“Whoever shows up first with the most bullets and is better prepared wins.”
–Gen John Kelly, USMC (ret)
[Editor’s Note: The early order discount for the Oct. 5-6 “Ruthless Intent” seminar in Los Angeles ends Sept. 5]
One of the problems of discussing these things is that the more I write about them the more questions I generate. Which is fine by me because I want people to know this stuff. Why wouldn’t I want people that I train to know these things? This is why they train with me. It’s not like I’m taking it with me to the afterlife so there’s no need to hold it back.
Moreover, and this is just my own personal view, as an instructor whatever you teach you have a moral obligation to the people you train to put your best effort forward and provide them the best possible training you can on any given day. Whatever it is you are teaching them on that day, no matter how mundane you think it is it needs to be your best effort. As I say to folks all the time, what is intuitive to you and I is not intuitive to other people especially those you teach. So the “one thing” you teach them no matter how inconsequential you think it is may be the difference for them between life and death. It really needs to become that personal for you. If not? Then you should probably find something else to do because their lives may very well someday depend on it.
But that’s just me…
Anyway, I had a few folks as of my last post ask me a number of questions about this so I owe it to them and I sense there needs to be a further discussion on this because once again there is a mindset to Ruthless Intent that you have to train with in order to develop it on one level or another. I remember when Gen Kelly was my class adviser at Infantry Officer Course and he was a big believer in being better prepared and always, always, always getting the drop on the enemy. “The Shadow Impression” is all about that!
Getting there first!
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
As I alluded to in my last post, what if you could move in a way, without thought, where you were able to get the drop on the bad guy?
What if you could almost always be unavailable to the bad guy?
What’s it to you to be able to strike first with lethal force if necessary and end the fight, war or whatever?
More importantly (and these are really the real questions you have to ask yourself):
I remember a friend of mine in the Marine Corps, Col Eric Hastings, telling us when we were Lieutenants about how he and his family had gone on safari hunts for lions, and I remember him saying something like,
“When you see some old male lion all scarred up sitting around with his pride, you know why he’s all scarred up? It’s because a male lion has to be prepared to fight for his life every day.”
If you knew you had to fight for your life like a male lion everyday how Ruthless would you want to be?
How quickly would you want to be able to escalate to violence?
How quickly would you want to end battles?
This is what I’m talking about. I’m not saying I want to have to fight for my life all of the time but you know what? It’s nice to know I’m prepared to do so.
This is what the Shadow Impression is all about. This foreshadowing of movement, the will to act, this level of unconscious awareness where you’re cutting off the enemy’s attack even if you are not consciously trying to, just by the way your body moves.
British House of Commons, June 4th, 1940
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
Imagine you’re the new Prime Minister of the UK, your predecessor promised “peace in our time” holding aloft a worthless treaty that Hitler had signed. Yet by May of the same month you were just elected Prime Minister, the Wehrmacht’s armored divisions had already reached the coast of the English Channel, splitting the British Expeditionary Forces and the French First Army from the main French forces. It’s not looking good because the world had already seen parts of Europe either overrun or annexed by the Nazis.
Then out of the cauldron of fear rises the voice of courage; the voice of defiance; the voice of the “moral will” with the “Ruthless Intent” to fight; the voice of victory! The voice of Churchill! Hands down, this is perhaps one of the greatest speeches at least in my mind in history. Short, bold and to the point! There’s no mixing words here or ambiguity about it.
Understand that Churchill was no “dainty doily” as we like to call them. During WWI he was an officer in the British Army and served on the Western Front until early 1916. My point is Churchill understood the significance of what he was saying and knew what the Hell he was talking about.
Anyone can give a “fair weather speech” and talk bold when death and destruction are not staring you in the face. This is the will, the mindset, the Ruthless Intent that I continue to allude to.
The will to rise when you are afraid.
The will to rise when everyone around you is looking to raise the white flag of surrender.
The will to rise when all is against you.
The will to rise and fight or die trying.
Like I’ve said, I’m all about dying a Viking Warrior’s Death.
I’m sure Winston Churchill would agree…
It’s funny because not long ago prior to this writing my wife asked me, even though I was retired, f the military were to recall me as they have with folks in the past, would I go? I told her, “They would only have to request it.” It’s bitter sweet for my wife because while she enjoyed my time when I was in the Marine Corps she also breathes a sigh of relief knowing my time is done. As for me? They won’t have to ask twice. I know I have at least one maybe two more good adventures left in me. I’m all about it because I understand that the world is a dangerous place. That “the wolf” is out there and he’s hungry. I know guys who served in the military who are old broken and long retired and it always warms my heart when I talk with them to see that warrior spirit is still there. They may be slower, but if you have to deal with them, they’ll just start earlier.
