Lessons from My Masters 22: Observations – Ruthless Intent Part VI

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“In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”

― Sun-Tzu, The Art of War


[Editor’s Note: There’s still time to register for the Oct. 5-6 “Ruthless Intent” seminar in Los Angeles ]


Real fights, as we say, are chaos, and in order to “win” you need to manage that chaos, guide the chaos. Own it! The art of Guided Chaos is all about creating or finding opportunity in the chaos. In all that we do this is the goal. Ruthless Intent as I’ve been discussing is all about this and more.

Okay, you may want to get some coffee for this… This is way longer than I planned on.

Continuing on from my last post and to answer some of the questions that people have sent me about all of this…

As you develop the Shadow Impression you want to also develop the ability to deliver strikes and move your body at what Sun Tzu would call “Supernatural Speed.” Now before you get crazy about what I’m saying here I’m not talking about something mystical but something that gives the appearance as if you are moving at a speed that is beyond what humans can do. In this post rather than just talk about some of these things I’m going to show you just one of many ways to develop Supernatural Speed in your stepping to help you get there first because I get beat up by students about this stuff all of the time.

In truth this is not something that is outside of what most people can accomplish once you understand it. You just need to understand that it has more to do with how people perceive time both visually and physically. Sort of like a how a good athlete in any sport fakes out an opponent. I’ve gone through this before but I want to cover this from the perspective of how it fits in with Ruthless Intent and the Shadow Impression.


Delivering at Supernatural Speed


“If quick, I survive. If not quick, I am lost. This is “death.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


So anyway, I was holding court recently talking to some students and I was discussing some mindset stuff regarding how they should think about their training. And it goes back to what I said in my previous post about what is important and the questions you need to be asking yourself so I’ll offer here a few more insights because this is important to the development of your ability to close with an attacker and end the fight as quickly as possible.

Now for me if I’m going to get into some sort of altercation, I have a choice: I can get into some sort of long drawn out protracted battle or I can end it as quickly as it started. That’s the choice and to me it’s a simple one: if given the choice if possible as Sun Tzu would suggest, I’m going to end it before it even gets started. But in order to do this in most cases you need to get there first!

This is the mindset that I train from!

This is the intent that I try to develop in my own mind!

This is the level of Ruthless Intent that I’m talking about!

Here’s my point, if you know you’re already in the fight what the Hell are you waiting for?

Me personally the way I think within my training and the training I provide to students is ultimately I want them to have the ability to take a person out in one move if possible. Not saying it’s always doable but that’s the mindset I train with.

If you’re a fan of the Riddick Movies with Vin Diesel, then a movie that I frequently recommend students see is “The Chronicles of Riddick” not so much for the story but what I always tell students is to closely watch the fight sequences. Riddick, you see, is an animal: pure primal beast. He is not a martial artist per se but just a ruthless efficient killing machine and though a work of fiction all I can say is the choreographer who ever he was had it right. Again, I know it’s just a movie but just because it’s a movie doesn’t mean there aren’t some valid techniques on display. Just watch “A History of Violence,” of course the first “Taken” where Liam Neesson is just chopping necks, “Menace to Society” or “The Raid and Redemption.

There are so many others I could name but you get the point. You’ll notice that no matter what Riddick does when he moves it’s always one move – one kill. There is no hesitation in anything Riddick does. When he moves you better believe he’s trying to kill you so you either evade or perish. This is sort of what I’m talking about when developing this type of movement. Everything else is but an abstraction of that thought process. The next logical conclusion that I make is,

 “Well if taking one person out in one move is good, what is it I need to develop to take out two? Three? Ten if necessary?”

“Do I need to learn how to use a weapon? What would I like to be able to do? What kind of weapon? Is it practical? What do I need to do in training to develop these skills?”

You see, it’s not enough to have a Shadow Impression of the person you also have to be able to deliver the crushing blow, because once you get there you need to be able to do something about it.


Move Like the Wind


 “Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


This movement, this adumbration where we get this “foreshadowing” of a person’s movement, this “listening” to their bodies, feeling their impressions, their intent, their direction and speed, their adjustments to your movements, the ability to feel how they react to our movement and in real time where you change your movement to alter their perception of what they think it is you are doing, long enough for you take advantage of their confusion–it’s all about using the Shadow Impression to get ahead of movement and deliver strikes at supernatural speed.

