Breathwork in Real Life

July 21, 2009 by Michael Muckin  
I am writing this as a note of thanks for the gift of Systema Breathing. It may have saved my life and the lives of others. Here's the story:

I was on a freeway in California - just a few miles from my home, traveling at about 65 MPH (105 Kph). Suddenly, a car three lanes away - at the last possible moment - tried to cut across those lanes and exit the freeway from there. This means cutting across two other lanes of traffic while traveling at a high speed - it sounds crazy, but drivers in California do this all the time. Well, as this driver attempted this maneuver, he did not see the car directly to his right, so as he cut across, he slammed right into the car in his right-hand lane. This was maybe 20 meters in front of me and to my left. After hitting the car to his right, it sent his car into an uncontrollable pin-wheel spin - and the car wound up right in front of my path, broadside. I managed to not hit him, maneuver around his car without hitting other cars and continue down the road. (I did pull over to make sure there were no major injuries and report the accident.) Had I not reacted correctly, I would have broadsided that car doing approximately 65 MPH - I would have almost certainly killed the driver of the other car (the driver's side was facing me as he spun into my lane) and would have been injured myself.
My wife was also in the car with me and could have been hurt or worse.

Here is the amazing part: After the near-miss I pulled off to the side of the road - I distinctly remembered my breathing. I remember doing a controlled exhale through the mouth (almost everyone either holds their breath or sucks their breath in during a high-risk or high-stress moment) and remaining extremely calm as a result of that breathing - as the other car slammed into the car on its right hand side. I then knew it would be coming my way. I stayed completely calm through the breathing. I applied just the right amount of brakes, was able to see my left hand side was clear, and veered hard to the left to avoid hitting the car directly in front of me. I also knew I had to go to the left, as going to the right would have taken me into other traffic and into the path of the spinning car. Keep in mind all this happened within a few seconds - at most. The breathing - which allowed me to stay calm - allowed me to perceive this event as if it was in slow motion. I also noticed I was not shaking with adrenaline flow, my heart was not pounding and my breathing stayed relatively normal. My wife still comments that she does not know how I missed hitting that car. I know why - it is because of the breathwork - and Grace - that I was able to handle that situation. The fact that I instinctively and immediately applied the breathwork is a major confirmation for me - Systema training works. And the benefits it provides are now unquestionable in real-life high-stress situations. I always believed this to be true because of the training in martial arts applications, but having this proof is wonderful!

Michael Muckin Michael Muckin is a Systema instructor, certified by Vladimir Vasiliev.
He is teaching regular classes at North County Systema, in Escondido, California.