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Systema Health Practices – Part 3

29 Aug

There are many unique health practices in Systema, which are unlike anything i’ve seen elsewhere.

One such is the whip massage, which i get in some form every time i go to Moscow, and i leave feeling refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated.

The Whip

A whip is not a normal thing to use for massage or fighting in western culture. However in the old times in Russia, whips were used both as a method for fighting and for healing. If you’ve ever been hit by a whip you’ll know why.

A whip “massage” can be standing up, laying down or even while moving. This depends on the person’s skill who is doing the whipping.

Generally a good starting position is laying down, as your whole body can be relaxed and doesn’t have to support itself.

This starts with one person laying down on their stomach, the person with the whip initially starts from the persons head and whips lightly from the head to the upper back, arms, lower back etc down to the feet. A light strong whip, can be made by folding the whip in half. This is a preparation or warm-up for what is to come.

Now you start to whip harder on the large muscle areas, shoulder, both sides of upper, mid and lower back. Then onto bicep muscles going down arms to hands. Now on to buttocks – there is a reason this area must be hit hard, as between the upper and lower body are the hips and the main muscle in the buttock muscle, if this is tense, it means your arms and legs will not be joined, and the blood flow will not be free and smooth. So to create body unity, the area in the middle (the buttock muscle) must be relaxed.

Then onto the upper and lower legs, finishing on the feet. The person can then turn over and the same can be repeated.

One important thing to remember is: if the person begins to get tense or panic, give them a few pats on their head with the whip.

This is an extremely interesting phenomenon, which relaxes the person, probably due to: our attention going to our head, it relaxing the scalp muscles and brain – which would relax our psyche and calm our emotions, and the fact that simply touching someone’s head in a calming way is relaxing, for instance when a mother strokes a babies head and they relax and sleep.

Throughout this the person being whipped should be breathing, fast if they feel pain, and try to keep their body relaxed.

Here is a video of me experiencing this in Russia, go to 16:05 which is the segment with the whip:

Systema Health Practices – Part 2

24 Aug

One of the most magical experiences for me, from Systema was in the Russian Banya. A whole Systema group of Russians in Moscow go twice a week, and Alexander (Sasha) had invited me to go along. A Russian guy was tasked with giving me a lift from the Systema school in Moscow to the banja. On the way he asked me “have you ever been to banya before?” i said “well i’ve been to a sauna” He laughed “No,no, this is not sauna, this is banya”

What is Banya?

Banya has three main parts:

1 – You go in to a very hot stone sauna and i mean very hot. You sweat it out there for a bit. 10-20 minutes typically

2 – You come out and straight away you go into a freezing cold pool (while breathing well). You dunk your head under and hold your breath on an in or out breath, while you listen to your pulse – heart beat, under water.

3 – You repeat step 1, and while you’re doing the first two rounds, Sasha has been preparing some branches of birch leaves, adding scents and soaking them in warm water. When you  go back in for the second time, you sit down, and he begins to whip you with the birch leaves; on your chest, shoulders, back and legs.

You then repeat this process 7-8 times, not always with the birch leaves, sometimes a massage and sometimes nothing, depending on how Sasha is feeling.

This is one of the best Systema classes i have ever done. If you don’t breath correctly, it is easy to get overheated, tense up and panic.

After a few rounds it gets easier and when you come out you feel extremely relaxed, both your body and mind. Usually they have some hot fruit juice or liquor which also helps!

I highly recommend anyone going to Moscow to do this.

Systema Health Practices – Part 1

15 Aug

There are a couple of books that have been written on Systema health practices. Here i’m going to share what i consider the most important or core practices to keep your body healthy, mobile and free of tension.

Massage

Commonly called the “walking on the back” massage, the Russians have a whole series, that massages every muscle in your body in an intense way and that provides the best conditions to relax and remove large and small tensions from your body.

You can get a full description of this here: https://thomashogarth.com/2012/04/27/day-1-part-2-moscow-class-alexander-sasha/

Or if you prefer a seeing it yourself: https://thomashogarth.com/2013/05/28/ryabko-systema-massage-video-lesson-alexander-moscow-2013/

This massage is absolutely key and all of the Russian masters stress that this should be done after every class or as often as possible.

For your relaxation , health and body form, nothing beats this massage.

Breathing

Breathing is not only essential when training, but all throughout our lives, especially when we become stressed or scared. Breathing is something we can rely on, something we can go back to, when everything else is out of control. Breathing can be done by feeling, for example if you need energy you breath faster or if you want to calm your psyche you breath slower and deeper.

