Lessons from My Masters 6

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“These things cannot be explained in detail. From one thing, know ten thousand things. When you attain the Way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see. You must study hard.”
— Miyamoto Musashi

As I discussed in the last installment of “Lessons from My Masters 5” I cut it short regarding how to Collapse your Sphere on another person because I wanted to spend more time on it. This is because the subject is very difficult to explain. In this installment of “Lessons from My Masters”, as always, I’ll describe this as best I can because this really has to be felt (especially from Grandmaster Perkins) and seen up close to be believed.

As I stated in the previous Blog Post before teaching the skill to “get in” it is important that students have developed the ability to properly “Drop Strike” from the shortest distance possible. And as with everything in Guided Chaos, in order to do this you must possess the requisite attributes within Guided Chaos (i.e., BALANCE, LOOSENESS, SENSITIVITY, and BODY UNITY).

To reiterate, while one can never assume that they are going to achieve a knock out with such close range striking, in many cases it could be the difference between being overwhelmed during an attack and buying yourself enough time to regain balance or throw the monkey wrench into their attack.

Collapsing Sphere

“The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing the rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Void.”
— Miyamoto Musashi

Reiterating what I said in the last Blog Post, when you move towards another person’s Sphere of Influence, as your sphere’s clash both of your spheres overlap. As you make contact rather, than move in along a straight line, by Collapsing your Sphere as you enter you are able to penetrate while remaining “unavailable” yet “unavoidable”. In order to successfully accomplish this, as you make contact with your attacker as you “feel” their body/structure while maintaining contact, you want to isolate your body moving slightly off line from their weapons as you strike with maximum power.  In the beginning the easiest way to practice this on people is to first start slow practice folding on the way in either into the “Drac” or by “Answering the Phone” as you enter (see the Attackproof Companion Series). This will protect your head, throat and eyes as you enter, making you unavailable to their weapons while yours become unavoidable to them. In a nutshell that’s pretty much it from an “external” or technical perspective.

But there’s more…

At a slightly deeper understanding you want to learn how to “Collapse Your Sphere of Influence” onto another person’s Sphere, thus disrupting their movement. In order to do so you need to learn how to appreciate that internal feeling of what is going on in your own body.

The Wisdom Tree

“For some things you just have to find it within yourself.”
-Grandmaster Perkins, in a Lesson to the Senior Master Instructor

So, one day underneath The Wisdom Tree as Grandmaster Perkins is “exchanging knowledge” with me. He makes a statement to me along the lines of, “When you feel me move or change you need to change”. So I’m like, “What do you mean? I mean I understand the idea of feeling what people are doing and adapting but what do you mean by change?”

Now, as a side note to this and something I will come back to later on in the Blog Post, “Context” and “Perspective” are everything especially in Guided Chaos where there are a million subtle nuances so it is very important it’s not so much “what” John said to me but, how he said it and why from his perspective. So when he said to me that when I feel him move or change that I need to change, I intuitively knew he wasn’t just talking about moving for the sake of moving.

Anyway, he says,

“When a person moves as they adjust, I adjust, I feel where they are in relation to my body and I change my body. It may not look like I’m moving but I am it’s just that I don’t move more than I need to. When you work it you’re just going to have to play around with it and develop the feel for it…it’s really hard to describe. For some things you just have to find it within yourself. There’s really no other way to say it.”

So I say something along the lines of, “Okay I think I understand what you’re saying but how do you do that on the fly?”

He then says, “You have to learn to ‘listen’ to the other person’s body”.

Boom! (that was my head exploding)

Okay so stay with me here because this is not easy to explain, you see from the earliest time when I first began to study the art of Guided Chaos (or as we called it back in those days “The Way of the Spirit Fist”, which in my mind because of our ability to hit people out of nowhere, in many respects it still is), there were certain things that I always understood when working with my Masters that, as I developed, became more and more apparent and that is, there are things that they are doing, even if they do not say they are doing them, that are going on all-of-the-time. If anything, they are never not doing it.

You see as you Collapse the Sphere, at a deeper level, it is not enough to just feel where they are but also where you are as you isolate, redirect or whatever as you enter. Too many folks focus on the opponent and not enough on their own movement when they are moving. Now I’m not talking about overly focusing on every minute detail of your movement. Noooooo… what I’m talking about is developing an understanding of an “internal feeling” within your body of how your body moves as you are doing whatever it is you are doing at the time. At a certain point this just becomes second nature where it is just as I say, “a thing” that you do. It just becomes a part of who you are.

This was something that I always felt was missing from my own movement for some time when I first began studying the art. But it wasn’t until I started closely listening to what John and Tim were saying, paying attention to what they were actually doing with their bodies as they were instructing me, “reading between the lines” so to speak, that I began to realize they had been telling me this all along, just not in so many words.

