About eleven years ago, I was first introduced to Scott Sonnon by a training partner in Stevan Plinck's Indonesian silat class. According to this fellow, Sonnon moved like one of the characters in one of my novels, "like water over rocks," and I had to meet him.
I looked Scott up on the internet and purchased a couple of his items, "Be Breathed" and y something called the "Flow State Performance Spiral", a video with a listen-along audio stripped from the sound track. I watched the video--interesting, some fancy and smooth moves that looked like a meld of floor gymnastics and yoga. The guy talking seemed young, smart, strong and flexible. And he spoke of a Russian approach to stress and physical fitness, coming from a direction I'd never heard before. He used odd terminology ("the Abyss" "breath, movement, structure" as a critical triad, etc.) and something told me he was someone to pay attention to. Over the next days I listened to the "FSPS" audio about twenty times, with growing excitement.
Why? Because I was becoming convinced that what he described tied in with a quality of breath and attention that my tai chi and yoga teachers had labored to communicate for decades, and simply didn't quite have the language.
Scott did. Lurking just below the verbiage was a clear awareness of a river of human energy that disciplines like yoga, tai chi and chi gung access. But the LANGUAGE with which they describe the experiences, techniques and theories is simply so metaphorical ("the golden lotus" this and that) that unless you had considerable successful practice, little of it made sense.
But this was addressing these same issues as if it was engineering. I'd never heard anything like it, and it suddenly made clear thousands of hours of training that had seemed separated: yoga, martial arts, ceremony, prayer...the words he used simply hooked together a lifetime of study. The "Be Breathed" video taught a simple way of training your motion so that respiration cycles are generated by the technique, a black and white exploration of a set of phenomena I'd only seen in some pretty esoteric things like kundalini yoga and sufi zikr, as well as some slyly shrouded instruction in some Chinese martial arts workshops, where an expert might drop gems without backing up his comments with more intense and in-depth work.
I looked at more of Scott's stuff, and thought that it was a disorganized Fort Knox of body-mind techniques, most suitable for hard-core and world-class competitors and physical geniuses. That Scott himself (and I still think this) is the smartest human being I've ever met who puts that intelligence into the body-mind link. And that initial impression of disorganization irritated the hell out of me, because I sensed that what he was doing was unique. The man himself is absolutely the product as advertised: a masterful martial artist (especially in the grappling range), and someone who is basically coming at the entire concept of "fitness" from what might as well be another planet. I wasn't certain that he even understood how advanced he really was. Sinanju, anyone?
For years, I think Scott's been evolving in the same direction: to become as advanced as possible, to work with the best of the best (martial artists, MMA guys, yogis, special forces and first responders worldwide) to anchor his theories in practical reality, while raising a family, growing a business and refining his personal and spiritual practices.
Over the last five years or so, he started creating systems that were incremental introductions to his work. Fantastic! Finally, a doorway for the average person.
Then we did TACFIT WARRIOR together, making the mental aspect of HIS work, and the physical aspect of MINE more explicit. I honestly considered that to be the best thing Scott had done, and still love what we did with the mental training.
But he wasn't done. In the twenty or so months since we did WARRIOR, he has continued to evolve. And unlike most of his competitors (he really has none) Scott keeps trying to do a "core dump", to give you everything he has, every time, at the best price he can manage.
Well, two days ago I got my hands on his latest, PRIMAL STRESS. It is over five hundred pages of book and over twenty hours of video, with the original "Flow State Performance Spiral" audio included. I can't claim to have done anything but skimmed across the surface, but I recognize the homey, non-Hollywood video production, bu am pleased at the increased professionalism in the PDF layout. Recognize the vast amount of educative material dealing with the origins of these techniques, and then the interweaving of Joint Mobility (warm up) corrective band and weight work, and cool-down (yoga flows).
And the exercises.
For the first time, he takes us through all of the different TACFIT energy systems, ranging from doing your exercises as fast as you can, every minute on the minute, ninety seconds on and thirty seconds off...oh, you are playing your body like a violin.
Then there are the different planes of movement. And different levels of complexity. And different approaches to breathing. This is exercise for smart people.
All of this arranged in a plug-and-play configuration, starting from an investment of about an hour a week, up to about three hours a week for serious operators and combat athletes. Is it perfect? Heck, no. The very depth that impresses me might scare a newbie. But this is what I'll say:
1) It may well be the most complete and intelligent bodyweight exercise program ever created. Empathsizing health but taking "fitness" to an edge FAR beyond the casual needs of any normal citizen, by the time you've outgrown and absorbed this you will understand your body and mind at a level absurdly beyond the human norm in a modern society.
2) If you want health, emphasize the yogic and joint recovery aspects, and stay on the low levels of the exercise, which are available to most folks who can walk or get in and out of a chair. Even lower gradients are available in TACFIT WARRIOR, but this is damned good, a greater range of fitness options you'll find no where.
3) Scott has never, under any circumstances, given me reason to mistrust him. While I've only given this about four hours of study, I am prepared once again to vouch for him. this is as close to an organized encyclopedia of motion as you are likely to find...until his next evolution.
4) And what will that be? I used to think that Scott was on his way to be the next Jack LaLanne. I'm no longer sure of that. I think he's on his way to be an American B.K.S. Iyengar. He is creating an American yoga, a body-mind discipline adapted from ancient knowledge and refined for modern American usage. One perfectly suitable to "simple" recovery or fitness, but suitable to elite athletic or combat performance, and a foundation for the development of the same qualities of mind and body that the world idealizes in Shaolin monks, yoga masters and ultraperformance athletes---heal the body, master the body, exceed the body, accept the gift of spirit.
There is no higher-level material that is at all rooted in dirt-practical reality. You could take this material, graft any other understanding or physical education you have onto it, and improve yourself or your students. As with the Teaching Company's wonderful "Big History" audio class, what you have is an education in a box, a way for anyone with courage and intelligence to grasp the "Big Picture" of the way we are constructed as animals, and the physical potential of human beings.
I sincerely hope there are another thousand, or ten thousand Scotts, working with experience, clarity, genius, integrity and a certain madness to explore and translate these secrets. But I fear there are not that many, anywhere. What I'm prepared to say with great sincerity is that for the last decade I've admired Scott's teaching and practice on these subjects more than any other single source of movement knowledge, and that PRIMAL STRESS (http://tiny.cc/69utiw) is an unmistakable progression along a path of power and understanding. He's for real, his teaching is for real.
As he generally does, the next few days will see a steep discount on PRIMAL STRESS, and I would suggest you acquire it during this period. There is always a money-back guarantee. Order it, dig through it, use it. If you don't agree it is fabulous, just turn it back in. Yes, some material is repeated, but "repetition is the mother of skill."
(Yeah, and pain is the father...)
He releases a new product about twice a year, and I consider acquiring them like belonging to the most exclusive gym in the world--at the rate of about ten bucks a month. You simply won't find a better deal.
My rating: Production "B"