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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The New Combat Conditioning DVD...

Just received the Combat Conditioning DVD. I've watched it straight through once, followed by lots of skipping around to different sections and exercises, the way it's intended to be used.

The DVD is just what it promises: Tons of solo exercises, each demonstrated for a long enough time that you can work out along with it, interspersed with some brief but interesting examples of the combat applications of the drills. The DVD actually contains several interesting drills I'd never seen before, which is an accomplishment after over three years of in-person training! I must admit that upon my first couch-bound viewing of the DVD, I didn't quite "get" the Native American soundtrack. A lot of it sounded hokey to my bland Top 20 ear. However, once I started actually moving along with the DVD (y'know, the way you're SUPPOSED to), I "felt" the music immediately. It really does enhance the workout by helping you get into the relaxed yet vibrant mushin state with your movement. I actually hope John starts playing Native American music in class again. (Allegedly he did this back in the day.)

"Be Careful, It Could Get Addictive..."

Here's the real crux of the matter: Since getting the DVD, I've gotten in some very productive Guided Chaos solo training every day. This has not always been the case. In fact, lately, with work being very busy and tons of other excuses popping up, my solo Guided Chaos workouts had fallen to maybe once per week, if that. Not good. The DVD provided the motivation, inspiration, freshness, whatever to get me going again. Be careful, it could get addictive: One night, I suddenly realized while working out with the DVD that it was after 1 a.m., and I had to wake up in less than six hours! The DVD should contain a warning: Use In Moderation. (It actually does contain lots of warnings, but I FF'd them.)

Sometimes I do some exercises along with the DVD, and sometimes I start with one exercise and branch off from there, letting the Native American rhythms carry my body into whatever it wants to do, experimenting with different drills and movement. It just makes you want to move.

Obviously I have an advantage in such training over raw beginners, as I already know most of the drills and have at least a basic understanding of what they're supposed to accomplish (although I'm deepening that understanding all the time, and have very far to go). (Sidebar: I realized while watching the DVD for the first time that I currently have an understanding of some of the exercises I demonstrate on the DVD different from what I had when the DVD was actually filmed! It still looks okay though--the differences are mostly internal, concerning feelings and perceptions. Go figure--internal martial arts!) It's suggested that beginners get the Companion DVDs along with the Combat Conditioning DVD for the explanations and teaching of the exercises that the Companion DVDs contain. While this would be optimal, I believe that a motivated student could get very far by using this DVD in conjunction with the book Attack Proof. The book contains the most critical explanations of most of the exercises, and you can read the book while watching the demonstrations on the Combat Conditioning DVD before giving it a whirl yourself.

Another valuable source of knowledge is the Combat Conditioning E-book you get free when you purchase the DVD. This E-book is worth WAY more than you pay for it! In it, Lt. Col. Al (with a sprinkling of Matt Kovsky) goes over the entire contents of the DVD, giving tips and advice about each drill and variations beyond those on the DVD, as well as broader instruction regarding topics like footwork, combat-applicable strength, upper and lower body development, use of equipment and pliability development. Lots of great information.

Use the Combat Conditioning DVD however you like. Follow along with it directly, use it as a starting point for experimentation, use it as motivation to get moving at all, or just use the sound track to enhance your movement. However you use the DVD, if it gets you moving and feeling your own body in action (i.e. improving your proprioception), it's enhancing your Guided Chaos, which is its purpose. For anyone interested in Guided Chaos or combat in general, it will accomplish this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #34

The Guided Chaos Combat Handgun seminar was this past Saturday.

This is just a quick summary. A more thorough review will be available soon. . . .

This was a unique seminar for a variety of reasons.

John went into the seminar hoping to impart a few key ideas, rather than teaching a variety of skills that would be forgotten or lost without much additional practice.

Some people may not realize this, but for all of John's hand-to-hand and hand-to-weapon expertise, his combative skill and knowledge with firearms is perhaps even more exceptional. What stands out most is his understanding that the most operative part of the word "gunfight" is FIGHT. Many trainers today teach gunfighting as merely an extension of the "shooting" one might do on a target range. In most cases, unfortunately, reality does not conform to these trainers' assumptions.

The seminar began with work on the problem of someone holding you at gunpoint.

The students practiced drills that emphasized the wide variety of possibilities a hold-up could involve. Even when moving slower than full speed, the students quickly learned the importance of
using dropping energy in offlining movements to avoid being shot. They also discovered that countering a gunman was not always as simple as some self-defense programs and magazine articles would have you believe! You never know how someone will hold the gun on you or how he'll move once the action begins. Of course, the probability of multiple armed attackers complicates the situation exponentially. . . .

After a break, the seminar transitioned to using your own handgun to defend yourself.

