“We try to make training that works for reality. Even mimicking real fights does not contain the neurophysiology needed. GC is a development of body and mind particularly aimed toward simultaneous adaptability to chaotic situations. Even the scenario training is nearly worthless without the development of all our major principles…You can’t really shoot, stab, or break people’s bodies in a fake way. After being physically involved in real life and death fights and studying thousands of after action reports of real violent crimes including expertise in blood splatter interpretation on real homicides, I developed Guided Chaos…”
—Grandmaster John C Perkins
So, in the last installment of Lessons from My Masters 6, I discussed the importance of training with the proper understanding of what is going on in Context as well as developing the proper Perspective of what is going on and viewing things through the proper lens. As you can imagine I had some folks who wanted a little more fidelity on this so in this installment I’m going to cover this in a little more detail because I realize that this understanding that my Masters have is crucial to understanding, in my view, how to develop your skills to higher levels.
As with the last installment I lead off with a disclaimer because this is very difficult to explain. In this installment of Lessons from My Masters, as always I’ll describe this as best I can because some of the things that I’m going to discuss defy clear explanation so these are just my own interpretations. This really has to be felt especially from Grandmaster Perkins, seen up close to be believed.
Understanding Motion Within Context: Part II
When I left off on the last Blog Post I covered from a philosophical understanding that the Context and your Perspective of what is happening matters.
For our purposes I offered that the Context surrounding what’s going on and how you think of it (your Perspective) influences how you act upon it and respond to it.
Right context and the right perspective = better actions, better results, better outcomes, Victory! : )
Wrong context or wrong perspective = wrong actions, wrong results, bad outcomes, defeat… : (
No shinola! (that’s for those who can’t discern from shit).
Once again because I have to say it, because I feel it 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, once again the Grandmasters look at things from a different context or perspective than most people. They see what they 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.
For example, when you’re doing Contact Flow Exercise slowly you’re developing neural pathways of movement in your muscles / body. That’s it! So just as with any task you learned in life you start slowly and then gradually increase the tempo or vary the speeds etc. to develop the proper timing and necessary reaction to an ever-changing environment. So to reiterate this is why the context and perspective you have when training is important for your development. It influences in that moment in time and space, how you move and the choices you make even though in truth you’re not consciously aware of most them. Ultimately, you want to develop them to the point where no matter what speed you move at you’re not aware of them at all—you just do it, so that you begin to develop what Grandmaster Carron once stated to me as purposeful habits. In other words, as Tim once related to me, “You want to get good at doing the things you know you need to do to protect yourself without having to think about it.”
He also said something else along those lines very profound, something like:
“You know how John always uses the baseball catcher’s analogy where he talks about how the catcher places his glove in the position where he knows the ball has to go so that all he has to do is catch the ball?”
I’m like, “Yeah”. He said, “That’s what you want to do.”
He went on to say some other very interesting stuff:
“If the catcher has his hand at the ready in the right place then all he has to do is ‘catch the ball’. But if his hand is down by his side from the time he sees the pitch to the time he raises his hand he probably doesn’t have enough time to get his hand up and he’ll get hit with the pitch. So when I’m doing contact flow, I also want to have my hands at the ready, I always want to have a little contact so I know where people’s hands are but also so I can feel what they’re doing. If I can feel what you’re doing I just don’t let you get your stuff off. When I’m flowing I never guess or at least I try not to, I always want to know what you are doing long enough to take you out. Even if it’s for a second…”
Also, Tim generally only had two speeds, slow and ultra-fast. Like John he could leap to supernatural speed within the smallest space without over-traveling on his movement. Cut off your movement before you got your momentum going or stop you cold in your tracts, then start their movement again at supernatural speed all within a fraction of a second without over committing on their movement. I believe it is their understanding of the real fight and the dynamics that govern it in context which gives them a different perspective as to not only what to do with their body but it influences why they move in this fashion. If they have to go for real they’re not giving you a chance to get your stuff off. From their perspective as John has said to me many times under The Wisdom Tree, “There is no fight!”
I’m all about that plan!
For those who may be confused by this or think this type of movement is BS, think of this starting and stopping movement sort of like how a running back or point guard fakes out a defender. Over the years I’ve dubbed this ability as stopping time or slowing time down whereas you move in a way where you alter the other person’s perception of time and throw off their movement. Really cool stuff…Most important (believe it or not) this type of movement is as much a mental process as it is a physical skill to be developed. And therein lies the rub… If you can’t imagine moving in this fashion you can’t even begin the process of ever developing it even on the most rudimentary level.