We talk all of the time about one of the key aspects within the principle of Sensitivity and that is “Spatial Awareness.” This ability we seem to have where we are able to judge spatial relationships not just visually but seemingly to feel where they are without physical contact. I’m not going to sit here and try to explain it just know this is something that is very real. Otherwise how do we drive a car without crashing all of the time? We all have this ability but I feel that even within our own art it gets short shrift because of people’s desire to control another person’s arms when performing the Contact Flow exercise. But if you work at this and develop this ability that we are all born with to varying degrees, you can learn to do this. But you have to be willing to take the “Red Pill” on this and take the leap of faith that you can do this. I understand for some folks having this level of trust in your ability to have the barest of contact and yet be able to move in and strike is a scary proposition. Well? That’s why we train…

When moving with people it’s really simple to me: if I can “feel” your intention no matter how slight even if not in direct contact through the use of Spatial Awareness then not only can I manipulate you, but I can move to points in the future to cut you off or wait for you to run into my strikes. This level of adumbration is something that I spoke of before when I discussed “anticipation.” The whole key to “playing where the puck is going to be” is all about learning to get ahead of another person’s movement enough to anticipate probabilities and possibilities. All things being equal if what I’m saying isn’t true then how does one person hit another person? Some way somehow they get ahead of them either through being faster, moving first, becoming unavailable, whatever. If what we’re saying is true regarding the principles of Guided Chaos being rooted in physics and human physiology, then I’m sorry but it can’t be anything else.

Okay check this out, this is another one of those things that I discuss like all of the time with students. Now for some they get this for others this sort of glazes over their eyes like that slack jawed look you use to see on folks attending the Oprah Winfrey Show. I’m going to illustrate this with a chart because life is short and it can be too complex to explain with mere words and it makes my head hurt if I try to explain it any other way.

This is what I call…


“How the Universe Works”, Part – 9,068


This is not necessarily an easy thing to understand so if there is any confusion I’ll say it up front: the fault is all mine. I’m just trying to express an idea, a concept. Now, in the chart below regarding speed, I show that the slowest you can go is barley above, say, a “dead stop”. The fastest you can go is “Full Speed”. So whatever that is for you, Full Speed is always “Full Speed,” meaning you can’t go any slower than say a dead stop but the fastest you can only go is Full Speed. The mistake people make is they’re looking for the “elusive technique” that will make them faster than they already are but no matter how much you train, at some point you’ll only get but so fast within whatever God given natural ability you already have. Sure you can become more efficient etc. but in the end you’re only going to get so fast. The key is it is not so much how fast you are, it’s what you do with the speed you have and how and when to use it…

Or not… ; – )


Like I said, the truth is most of us are about as fast as we’ll ever get. So the key here is not so much trying to get faster but to learn how to control the pace or tempo of your speed or movements. If you look a some of the greatest athletes or musicians one of the things you will find is that no matter how fast they seem to be able to do what they do, there is a timing to how they do everything. The best athletes know how to change the tempo as I show in the chart below with the various positions of the “Red Triangles.” The best musicians know how to alter or change the tempo, because there is a timing in everything. The whole concept in Guided Chaos of “Stopping Time” or “Slowing Time Down” or “Fighting in the Future” is all about learning how to move in a manner that alters the other person’s perception of time. Bruce Lee used to talk about this; he called it, “Hitting Between the Beats” where you alter the tempo to strike before the other guy can respond since he can’t change direction or react fast enough. It’s not so much that they do what they do fast, it’s that they know what to do, when to do it.

The key to understanding how to develop this ability is to be able develop your body through the principles of Guided Chaos or as Grandmaster Perkins once said to me to become, “malleable” within the movement. To learn how to “pace” your movements within the flow. To fill in the gaps in speed. So that you can move at lighting speed, come to a dead stop, slow down and go at any speed at the drop of a hat all without losing control of your body. In the image below I try to express this graphically. Just understand that the corresponding numbers represent “movement” at various speeds or “no movement” at all along this continuum and represents just various things you are capable of doing with your movement. Once you develop the ability to pace and alter or control the tempo of your movement [see the chart below] with regard to fighting (or as Grandmaster Perkins calls it “faking people out”), the sky’s the limit.

