Author Archives: Matthew Lowes

About Matthew Lowes

Matthew Lowes is a writer, a game designer, and a martial arts instructor. Visit matthewlowes.com to learn more about his work.

Lesson 4: Push-ups

This week we delve into everybody’s favorite topic: push-ups. So much can be learned from them. The strength that comes, especially the relaxed strength that come from doing push-ups with minimum tension, is a great result. But the really great thing about doing push-ups is they’re just hard enough, just unpleasant enough, just pressure enough to be an excellent stimulus for studying yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, your fears and desires.

In training, we do this with strikes too, of course. But while socially distancing, it’s hard to find somebody who can give you good strikes, the kind that allow you study yourself in this way. However, all that same work can be done with a push-up, and in a way that is self-regulating.

The self-regulating part is good and bad. One the one hand, you don’t have to deal with your partner’s clumsy strikes or somebody not giving enough or giving what you think is too much. On the other hand, you don’t have to deal with these things, which are good challenges themselves.

So when doing push-ups, think about the training like taking strikes. Mostly work on technique at an easy to moderate level. Learn to coordinate breathing, manage tension, and study your mind’s reaction to the work. Once you have some proficiency in doing this, you have to push yourself, do a really hard push-up! Or set of push-ups. This is like the deeper strike that takes you to another level, a deeper place, where the training becomes quite intense.

The challenge for you is to learn how to challenge yourself deeply in this way.

Click here to see the complete Push-ups lesson, or click on any of the lesson’s below to catch up.

COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice


Movement Lv1 / Lesson 3

Lesson 3, on Crawling, is now is now available on my website. This free course is a progression of fundamental work for Systema. This crawling lesson is a big one! There is so much here, and this Level 1 lesson is just touching the surface. Konstantin once told us he had his group in Russia doing six months of nothing but crawling work to lay the foundation for everything else. And really, you could nothing but this and still understand the great depth of Systema.

For those of you who have done some basic crawling work with me, you can be working on the following:

  • Leading with the breath.
  • Investigating lower and lower tone and amplitudes.
  • Sustaining overall continuity of movement.

And for further direction, pay particular attention to the video on Going Deeper. Here it is:


FULL COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice


Movement Lv1 / Lessons 1 & 2

Hello Systema students and friends!

My project to deliver fundamental Systema training that is idea for solo practice continues. Lessons 1 and 2 are now available on my website, each easily covering a week of focused training.

I know I’ve said this many times, but we often are so excited about training with others and getting to punch and throw and wrestle that we neglect to do the core fundamental work that leads to real progress and transformation. Now is a great opportunity! Too often we are distracted by fighting with others. Now that it’s not an option, we are forced to fight with ourselves.

I can’t speak highly enough of this work. At the beginning it will seem all too simple. You will get bored or anxious or impatient. See … already you’re fighting with yourself. Make room within yourself for everything. Engage in the practice as a process. You don’t know where it’s going yet. You have to trust the process. Give it your attention, your curiosity, and your sincere desire to discover something beyond what you think you know about yourself and the world.

Here’s the intro talk to Lesson 2. The complete lesson includes step-by-step instruction, notes, a talk on going deeper into the practice, training routines and objectives.

COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice


Movement Lv1 / Series Introduction

Here’s the introduction to the series of training guides that I’m putting out. The complete first lesson is available now and could easily cover a week of very fundamental Systema training. Although the early lessons may seem simple, they are very deep, if you apply yourself to consistent daily practice. I hope you’ll follow along with me as I cover a lot of the work I do in my own solo training, including relaxation and ground movement, core exercises, transitions, walking/jogging, free movement, and recovery. By then end, I’ll be tying all these topics together into a concentrated and comprehensive training session you can use in your solo practice.

If you have questions or want advice on how to take a particular drill or exercise deeper or to the next level, please contact me. I’m here as a teacher and happy to help guide you in any way I can. Since this course has good training even for people not interested in Systema or martial arts, please pass it on to anybody who you think may be interested in this work.

COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice


Video Training Course

I’m going to be putting out a series of video practice guides. This is both for my regular Systema students as well as anybody interested in mobility, health, martial arts, yoga, dance, meditation or self-inquiry. I’m just calling this course a Mind-Body Practice, since it really isn’t necessarily martial arts related. For those of you who study Systema or any other martial art, relaxed, coordinated, smooth movement is fundamental to health and practical application. We don’t spend enough time training our bodies in this way. This is deep training for the body and psyche, if you apply yourself to regular practice.

You can follow the whole series on my website starting here.

Videos and written materials will be posted Mondays and Thursdays. I’ll post reminders and updates here as well. The lessons will be sequential and progressive, so anybody jumping onboard should start at the beginning. Each lesson can cover a week of daily practice, but the series also serves as a guide for self-paced training.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I want to thank Kaizen Taki of Movement Daily, as well as Vladimir Vasiliev, Konstantine Komorov, and the larger Systema community for exposing me to these kinds of practices.

COURSE SYLLABUS

preview | introduction | 1 ground checks | 2 turnovers | 3 crawling | 4 push-ups | 5 rolls | 6 sit-ups | 7 transitions | 8 squats | 9 jogging | 10 free move | 11 walking | 12 recovery | comprehensive practice


Online Training Opportunities

I hope you are all finding time to continue your training, regardless of circumstances. The challenge has been there all along to discover a practice that is self guided, self informed, and self directed — to take the principles of what you have learned in class and go as far as you can with them. Many times I heard my instructors say that you have everything you need, that Systema does not come from the outside and cannot be given to you. It comes from within. It is a process of self discovery.

Nevertheless, we can all benefit from teachers once in a while. I’m here if you have questions or need direction, and I just got a decent camera so I can start posting some video training guides in the near future. But there’s no need to wait for that. You have an extraordinary opportunity right now to learn directly from Vladimir Vasiliev and other top instructors who are teaching online classes. Now is also a great opportunity to book private online sessions with my teacher, Kaizen Taki of Movement Daily, for personal work on health, healing, stress-management, nutrition, and movement.

The next class with Vladimir on Breath for Internal Control is tomorrow at 1pm Eastern Time, 10am Pacific time. If you’re a student of mine I even have a discount code I can give you. Just send me a message. If you miss this one, there will be more.

Emmanuel Manolakakis of Fight Club is also teaching some online classes. He was with Vlad very early on. He’s a wonderful teacher, a great guy, and an incredible martial artist.

Martin Wheeler of Martin Wheeler Systema has also been teaching some online classes. Another incredible instructor and martial artist.

Stay healthy and keep practicing! :)


Systema Online Videos from HQ

On the Systema Vasiliev YouTube channel, Vladimir and Valerie Vasiliev are offering a new series of videos to the public. This first one addresses general health information and advice for positive action during this or any crisis or stressful situation. I highly recommend you watch these as a way to supplement and guide your solo training.


Eugene Systema on hiatus until further notice …

Monday Systema class is cancelled and Eugene Systema classes are on hiatus until further notice. Due to ongoing developments in the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon and what is still only minimal testing nationwide, I’ve decided to be very cautious as this unfolds. We’re a small group, so it’s not a big deal to just take a pause, see how the situation progresses, and potentially help slow community spread of the virus.

To be clear, Best Martial Arts Institute is still open and is honoring all their teachers’ decisions about whether to come in and teach or not. They have taken extensive precautions to maintain a clean and safe environment, including daily cleaning of the mats and frequent-contact surfaces with anti-virus cleaner, as well as emphasizing that all students should wash their hands before and after training, and stay home if sick. I have confidence that they are and will continue to take the necessary precautions to keep students as safe as possible.

Nevertheless, Systema training frequently involves a lot of close contact. Even if we resolve to minimize that contact, out of habit, and because training can be fun and exuberant and intense, it’s easy to forget. We are a friendly group and we usually train in a pretty small room. For people in risk categories, the chance for serious and even fatal disease is a reality. If a small change in our routine can potentially lessen the risk for more vulnerable people at this time, that’s a good course to take.