Anyway, as you add speed when doing Contact Flow or any of a number of drills, you want to develop the ability to train to the edge of danger and not beyond it to force your body and mind to deal with the stress approximating a real confrontation as best you can to learn how to panic and react more appropriately. Or as I like to say learn how to panic the right way. This is a must!Otherwise in my opinion you never really develop this ability, you just can’t get there.
In other words, the slow movement builds the base level of neural pathways and allows you to begin the process of learning to deal with high speed movement. The most important thing I have found when dealing with high speed movement is that since at speed it changes the relationship between you and the other person in which everything happens sooner, you have to learn to control the over-travel in your movements or what I like to call learning to shorten up your movements and learn like John’s catcher analogy to anticipate their movement sooner.
One thing I’ve noticed (and I think this is a mistake) is that some folks when they move faster they’re just flapping their arms around flailing without control. Again, you need to learn how to control this, you need to learn how to remain loose and as relaxed as possible in your muscles, while moving at supernatural speed. Once you achieve this at a certain point whenever you need to move like this it just happens, it’s just something you can do.
DMV, Yonkers, NY (Bronx North)
“You never know what you have to do until you have to do it. Even I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do until I have to do something. That’s why you have to train the right way in the principles.”
So I’m working out with Grandmaster Perkins one day and he begins to chuckle a little so I ask him what’s so funny and a little and tell me that he had a little incident at the DMV in Yonkers the other day. Now, why anyone would go to the DMV in Yonkers to get anything done is beyond me. Going to most public places in Yonkers even in this day and age can be a role of the dice. Traveling into certain neighborhoods in Yonkers is like a trip back in time where even old lady’s look at you with that look on their faces like, what are you looking at?. I had cousins who grew up there so I know the mentality, certain parts of Yonkers, reminds me of the joke, I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out. There are just certain things you just expect when you’re traveling to Bronx North.
Anyway, so my Master is in the DMV that more resembles the Star Wars café’ taking care of business when some former wards of the state got out of control and he had to lay hands on them. I’ll just give you the Cliff Notes version here, so after drop striking a few of them and then yelling that he was a cop, they got the message, knock it off or be knocked out.
So he’s telling me the story which of course by this point I’m laughing but then he says something that got me thinking. He said something like, “It was weird but no matter what they did it just seemed that I was always dead on.” Later that day I told my wife about it and she said, “John started that.” I was like, “What? Come on.” She was like, “John just wanted to test his skills, he started that shit.” (Just so you know: my wife grew up the daughter of a Master Gunnery Sgt. in the Marines so she can curse with the best of them).
He would later on different occasions bring it up as he was analyzing how it all went down. And the more he discussed it the more I started to realize that my wife was probably onto something with her comments. After analyzing what he was saying and just from my own personal experiences training with him I said, “You know John, I think the reason it was easy to hit those guys and your strikes were so dead on even though they all were twice your size and fresh out of jail was because they couldn’t get out of your way because your movement was influencing their movement.”
On a certain level my wife was right, only not from the perspective of John starting the incident (because there was no fight and it was over before it could get started) but from the perspective that his ability to move and be unavailable yet unavoidable is the key to understanding why, when I’m working with him, it feels impossible to get out of his way. He doesn’t just move differently he thinks differently (perspective) about how he moves in relation to others.
I’m not going to get into the details of what precipitated the incident, but these guys were being jerks to some old lady who just wanted to sit down and rest her feet. Not cool! The point is John doesn’t wait for people to do something, he’s already doing his thing even if he is making the slightest movement, where in many cases, it’s already over before it gets started.
But how? There’s got to be more to it than that right?
Well… there is…
There is No Spoon
“Do not try and bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth…there is no spoon. Then you will see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”
—Spoon Boy, The Matrix
Now, stay with me here because I only use this quote from The Matrix to point something out about how my Masters’ perceive their own movement. Because there are times when they do bend spoons, it’s called hitting you! But he also knows how to bend himself because in his mind there is no spoon, only movement. The problem is when he bends himself you don’t know it because it is personal to him. Moreover, it has the same effect of bending you because it changes the nature of the relationship between your body and his. This is why Grandmaster Carron would often say he’s just dealing with motion, or you’re just dealing with motion. When everything is just motion at a certain point I believe much of what you do begins to transcend technique and becomes more of a focus of your will.