Only Three Ways…


 “To secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


As Grandmaster Carron used to say over and over to me,

“You’re just dealing with motion…”

To me this is very profound stuff because as we all know within the fighting arts, there are all sorts of techniques on how to deal with strikes or various forms of attacks, but the problem is most of these techniques make a number (in my book) of crucial mistakes.

As I’ve stated in previous Blog Posts, when training students on dealing with another person regardless of their size, speed or strength in the end as I’ve tried to emphasize you are just dealing with motion and nothing else. Again–and I want to point this out so that there is no misunderstanding about this–it does not mean that these things are not an advantage to an attacker. On the contrary it is because they do matter is why all the more must one develop their body through the principles of Guided Chaos if they are to have a chance at surviving an encounter with such an individual. I’ve said in the past there are generally only three ways to deal with another person’s motion in a fight, well four if you count getting hit. They are,

1) you can either try to stop a strike or person’s motion;

2) try to redirect their strike or motion or;

3) not be there for it.

Most people, due to the way in which culturally we’ve been conditioned to think, choose “Door Number 1” and get punched in the face.

Even in Guided Chaos as one’s skills develop people still attempt as I’ve said, to control another person’s movement by trying to stop everything they are doing. This is a deadly mistake in my book. Like I told some students recently in a workshop if you watch what Grandmaster Perkins does when dealing with people, he pretty much lets about 90% of whatever they’re throwing at him pass by. Even when he redirects them by the time they realize it it’s too late to recover from their over travel.

Once again the problem with trying to stop everything is,

1) it makes you defensive which is a mistake of like 99% percent of martial arts systems;

2) it allows your attacker to regroup for another attack and keeps him in the fight and;

3) it plays to your attacker’s advantages if they are larger, stronger or faster than you. Okay and;

4) there are just some things you cannot stop because the physics in that particular instance are just not in your favor.

In order to successfully develop this, you must condition your mind and develop the body to become so unavailable yet unavoidable that even in the light of day the sun cannot ascertain your location. You must not only become the wind but its shadow…


“Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


If I see a guy walking toward me that I perceive to be trouble, because I can see them, I also have time to react to them. The Shadow Impression even at a distance is all about this. You see, there is also the recognition of intent that is vital to your development of these abilities. We’ve all done this or experienced this: you know what I’m talking about, that “look” that can shut a person down before they even get started to say something. If you’re a parent with teenagers you probably do this 500 times a day without even batting an eye.  As we got older we all found out that there is a look that you can give people, a look of intent of “Ruthless Intent” that if they cross a certain point or go to a certain place then it’s game on!

This intent is not just a mental thing but a physical one as well. Like predators in the wild, bad guys can generally sense who they can mess with and who is a Lion and not to be messed with. When your awareness is up, when you are able to move with the grace and confidence of a Lion people can sense this, feel this, and if the Ruthless Intent is in your mind to crush people because you’re just not in the mood, it alters the attitude of your body in a discernible way.

This is not hocus-pocus. There is tons of research and interviews with violent criminals who will attest that when sizing up a victim there is a calculation they go through to determine who they’re going to pass on versus who is “next.” While not 100% in all cases my point is why would you make the bad guy’s job any easier than it needs to be? Screw them! This is the mindset I’m talking about, the Ruthless Intent that can be felt and almost tasted by the bad guys. The possibility that it is they and not you, as John’s uncle Bob would say, that are prey.

I’m all about it…


In a World of Super Powers… Be Batman


“All men are basically the same and he who is best is trained in the severest of schools.”

 –Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War


Referring to a previous post where I discussed the nature of Batman and the motivation as to why he is the way he is, the other thing that I always found interesting about Batman is how he in spite of a lack of so called “super powers” how he could in the end always best other villains and even heroes. To me when you think about it, out of all of the heroes, Batman in my view is probably the bravest. He has no real powers yet stands against some of the most dangerous villains. I believe it’s because Batman had something they all lacked. A sense of mortality. For Superman, unless some “Kryptonite” shows up, he’s pretty much good to go,  but for Batman like you and I to be blunt, the shit is always dangerous.

