Lessons from My Masters 19: Observations – Ruthless Intent Part III

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“Victory is reserved for those who are willing to pay its price.”

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War


[Editor’s Note: The early order discount for the Oct. 5-6 “Ruthless Intent” seminar in Los Angeles ends Sept. 5]


Okay folks, this is what you want to know…

This is what I’ve been building up to…

I’m apologizing up front for the length of this but I needed to tie some things together in order for them to make sense and I didn’t want to split it up.


As I’ve asked you in the past in some of my blog posts you need to suspend disbelief, not your common sense but disbelief. What I’m going to walk you through is both some of the thought process as well as the methods used as taught to me by my Masters and as I have employed them on others to develop this ability.

As I spoke before in my series on “Overcoming Fear,” let’s face facts: there is nothing more frightening than the very notion of having to look another man in the eye, smell his breath, his sweat, see his blood lust, his fear, his anger and kill up close and personal. As a result, there are even some people–even in the military as I discussed previously–that would rather bury their heads in the sand than accept the reality that they may have to close with the enemy and kill him with their bare hands if necessary. This was much of the apprehension as I discussed in my last post that Gen Jones wanted to overcome when he implemented the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.


“Without Knowledge, Skill cannot be focused. Without Skill, Strength cannot be brought to bear and without Strength, Knowledge may not be applied.”

–Alexander the Great

As the good General astutely understood, it’s because it scares us, that all the more should we conduct this type of training!   If for nothing else than to develop the mindset of Ruthless Intent. As he understood clearly from his experiences in Vietnam, the level of confidence it gives men to know that even without a weapon they can inflict lethal force on someone should not be underestimated.

It’s even been shown throughout history that those who train for life and death hand-to-hand combat are generally better able to deal with both the psychological and physical aspects of close combat. I have heard from a number of people that I have trained over the years that even if injured, which often happens even when victorious in “real” confrontations, they have stated that because they were both physically and psychologically prepared to deal with the reality of violence, including the possibility of being seriously injured, they were able to control their fear, and rather than become paralyzed by it became empowered into action through it.


Ruthless Intent Has a Feel to It


“Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done. There is nothing that one should suppose cannot be done.”

― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai


Like I said, this is what I’ve been leading up to.

People often ask, how do they develop Ruthless Intent?

Yeah they got the whole mental aspect and mindset stuff. But what they really want to know is,

How do they know what it feels like when they have developed it?

This is not only a great question, it is the only one that you really should be asking. If you cannot feel it in the body on some level, you can’t really in my observation ever get there. Now stay with me because what I’m going to describe for many is strange to say the least.

“The deeper the feeling, the greater the pain”

–Leonardo da Vinci


I can remember Master Martarano asking me on several occasions,

“How is it that you can hit people with just enough force where you hurt them enough where they get the message but at the same time you don’t injure them?”

I said, “Well, I can feel it, I just know.”

He said, “Yeah but how do you do that? How do you develop it without hurting people?”

I said, “You want to know the truth?”

He said, “Yeah…”

I said, “You got to keep hitting people.”

Joe’s like, “Yeah but I don’t want to hurt them.”

So I said,

“Well, then don’t hit them so hard… Listen I don’t know what else to tell you but you’re not going to develop it if you don’t keep hitting people otherwise you never develop your touch.”


Into the Darkness


“Anybody can become angry — that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”

― Aristotle


For those who know me well, they know I’m a huge Batman fan. Aside from some of the more comedic versions of Batman which really does him no justice, the series I’ve always liked is The Dark Knight story arc created by Frank Miller who created movies like “300” etc. You see unlike other heroes, Batman has no real super powers or special abilities per se, but what he does have is an internal drive and a will like no other super hero. You see deep down Batman is not angry because his parents were killed right in front of him. He’s angry with himself, he’s angry because he wasn’t strong enough and capable enough to protect them. It is this drive, this focus, this anger, this intent that makes him who and what he is.