They say that in humor there is always a little hint of truth which is what makes a certain thing funny. So if you’re familiar with the Comic strip “Dilbert” by Scott Adams, and you’ve ever worked for a large corporation, organization or in government, then you know a lot of the points he makes of the inane things people do and say are “dead on!” Which, once again, is what makes it so funny. He does a lot of business writing and blogging these days and he made an interesting statement where he was quoting some type of research on how we make decisions and he said something I found interesting, and that is this thing we call “judgement” or how we “judge things” are,
“…nothing more than rationalizations of the decisions that we’ve already made in our minds or deep down how we already feel about something. So everything we say or do when making what we call a judgment is to justify and defend those internal decisions or feelings.”
I can see that. The reason I believe it is important to understand is because if you are to develop the level of Ruthless Intent you desire (as I stated in previous blog posts) you have to get to the heart of the matter. You have to get past the nonsense in your head and filter out the noise. Whatever internal feelings you have, whatever internal decisions you’ve made about whether you choose to be a Lion or not, whatever rationalizations you have, if they are not rooted in reality then you have to learn to reorient your mind and focus on what’s important. And if that means you have to fight regardless of the potential danger to you then so be it. I’m not saying this is easy but the alternative is not an option. Because the decision or the judgement you make in the heat of battle, when your moment of truth arrives, has to have already been made in your “heart of hearts” or you will hesitate, and quite possibly die or get others killed.
I can remember over the years listening to some people, especially from those who have never served in the military (it’s always the way) offer their unsolicited opinions on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, North Korea, Israel etc. or war in general. And it never ceases to amaze me how, as I listen to them talk, whether they’re discussing policy or trying to offer me “their opinion” on our strategy and what we should do, how, if you peel back the onion so to speak on their arguments, as you listen to them talk, as they try to rationalize things deep down…there is fear. Deep down on a certain level, they’re just afraid.
The irony is if they’re around my age since we ended the draft in 1973, none of them are in any position where they would be sent off to fight unless of course they volunteered. Yet I often sense their fear. It is amazing because I’ve seen how some people, no matter who they are, have a visceral fearful reaction to the very idea that our nation may have to go into battle even though it may not directly effect them or their family.
By the way you even see this mindset at play even in the military or among some of our “policy wonks” as we like to call them at the highest levels in our government. I can remember being in a meeting discussing a joint program with the Army and Marine Corps seeking funding for enhanced optics. So when the question and answer period came up (and you have to understand the lowest ranking people in the room are myself and the other Lieutenant Colonels–everyone else was full Colonel and one star general or the equivalent), so as usual there’s always someone there representing Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) Comptroller (the money guys) trying to put a price tag on human life. Whether intentional or not that’s how it always comes off when you go down that line of questioning. So anyway this guy is going on and on about the cost of the program so when he was done with his stupid questions I had finally had enough and said something like,
“Well Sir, the reason for this equipment is we’re trying to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys. I mean, we always have the options of just shooting all of these guys in the fucking head…”
I never raised my voice I just stated it matter of fact. They knew I meant that shit! You could have heard a pin drop… Then the Director Mr. Larkin, a former Navy Corpsman who served with 3rd Marines in Vietnam and who at the time had a son serving in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan, looked up and sort of smiled and said, “Well, I think that sort of wraps this up.” The room burst with laughter, even the guys asking the questions were laughing. They took a vote and we got the funding. Later one of my Army buddies who was working the program with me said,
“Man Al, that was good shit in there I’m glad you said that. I was getting ready to jump up and choke that fucking guy.”
And he would have…
We just laughed. But this story is illustrative in that even in the military in the midst of war people can lose sight of the focus and intent needed for victory. Sometimes people need to hear that you’re prepared to shoot everybody in the head, just to shake them back to their senses.
This attitude by the way is one of the criticisms that I have with much of the theory going around in the beltway that passes for “military strategy” or “thought.” I believe it is an outgrowth of a lot of bad strategy that has come about in the post WWII era and I’ll even say Korean and Vietnam War era. This notion that you can somehow fight a war with half-measures is utter foolishness and nonsense. Listen: whether fighting a war or a fight for your life, once you make the decision to fight you can’t get a little pregnant. You’re in or out.
This “wishy-washy” lukewarm Laodecian mindset I believe is also because we’ve forgotten something very fundamental.
