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Wednesday, 9 July 2014


This year's Systema Retreat runs from Friday afternoon to Sunday 12th-14th Sept
The work is led by Rob Poyton and Ed Phillips, plus guest instructors.
You will have the opportunity to study breath work, mobility, awareness training, massage, application work and more in a lovely peaceful setting!

Early bird booking discount at

CLASS NOTES 5/8/2014

1. Jogging with pyramid breathing, breath holds
2. Core exercises
3. Upper body work with long sticks
4. Free movement with stick
5. Developing joint rotation with stick

6. Deflection / passing vs one and two sticks, slow to fast
7. Ditto vs punches
8. Rotation around point of contact
9. Multiple strikes from initial defensive contact
10. Learning different types of work for different types of situation and skill level
11. Using partner's shoulder movement as signal to move
12. Blasting forward on the pads
13. Ditto on a partner
14. Sword work as the source of punching work - deflect and cut
15. Footwork for positioning, evade into your counter attack
16. Battlefield mentality vs sparring mentality
17. "Invisible" strikes
18. Taking hits and massage
19. Experiencing adrenal dump in unexpected situations
20. Thinking = nightmare :-)

CLASS NOTES 21/07/2014

1. Breathing and stretching
2. Core exercises
 3. Pushing with the fist
4. Exchanging strikes
5. Footwork vs punches, hands behind back, avoiding strikes

6. Ditto with the hands clasped in front, use of elbows and shoulders to defend
 7. Ditto with full use of the hands in groups of three
8. Speed work - touch the attacking arm then touch the body/face
9. Pad work - hard hits from short range, punching from the hand not the body
10. Ditto against a partner - hit the attacking arm then into the core
11. Takedowns vs a punch
12. Multiple strikes from close range
13. Draining attackers will to fight - hits into muscles, etc
14. Freestyle work
15. Group work
16. The healing power of strikes!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Class Notes 14/07/2014

1. Stretching, tense relax for arms, torso, legs
2. Selective tension / muscle control
3. Pushing with the fist
4. Returning the push, feeding off the first push
5. Ditto with partner moving
6. Pushing with the foot

7. Returning the kick, feeding off the first push
8. Ditto with partner moving
9. Back and forth push/punch/kick - allow the attack to land and respond from it
10. Work to take us back to free /natural movement – allowing the body to work without conscious thought or intention / tension
11. Sparring in threes and whole group - ability to take strikes and use the movement, striking with no root
12. Basic pad work – importance of pad holder, movement and different striking methods
13. Shorter strikes – hammer or knife – developing power with tighter movements
14. Striking attacking arm the forward into face/neck/body for strike, takedown or restraint
15. Violent hospitality!
16. The return of Nathaniel!

Class Notes 1st June 2014

1. Breathing
2. Joint rotation
3. Pushing with fist, partner, threes, whole group
4. Integrated body movemement - punching from the feet
5. Punching from the hip
6. Punching from the shoulder
7. Punching with no "root", floating punch

8. Punching with no tension and punching into tension
9.Tap punch into muscles
10. Hitting arm then face
11. Affecting physical and psychological structure
12. Free work
13. Segmented movement - hand leads the body
14. The return of Dodger!

Class Notes 24/5/2014

1. Breathe tense/relax and stretching
2. Ground movement - sideways roll, shoulder crawl, side fall, forward and backward roll
3. Evasive ground movement vs walker
4. Defensive ground movement in confined space
5. Punching with no support or "root", isolating the arm, strike like a "grab"
6. ditto with kicking
7. Disengaging the intent and "invisible" strikes 

8. ditto on the move
9. Pushups with hands in different positions - reinforcing structure
10. Slow sparring - not a simulation or "fight", like learning scales in music
11. Slow work to re-programme the nervous system
12. Peripheral vision
13. Sparring on three levels
14. Maintaining an even psyche - how the ego creates tension and how tension draws attention
15. Whole group sparring
16. Breathing and 20 count

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Instructor Training Workshop


We all learn how to punch, kick, stretch, move etc. But how do you learn to teach? For the first time in the UK, Instructors Rob Poyton and Ed Phillips are revealing the revolutionary methods of Russian teaching.

You will learn how to unlock student creativity and how to make your classes dynamic, productive and engaging - whatever your style!

