Session 2 – Conflict Modulation Techniques

Unit 4 – Principle #1: Continuity

We will now proceed to the practical part of the course where we will introduce several techniques and exercises that can be applied to resolve any conflict into a peaceful and constructive direction.

The first principle that we would like to introduce is the principle of continuity or noninterruptedness.

Conflict naturally creates tension. When this tension accumulates it produces fear, which prevents fluidity of movement. This is a familiar situation: we have all experienced how we can run out of breath in extreme situations or stop in front of a moving car, out of tension or fear. Such reaction is the body sending a signal that something should change and that the whole system should reorganize itself in order to adapt (see the last unit from the previous session on metastability and transitory states). However, it is not the most efficient way of dealing with conflict. A sudden break may introduce more tension into the system, leading to further escalation of conflict and even a dangerous accident.
In fact, most real-life fights finish very quickly as soon as one person gets still (because of tension of fear) and the other one just punches them easily reaching the target and knocking down the opponent:

Therefore, one should be always moving, and not only moving, but also breathing.

It’s much easier to modulate any conflict dynamics from the position of continuous movement, which is rhythmical and relaxed, without any tension. This will provide a good foundation for changing the pace of the conflict (de-escalation), as well as make it much easier to dissipate and redirect the existing conflict dynamics towards a more peaceful state. 

The practice of continuous movement can also occur in the state of dynamic stillness. We consider dynamic stillness as our “home base”, the center, from which all other movement occurs. 

On the level of body practices the principle of continuity is implemented through physical movement and breathing. Constant uninterrupted movement and constant uninterrupted breathing promote calm state of mind, reduce tension, and make it harder for conflict to escalate. In Systema this is done by establishing a constant, relatively slow rhythm of breath (2-3 counts in, 2-3 counts out) as well as an 8-like movement of the body traversing the space in order to avoid standing still at one position. 


Those same principle can be utilized in any kind of fight, not only in hand-to-hand combat. Instead of reacting to escalating conflict with fear and tension (leading to a complete halt), one can continue but redirect the dynamics of conflict into a more constructive realm. In the example below Obama does not halt his speech and he does not react to the heckler with force. Instead, he continues his narrative and simply weaves in what has been said to make it part of the story that he was telling.

Practical Task – Continuous Walking

In this practical task we will take the principle of continuity and try to implement it in a social setting. You will need a group of people to do it with. If you are on your own, you can also try to do it in a more realistic setting, such as a busy train station or an airport. 

Find a spot with a lot of people. One person is the target, the rest of the people are trying to reach the target. The people who try to reach the target should be walking in a straight line towards the person. The person should avoid collision and step away from their path, while constantly moving. The people who try to reach the target should not change their direction when the person moved away from their path, but, rather, start a new direct vector after the target escaped. The goal of the target is to continue moving constantly, in a relaxed way, in their own rhythm, maintaining a steady rhythm of breathing, avoiding collision. 

As a variation of this task you can also try it alone at a busy train station, street or any other public space. 

Remember: your task is to always continue moving and to maintain your own rhythm even if it becomes a bit stressful.

You can write about your experience or ask any questions about this task below.

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Practical Task – Dealing with Stress

In order to learn to keep maintain your own rhythm during difficult and strenuous situations it is important to practice continuous moving and breathing.


Think of a situation that causes you a lot of stress. It can be waking up in the morning, rushing to catch public transport, driving a car when you’re late, making dishes, talking to a person that you don’t like, etc. Next time you encounter this situation, try to be fully relaxed, feel free to move (even if the movements are small and invisible to the outside, there can still be movement inside the body), and breathe at a steady slow rate (2-3 counts in, 2-3 counts out). This will help you deal with psychological stress and develop new patterns which can then be used in unexpected real life situations.

A variation of this exercise that helps cope with physical stress is to put your body in various difficult situations while maintaining the internal rhythm and movement inside.  For example, you can try to do squats, push ups, roll on the floor, walk, stand, but making sure that there’s a constant breathing (2-3 counts in, 2-3 counts out) that always stays stable and uninterrupted no matter how hard or easy the effort becomes.

You can write about your experience and ask questions using the form below.

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