Violence is a Tool
“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
–Alexander the Great
There’s an old saying and I don’t know who said it but it’s one of those things that reveals a level of truth that has remained constant throughout human history.
“Hard times make strong men, strong men make good times, good times make weak men, weak men make for hard times…”
On a certain level believe it or not, I do understand their fear, their apprehension and excessive worry. Hell I don’t want to see our cities destroyed like I’ve seen in other countries through war then again we should not shy away from war just because it scares us, and if it comes down to it? Then damn it let war come. For even an army of sheep can achieve victory if led by a Lion.
We’ve been brought up in a world where we’ve been given the opportunity especially in the United States to live a life unparalleled in human history. Unfortunately for many it is a false reality. You see the world we live in is one governed by the aggressive use of force. “Civilization” as we define it, in a nutshell, in truth, is bullshit!
Here’s what civilization is, civilization is the promise or agreement that if you don’t try to kill me and my family, I promise not to burn down your house with you and your family in it. Fair trade if you ask me. Like it or not that’s really what civilization is. People coming to an understanding that there are consequences for their actions and agreeing not to murder each other. People unfortunately “only understand the sword.“
However, for the most part many Americans have lived lives where they have been sheltered from the horrors that await people who live in most regions of the world (and thank God). For them violence is a means of last resort and only if negotiation and group hugs don’t work. The truth is, violence is neither good nor evil but a tool that can be used for evil or good. It is the context in which it is used or the “intent” that determines that.
Violence is also necessary for even the mere threat of it can deter an enemy. The snake rattles it’s tail and coils, the cat arches its back and hisses, the dog growls, the lion roars.
What is the message?
Do not fuck with me!
When you posses the Ruthless Intent and know through training to feel the Shadow Impression that you can get their first and end it quickly for folks–trust me: people catch that vibe.
I remember in Afghanistan one of my young Marines asking as we discussed our strategy of winning hearts and minds and why they also make good targets etc., “Sir what’s more important: to be liked or respected?” I gave it some thought and I said, “Feared!” He just laughed because he knew it was true, plus I think he just wanted to hear what I was going to say. When your enemies know there is a severe price to pay for messing with you, trust me it takes a lot of wind out of their sails.
There is Always a Choice Even if it’s a Bad Choice
“The end and object of conquest is to avoid doing the same thing as the conquered.”
You see whether it’s two nations going to war or one faction over another etc… whether you started it or not, war has to become an all or nothing proposition. Now, believe it or not there is a choice in war. It’s called “surrender,” and surrender is never good for the vanquished. Surrender is bondage, surrender is tyranny, surrender is slavery. Very few nations in the history of the world ever made out as a result of surrendering. WWII and the US occupation of Japan and Germany and a few others are really anomalies and outliers in history. The vast majority of times surrender is a bad, bad deal.
Folks, I have to tell you–and this is just my personal opinion so take it for what it’s worth–if surrender is a bad deal for a nation, it’s an even worse deal for you as an individual or your family.
To Hell with that!
So now that I’ve pointed all of this out, I want you to think of something. I want you to imagine the fight of your life.
I want you to imagine a situation where there is no choice but to fight.
No place to run and surrender is definitely not an option. You don’t want this. You don’t want to be there but you are.
Maybe it’s at the mall with your wife, maybe it’s in your house. Maybe you’re just trying to protect someone else.
In a moment that seems like it lasts for eternity, you summon your courage, that place between confidence and fear. Your Ruthless Intent to crush any and all attackers.
You feel the warmth of your anger rise up in you, in the pit of your stomach emanating to your limbs, your face hot and flush with blood, your blood and your eyes are of fire. Your skin hot to the touch. It has come to this. There is no bargaining, there is no reasoning. When you move you move as one, you and your attacker. All reality and time disappears and there are only two things: your sword and his sword and nothing else. Then in the twinkling of an eye it’s over and your attacker is crushed. You look at your hands and it felt like all you did was touch him but the force you struck with was as if he were hit be a truck.
This is what I’m talking about! This is the Ruthless Intent! The will to act in this fashion!
But to do this you have to get there first. This is what the Shadow Impression is all about. To end the fight before it really gets going. To defeat the enemy without really even fighting. This is an entirely different mindset. This is the mindset that you have to train with in order to cultivate this and absorb into your body and into the marrow of your bones. To alter the fight without the enemy even knowing the circumstances of the battle have changed. In order to develop this you have to move differently and move in a way that achieves this within movement itself.