“You win battles with the timing in the Void born of the timing of cunning by knowing the enemies’ timing, and thus using a timing which the enemy does not expect.”

― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings


To me Batman’s greatest strength is his ability to focus his anger and will to out-think all of his enemies and take action. To create what he needed, where he needed it, when he needed it. Batman is always, as we like to say in Guided Chaos,Fighting in the Future. Always unavailable yet unavoidable.

Instead of pity and self-loathing he turned his pain into a weapon. If you’re a fan of the series, you know then that Batman is really not a nice guy and that there was really only one person who was truly the equal of Batman and that was the guy who was trained just like him in the same “Ninja Cult.” Bane…


“Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding…The shadows betray you, because they belong to me!”

–Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

Bane was the antithesis of Batman yet was very similar in that he was raised with much anger and pain. Though two fictional characters there is a lesson here. We must to some degree understand our pain, embrace our pain, harness and focus it and not be cowed by it. Our pain is a part of us.


We Need Our Pain

“Learning is not child’s play; we cannot learn without pain.”

― Aristotle


If you saw the movie, “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” this is the one where the crew of the Enterprise goes to some legendary planet in search of God. Okay… whatever…

Anyway, Spock’s half-brother “Sybok” uses a technique where he’s somehow able to expose the “secret pain” of people he encounters. In doing so he is able to then miraculously “free them” of this pain and recruit them to his cause. For example:

  • Sybok forces McCoy to reveal that he had hastened his own dying father’s death, only to learn of a cure shortly after.
  • Spock’s secret pain is rooted in his father Sarek’s displeasure with Spock’s humanity.

Kirk, however, was having none of it and does not permit his pain to be exposed. Telling Sybok, “I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!”

The reason I bring this up is because I would be remiss if I didn’t reemphasize the importance of harnessing our pain toward the development of Ruthless Intent. Much of who we are and what has shaped us is our pain, our suffering. Beyond the physical, there is much emotion tied to our pain, anger, fear, regret, rejection, failure, etc. in order to focus our will we need to learn how to channel our pain, summon it, master it as best we can.

In the book, “The Devils Guard,” by George Robert Elford, one of the statements that the narrator of the story makes when discussing the will to assassinate someone is that,

“When it comes to snuffing a man out with the bayonet it is no easy task… One must summon all of the anger and hate to plunge the bayonet in with all their might without mercy.”

Or words to that effect…

I’m not advocating assassination here I’m just highlighting the point he was making that in order to carry out the grisly deed up close and personal, in order to summon the emotional will to do such a thing you had to reach deep inside to bring forth “the fire.” Into your psyche, into the darkness, into your pain.

Bane, once again though a fictional character, revealed a truth. He discussed the pain of being brought up in darkness and since he couldn’t get rid of it he chose to own it so it became his strength. It is the same in the beginning when developing Ruthless Intent. You need some place to start. We all have that “thing” that bothers us, that hangs over us. In order to harness it you need to own it. Like Kirk said, I need my pain!

For those who have known people growing up who were boxers good enough to become pros, the thing that people do not understand about boxers at that level–I don’t care where they come from or what country they live in–these guys on average come from an environment both at home or on the streets that, to put it bluntly, is “fucked up” in ways most of us could not imagine.

I once had a client who used to be the sparring partner of Mitch “Blood” Green. I can remember him telling me once, “You know Col… when I’m working with you it never feels like I’m hitting you.”

I said, “That’s because the last time you hit me I couldn’t do push-ups for a week. I stay the hell out of your way.

He just laughed…

These guys are just tough like that, and know how to bring it. I remember one of my clients used to train with a guy who was once the former World Middleweight Champ. The training was more about teaching people how to hit and move and work the bag for fitness. Anyway, he said to me every now and then he would put on the head gear and do a round with folks just so they could get the feel of what it’s like to move with another person. He goes on to say it never failed where there was always “that one young guy” who wanted to “mix it up” with the Champ just to get a little ego boost.