This by the way, is John’s dilemma and that is, how do you explain to people what you are feeling when you are feeling it, in relation to their body without sounding like some sort of “mystical kook”?  How do you explain to someone something you feel in the body that is personal only to you?

For example, how do you explain to someone as John has said to me like a million times,

“Well the reason I was able to cut off your movement and hit you is I could feel what your body was doing at the time so I just hit you…I just broke your balance…I wouldn’t let you get your stuff off in the first place…”

It’s been my experience that unless they on some level understand the principles of Guided Chaos you really can’t. You can only do your best at approximating what it is you are feeling, when you are feeling it, to give them some idea of what you are talking about only because we are all human and on some level we can relate to it. That’s it.

I’ve had this experience numerous times especially when dealing with someone who was an advanced martial artist in another art who would say things to me like, “I don’t know if you noticed but I was using such and such technique from “Drunken Mantis Kung Fu” and I’m surprised it didn’t work. How did you stop it?”

I would usually respond by saying, “I didn’t notice, I felt you move and I just didn’t let you do whatever you wanted to do”.

Or they would say things like, “Well based on the way you’re standing I would do such and such technique”.

Or they say things like, Well, what if I did (fill in the blank)?

So I would say something like, “I don’t know, maybe you should try it.”, which never goes well for them.

The truth is, like my Masters, I really don’t care… I really don’t. I’m not bragging I’m just telling you the way I think. The point is if I can feel what you’re trying to do or feel what John calls, “your intention” and I have time to do something about it—

Pfft… it ain’t happening.

As Grandmaster Carron used to say, “I don’t know if I can kick anyone’s ass, all I know is if you mess with me you’re going to have to kill me”.

The point is if I didn’t know who you were and I ran into you on the street, as far as I’m concerned you’re just another dude I have to deal with. So what difference does it make? You’re either trained or you’re not and you can either bring it or you can’t. At the end of the day it’s just your sword and my sword and nothing else.

When you have this mindset it really simplifies the problem. If you ever saw the movie, “The Hitman’s Body Guard” with Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds (spoiler alert: Samuel L. Jackson plays the hitman and Ryan Reynolds is his bodyguard. Yeah I know, really?), anyway, in one scene you have this dialog along these lines:

Ryan Reynolds: “I’m just trying to keep you out of harms way…”
Samuel L. Jackson: “What? Motherfucker I am harm’s way!”

To funny… It’s actually pretty good movie. But this is mentally where Tim was coming from, (i.e., “I am harm’s way”). The point is if you can get to the point where you’re on your game and able to perceive “intent” and get ahead of their movement as you enter, it really doesn’t matter what they do, there is no fight! At least for you there isn’t.
So now I circle back to John. You see for years (I’m taking like decades) he’s been discussing how he feels things internally. That it’s not just what he sees with his eyes or perceives on the surface but what he is feeling as he is doing what he does, but this is not a conscious thing, just an impression he has of what is going on. He can only describe it after it happens because while it is happening, there is no time to even know you are doing it because it has become, as he would describe it, “internalized” (unconscious competence).

In other words, what he is telling us is what he is doing based on his knowledge of how he moves, how people move when he’s moving with them, and how we all move within time and space. So he knows based on these things that to probably 90% percent certainty, it couldn’t have happened any other way. Those who have felt how he can move understand that there is an eerie almost dimensional feel to how he moves within his body.

I’ve tried to explain this to people myself where unfortunately for many you get that look from them like you’ve been “tarrying at the vine” a little too long or hitting your grandma’s “medicine bag”. So I get it, anyway, so just so you don’t think I’m just making shit up, I offer the following for your professional development. The good news is what John is saying has a quantifiable scientific basis and is a very real thing.

Now, there is a thing that many have never heard of called “The Interoceptive System”. So, rather than trying to explain it I offer the following definition:

“The Interoceptive system gives us the ability to feel what is happening inside our body. It has special nerve receptors all over our bodies including our internal organs, bones, muscles and skin. These receptors send information to the brain which uses it to determine how we feel… As if that role wasn’t enough, the Interoceptive system is also responsible for allowing us to feel our emotions.”

You see, when John is moving in on folks he’s not just feeling what can be perceived through sight or touch, or what we call in Guided Chaos, “Spatial Awareness”, or “Kinesthetic Awareness”, he’s also perceiving how his body is also feeling what is going on in his muscles, joints etc. to allow him to adjust on the way in. All three of these things are working off of each other in real time simultaneously.