The main point is control. Understand and feel the power of your breath and you will have a never-ending hidden resource.

Walking

In this day and age we sit a lot more than is necessary or healthy. Sitting ruins the body’s natural form and increases tension levels in our spine and legs. Standing on the other hand is natural and walking is even better. Our bodies were made to walk, stretch and move. In this modern world we work at computers all day, sitting on a chair and when we get home, our first instinct is to sit down. If you look at places like India and China where they sit cross legged or kneel down, they have much less instance of back pain and physical body issues, even as they grow older.

Check out this interesting article on sitting: http://lifehacker.com/5879536/how-sitting-all-day-is-damaging-your-body-and-how-you-can-counteract-it

So what can you do? as the article suggests standing can often help combat the negative effects of sitting. The best thing you can do is to take a walk, Systema style, so combining breathing with your steps and consciously relaxing your body. This will work wonders for your body and your psyche. 

Read this for more tips on adding walking to your training: https://thomashogarth.com/2013/07/27/how-to-create-a-systema-workout/

Part 2 – Banja, Stomach massage, the stick and whip

Ryabko Systema Massage

15 Jul

I’ve been intending to write this for a while. While i was in Russia this year i experienced this special massage given by Andre at the Systema school. Words can not even describe it. It was the most painful thing i have ever experienced, and since i was 13 have done various combat sports, but nothing touched me at the level this did. It was a physical and emotional adventure, a rollercoaster of various massages with small sticks, whips and swords.

(To none Systema people this will sound strange but trust me when i say this is effective on a very personal level, you face your fears directly, as the body holds the fear from childhood and life in the spine and deep muscles, making it a very emotional experience)

What happens:

I started out standing and sitting on a vibrating platform, to relax surface tension.

Then, the lady that was translating and helping said “one rule: you have to keep breathing”

Then i sat down on a massage chair, with my head through the hole, leaning foward. Firstly Andre pasted some massage oil on me, and then with small wooden sticks, began to press them either side of my spine in to the muscles, at first easy and working up and down my spine, then even more strongly. Aferwards they were slid up and down the spinal muscles. I then laid down and the lady took over.  This seemed like a very long session with different types of sticks sometimes being pressed onto the bone, sometimes onto the side muscles and connective tissue, After this treatment with the spine, shoulder, neck, head and hip muscles, They took out the Russia crowd control whips and began the standard Systema massage, with 2 types of whips. After this i was fairly, emotionally worn out, and it finished with a sword massage (difficult to describe), This whole massage was about 1 hour, and by the end some of my muscles had difficulty moving, my shoulders were low and my whole back was straighter. I felt it directly – that something had fundamentely changed. It still feels the same to this day, my back, body and more importantly mypsche structure was corrected to a degree that changed my personality and feeling. It was profound.

Some french guys that were in Moscow around the time i was, their video of the massage and thoughts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFuaoEpO_aQ

Other People talking about the massage:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT78PTmvEAg

I highly recommend you go to Russia to experience this or go to a seminar where one of the massage guys will be there.

 

Training in Meppel, Jumpers and Talking

21 Jan

Firstly the class was excellent:

– Similar drills to wednesday, with twists and changes,

– Working with arms and legs simultaneously together, the whole body works

– moving away from the strike/kick with just enough motion to remove the force, more and it is excessive

– staying in the movement, with him/her

– flowing with the person

– person strikes and kicks and you move away in a manner to keep your body form good, soft and free.

– same drill now you do something back to the person to effect their structure, timing is important here.

And now for the return journey – so i was very kindly given a lift to the station in Meppel, so i was there with time to spare before my train came, i walked up to the station and noticed the electronic sign boards were completly blank. I think WTF? Then i look where it says my train and i notice it is still written, whew…

Then i hear a lady coming on the intercom, saying something about a man jumping on to the tracks, therefore there are NO TRAINS RUNNING BETWEEN MEPPEL AND ZWOLLE, and I MUST GO TO ZWOLLE. Shit. estimated next train 00:00. So i relaxed, breathed, thought, i decided to see what was happening with the other people waiting, i got into a conversation with a guy and he had to pick someone up from this station, but now – because of the jumper – was stuck at the other station. he says maybe i can give you a lift, “sure thing” i said.. In the end there was an emergency bus from the rail company, so i did’nt need a lift with the guy. Things to think about.

Why did a random man offer to give me a lift, from a 5 minute conversation?

What made him trust me? Would he do it with everyone?

This i believe is the skill of communication/conversation – in a word “Talking”, unfortunately in this modern society it is mostly a lost art.