Oh, you know where this is going…

Anyway, after haranguing the Champ enough he would relent and say to them, “Okay, are you ready?” and they would say, “Yeah let’s go.” And then… the Champ would hit them…


My client told me he never hit them in the head usually in the arm and he saw at least on a couple of occasions the Champ bring guys to a knee. You see when a pro boxer hits you with “intent”, your ass stays “hit”!

Like Floyd Mayweather once said, “Guys with degrees from Harvard don’t Box…

They’re just not that guy.

This is what I’m talking about, the intent I’m talking about developing. The focus of will, of anger, of pain. Now will you hit as hard as these guys do? Probably not, not unless you have that innate talent–but you don’t have to. Remember there’s only a handful of people in the world who can be pro level boxers. You just need to be able to develop it for yourself and strike, “well enough.”

Developing Ruthless Intent is, while more mental than physical “in-the-beginning,” I have to be honest in that there is also a feel you have to develop, not just a touch but an “internal feel” or feeling in the body. I don’t know how else to describe it. So I’m going to offer my personal opinion of what I feel when applying Ruthless Intent on folks.

Now before I go too far, if you’ve never been in a real fight before I will tell you, if you’ve played sports like football, hockey, lacrosse, or boxed, etc. or any other contact sport for that matter where a big part of the sport was to lay the wood on people so to speak, I will tell you it is that same feeling you get right before you release a crushing blow or make a hard tackle, or throw a knockout punch. It is where somehow you summon all of the aggression, pain, hate and discontent in your body and focus it outward or let it go.  Ruthless Intent is a controlled thing and is summoned at will thus the key word here “Intent” because it is focused in a way where the intent is “malicious.” Sort of like what Grandmaster Perkins teaches when he teaches people to focus their fear outward with the Fright Reaction or give people our fear through striking with all that we have.

I’ll give you an example in how it is different from other forms of striking. Take a football game where you have people running into each other at full speed. A guy can make a good tackle on an opponent and the opponent will even at times acknowledge that the guy made a good hit. Right?

A few plays later same guys confronting each other only this time when the running back steps out of bounds he gets hit after being well out of bounds or after the whistle has blown, the action damn near starts a riot. Why? Because one was within the rules and the other hit no matter how slight was “malicious” in character.

Everybody knows in football that there’s no reason for a guy to get tackled well out of bounds unless his intent was to injure the opponent. The same is true for sport fighting, hitting in the face, okay, hitting below the belt, not okay! Why? Because everyone knows there is no reason for someone to do something outside of the rules unless the intent was to seriously if not permanently to injure the other guy.

I’m only using a sports analogy here to give you an understanding that there is a difference when Ruthless Intent is applied versus just regular striking. It is a different feeling for both the person being struck and the person delivering the blow.


Ruthless Intent Emanates from Within “The Body”


“Behold now Behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox. Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.”

–Job:40, 15-16 KJV


Referring to the above quote, in the Bible, in the book of Job, God comes to Job out of the whirlwind and calls Job out on a number of things. But he makes a curious comment where he talks about “Behemoth” and that when he is describing his qualities, God says,

“Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.”

I always thought this to be a curious statement made by God. Why would he differentiate Behemoth’s strength which he says is “in his loins” from “his force” which God describes is, “in the navel of his belly…

Throughout my life especially when playing sports and for those who grew up playing contact sports or served in the military you’ve often heard people say things like, “You got to have heart”; “You got to feel it in your gut”; “Where’s your guts?”; “Where’s your balls?”; “Reach down and sound off like you have a pair.”  And on and on…

Most of us as grown ups view these things as figures of speech. Just something people say, metaphors for finding your courage, to motivate you etc.

But I have to tell you, after teaching this art for nearly 30 years…

I’m not so sure.


“Nature does nothing uselessly.”

― Aristotle


It’s strange but when turning on the Ruthless Intent, I’ve found that there seems to be a “momentary rush” if you will that seems to well up starting usually in my belly or the lower part of my chest near my heart. Like deep inside my gut emanating outward. It seems to travel up my neck and to my limbs where I feel as if right between my eyes and around my nose and mouth there is a momentary flushing of the face. My arms and legs for a brief moment seem to feel a surge of warmth yet they feel “rubbery.” Yet there is this springy or a wiry feeling to them.

