselves, then we must realize that if the refiner’s fire is too intense, steel is destroyed (becomes unusable,) and if it is too weak, then steel will not refine. Oxygen is what determines the intensity of the fire.

Energy is often construed in the martial arts to mean a quasi-metaphysical force, so perhaps this article will motivate us to think of energy differently and consider what kind of energy we are burning in class and how it manifests in our work. Too intense, too weak? No fire at all? Where is the energy directed?

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Energy gives us the ability to do things, whether it’s getting a new work project off the ground, fueling that creative idea or even just thinking! You know that
energy exists because you can see or feel what it does.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another.” Albert Einstein

When we light a fire it requires support (a hearth, a container, a person to tend it), in order for power to be released. The spark from the match awakens the fire, a catalyst to release wood’s latent energy, bringing life; seen in flames and light, felt in heat, comfort, sometimes safety or a even a sign of motivation and hope.

Fire can create boundaries and burn off what is no longer needed. The colour and heat of our individual fires and intensity will vary. Some of us will burn strongly, some will…

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