The Wisdom Tree
“When I’m moving with people I can feel the shape, the outline of their body, the ‘Shadow Impression’ and I move off of that. I’m not waiting for people to do something before I make an adjustment. So as they move I can play off the structure of their movement but also feel the contours. Now this I’m just doing with my hands to give you an idea but understand I do this with my whole body. I’m always fighting with my whole body
I’ve discussed getting out of phase in previous posts where John has stated when being unavailable yet unavoidable something along the lines of,
“Well, if you watch what I’m doing as I’m moving with people, I not only make a little contact with them but I take the Shadow Impression of their body and I play off of it.”
Because I’ve been getting peppered by folks over what I said in my last post I’m going to reiterate something that I wrote about earlier. Because some things can never be said enough and I really want people to understand this. This is key, this is the “adumbration” that I spoke of in the last post. This ability to not only move in a certain way but to play off of a person’s body based on a Shadow Impression of their body.
Returning to the Scene of the Crime
So John says to me, “Don’t move.”
He then takes his hands and begins to lightly move them over the contour of my torso and arms and explains the Shadow Impression to me and how it works. He goes on to reemphasize that, “It’s not an exact thing, just an impression,” and he just goes from there.
I was sitting around with John at our school before class one time and I was asking him about all this. Because I wanted to get his thoughts on this “space between the spaces” where he seems to always be “doing something” where there is “stuff” as I call it, going on. That space between from the time he begins to move, to the time he gets to where he’s going and he said to me,
“It’s not so much that I’m making one movement from here to there…that’s just what it looks like. I don’t know how to really describe it but it’s like it’s ‘malleable.’ It changes moment to moment as I do it based on what I feel. I’m not thinking about it, I’m really not. It just feels like I just seem to know. This is why you can’t just pin it down to one or two things. If that makes sense.”
This in my opinion is, from a self-defense standpoint the purest form of “adumbration” you’ll ever find. To know without knowing.
Are You Sure That’s What’s Going On?
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
The above heading is a question from time to time I ask folks when teaching them. Not to play “stump the monkey” or “20 questions” with them, but to raise questions like Socrates messing with people in the square, where they are forced to challenge their assumptions.
This question is important because this is also why you really can’t follow John’s movement unless (Heh, heh…), “he wants you to,” which is a different thing than when he’s just moving to hit. It’s because if he doesn’t know exactly what he’s going to do from one moment to the next then you sure as Hell don’t know and can’t know. Sure you may guess right from time-to-time but in a fight for your life how long do you think you can keep that game up? I’m sorry folks and I know John will get mad at me for saying this but when you’re moving with John if you think you’re following his movement? I have bad news for you, so let me help you here… he’s letting you follow him.
Now, if you know this then it’s not a problem because you can then just move with him and try to absorb the lesson and what he’s allowing you to experience. As you strike even if you miss you learn something as you try to become unavailable; even if hit you learn something. No matter what, you’re learning something if you’re moving within the context of what he’s try to help you feel. If you’re trying to win for the sake of an ego boost? You’re just wasting your time and a valuable training opportunity to learn something in the body you can’t get anywhere else.
He’s leading you to a conclusion while not giving you the answer to allow you the freedom to learn and create within the space he’s created. It’s a form of “paradoxical learning” where the conclusions are not obvious. He leads you to certain conclusions and as your skill grows the harder he makes it for you to follow but there’s always a path even if it leads to a dead end. Hey, if he can lead you to the right place he can lead you to the wrong place. Besides, how else do you learn to not allow certain things to happen in the first place?
To me, this level of adumbration within the Shadow Impression is not only a powerful training tool but the notion that in a split second to be able to put you in the right or wrong place has serious advantages. Hey, if I can put you in the right place I can put your head into a fire hydrant. Works for me.
The thing he’s teaching you is not obvious on the surface but several layers deep. Wherever you went, however you go there. For the most part, he put you there.
Folks I’m telling you so here’s where I get to brag on my Masters. I’ve done seminars all over the place, with all sorts of people many with advanced skills including those of the internal arts and I’m telling you no one is even close to teaching you how to develop these concepts or attributes. Without John teaching this to me directly there is no way I would have even considered this let alone learned it. This is why it blows my mind how people have direct access to him and do not take advantage of this. Even if it’s only for a few minutes it’s worth the price of admission.
There is no way I could have even begun to understand that if he hadn’t explained it to me and then demonstrated albeit at a rudimentary level what he was doing. This was along with a lot of things one of the coolest things he ever showed me and really opened my eyes to why his movement has, as I’ve described before, this weird “dimensional feel” to it.
But The Shadow Impression Is Also a Way of Thinking
“Envy is a declaration of inferiority.”