It’s sort of like the electrical shock feeling you get in the body when startled but this is different because it is a controlled, powerful, warm to hot sense of flowing aggression in the body, as if you’re bringing forth, like I said, a fire from within. That’s about the only way I can describe it. Now here’s the strange part: once I begin to move, my body literally feels “weightless,” my movement “effortless,” yet I never feel like I’m moving fast.  It seems that everything I touch falls to my will.

Auditory exclusion, tunnel vision, tachypsychia it’s all there only I don’t think the tunnel vision or auditory exclusion are a bad thing. I think it’s the opposite of what most people teach. I believe rather than auditory exclusion or tunnel vision rather they are things that our brain filters out that it knows are just “noise” when we are in the heat of battle. Needless distractions that only get in our way much in the same way that when in The Zone our bodies seem virtually impervious to pain.

I believe what I am describing here is beyond just a mere adrenaline rush because it seems to be something that people are able to turn on once trained at will or sustain for extended periods of time.


“Study the science of art and the art of science.”

–Leonardo da Vinci


Now, I will tell you there is a scientific explanation to all that I have just said and I have a good idea of what some of these things that I described are. As a matter of fact, I recently received an article on Facebook from one of my students who I refer to as “The Professor” who can explain this far better than I ever could. So from a purely scientific perspective I’ll leave it alone. But, I also know some of this stuff just makes no sense.

There are times where people can tell if they listen to my words, when I’m turning it on juuuust a little. Where they’ll hear me say things like, “Oh, I don’t think so…”; “No… I don’t think so…”; “Really?”; “It’s over…” Or “This is mine.”

Yeah… that’s what’s going on.

I’ve learned over the years to be able to go in and out of that state if you will at the drop of a hat. I can just turn it on. More importantly, through the principles I’ve even learned (via my Masters of course, don’t let them fool you…) how to hide it within movement.

Cool stuff…


Bringing People to that Place


“The teacher is as a needle, the disciple is as thread. You must practice constantly.”

― Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings


I remember Master Harrell once asking me,

“When developing Ruthless Intent in people what is it that you’re specifically doing to develop it in a person especially as they advance to the 4th and 5th Degree Level in the art?”

I said something like,

“I basically try to kill them… I bring them to the edge and I never let them out of it. I bring them to the edge of death but not beyond it. If you remember when I worked it with you there was a point where a switch went off in your head and you realized either you bring it or I was going to seriously hurt you. Of course the other side of this is if you’re going to ride the bull you better be prepared to get thrown from the bull.”

So he’s like,

“Oh yeah I remember that makes sense, so what is it you’re feeling when you can feel that in me?”

I said,

“It’s funny, but when I raise it in people the first thing I feel is this sudden ‘jolt’ in my body, like when you get startled. Where I go in my mind, ‘Holy Shit!’ and then I have to kick it into another gear. Remember I’m playing on the edge there with you so there’s always a chance I can get hurt. This is one of those things John talks about as a Master in the art where you can work with people at that level without injuring them or getting hurt yourself. It’s because it takes way more skill to work with people like that than to just blast the shit out of them. But that’s why we can bring that out in people.”

I continued,

“They immediately know there’s a chance that at any time, it could be literally over for them.  No matter who you are when you experience this there is no ambiguity in your mind you can be seriously jacked up. At first it is a horrible feeling, a sense of dread, but as you experience it enough eventually if you stay with it, and work to overcome your fear of getting killed or hurt you get there. I believe that ‘experience’ if done right allows them to evolve their skills to a higher level where believe it or not, they become less afraid. The movement, the speed, the intensity of the battle is no longer alien to their mind. I think because we allow folks to experience an almost ‘near death experience’ that at some point, some way, somehow their brain ‘jumps’ to another level, another place.”