Most martial artist focus only on the visual, some focus on the external feel but only through structured technique. Guided Chaos uses all three all of the time. This is why we spend so much time developing people’s bodies from the inside out through the exercises and principles. This is important to understand because I feel that even in Guided Chaos too many folks are only focused on the external and not what is also going on in their own body in relation to dealing with another person’s motion, to wit they are unable to develop the ability to Collapse the Sphere on people and disappear right before their eyes even with direct contact and crush them.

You see, there are several things here: there’s your body, their body, how your body reacts to their body and how their body reacts to how your body reacts to their body and so on… So, when you “Collapse the Sphere” as you isolate your body as you enter transferring your center of gravity as you move forward while attacking the attacker, you must give consideration to developing the ability to listen to the other person’s body as well as your own in order to make the changes on the way in to isolate your body from their body.

To reiterate, as you move, no matter what direction (even as you collapse inward) your sphere always moves with you. As you enter on an attacker you are not just flowing in with your hands working off of their arms or body but feeling your way into the target areas with your entire body while avoiding their strikes in the process (“Unavailable Yet Unavoidable”).

The Law of Proximity and Availability

Okay because nothing can be said about Collapsing the Sphere on people without discussing where to strike, now, before you get all crazy, I’m not talking about magic pressure points or the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique” from Kill Bill: Vol 2 so get those notions out of your head. What I’m talking about here is a “thought process” or way of striking as you enter.

A concept I’m going to discuss is what I like to call “The Law of Proximity and Availability” and hopefully provide a little clarity on how to enter and where to strike. Basically as you enter or they try to enter you, whatever is closest to you on their body, whatever is available to you becomes a point of reference for you. That’s it! As John likes to say his arm is a weapon and an antenna. As he enters to strike you either deal with it or get broken, if you make contact and try to get out of the way or whatever because he has seized the initiative he has time to adjust on the fly as he enters and crush you on the way in.

Don’t go searching for it anywhere in our other literature because this is just something in my head that I use to focus my intention as I enter.  Along with this, what I’m going to offer here are but a few “concepts”.  I’ve written about this a number of times so I will not rehash everything here but just cover a few concepts to aid you in your practice.

Go for The Low Hanging Fruit

Students hear me say this all of the time so this is not new for them however when practicing Contact Flow and in particular Combat Flow, you want to develop the mind set to always move to hit and aiming for the “low hanging fruit”.  In other words, if you were an apple picker and you had to pick apples in a short period of time which would you go for: the apples at the top of the tree or the ones near the bottom?  The point is, take what is given you at that moment as you enter and don’t always look for some complex solution to a given situation. You’re not always going to get the money shot or have the ideal targets available to you.  This is just pure fantasy and only serves to set your mind up for failure. Learn to strike with power from every possible position.

Touch and Go

I hesitated at first to add this because you really have to have your Body Unity together to accomplish this as you collapse on the way in since it is a little more advanced than the previous techniques because it happens extremely fast and you’re actually “shaping” their response to your motion as you enter. The timing of your movement to when you strike has to be just right or you may inadvertently miss your window of opportunity to end the fight right then and there.  The reason for this is when you move in this fashion for brief moments your attacker has no idea that you have already penetrated their Sphere of Influence. So he is responding to where he thinks you are or where you were and not where you actually are. Yeah that hurt my head just writing it.   If you do not take advantage of this, it may allow them time to recover.  All of our 3rd Degrees and up can easily accomplish this and even some of our 2nd Degrees are capable of this even if they don’t realize they are doing it.

As you enter, wherever you touch them or they touch you, it really doesn’t matter, so whether it’s their hands, arm, body etc. or you perceive where they are, it becomes a point of reference for you. As you Collapse your Sphere on the way in you want to use this to feel the relationship between their body and yours as you isolate on the way in, move in and strike with impunity. There can be no hesitation in your attack! This is where you must have total faith and trust in your abilities or you will not be able to pull this off.

As you strike (keeping with The Law of Proximity)  you want to learn to use each strike as a point of reference to go to the next strike and the next strike and so on until they’re down for the count. The reason you can do this is because “hitting is a part of sensitivity” and as you strike you instantly feel how it affected their body. How do you know where to go next to get ahead of their movement? Simple, you know because you’re the one that sent them there or in that direction when you hit them. You’re the one who caused them to move the way they did when you hit them.

This is the essence of how when working with the Grandmasters when they start this type of hitting on you, no matter which way you turn they’re sort of there waiting for you to hit you again and again and again. This is also why it feels like you’re in a cement mixer with a bunch of sledge hammers getting pounded as you turn.

