Lessons from My Masters 11: Observations–Anticipation

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In this installment of Lessons from My Masters, I’m going to discuss another aspect of the art that I think people misunderstand, and that is the ability to Anticipate. Once again these are just my observations so since you were kind enough to click on the link and read all of the others posts to get to this point I thought I’d share my insights on this because I believe it is also one of the main reasons people get stuck in advancing their ability.

But before I get into all of that I need to discuss something related to the principles and that is how to view the techniques within the art.


On Technique


When training you want, as stated over and over, to focus on the principles, sub-principles etc. Think of techniques within the art like the base stones of a pyramid, where each stone stacks on top of another reinforcing each other as you build your way up.

The smaller more refined stones stack on the larger ones.

The larger ones being sort of the corner stone of a given technique or tool or concept acting as the base.

Now think of the principles of Guided Chaos like the mortar and anchor points that bind all of the tools and techniques together.

They permeate every facet of the art, every tool, every technique from the smallest stones to the larger ones at the base, each interdependent on the other to support the entire structure.

This is how you must think of the principles as well as the sub-principles and attributes of the art.

In time this will enable you to transcend technique as I described in the last posting.


On Anticipation


I know that this is going to be difficult for some to get their minds around because there is much confusion on the subject within the art so I’m just going to give you my understanding and observation on the subject. I talk about this kind of stuff in class all-of-the-time. But like anything else, some will, some won’t… oh well, so what.

I can only lead people to the water but at some point they’re going to have to either drink or stay thirsty. Either way, not my problem.

Many have heard the Grandmaster discuss how, you can’t anticipate it. What he means is that you can’t over anticipate it–otherwise known as an “uneducated guess.” Because then you’re just throwing it to the wind, leaving everything up to the fate of the gods so to speak. Yet there are those who think of it in this fashion that somehow through fate everything will somehow work out.

But that can’t be true otherwise how is it that one person is able to get ahead of anther person’s movement consistently?

Maybe, just maybe, because there is something they know about how to move and deal with another person’s motion that it allows them to anticipate possibilities and probabilities to high degree? Of course there is!

This is what separates one person’s ability from another as I’ve discussed in previous blog posts. A good example of over anticipation is standing at bat in a baseball game and swinging the bat too soon causing you to miss.  You see there is a timing within anticipation that needs to be learned otherwise you’re always going to miss.

Guided Chaos, through proper Contact Flow within the principles of the art, allows you to develop this timing which, at certain points, makes it appear as if you are almost clairvoyant in that you always seem to know where to be and when to be there to cut off their action.

Just understand that there is a significant difference between an educated guess or what we call in the military a “SWAG” or “scientific wild ass guess” and an uneducated guess. If you cannot anticipate things, then there is no way that one person can get ahead of the movement of another person when moving.

Think of it like this: if all things are equal between two people in terms of size and physical talent then they should be able to cancel out the each other’s movement or attacks. But we know this is not true. That’s because there is something to be said for skill, etc.

Is there some luck involved? Sure, but as John Farnham says, “Luck falls on the side of the prepared man…” or as the great football coach George Allen used to say, “Winning is the science of total preparation…”

Understand that luck is nothing more than “where preparation meets opportunity” or what the Grandmaster calls “Happy Accidents.” When your body is finely tuned through the principles, luck is no accident or random occurrence but, becomes a byproduct of your movement and your natural, fluid, coordinated movement becomes a byproduct and focus of your will.  Grandmaster Carron used to always say things to me like, “You don’t want to move for the sake of moving, you want to develop purposeful habits.

These purposeful habits I believe at this level of learning are known as “Unconscious Competency.”  This is what you want! It is within developing these purposeful habits that you begin to make logical inferences as to what to do, when to do it, and where to do it.

Here’s a question: When you’re driving your car, what are your hands doing? If you’re honest the answer is, “I don’t know?” But you know they must be doing the right thing if you haven’t run off the road. Right?

This is what I’m talking about, this is where you want to go with all of the skills including the ability to anticipate movement and get ahead of it.

Below are some key points I feel are critical to learning how to properly develop the ability to anticipate.

1. Learn to See Beyond Your Eyes

What I mean here is you need to learn to look beyond what is obvious and right in front of you all of the time because that which is unseen can be just as effective as that which is seen (after all in combat what you don’t know can kill you).  This is why we sometimes refer to this art as “The Way of the Spirit Fist.” In order to develop your mind’s eye on this or the ability to see it in your mind,  you have to take the leap of faith and trust your ability to do this and yes, make an educated guess based on what you feel. In sports we call this “savvy” but for our purposes here (because I think it’s a little deeper than that), I’m going to call this a type of intuitive judgement, better known as “Wisdom” which is basically “The application of  intelligence, and knowledge guided by experience.”

You have got to develop some wisdom on this stuff and stop thinking that how it works is through total happenstance. Nonsense! Otherwise there would be no delineation between people at various skill levels which, as we know, is not true. That those, especially at the higher levels of the art, are actually doing things to influence the outcomes and no matter how imperfect (even if we are unaware of it ourselves) to influence people’s movement.

If what I’m saying is not true then how does a running back in football, soccer player, boxer, or basketball player fake out their opponents? It’s because they’re doing things in real time to influence the movement or behavior of their opponent. They may not be thinking about it but they’re doing it and it is not just some random act they are engaging in. Anyone who tells you different is full of shit.

2. Learn to Listen to Other People’s Bodies

When you learn, as Grandmaster Perkins says, to “listen to other people’s bodies,” you begin to focus on what they are doing in real time (and what you are doing) within their motion, their movement, whatever it is instead of trying to see everything with your eyes which can be easily fooled. You see when you touch another person your proprioception knows not only where they are but also where their head is and all of the other parts of their body within relation to your body. The key here is to learn to recognize these things first so that you can take action first whether it’s to strike, evade or both simultaneously (“Unavailable / Unavoidable”).