Return to Inferno: Killeen Part II
“I make your movement my movement…”
–Grandmaster Perkins, Lesson to the Senior Master Instructor
When John first said this to me I’ll be honest I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Now he’s said this to me off and on over the years numerous times on different occasions but it really didn’t register. What really gave me an appreciation of what he was talking about and started to make it click for me was working with the women.
This is kind of like The Empire Striking Back, of me wanting to get a little payback on Killeen for punching me in the face all those years ago. So while working out with her which, by the way, she is lethal in ways that makes no sense, we’re sort of warming up to do some filming. So we’re going at it a little bit and she’s just wailing on me. Then after we complete the filming she and I are sitting around and I said to her, “You know, you do something extremely well and I don’t think you know that you do it.” So she says, “What do you mean?” I then offer, “You have a talent for moving in such a way where you actually can move against the grain toward me and yet make me miss causing me to run into your strikes.” She’s like, “I do?” I said, “Yeah, the other thing is you have a knack for cutting off angles so sharp that unless I’m already out of the way I can’t get away from your strikes—at least not without speeding up like crazy. It seems like once you start hitting no matter which way I turn I’m either getting hit in the face or walking into a kick. But it’s not speed because you’re not faster than me even though you’re fast, it’s that your timing is dead on.”
Over the years I’ve had the same observation of other women skilled in the art like Tina Dawn, also known as The Death Fairy. Let’s just say if she shows up in the middle of the night at your bedside, she’s not there to exchange money for a tooth. She’s there to extract life, and leave no money. The nerve…
I believe much of this is because women intuitively know we can hurt them no matter where we hit them so they are always unavailable. You see once they get the hang of the concepts within the principles I think it dawns on them that if they are to ever have a chance fighting for their life for real they have to move in a way where every movement is their movement.
Meaning that they have to move in a way to seize every opportunity and take advantage of striking when people over travel; striking when they’re try to escape; striking when they advance; striking when they hesitate; striking when they are not moving; and striking even if they look at them the wrong way. All while remaining unavailable to their attackers’ strikes by capturing their movement. Making their attackers’ movement their movement. It’s just a different perspective.
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 you perceive it. Along with how you perceive yourself and your own level of skill, influences how you move.
To reiterate, 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…
The Inverse Relationship of Movement from One Person to Another
Like installment 3 of this series, when reading this you need to suspend all disbelief. In Guided Chaos while we discuss the main principles all of the time I’ve always felt that the principle that always got short shrift was FREEDOM OF ACTION. You see when we say FREEDOM OF ACTION what we’re really taking about is CREATIVITY. CREATIVITY is hard, the reason I believe that is because from my own observations both in the art and elsewhere in my experiences is because being CREATIVE is an entirely different thought process.
The relationship that we have with other people as we move with them is not only a process in which we recognize a person’s movement, the shape and character of their movement or intention, relative to our own but as we learn through this process of understanding their movement (or what Grandmaster Perkins calls listening to their body) in order to get ahead of their movement, we reach a stage where we get far enough ahead that we can begin to influence their movement or shape it as we move in real time.
Said another way, as you learn to get ahead of another person’s movement by discerning the relationship between your body and theirs, your ability to anticipate their movement becomes so great that you have time to not only influence it, but blend with it and capture their movement, making it your own. When you capture another person’s movement it has the effect of making your movements transparent to them or from their perspective it is as if you disappeared right in front of them.
To reiterate from Lessons from My Masters 3, this is the reason why when I used to train with my Masters unless there was something specific they were showing me I never had a clue as to what they were doing. The reason is whatever they were doing with me seemed like it always came out of the ether or the void, was because they were already there. Even if they were only mentally ahead of my movement, but none the less, they were already there.
It is this philosophical underpinning of the art, this perspective in the context of their movement and your movement that allows you to do these things. This is the essence of how the Grandmaster negates the movement of others even when they are doing the right thing.
Again, all too often in the martial arts including Guided Chaos people want the answer as to how, once they begin to learn how to deal with motion, to stop this or that.