So if you are an existing Instructor or are thinking of starting your own training group, click here to find out more details about this great opportunity!

Short Stick Workshop 7th June 2014

Class Notes 17th May 2014

1. Walking with breathing, tense/relax and twisting
2. Pushes / punches
3. Isolating the shoulder vs pushes
4. Selective tension drills
5 Using just the shoulder for punching, standing and sitting 

6. Ground movement - using the whole body
7. Ground movement into "get up"
8. Integrated ground movement vs grabs
9. Ditto vs kicks
10. Escaping from grabs on the ground
11. Punching from the ground
12. Free play ground work
13. Difficult positions - knife on ground
14. Freeplay vs knife
15. Breathing

16. Kitten!

Class Notes 3rd May 2014

1. Walking with tense/relax / stretching / rotation
2. Breath holds
3. Basic exercises
4. Tuning in to partner’s movement – catching them off step
5. Capturing / leading movement and intent
6. Weight shift and adding weight into your movement
7. Redirecting and opposing partner’s movement

8. Slow exercises
9. Developing hip flexibility
10. Using the core to power the legs
11. Ground work, using legs only against a standing attacker
12. Ditto against a ground attacker
13. Working against the knife on the ground
14. It’s not so much training what to do, it’s training how to do
15. Human mindset rather than reptile / predator mindset
16. Slow for precision and development, fast for testing
17. Individual expression according to the needs of the moment
18. Overcoming or working around restrictions, physical and psychological
19. Absent friends

Thank you to everyone for sharing today

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Class Notes 26th April 2014

Today's class notes
1. Breathing, tense, relax, stretching
2. Ground movement
3. Pushing with the fist in pairs
4. Striking the attacking arm
5. Defend and counter in pairs
6. Ditto in threes, then group
7. Use of footwork to break a static grip - move towards the space / weakest point
8. Add in height change to turn escape into a throw
9. Ditto against grabs
10. Ditto against chokes
11. Repeat against moving opponent - same principle, plus capture their movement
12. Very soft work in order to "calm" the other person
13. What is in your mind will come out in your work. Internal tension creates external tension
14. It's what you are rather than what you do

15. Beer!!!

Fear Control Workshop

Here's some notes from the FCW and some footage from the day - the full download is available via the main site

1. Need to control fear rather than be controlled by it
2. Method – innoculation rather than supression / de-sensitisation
3. Establishing fear hierarachy
4. Triune brain theory, agression / predator / human
5. Controlling tension through breathing
6. Basic breath hold and restoration
7. Restoration under discomfort
8. The role of the amygdala / hippocampus
9. The physiology of fear
10. Re-programming the brain, establishing a mindset
11. Using the breath to unlock freeze response
12. Pain management through breathing
13. Basic falls
14. Basic strike management
15. Blindfold work
16. Restoration via breathing and massage

17. Overall principle – to establish a mindeset which can respond to fear / stress in a rational way, without undue tension and panic. It’s not about “toughing things out”, it’s about working through a series of drills and exercises of different intensity in order to undergo an experience you can learn from. As there were new people present, intensity was kept average to low, but I hope that everyone gained something from the experience. Thanks everyone who took part in such good spirit

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Video Blog - Information

Some thoughts on concealing activity from an attacker

Class Download Nine

Class Download Nine preview - simple movement.  Full download available at  Systema UK

Class Notes 12th April 2014

1. Breathe, stretch, core exercises
2. Pushing with fists in pairs
3. Grab and escape in pairs
4. Allow grab, give support, then disrupt structure with small movement
5. Grab and escape free play
6. Knife from contact -basic movement, left/right up/down  
7. Ditto, control the wrist, control the person
8. Quick disarms from contact into control work
9. Vs stabs and slashes - avoid the knife, but make contact with the stabbing arm
10. Ditto in pairs
11. Move and attack the stabbing arm
12. Attack the arm then into the face / body
13. Short work vs the knife
14. The importance of hiding work, legal implications of knife defence
15. Establishing a "day to day " mindset - ie not having a "special mindset" that you have to work from, which needs some preparation time
16. Maintaining physical and psychological equilibrium in training
17. Knife vs knife
18. The elbow is stronger than the chin!