3. Get the “Shadow Impression” of Their Body

When you move with people you want to get the “Shadow Impression” of their body in relation to your body and move with people, even if touching lightly, as if they are applying force and take over their movement. You want to get the impression of their body for it is these impressions and the shapes and attitude of their body that you eventually begin to recognize within your movement and counter them before they can get their stuff off. This is more of a mental thing than a physical one since you have to be prepared to move based on even the lightest contact with their body wherever they are.

So for example, if someone moves their arm toward you, assuming you’re training as if you are fighting for your life, do they really need to strike you for you to know they’re up to no good? Of course not! So what the hell are you waiting for?

My point is I don’t need to know everything you are doing to take action to do what I need to do to protect my life. If I’m already in the fight I assume anything you do is probably not for my benefit so I’m not waiting to see what you do to see how the movie ends. I only need to perceive your intention to go into action and do what must be done. You so much as break wind around me when my mind is in that state and it’s game on! Make sense? Which leads to my next point…

4. Learn to Always Get to the Future and Cut People off

There is what is known and what is unknown. I often get folks asking me “How do I deal with this?” or “How do I deal with that?” I often ask them: 1) how does that happen? 2) why are you waiting for them to do something to you? or 3) why are you there in the first place? As Dalton (played by Patrick Swayze) would say in Roadhouse, “Always expect the unexpected…”

Damn straight!

So why are you waiting to get hit?

You’re already in the fight so what the Hell are you waiting for?

You already know they want to hurt you. If they move, you move. Or even better, move first and force them to deal with your movement. Even if you haven’t physically moved you need to be prepared to be somewhere else. This is the essence of what the Grandmaster calls “pre-movement,” where you’re already doing the thing you need to do, to be where you need to be, before you get there.

Here’s the deal as I’ve told some folks on occasion and was a conversation I had recently with Master Martarano on this matter:

“Get it in your head, if John is on his game and he’s aware of you unless you’re already shooting you have no chance. If you have to close the distance on him? Oh dear how sad for you. It’s over before it gets started. He already assumes it’s on! His mind is already there.”

So Joe is like,

“So you’re telling me that when he’s working with you he’s that far ahead of what you’re doing?”

I’m like,

“Let me put it this way: all those guys who think somehow they’re going to figure out his secret and defeat what he’s doing are fucking kidding themselves and it’s exactly why they can’t get to where they want to be in their ability.”

I went on to say,

“John doesn’t wait for someone to do something before he does something even if it is not perceivable to our eyes. This is one of the things that Tim sort of explained to me that took me decades to understand and just accept. John moves in a way that influences how others move in relation to his movement. It is so subtle that you don’t realize until it’s too late that it already happened. I told you he caught me a few months back and he moved in a way that froze me right in my tracks. I got pissed at myself and he just started laughing. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of the coolest fakes he’s ever pulled on me. In one move without even touching me he showed me whats’ what. When you’re caught looking through the kaleidoscope you don’t know it happened. So you try to adjust but the problem is by forcing you to move he’s already narrowed down the parameters as to where you can go and how much you can change because you don’t have enough time to make all of the adjustments he’s making. You just can’t move that fast.”

I’ve often described to people that moving with John is like a wilderness of mirrors. There is movement within movement, deception within deception, most important of all it is seamless, pure flow. There is ‘no thought’ to what he does, it just is. What an ability to have! What a gift from God!

I continued,

“That’s why you can’t find the handle. He’s not thinking of this stuff he does so there is nowhere for his mind to get ‘stuck’ so his body is unencumbered in how he moves. He feels therefore it becomes. Now when he’s demonstrating a concept just understand that he allows us to do certain things so we can learn. If he just shuts us down, then we learn nothing. My point is when you’re working with John, let him teach you. Let him do his thing. When he says “Just move with me,” then just move with him because he’s listening to your body to figure out what he needs to do to get you to go where you want to go. If you’re always trying to challenge him to show him how good you are he’s going to shut you down and then ‘you’ have cut off your opportunity to learn something. Even when he says little to nothing to me I always know there is stuff going on so I try not to get in the way of that. Not easy, but you get the point.

5. Remember: The Future is Shaped by The Now

The Future is shaped by the Now because, the Now informs on the past, is always changing in the present and shapes the future. The Now is malleable, ever-changing and in order to take advantage of this you have to have the ability to accept what is and roll with the punches until you can get ahead of it. This is where wisdom in both the mind and body is crucial.

6. When You Get to the Future Position Understand That it Already Happened

Meaning that whatever you were going to do because you are ahead of their movement you have pretty much cut off all of their options. Therefore, providing you’re willing to strike them, in essence it already happened because they don’t have enough time to respond.

Well that’s it for this installment hope you got something out of this.

Thank you.

LtCol Al Ridenhour

Senior Master Instructor


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Al Ridenhour

Al Ridenhour is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps with 28 years of active and reserve military service with multiple combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. Although he was an instructor in unarmed combat for his unit, Al Ridenhour knew he had found the right self-defense system in 1992 when people half his size from John Perkins' school could strike him at will with "penetrating force," yet remain elusive to his own strikes. Even though he'd traveled the globe with the U.S. Marines and trained with a variety of U.S. military and Asian martial arts instructors, Al's first thought was "if this works for them, it'll work for me." He resolved then and there to become a student of Perkins' unusual, free-flowing and highly adaptive art. In 2019, after rising to the rank of 7th degree master, Al Ridenhour left the Guided Chaos organization.

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