I recently had a conversation like this where a person was asking me the proverbial “what if” questions. I was asked “what if you had to deal with this sort of guy”, or “what if a guy does this or that or pulls a weapon” etc. He basically ran the gambit of scenarios. Again because context is important I asked, “Okay, how does that shit happen?”
The look on his face was one of total bewilderment. He had that serious deer in the headlights slack jawed look like he was sitting in the audience of the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Now as a side note—and this is especially for those who teach martial arts (just so you’ll know all to often when men ask these types of questions, even if they mean well)—what they are really trying to find out is are you as afraid of these things or the type of people they’re talking about as they are. Women, at least in my experience, genuinely want to know, but men? Yeah they’re afraid. Guy’s don’t like admitting they’re afraid because they feel it diminishes their manhood. Be not deceived… Many times deep down they’re afraid and they either want to know if you are afraid like them or they want to back you into a corner to become afraid like them to make themselves feel better.
Like Grandmaster Carron used to always say, “I don’t know if I can kick anyone’s ass but if you mess with me you’re going to have to kill me.”
Like Grandmaster Perkins, Tim’s mind was just, there!
“Luck falls on the side of the prepared man…”
You see no matter who you deal with on the street or wherever, if you don’t know who they are, as far as you are concerned they’re just another dude, and the same goes for them dealing with you. And if you’re on your game and they’re not? Oh dear how sad for them… If your mind is there and they’re not where you are mentally it’s going to be very hard for their sword to prevail. It really is that simple. You’re either prepared mentally and spiritually to go there or you’re not.
It reminds me of a story we were told while training as a young officers, from a guy who served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam with 1st Battalion 9th Marines, about how one of his men heard a noise while on patrol so this young Marine said, stay here let me take a look.
Well the young Marine turns the corner and the next thing you know there’s all this shooting going on. Well when the rest of the squad responded and they see the young Marine walking back along the trail holding an AK-47 and the guy telling the story (I think he was the guy’s squad leader) said he asked, “What happend?”, to which the young Marine replied, “All I know is my weapon was clean and his wasn’t!”
Anyway, getting back to what I was saying, so I went further and asked,
“So let me get this straight, you’re walking down a street or you’re going about your business and someone ‘you don’t know’ invades your space for no reason, and either attacks you or draws a weapon on you? Where is your awareness? Where in the Hell is your head? How does that happen?
The point being that the context of a situation, including the environment you’re in, is important.
Let’s face it: it is difficult to be on guard 24/7 so depending on where you are, the time of day, the type of people you’re around (yes I’m sorry but there are certain people who you have to keep your guard up around at all times so get over it), influences the context in how you may react to a given situation because the likelihood of an assault in certain circumstances is not high. I’m sorry but I’m not expecting to get jacked by someone at church (unless my offerings are a little light that month then I have to worry about the church ladys). Sure anything can happen it’s just not within that context likely, which is why such places are soft targets. This is why home invasions or carjackings are so scary because there is a natural tendency to think that when you are in your home or in your car your are safe.
Anyway, they’re really asking the wrong questions. If they want to do themselves a favor and develop a more realistic response to such situations, what they should be asking is how did the person get there in the first place, and what can they do by developing the proper perspective and purposeful habits to prevent it from ever happening? (i.e., don’t let it happen in the first place). When you ask the question in the right context from the right perspective you can almost always answer your own question. But your mind has to be open to it in the proper context.
This is also why when I train people regardless of what they are doing, I always try to frame the context of what we are doing so that they understand, why in the Hell they’re doing what they are doing, at the time they’re doing it and its intended purpose otherwise you’re just wasting their time.
I try to frame it in their mind and encourage them that no matter what we are doing, that even when we’re just goofing around beating the crap out of each other they understand that they must to the best of their abilities always move with a purpose and move as if their life depends on it, because some day it may. This in turn I believe sets the training in the proper context allowing them to develop the proper perspective of how they should view the battle.
If you can’t see it with your mind you can’t see it with your eyes even if it’s right in front of you.
This is what My Masters taught me!
Well that’s it for this installment but I just wanted to add some fidelity to what I wrote in the last installment because I left a few things unsaid and needed to add some clarity to help people understand that there is a much larger world out there all for ours to be discovered.
Hope you got something out of this.
LtCol Al Ridenhour
Senior Master Instructor
Learn to move with power and total freedom of action–see
“The Guided Chaos Companion Series” on DVD or On Demand.