One thing that Tim told me when I first started training in the art was something along the lines of,

“When you move with people you want to move to hit you don’t want to just move for the sake of moving. Also when you’re moving with me, the reason you need to try to hit me is because if you don’t you never learn how to control your movement or see how I defeated something you did.” 

He also said something–and I’m just recalling this from memory–something like,

“It’s funny but when people are trying to hit you for real, you can feel it in their movement even in class.”

I was like, Whatchutalkinbout? 

He continued,

“More times than you think, there are some people when working with me and John where they’re trying to hit us for real. You can actually feel people when they intend to hit you for real.”

I was like, “Really!”

He’s like,

“Oh yeah… Even though it’s training, never drop your guard–especially when you’re teaching. You just never now what’s in peoples heads. As far as I’m concerned even if I’m teaching you, if I think you’re trying to hurt me? Fuck you I’m not going to let you hurt me. I’ll take your head off first.” 

Final thought along these lines: as an Instructor one thing that Tim taught me that I never forgot that has proven true over the years is that, the most important quality you need as an instructor is that people need to know that you can kill them. Even if they think they can win they need to know you’re capable of killing them and even if you don’t win the battle, you’re getting a piece of them they’re not getting back. Whether you’re and instructor of Guided Chaos or some other system of fighting, this is something that you need to cultivate into your teaching if for nothing else than to protect yourself and your students because as Tim said, “You never know what’s in a person’s head…”

Anyway, this philosophy, I would later discover, is extremely important whether training people in Ruthless Intent or just training people in general. Because without moving to hit folks “for real” even when training slowly, not only does your body move differently but they also respond differently to your movement. In other words our bodies somehow seem to know when  a strike is for real with real intent to harm versus bullshit.   It also explains why training people in self defense, regardless of what you teach, is worthless if at some point they are not being allowed to move with it in a dynamic fashion. Thus the importance in Guided Chaos of proper Contact and Combat Flow. All this nonsense of trying to control people’s hands is ridiculous and will just get people killed.


Return to Inferno


“With the right attitude, self-imposed limitations vanish.”

–Alexander the Great


I remember it well, it was when I came back from being on active duty for over a year right after September 11th, 2001. And it was not long after I had been promoted to Master and John says to me, “Tim’s going to stop by, I need you to work with him.”

So I’m like, “Okay”.


So Tim stops by and John has him start to work with me so Tim says, “Just stay with this”…and I just get crushed, but not in the way where he was just stopping me from striking or where he was just hitting me. I mean I was getting crushed. The thing was no matter what I did, no matter how many shots I took, he would not let me leave the fight. All he kept saying was, “Stay with it… Stay with me, no, no good, stay in here.” He was going like “Mach-7.” I could not see anything he was doing I could not feel where anything he was doing was coming from. It was like being in a cement mixer with a bunch of sledge hammers on full cycle.

I felt like I knew nothing…

For those who have worked with me like this, I know this all sounds “too familiar.” So you have John and Tim to blame. 😉

Folks I have to tell you, not that there was but… if there was ever any doubt of his ability to just outright crush me, he put that thought to rest right then and there. But what seemed like forever was probably only a couple of minutes. Over the years I would dub this based on what John called it once as 5 Minutes in Hell. It’s really not 5 minutes even though it feels like 50 minutes. Afterward, while I felt like I’m ready to cough up a lung, Tim, as usual, is like smoking a cigarette, not even breathing hard.

John by the way came after me that day as well. I couldn’t even touch him. Yet now here’s the weird part he couldn’t have been more that half an arms length from me. I shit you not!

The whole time John is like, “Good…no stay loose…good, goooood…”

As I get pummeled like the ball in a pinball machine. It was mortifying.

Now I’ve done this with John over the years off and on where he “tunes me up.” Usually when moving like this with John the problem is sometimes he can’t keep from laughing. He’s just having too much fun. Which then makes me laugh even though I’m getting clobbered. Or usually someone will walk over and start asking stupid questions like, “John what are you doing?” and “Col what’s going on?” and “Al what are you feeling?” They might as well ask me how I think the Yankees are going to do next year. Un-freaking-real!