Class Notes 5th April 2014

Today's class notes
1. Breathe, stretch, tense, relax
2. Joint rotation
3. Accepting push from stick, whole body movement
4.Ditto left, right, up , down
5. Ditto localised movement, subtle
6. Allowing the body to work frees the brain for other functions (like when driving a car)
7. Take the stick
8. Stick dis-arms from contact, in pairs and threes
9. Exercises with the stick - climbing, pull ups, etc
10. Fear drills with the stick
11. Working position and timing against the stick
12. Taking hits from the stick
13. Free play, pairs and group
14. Keeping work simple and natural allows for adaptable response - just do it!
15. Bacon rolls!

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Class notes 29th March 2014

1. Breathing and stretching
2. Being pushed from seated and kneeling position
3. Absorb force and control speed of your fall - be soft, not a plank!
4. When pushed, throw the attacker
5. Simple turning movement against grabs

6. Add in reversal and shoulder movement
7. Add in work against the feet
8. Repeat above with dropping / level change movements
9. Let the other person work, stay soft but don't let him win
10. See opportunities for strikes
11. Work with every part of your body and against every part of his
12. Work against two attackers
13. Group grab/punch
14. Hayfever herbs from Mir - thank you!

Class Download Eight

Shows how to develop heavy hits and prep work for dealing with a boxer. Here's a preview

Full download available at Shop site

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Class Notes 22/3/2014

1. Breathing tense/relax
2. Core exercises
3. Work on the arms - selective tension during range of motion exercises
4. Push ups
5. Selective tension with partner
6. Push ups  
7. Maintaining contact and tension with two partners
8. Yep - more push ups!
9. Shoulder mobility - solo work
10. Ditto with a partner
11. Work against a boxer - establishing distance
12. Counterpunching
13. Accessing the boxer's lead hand and re-directing
14. Striking the lead arm and hitting into tension
15. The importance of affecting the boxer's structure
16. Freeplay, pair and group

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Class Notes 15th March 2014

1. Breathing tense/relax
2. Stretches, legs, arms, spine
3. Pushes with the stick - rolling off the body
4. Ditto, wiping with the hand
5. Ditto pre-contact
6. Ditto while laying on the floor
7. Partner exercises with stick
8. Working on the ground vs knife, from one movement to freeplay
9. Options - freedom of movement physically and psychologically gives you more options
10. Movement not technique
11. Disrupt structure to minimise opponent's options
12. Fear creates unwanted tension which limits options

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Why Exercise?

A question came up on a martial arts forum recently about how much time people spent on stretching in class. This led on to a discussion about exercise in general during class time.

There was strong feeling from some that exercise has no place in class. That students can exercise at home, when they come to class they should be “learning stuff” and that somehow a teacher who has exercises in class is short-changing their students.

I have some sympathy with this view, having been in classes that were as much as 80% solo training with little or no input from anyone else. I’ve also attended numerous classes that, whatever the style, had the almost identical “warm up” and “cool down” drills at beginning and end of class, you got the feeling they were there because “that’s what you do”.

My old pal Terry Shepherd dropped in on one of my Systema classes a few years back. He made an observation  “I see you do your exercises throughout the session”.  I don’t think I’ve done a Systema class anywhere that didn’t involve exercises at some point - the core ones being of course press-ups, squats, leg raises/sit ups and some type of breathing/stretching/tension work.   Why would this be when, as some say, exercises can be done at home and are really just a quick warm-up before the “real work”?

The answer is that there can be so much more to exercises than warming the muscles. Exercises can be preparation for work and can also provide the framework and attribute development  for your work.

So many times I see self-defence training in various forms which has people hitting pads, working techniques and so on. Now it may be that I’m not seeing it, but to me there is a vital factor missing - where is the power coming from for the techniques?  We all know that applied power comes from a combination of functional strength, good body mechanics and understanding of principle.  So, ok, you may be able to build strength by weight-training or doing some press-ups outside of class. But do you know how to feed that strength into your technique? Is your exercise training functional or because “that’s what you do”?

This is where the Systema approach comes in. Every exercise in a Systema class is multi-functional. A basic press-up can teach you a lot  about body structure, selective tension, breathing patterns, fist placement and more - if it is taught as such. Of course you can just blast out 30 reps, fast as you can, with no thought of form or structure. Seeing people do this badly with squats always makes me wince..... the knees are misaligned, the back arched, the head tilts back....people are doing the exercise without understanding what it is for and can end up doing more harm than good.