Trust me when you’ve had to come face to face with your own mortality you’re a different guy after that. For some people, as I’ve seen, it makes them even more fearful, others derive a dangerous sense of invulnerability. Oh yeah I’ve seen that too. But most, if they have a mature attitude about things, just learn to respect that they are alive but by the grace of God and just accept that if it’s your time it’s your time. But most important of all, they learn from it, are molded by, shaped and hardened by the experience, and become smarter, stronger in both mind and spirit for it.

Believe it or not, it is one of the positive sides or benefits of war. So even in this slack jawed milk toast culture we live in, while it often gets labeled as “nuts” or “crazy” simply because most people have never had the experience, and so they have a perception based on what they’ve been indoctrinated into believing through “entertainment,” surviving death has this effect to harden you in positive ways. Understand, because I see it all of the time, a lot of folks have been conditioned to be afraid. You know it and I know it, especially if it is something they do not understand nor have the skill for.

Why the Hell do you think there are all of these “Warrior Weekend” retreats or activities and programs popping up? Or these ultra violent video games where people–in some cases men in their 30’s–get to feel like heroes without the danger?

Most people in this day and age have never had their metal tested–especially men–and want that experience. I get it. It’s why most people join the military or law enforcement, the fire department etc. They want their metal tested, they want to know if they can hack it. The cubs want to run with the older lions, the boys with the men. And as men if they’re honest they want to be able to brag and pick up girls. I’m all about that too. Hey, that’s how I got my wife.

This mindset, this desire is also why people seek out the martial arts and good on them. Let’s cut the crap here. Who doesn’t want to feel like a bad ass if for nothing than to no longer feel like you have to be afraid?

Most people really have no desire to get into a fight, I get it.  So the confidence of knowing you can bring it and give an attacker the battle of their life is an awesome feeling and should not be underestimated. I’ve never met a person who knew in their heart they could fight who didn’t feel this way.

This is why I personally despise martial artists or schools that condition people to be afraid, or teach in a manner that only serves to reinforce their fears.


Batman though a character of fiction, is the epitome of improvise, overcome, adapt and win. Even better, he didn’t acquire his abilities from some crazy “radiation experiment” or being bitten by a spider, or some WWII super soldier program and unlike Iron Man he’s not dependent on a special suit to give him his abilities.

Like “The Punisher” (another of my favorites), he’s not the strongest, or the fastest–he’s just the most well trained, for “…he is trained in the severest of schools.” Whether he’s in his Batman costume or as Bruce Wayne, with or without the suit he’ll kick your ass. So whether fighting on some roof top over Gotham or as Bruce Wayne in some bodega in the Bronx, he’s the same dude. For Batman, his gadgets are but an extension of himself but in the end he’s always “that guy.” I remember when my son was a teenager and he asked me what I thought was the best weapon. I reached over and tapped him on the head and said, “Right here. This is the weapon…everything else is just a tool.” In that same vein, If I had to boil it down to one thing that I thought was Batman’s greatest weapon, it’s his brains but, more importantly, how he thinks.


“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


When training to deal with or sizing up a person as a potential threat you really need in your training to learn how to ask the right questions. As I stated in my previous post when you look at the situation where the glass is always half full you tend to not only ask different questions but better ones. You tend to think differently about the problem.

Most people don’t know how to ask the right questions because they start from a position of fear so they get the wrong answers or incomplete ones at best. For example, instead of looking at a potential threat from the perspective of,

If I had to deal with this person, I don’t know what I would do?


Wrong question Kemosabe! This is losers talk!

Instead they should view it from the mindset of,

“If I had to deal with this person for real how would I make myself unavailable yet unavoidable to end it as quickly as possible?”

How would I move to negate their advantages?”

“How would I avoid a bad situation in the first place etc.?”

By thinking in this fashion you begin to develop a more realistic approach to mentally preparing yourself for the potential blood bath that may occur and not one rooted in irrational fear and false hope.