I always liked this quote by Napoleon because at the root of envy is this feeling or perception of “inadequacy,” of “inferiority” in people.
Now, the reason I have to say this (because there are those who are going to disbelieve what I am saying here about the Shadow Impression or like “Getting Out of Phase” or “Ghosting” or as I like to say at times, “Disappear” on people…and any number of skills within the art of Guided Chaos), no matter how many times John discusses or demonstrates these things there are those “Doubting Thomas’s” who will not believe it or think they are just “tricks” that only work in class. Or, as some have said, that they are not a part of the “true art.”
The truth is they say these things because, to put it bluntly, they are not skilled enough to do them no matter how many years they’ve been doing the art. So because they can’t do them they assume neither can anyone else.
It is because they can’t see these things in their minds that they are not capable of seeing them with their eyes. Even when they are taught by the Grandmaster himself right in front of them. Sad…
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want. Everything else is secondary.”
Now, I assume if you’ve been following these postings that you are not one of them. My advice to you is if for some reason you do encounter one of these people who think all this stuff I’m saying is BS, to simply ignore them.
Understand, that such things can only serve to either, a) make them feel better about themselves or; b) serve to close off other people’s minds to the possibility of learning how to do these things. It’s really simple to me: if someone tells you something can’t be done you are probably less likely to even attempt to learn it let alone even begin to try. Either way it’s not productive.
The point being you must not allow people to effect your thinking on this. You need to use your common sense and sense of curiosity and take things to their logical conclusion and “try the spirits” so to speak. One thing that I do when I run seminars for folks who are fairly new to Guided Chaos is I tell them to feel free to question everything that I say because if I can’t defend it, if I can’t do it, then why should you believe any of this stuff?
These are not challenges but affirmations to them that I am 100% percent confident in what I teach and my abilities. So I am not concerned…
Also, understand it’s not my job to convince people of the truth. I’m only sharing what I’ve learned after nearly 30 years of study with my Masters so what people do with it is up to them. Your time is limited, finite, but for the most part what you do with it, is not.
“Without training, they lacked knowledge. Without knowledge, they lacked confidence. Without confidence, they lacked victory.”
When I move with someone as John taught me I’m looking to get that “Shadow Impression” of their body as best I can. “Impressions” as John would put it is a great word to describe it and is what I look for rather than a pattern within their movement, because there is more to it than recognizing patterns due to the constant changes that take place.
In order to develop this, in-the-begin-ning, you need to learn to move slowly so that you can begin the process of learning to also play off of their body and their movements to where your movement becomes “malleable.” When doing this your hands as well as your arms and body must remain light so that you can listen to and feel everything they are doing with their body. You see you need to understand that when you touch them, they can also feel you so you are reacting (or acting) adjusting etc. based on how they are moving in relation to your body moving with their body.
Since you are both playing off of each other you need to practice this slowly over time so you can gradually build up speed as you gain greater control over your body, so that you can learn to change as they change in sync with what they are doing with their body. As you improve on this ability, this is where you need to begin to make logical inferences as to their movement based on how you know how the body moves.
Now just to give you an idea of what I mean I’m going to give just a few basic examples. Understand (because I have to say this) these are only examples of a million things you can do.
Please, please, please do not focus on the “shiny object” here but focus on the thought process to the decisions being made.
In other words, it’s just “a thing” as John would say.
Okay here we go:
Who says? Who says? Who the Hell says I can’t?
For me the glass is always “half full.”
This is the thought process that I’m talking about developing: the ability to read the Shadow Impression of another person’s movements or intention. To get ahead of movement. To know where the puck is going to be.
Now, in the beginning this will seem like it’s alot because you have to put some thought into what you want to do based on the principles of Guided Chaos. However, once you begin to move like this, if you practice it enough and try not to overthink it or complicate it, eventually it reaches the stage of “unconscious competence” where you “know” without “knowing“, and is no different than how you learned to read and write, drive a car, learn to swim or ride a bike.
When you understand these “Inverse Relationships” to movement; when the glass is always half full; when your mind is in the right place, combined with the Shadow Impression executed with Ruthless Intent, it’s a whole different game.
Master Martarano calls this “Stacking,” where you combine or stack a number of concepts together and apply them all at once. I call it “genius”!
Final thoughts: in general, most people do not think like this even in our own art which is why they can’t see it in their minds eye. So they cannot develop the presence of mind or awareness like the matador in the bull fight to deal with things before they become a problem.
Anyway that’s it for now.
As always, thanks.
LtCol Al Ridenhour
Senior Master Instructor
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