The outbreak and the risk assessment will be more clear as testing becomes more widespread. At some point, we may begin training again. Until then, solo training can and should continue. Consider this a personal opportunity to build the kind of consistent, daily, self-driven practice that is backbone of real transformation. If you don’t know how you should be practicing, contact me. I am still here as a teacher and happy to offer you guidance. A little bit of direction can take you a long way, if you’re determined.

I may post some training suggestions in the coming weeks, and I am always available for questions, by email, by video conference, and in person, should you want to meet. In the meantime, stay relaxed, my friends, and let’s all take reasonable measures to keep ourselves and those around us healthy and happy. :)


Class Cancelled 3/2/2020

Greetings all,

Monday night class is cancelled on 3/2/2020. I’ve had a mild cold over the weekend, and am still feeling a little bit of the tail end. I feel pretty good, but could probably use the rest. Additionally, with a potentially dangerous new virus going around, and with the extent of its spread still being unclear, it seems prudent to take the night off.

A lot of the training we do in Systema is to increase sensitivity to even very small changes within the psyche and the body — not to be hyper-vigilant, but to naturally notice contrasts earlier and be able to act accordingly. This has obvious application in martial arts. If you notice a dangerous situation or potential attack earlier, your opportunity to avoid or defend against those dangers vastly increases.

I want to point out that this same principle has deep application in taking care of one’s health. For example, if you get a cold, the earlier you notice that you’re not feeling quite right and that it may be a cold coming on, the sooner you can start getting extra rest, drinking extra fluids, and generally taking measures to create optimal conditions for your immune system to do its job. And, of course, you can avoid potentially exposing others to whatever you’ve got.

In my own experience, noticing these health disruptions earlier has lessened their impact. When I was in college and living a very unhealthy lifestyle, I would ignore sickness and go on drinking and smoking and staying up late … and couple times even landed myself in the emergency room with high fevers and dehydration. Now, in part due to Systema training, I find myself noticing sometimes even pre-symptomatic changes in the body, and I do my best to take care of myself right away. It makes a difference!

Consider that tonight’s lesson. Of course, do your pushups, situps, and squats … roll around on the ground … but also sit in silence, and pay attention to everything that enters your awareness. You might be surprised what you find. :) Let whatever wisdom is found guide your actions.

Our regular class is scheduled to resume next week Monday on 3/9 as usual.


No Class 2/17 — and some thoughts on the nature of our practice …

There will be no Systema class Monday 2/17. Best Martial Arts Institute will be closed for the holiday. As usual, I hope you use this opportunity to focus on developing the discipline of consistent, daily, self-driven practice. The training you do on your own the attention you give to this practice are just important (if not more important) as showing up for class.

Lately I’ve been reading Yoka Daishi’s 8th century verses on Realizing the Way with translation and commentary by Myokyo-ni — wonderful book! This morning I came across a passage in Myokyo-ni’s commentary that expresses something fundamental that I’m trying to teach through our Systema training:

There is a Japanese story of a great general, who was an ardent follower of Zen, and who used to take his Zen master with him on his campaigns. One day a magician visited the camp and asked, “What is the use of all this Zen Business? It’s nothing special. I can work real miracles, have got powers that could be useful to you. Look at that waterfall. I can go right through and not a drop of water will touch me!” And he did go through it, and came out bone dry. The general was impressed, and asked the Zen master to do this. The Zen master went through, and came out drenched. Accused of being a deceiver and of having no powers, the Zen master laughed and said, “So, he came out dry, but what is the use of that? You get wet from water and burnt by fire, and that is just how it is!” We may ask, “So why should I do a training like this? After all, I already know that I get wet from water and burnt by fire.” But the general was already well trained in Zen and took the lesson.

It is a question of clearing seeing what is, saying yes to it, and then either accepting it or finding a way around it that accords with the situation as far as possible. If a man comes rushing at you with a cudgel you try to duck out of the way, and do not stand still so that he can hit you over the head. This clear seeing and responding to the situation is what is at stake. That is what the real training is about, not fancy fireworks.

Thank you, Myokyo-ni, for these insightful words. I hope you’ll consider them, and I hope to see you next Monday 2/24, when our regular weekly class will resume.

Until then, peace and blessings to you all.