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"[G]odliness with contentment is great gain.", I Timothy 6:6

Training Drills: Relaxation

Relaxation is a particularly complex subject with regard to Systema. It includes both mental and physical aspects. Most of us are naturally very tense in general and have become so used to the state of tension that we no longer recognize what being relaxed feels like.

In addition, our tension is generally related to mental tension and physical drills are limited in controlling mental tension. The drills here are primarily physical drills that combat tension through physical exertion. They are easy to do in training partners groups but the real work of combatting tension has to be done in the individual's mental and spiritual health. Physical labor can provide assistance and temporary relief but it cannot resolve the underlying causes of tension. Its effects may last for a time but as long as the mental tension remains, physical tension will soon follow.

"Tired muscles are relaxed muscles." Jim King

Breathing drills are particularly well-suited for enhancing the relaxation drills. Slow exercises like squats or pushups combined with breathing are great catalysts to relaxation.

Meditation on something greater than yourself is a very good way to relieve the mental tension that tries to rob you of the ability to relax. Prayer works in a similar manner. Concentrate on a scripture and try to think of all the ways it speaks to you personally. Through prayer and mediation on God you can strengthen your trust in him and give up that precarious hold you think you have on things that are beyond your control. It is the most effective way we know to assuage tension from stress.

General and Isolated Tension

From the "Escape from Holds" video of Vladimir Vasiliev

  1. Lie on your back and with each inhale, hold you breath and tense every portion of your body.
  2. Exhale and repeat the inhale-tension of the whole body several times.
  3. After repeating the entire body tension, start tensing just one part of the body one at a time on each inhale: shoulders, arms, chest, midsection, legs.
  4. Repeat isolated tension step several times.
  5. Stand up and repeat all the above steps for general tension then isolated tension.
  6. Have a partner approach and grab you - inhale and tense your entire body on contact.
  7. Repeat the partner grab only this time inhale and tense only the part being grabbed.
  8. Have two partners - one grabbing each arm or each leg and working to pull or twist the limb they grab. Work with one staying tense and preventing their movement while being relaxed and easily allowing your shoulder or hip in that limb to relax the tension out as they twist.

Dead Fish Arms

from Attack Proof by Perkins, Rindehour, and Kovsky

  1. Let your arms relax at your sides and bend your knees slightly. Breath.
  2. Your partner tries to lift your arms straight out at 90 degrees from your side by only holding your hands. If you are relaxed, it should be very difficult since your elbow or wrists will keep bending.
  3. Your partner tries to lift up under your armpits or by grasping your shoulders. Only your shoulders should rise when you're relaxed - like you were shrugging. If you feel yourself rising onto your toes instead, then you're not relaxed.