So in this sense doing the core exercises is one way of teaching your body to apply your technique or work efficiently and also giving you the strength, physical and mental, required to do so. I’ve said before that in a way the core exercises are Systema’s kata or form, they map your body structure and point the way towards natural movement. Running, walking, rolling, climbing, all are similar exercise activities that feed into our work, whether it’s for self defence or just day to day living.

Of course people should exercise at home too, in fact once you get the correct feeling from the exercises it’s hard not too - I find even a day without and the body start to feel rusty (especially at my age!) Some pressups, a few rolls, some breathing and things are back to normal.

That is solo exercises. Of course another feature of Systema training are partner exercises, be they bodyweight, with a stick, or other variations. These also have “educational value” beyond the obvious. They can be co-operative (leading into team work) or competitive (in the sense of one person being a hindrance or obstacle).

This is all on the physical level. There is just as much to be learnt on the psychological
level, once again even basic breathing patterns can teach us a lot about panic and self control. It is better at first that any new exercise is carried out under supervision - once you know how to check yourself and what to look at for you can add your own variations in at home to stop things getting dull!

So - should you exercise in class? Depends entirely how you view exercise and how it fits into your work. If you see little or no connection, thenexercise is largely worthless beyond being a quick stretch or warm-up. If you see it is a means of development it become a rich source of information

If you would like more information on how exercise relates to application, check out our latest Class Download, here's a preview clip

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Class Notes 22/02/2014

1. Breathing, tense and relax
2. Freestyle pushing in threes
3. Stand on one leg pushing - redirect force up or out, not into leg
4. Using same principle re-direct punch and hit back
5. The basic exercises - simple but difficult to do properly - the "biting" point
5. Exercises with focus on
correct posture
6. Partner exercise to assist with posture
7. Partner exercise to assist with focus and mindset
8. The application of exercise to work - squat/takedown, pressup/punch situp/groundwork
9. Refined/powerful exercise = refined/powerful movement = refined/powerful work
10. Free work using all the above
11. Mass attack punch massage
12. Chickpea or lentil?

Main emphasis in class was on exercises as more than just a "warm up". Will be covering this in more detail in the next blog and Class Download

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


I mentioned in my last article about watching some self defence training clips recently. This by no means applies to all the SD training out there, there are some people doing good work. However there does seem to be a trend towards the “quick fix” self defence course which, I believe, can actually be dangerous.

One of the favourite buzz-words for this type of course is “empowerment”. It’s a powerful word, if you’ll pardon the pun. Who wouldn’t want to take a person who is suffering some sort of threat, violence, abuse or lack of power and give them the tools in order to assert themselves in a bad situation.

The problem is in the method of doing so. People attending are shown some “sure-fire” techniques which they work against a helpful partner or on a Bob dummy. In addition they may be encouraged to “power shout” and put all their aggression into the technique.  Everyone gets a bit adrenalised, get’s the chance to vent some tension and no doubt goes home feeling “empowered”.

This is in marked contrast to more realistic forms of training, where people, for the first few sessions at least, feel markedly worse after! This is an important aspect of training - you have to make people understand and recognise  their vulnerabilities before addressing them. Otherwise it’s just papering over the cracks. A person who has undergone training to control their emotional response in a dangerous situation is far better equipped than a person who is taught to “just slap the ears” or “just kick the groin”. They may get lucky, but if things do not work like they did in the class there is a real chance they will freeze or fall apart.

This points to the second problem with the “quick fix” method - technique above principle. Some measure of technique is very useful to start - but only if it is taught as a possible response, not as a carved in stone “he does this you do that”.  Further study of principle leads to important things such as awareness, understanding of body language, communication techniques and other skills not covered in the “quick fix” approach.

