I've just found what may be an incredible set of tools in the most unlikely place...
Some months ago I began investigating the Russian martial art of Systema. Pronounced seess-TYEM-ah and simply meaning "the system", this is the martial art taught to the Russian Army's elite special forces or "Spetsnaz". So naturally I expected it to be completely brutal and vicious. I couldn't have been more wrong...
Systema is a breathing-based art. Everything it does revolves around breathing and teaching you to breath properly. Naturally, this allows you to switch to your parasympathetic nervous system and cultivate deep relaxation even in the midst of physical movement.
Systema is holistic. It has been developed with the total you in mind and is not interested in making you tough or fit at the expense of your joints, nervous system or consciousness, like some other approaches. Its basic principal is "do no harm" to yourself or your training partners, so all the movements and techniques are designed with that in mind.
The real point here is that Systema is about returning you to your natural state of innocence and spontaneity. To do that it has developed specific training methods to help you let go of all the fears and tensions that stand in your way. And yes, some drills are specifically designed to bring up old traumas and allow you to breathe through them until they no longer affect you.
This is more than physical, though, because as the practitioners train, they become more humble and open to the power of unconditional love. Systema is said to be based on the spiritual principles of Orthodox Christianity, so imagine my surprise when a practitioner told me that in all his years studying various martial arts, Systema was the first one that taught him to feel something deeply spiritual. It reminded me of the words of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido:
"Aikido does not rely on weapons or brute force to succeed; instead we put ourselves in tune with the universe, maintain peace in our own realms, nurture life, and prevent death and destruction. The true meaning of the term "samurai" is one who serves and adheres to the power of love. "
You may be thinking that "returning to your natural state" sounds great, but it sounds more like Yoga than martial arts. And you're right. However, the underlying idea is that people in their natural state knows how to protect themselves, heal themselves, heal others and care for others, and this is what Ueshiba was hinting at as well. Once you understand your own body mechanics by experience, you'll instantly understand the opponent's as well and you'll be able to control him quite effortlessly.
After the workout I did feel unusually relaxed and "pliable" and I'm pretty sure I've found a resilience tool set that's worth further exploration!
Till next time...
~Dr. Symeon Rodger