Now, there are those who disagree with me on this but if what I’m saying isn’t true then how is it that a baseball player when he hits a home run already knows it’s a home run as soon as he strikes the ball? How do we know that? Because as soon as he hits the ball he can feel whether he got a good piece of the ball or not, so instead of running like a bat out of hell to first base he starts to walk and takes a leisurely stroll around the bases. If it can’t be done then someone needs to tell those guys in the major leagues because apparently they’re doing it all wrong. My point is, if a guy can do that hitting a 3″ inch baseball at 90 MPH with a wooden stick, you’d better believe you can do this by laying the wood on people directly with your hands.

Understanding Motion Within Context

Before I end this Blog Post (because I would be negligent if I didn’t cover this to at least some extent) I offer this philosophical understanding and that is, while all of these things I am presenting are from a more technical stand point, you must never forget that the Context and your Perspective of what is happening matters.

For our purposes here, so I don’t get all of the English Literature Majors all “stampy-feet” pissed off, I offer the following definitions:

“the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed…The parts of something that immediately precede and follow and clarify its meaning.”

“a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.”

Now, that’s what the dictionary says, for our purposes I’m going to add to it and say that Context is also:

“That which is known or can be inferred at the time it is happening along with that which can be known, given the facts and parameters at a given time”.

I’ll add to Perspective and say:

“An internal thought or intuitive understanding based on a person’s knowledge, experience etc. of how they ‘perceive’ what is going on in a given moment or of that which is yet to happen”.

In other words, the “Context” surrounding what’s going on and how you think of it (your Perspective) influences how you act upon it, respond to it. You get the idea.
Right context and the right perspective = better actions, better results, better outcomes, Victory! : )

On the other hand…

Wrong context or wrong perspective = wrong actions, wrong results, bad outcomes, defeat… : (

Hmmm… No shit!

This I feel is something that is totally misunderstood whenever the Grandmaster is either demonstrating something or explaining a technique, skill or whatever and that is that the “context” and “perspective” he has based on what he is showing is every bit as important as what he is actually doing because it is the “context” as well as his “perspective” that brings it all together to make sense. It is the why he does, what he does, when he does it.

Also, and just get this: something that I understood from a very early period in my training with my Masters, even if I couldn’t articulate it, is that the Grandmasters’ look at things from a different context or perspective than most people.

They see what they see and see more than you and I not only from experience, but also because they view it from a different perspective. As I said, the context and perspective in which you view something “influences” how you react or act upon that information, which influences how you “respond” or the “choices” that you make.

If you recall in “Lessons from My Masters 3”, I discussed that there is an “Inverse Relationship” to motion that cannot be ignored, and that once you begin to understand more about motion and how to deal with it, then you will begin to understand that there is a “cause and effect” relationship that you have on their motion and their motion has on you and/or others who may be involved at a given time in the battle, and that the context of what is going on and how your perceive it, along with how you perceive yourself and your own level of skill, influences how you move.

Since “the enemy gets a vote”, how you move in relation to his intention is directly influenced by this understanding. I also explained that this is the essence of how the Grandmaster negates the movement of others even when they are doing the “right thing”.

Your movement is his movement…

This understanding as I explained, once you get the idea (in my opinion) after you’ve worked it has an exponential effect on your skills. This understanding has the effect of negating, countering, shaping and redirecting multiple movements simultaneously within the same amount of time to accomplish one movement. This is because as I said above, their movement becomes your movement and at some point where your ability to anticipate their movement becomes easier since on some level you’re directing the flow of the battle even if you are not aware you are doing so and on and on…

I’ll give you an example: Sometimes I will have a person say to me, “I would like to move smoother with folks but every time I work with them they get stiff on me, they speed up etc…” and there are a whole host of other complaints. The first thing I do is ask them to just move with me like they do when they are moving with other people that causes them difficultly.

Within seconds I already can feel what the problem is and I usually say, “You see what you’re doing here? and they usually say “yes”. Then I explain to them that “they” are the one that’s causing all of that.

Usually, at this point they’re surprised because they are not even aware that they are doing it. Understandable, after all if they knew they were doing it they would stop it. You see there’s what they thought they were doing, and what they were actually doing and the two don’t always align. But what’s amazing is once they recognize it, in time they learn to not do those things that created all of their problems. It is because their “perspective” in the “context” of what they were doing was off so they eventually change” their perspective.

This understanding is important to your training no matter what you do, because how you react under duress has to be automatic and the time to get your mind right on this is not if your moment of truth arrives but well beforehand. There’s more I could add to this but that will probably have to wait for another installment because there is a Rabbit Hole I could go down that is way beyond what I’m prepared to discuss at this time.

Well that’s it for now. Until next time…

Thank you.

LtCol Al Ridenhour
Senior Master Instructor

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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