This is important to understand because all too often in the martial arts including Guided Chaos people get caught up into thinking that there is a specific technique to deal with each possible situation when in truth there is only motion. The key or “trick” if you will, is in understanding that in order to take advantage of this fact and learn how to manipulate other people’s motion, you have to learn to quickly bring them to their death by developing your body (body unity) through the principles of Guided Chaos. It is only through the proper development, understanding and application of the principles, that you are able to do this.




“One of the reasons we’re able to hit so hard even when we step is because we have our balance together. That’s why I’m able to drop on people or do internal dropping on the move. It’s just in there.”

–Grandmaster John C. Perkins


Maybe I’ll do a post on the Ruthless Intent of Internal Dropping but that will be for another time…

People always ask me, “Yeah Contact Flow is all well and good but how do I close the distance on an attacker before they can get their stuff off?” Fair question. You see in order to take advantage of the Shadow Impression and take the fight to the enemy (attack the attacker) you also want to close the distance on the bad guy as quickly as possible. In order to do this you need to be able to step in a fashion that moves your Sphere of Influence into their space and overwhelms them before they have time to react to your movements.

Once again while I usually don’t add charts to my posts, I’m going to use one for this post to explain this because this is one of those things that’s not easy to describe. By the way this is not something that is a standard thing in any of our training materials but something that I’ve learned from my Masters though informally over the years. My point is this is part from listening to John talk about how, when he steps, where he only steps, he does so “as little as he needs” regardless of how fast he moves like the matador in the bull fight. As well as observation of what he is actually doing when he steps. These are my observations and mine alone and I’m sure there are other ways to accomplish this. I’m just showing you the way I train people to do this.

[A few things about John’s stepping. If you will notice one thing you never, ever, see John do when he steps, whether fast or slow and that is hop in the air. He is always, always, always stepping with a descending parabola. I was even talking about Master Watson to some folks recently and I said notice no matter how fast he moves or how far he steps when doing this, notice he never hops and never stomps his feet. He is always landing with balance like a gymnast sticking a landing. It’s not that he can’t stomp–his balance is developed to the point where he doesn’t have too. My point is if someone his size can land and make almost no sound, then it is possible for most people to do this as well.]

I’ve talked about it before but I feel I need to elaborate on it as I help you better understand how to develop this ability for yourself. I also added a legend to this thing to make it a little more understandable because while this is something that I teach frequently I realized that it is not something that I’ve charted out before. Of course after being about half way finished with the diagrams I realized why I didn’t do this sooner. This was definitely more work than I planned on.

Anyway, while I have in the past referred to this as “Push Step,” I like Instructor Ari Kandel’s, (4th Degree Guided Chaos) name for it, Teleporting.Because that’s how it feels when it’s happening to you where the other person seems to “teleport” to a new position in the fight. Please pay careful attention to this because this is the essence of how I can appear to move at Supernatural Speed on people at the drop of a hat. The most important thing about this is unlike the “Rocket Step” this is a much more refined movement that can be done at various speeds since the movements are much shorter and controlled and you don’t need to have much athleticism to do it. Final point, for each of the movements presented I’m only showing a few concepts. However, there is no limit as to how far you can take this. While it may look complex in my charts this is not as difficult as it may look. It’s just difficult to draw out.

Okay here we go…









More Wobble Board Stuff


Now another thing that you can do in order to take this to the next level is if you have a “Wobble Board” you’ll want to practice the same things on them, focusing only on doing the forward or 45 degree forward motions. However, I caution, do not do the backward motions on the Wobble Board because it takes way more balance and control to execute and are really not that necessary. This is just another way to really refine your step as you drop onto the board increasing balance, timing and control.

What you want to do is place the Wobble Board in front of you first then push from the root of the rear leg, using the Teleporting Step first landing on it developing control over your balance. Later once you have developed greater balance you’ll want to do this first against a heavy bag or a B.O.B. Fighting Man Dummy and then practice doing this with a Guided Chaos Slam Bag. This will improve your speed, coordination and timing tremendously and most importantly cutting power or internal dropping power.

Well that’s it for now. I know this was long but I’m trying to tie this stuff together to give you the larger picture of Grandmaster Perkins’ amazing art.


As always thanks.


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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