But in all seriousness I would later talk with Tim about it and he said something that as usual, was very profound, he said,

“Now that you’re a 5th Degree and we’re calling you a Master, understand people are going to try you. They are going to come after you. Trust me. We had to make sure you had what you needed.”

John would later reiterate what Tim said. He was like,

“The reason Tim and I came after you was we had to be sure. I just wanted to make sure you had what you needed. Not that I had any doubt but I just had to be sure that you knew you had that in you. That ability to really go there…”

I’m all about it.

I don’t care how many fights you’ve been in or how many people you’ve shot or how many tours of combat you’ve had or shootouts as a cop on the street. When you get “touched” to the bone like that, to the core of your soul, it is different!

This is what Gen James Jones was talking about when he implemented the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. To bring people to that place. To return them to the fire, to beat and mold and fold the steel…to forge a weapon. A Marine!


I know this sounds like suck-ass Kung Fu movie stuff, but to be able to work with John and Tim on that level, to get to feel it?  Are you kidding? This stuff is gold! Like the mentors I’ve had in the Marine Corps like Col GI Wilson, Col Harmon, LtGen Osterman, MGySgt Franco, the evil SgtMaj Miller-Perry, Sgt Libby and a few others who taught me things where over the years that saved my life and those of my Marines.  I’m truly, truly, grateful to have had the privilege to be trained by John and Tim.

On a more personal level I believe while my skills have grown over the years, their touch cannot be duplicated. It’s something that I believe is an innate talent and an ability that is innate to their nature.

Along these lines, I remember talking with John describing to him how when he stops my motion how it “feels” to me along with some other stuff he does, and he said,

“See now this is interesting. You have a unique understanding and perspective on the art because many of the things you just described to me of how it feels when I do certain things to you I’ve never felt. It’s interesting now that I think of it because nobody has ever been able to do the things to me that I do to them.”

Okay I’m going to pause right here to make a point because this is something that is very profound at least to me because it explains a lot of stuff that John does that makes no sense. To me, this statement was like a nuclear bomb going off in my head and I feel is critical to learning things like Ruthless Intent. You see to me this explains why at times when John moves with me why sometimes he laughs. He’s really having fun even though he knows he’s lighting me up.

Now on the other hand because he’s many times in his life been brought to the edge of the abyss, he knows how to move in a way to not let it happen in the first place. So, while for the most part no one has ever been able to do to John some of the things he does to others, from conversations I’ve had with him on numerous occasions in his life he knows what it’s like having his life flash before him, which is why he understands how through movement, through Ruthless Intent, how to raise it in others. He knows that “feeling” and has had to summon it enough times because his life depended on it.

It’s almost like a finely tuned “controlled aggression” with enough focus and control to bring you to the edge of eternity without sending you there. In order to get out of my own way and go to the next level I tell guys this kind of stuff all of the time that for all my knowledge and abilities John can still feel where I’m not where he knows I could be but understands it takes time. Always learning.


It makes perfect sense to me, it is because he has an appreciation for these things is what influenced the development of this art. When he’s moving with people and he’s on his game and he knows he’s in, as we say in the Marine Corps, “the shit”! –no one that I’ve seen has been able to back him into that corner where he’s not already responding in a way where they’re probably going to get crushed. When he’s training people in this (and because John can sense that rise in other people as I described before) he knows how to go just far enough to push you to that place to teach it to you but also teach you how to develop it in others.

And that’s the real challenge: can you get others to do it?


What Goes Around… Well? You Know…


“It is better to suffer once than to be in perpetual apprehension.”

–Julius Caesar


Later, when Master Martarano and Master Harrell were ready to be promoted to Master I can remember John giving me a hard time over why I asked him to delay their promotion until I did a few things with them. In truth while John made jokes about how I was holding up their promotion it was actually the truth, he was actually starting to get mad at me about it. I could tell.