 Working in a behavioural way through a principle led approach will lead to a person being much more adaptable under pressure and ultimately lead to empowerment as a state of being rather than an empty buzz word

The biggest problem of course is that marketing the “quick fix” is liable to be more comercially succesful - in almost every sphere of life, from dieting to self defence to keep fit. The brutal truth is that without a lack of real understanding, reliance on a coupe of “tricks” holds potential for disaster

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Class Notes 15th Feb 2014

Today's class notes
1. Paint!
2. Inhale/exhale with stretching
3. Pushing with fists
4. Minimal resistance to push
5. work from body, re-direct with arm  
6. Ditto with knife
7. Quick response into knife disarm - "hot to the touch"    
8. Knife work pre-contact
9. Three person disarm and stab knife drill
10. Knife gauntlet work
11. Two vs one knife movement
12. Knife vs knife
13. Crowd work with knife
14. Group punch and slap
15. Restricted rolling
16. Partner exercises
17. Don't tell your mum you were in a fight!

Point 7  - this is working from contact with the knife, ie the basic "knife push" drill. However make your body movement fast and small in response. At the same time apply your knife strip disarm work. Imagine the knife is red hot, as soon as it touches you respond fast. Helps "wake" the body up to fast work and you can then feed this feeling / movement into your other work

Friday, 14 February 2014

Class Notes

Class notes  8/2/2014
1. Windy!
2. Stick warm up - movement from wrist, shoulder, whole body
3. Catch and throw stick drill
4. Catch and throw applied to punches
5. Speed work vs one person
6. Reaction work vs two people (non-attachment)
7. Gauntlet work
8. Sensitivity work in pairs, giving and receiving information via touch
9. Ditto in threes
10. Working against two, working inside the movement, re-directing, short strikes
11. Affecting structure through short, deep hits
12. Stick push drills to realx
13. How relaxed you think you are is not always how relaxed you actually are (thanks Bart!)
14. Still windy!

Class notes  1/2/2014
1. Joint rotation and stretching
2. Core exercises
3. Get pushed
4. Pushed to the floor and get up again
5. Get pushed by a group
6. Get slapped around by the group
7. Two vs one - positioning
8. Ditto - work vs legs then the arms
9. Using person as a shield
10. Drop one attacker instantly
11. Guard or no guard?
12. Redirecting strikes
13. Attack the first guy on the way to attacking the second one
14. Taking strikes
15. Relaxing muscles through pressure and massage
16. Forgot to take pictures with hats
17. RP to check the calendar!! Outdoors next week!

Class notes  25/1/2014
1. Breathing
2. Joint rotation, top to toe
3. Applied tension vs a partner, head, torso, arms, legs
4. Stand up grappling with tension
5. Stand up grappling relaxed
6. Finding the weakest and strongest points in a movement
7. Attacking the weak point
8. Soft work vs weak spot
9. Hard work vs weak spot
10. "Double tap" punching
11. Deeper strikes to develop power and impact / fear management
12. What's a picost?

Class notes  18/1/2014
1. Breathe, twist, stretch, tense relax
2. Side, forward, backward rolls
3. Eyes closed and pushed / taken down from sitting, kneeling and standing
4. Stick exercises for shoulders, forearms, fists
5. Stick wrestling
6. Maintaining arm tension while body relaxed
7. Stick movement, single and both hands
8. Stick movement translated to punching work
9. "Knife" type punch and "bullet" type punch
10. Targeting arm muscles vs a punch
11. Double tap! Carotid or mastoid
12. Shocking the lead arm
13. Adding in legwork
14. Freestyle
15. Groupwork at speed
16. The Return of Don, Steve and Nick - nice to have you back!
17. How's the wife?

Class notes  11/1/2014
1. Running with pyramid breathing
2. Changing levels, sitting to floor, standing to floor
3. To floor and back without using hands
4. Takedowns using bodyweight
5. Recap on work against legs
6. Kicking to legs to break structure, relax muscle or damage joint
7. Takedowns from floor using body
8. Changing level to work against the legs
9. Team work, two on one, for restraint
10. Knife handling / passing
11. Knife work from clinch
12. Close-in knife work
13. Group knife work
14. Home invasion - preparation, home security, help your neighbours, especially elderly / alone

An Apology

Sorry I've let the blog slip a bit lately! A lot of time recently has been taken putting the new website together. It is now up and running at There are still more pages to be added, plus new articles and info.

The shopsite has also undergone a makeover, you can now order DVDs and downloads from the same site So I'll be getting some more posts up here on the blog - each week I'll be posting our class notes from the Saturday group and expanding on them if I get the chance. To start off I'll post notes from the last few sessions, plus the latest Class Download cl;ip preview - see below