Why relaxation is important for Systema students?
If you’ve ever been to a Systema class you may have heard someone saying to you “relax” over and over again. You can hear things like relax your shoulders, relax your legs or an intriguing relax the whole body.
Relaxation, in Systema, is the way to produce the real power or strength.
When you extend an arm for example, some muscles work stabilizing, others do the movement (agonist muscles, in this case triceps brachii muscle) and others muscles go against the movement (antagonist muscles, in this case biceps brachii muscle).
In other to this happen in an efficiently way, we should relax the muscles that are not working in the specific action, like the antagonist’s muscles, and contract just enough of agonist muscles.
Many martial arts believe that to increase the power of the punch is necessary to fully contract the arm, stiffening it. This is the biggest mistake we have to resolve. Tensing up arm muscles to increase power would be like to accelerate the car as we pulled or stepped on the brakes at the same time. It is necessary increase a lot of the acceleration force to overcome the resistance of the brakes.
The movies have had their part in spreading this erroneous idea where we normally see the protagonists stiffening the arm.
Also there are some training that are contrary, instead of emphasizing mobility and relaxation, they just do the opposite.
Our training, in Systema, is to make our muscles relaxed before action.
We use mobility techniques, breathing and body awareness to achieve a state of relaxation.
Thus we learn the relationship between tension and relaxation. We learn to tense up only what will be used in the action and relax what will not , to not waste energy.
I call this the appropriation tonus for the proposed action. This idea was coined by Gerda Alexander creator of Eutonia, who works a lot with this concept of relaxation (the proposed relaxation is not a passive, flaccid, but to adapt the tonus; there are times you need a higher tonus, like when you have to run and in another time a lower tonus is necessary, like when you watch a movie).
Trainning slowly (subject of the next article) allows us to increase awareness of the muscles that are working in one situation and those which are not. In this way we achieved better efficiency. And when we train faster and maintain this quality that has been previous developed, the movements will become more effective.
The idea is to be relaxed and keep the kinetic energy in motion, for example the movement (energy) starts in the feet, through the hips is directed by hands. For this to happen, a certain relaxation is needed.
In Systema there are several movements made in waveform (volna), we can use a whip (nagaika) for both self-defense and to understand this concept.
The whip produces a strong impact and the force is concentrated at the tip. The flexibility of your body allows the kinetic energy to flow through it and reach a concentrated force at the tip, or your hand. If you use a stick to achieve the same power you will need more speed or strength. When using the whip, little force is applied by the hand to achieve a major impact.
Our body should be relaxed to transmit all the power of the movement from both legs or arm. This increases the efficiency of strikes and reduce the possibility of injury.
In Systema we move and strike relaxed, to transmit the maximum power from a strike and have a maximum efficiency.
The lost of relaxation during the execution of a technique would be like putting a piece of wood stuck at the tip of the whip. It’ll loose the kinetic energy, reducing its efficiency.
If any part of our body tense up without it been necessary, it will lose some of its potency. And also increase the lesions in the training.
The practice of Systema follows the idea of natural movements, as these are fluid, without unnecessary stress or parasites muscle contraction. So moving naturally, we relax and produce more efficient techniques.
When we practice we check our body looking for parts that might not be moving naturally and for tense up muscles, and we try to move without internal locks.
In Systema we practice like high-performance athletes from gymnastics or other sports.
First we correct breathing rate through exercises and achieved a psychological state of relaxation.
Then we go to the second stage which is the muscle relaxation through massage and mobilization exercises to acquire a normal range of motion.
We make conscious mobility exercises to warm up the muscles for the proposed activity. Warm-up exercises are also directed to our daily activities and helps us improve agility and diversity of movement.
Then you train the combat itself, with an emphasis on relaxation and breathing to maintain quality during executions.
And finally the defenses or attacks to get on improvisation and creativity.
When you want to move, the movement should happen without internal interference (negative thoughts or parasitic muscle contraction) or external.
Come to Systema and learn a little more about your body.
Nelson Wagner – Systema Brazil.