So when it came “Joe’s time,” Joe’s like, “So what do you want me to do?”

I was like, “Just stay with me.”

And then right off the bat… I drop punched him in the gut and knocked a little wind out of him and I said, “You better do better than that! Stay in the fight!

Game on!

After about a minute I said something like, “I can see you’re getting a little pissed, it’s about fucking time. Stay in the fight.” Then he really came at me…

Let’s just say there were a couple of shots I took that I’m glad I was loose or it would have been a bad day for me. Hey, like I said, when you ride the bull sometimes you get thrown.

When it was over Joe was like, “What was that for?” and I said,

“To give you your edge, basically I was trying to come as close as possible to killing you without killing you or getting killed myself. If that makes sense.”

Joe then asked, “Is that what John did to you?”

“And Tim…” I replied.

He was like, “So how’d you do with them?”

I said,

Ah… I felt about as rotten as you do now. I was sucking wind just like you are now. But I’ll tell you like Tim told me, once you become a Master you can count on people wanting to try you and you need to be prepared to kick that ass because if they could get a piece of you for the ego boost they will.


“It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see.”

–Leonardo da Vinci


Master Harrell went through the same thing and it was awesome because every time he tried to ask me a question of what I was doing I just hit him. Once he understood what he had to do it was “game on.” There were a couple shots I took to the forehead that if I wasn’t trying to get out of the way–lights out!

Made for a very sore neck for a few days but well worth it because many years later there were some folks at one of our other locations who wanted to “test” Kevin on what he would do if someone just came in on him. Let’s just put it this way: the guy who asked Kevin the question and “tested” his stuff with Kevin later called me up and said,

“Man…Al I have to tell you, Kevin is dangerous, when I say dangerous I’m talking deceptively deadly. We came at him hard and it looked like all he did was put his hand out and everyone got crushed.”

While on the surface I told him how I already knew that about Kevin (which I did) I felt good knowing I was a part of helping John develop that in him, the Ruthless Intent, “the will” to crush people without thought, without winding up or a big show of it, or excessive effort, like something you see right out of a movie.

I remember when were in England for the first time running a seminar there were folks who wanted to work with Joe a little (i.e, challenge him). Well, all they could do later on was ask me about how do you deal with “the power” of the “Silver Back!” At first I didn’t know who the Hell they were talking about until they said Joe.

I then said, “Oh that? Yeah that’s a problem.

I explained it very matter of fact, “Don’t be there for it. If you’re there, you lose. It’s really that simple.”


“Day by day, what you do is who you become.”



Now after saying all this I know there are going to be some folks who’ve never felt this wanting to feel what this is like, because this is different from a regular pummeling. I’m all about it! But… I’ll tell you right now if you haven’t developed the requisite looseness and sensitivity to move with it, it’s very difficult to do this without the potential for serious injury–for you! Sorry but those are the facts.

Folks, this type of training, once a person reaches a certain level of skill where they can move at high speed without getting seriously injured, is crucial for developing Ruthless Intent. They need to feel this for them to appreciate it in order to understand it, develop it, own it! You don’t have to be at a high level to feel it and begin the process, in my opinion you don’t even need to be a Black Belt, it’s just that there are limitations as to how far we can push you.

Without pushing people to where they can move in the body where there is no time to think, no time to retreat, no time to be scared, and force them to stay in the battle, denies them the ability to learn how to push past pain, fear, time or thought. They will never really learn in the body to transcend technique or thought, or how to tap into the Ruthless Intent where everything they do simply, becomes a calm yet ruthless application of their will. They never learn to really trip into that “sixth sense,” the Za Zen state, the state of Mushin, The Zone.


“When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy…attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.”

― Miyamoto Musashi, A Book of Five Rings


By training in this fashion, as a person develops is to give them the gift to quickly escalate when necessary to violence, the gift to preserve life or take it. It is to give them the gift of battle.

Well that’s it for this installment.

Thank you.

LtCol Al Ridenhour

Senior Master Instructor




And This Fall:


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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