According to John, one of the biggest missing links in most armed citizens' and police officers' preparations is the ability to access, present and use the carry gun while under attack. It seems that many students and even trainers assume that they'll see any attack coming from far away, or perhaps that the violent criminal will announce his intentions from a distant stationary position, allowing time for the victim to execute his practiced stationary draw from concealment into a perfect shooting stance and obtain perfect sight alignment. Reality, unfortunately, often doesn't happen that way!

The drill used to illustrate this was fairly simple. The student was given an electric airsoft pistol and waistband concealment holster. Lt. Col. Al, in a role that must have been lots of fun for him, was given a face mask (to protect against the Airsoft pellets) and a rubber training knife, later to be replaced by a padded stick simulating a baseball bat. Al stood 20+ feet away from the student. Beginning from Al's first movement towards him, the student's task was simply to draw and shoot Al without being stabbed/whacked. It quickly became clear that just trying to draw while standing in place was a recipe for disaster. No one was able to shoot Al using this method before getting stabbed up. The only method that offered a good chance of success was to immediately run (not side-step or shuffle or anything formal, but "move like the wind") offline with speed and balance while drawing and point shooting simultaneously.

Next, another possible response to this situation was explored: going to the ground. This could apply if the student simply tripped and fell while trying to get offline of the charge, or in situations where there is no space to get offline. Again, accessing the concealed gun while moving (in this case, while falling or while moving on the ground) proved essential, as all those who attempted to draw before moving got "killed" long before they could manage to shoot Al. It also became clear that just as balance and the ability to move swiftly and nimbly on the feet were the most critical components of the previous drill, Guided Chaos falling and groundfighting skill was the most critical factor in this drill.

(By the way, before you ask: Everyone wore eye protection during the parts of the seminar that utilized Airsoft. Those pellets bounce everywhere and can do real damage if they hit the eye.)

The next drill allowed the students to apply their new ground-gun-fighting skills in a more dynamic way. Joe M. (Guided Chaos instructor with a school in Kingston, NY) had rigged up a pulley system that allowed him to dynamically raise and lower a Paulie dummy above a floor mat. The student began the drill lying under the hanging dummy, gun holstered. A big guy (Rich, in this case) controlled the dummy from behind, swinging it and making it kick, strike and circle the student as Joe made it rise and fall via the pulley. On John's cue, the student had to fight off the attacking dummy and keep it away via explosive kicking and movement. After a few seconds of this, John shouted "DRAW!" and the student had to access his handgun and shoot the dummy while keeping the dummy away and protecting the gun from getting struck.

The last series of drills gave the students the opportunity to experiment with point shooting vs. sighted shooting against a dynamically moving human target.

Overall, a great seminar, where much was learned! Everyone learned the differences between mere shooting vs. gunfighting, and the different requirements to succeed in each. A firm foundation in the Guided Chaos principles of balance, looseness, sensitivity, body unity and freedom of action is as critical as ever when firearms are involved, no matter which side of the gun you're on. I hope to explore these ideas further in my future training, as well as getting some live-fire practice in using these principles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #33


From a recent private lesson with Al:

Just hit naturally. Your body is already going to the right place, which is what makes everything possible. Don't worry about the limbs. Be completely casual, with no preconceived notions or "artfulness" about it.

Cut the angle and hit with everything available, then when you feel him start to panic, change and cut from the other direction. Then, you start to anticipate his panic and where he will try to go, so you just cut things off in advance. Don't back up or give any space--but be completely light and ghostly as well.

Do everything from the lightest of contact. No pushing! Pushing is Al's teaching game to force you to get loose and explore your movement. In reality and for your own training, just hit--everything is a light but solid tap, even to the body--so that you overcommit to nothing and can always move to the next hit, giving him the feeling that every move he makes is wrong.

In other news, Combat Handgun seminar coming up this Saturday. Should be awesome!
Also, Combat Conditioning DVD coming soon...

Monday, November 19, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #32


The following training advice is my interpretation and compilation of a variety of tips and ideas I've gotten from John, Tim, Al and others. I've been working on it a lot lately, and teaching elements of it to other students in class. A lot of this will sound esoteric. It is simply my attempt to convey internal feelings through the written word. (This is how a lot of the mystic jargon that surrounds the Chinese internal arts probably came about.) As many students in Guided Chaos classes will testify, this is a lot easier to understand when you can feel it in person (although "easy" is a relative term in this case!).

This is a brief summary. A much more extensive explanation may appear in a future edition of the book "Attack Proof". . . .

All active motion should be initiated by a change in how the feet interact with the ground.

The looser your body is, the better it will carry through all the energy generated by each change of pressure of the feet against the ground. Any stiffness will stifle the energy transfer and the flow of movement.

All active intention should come from the feet, pushing against the ground. No intention should come from anywhere else.

Key to intention from the feet is staying low and rooted throughout all movement and stepping, letting all your vitality and strength sink into your feet so that your feet are full and heavy while the rest of your body is empty, loose and pliable.

If you move with intention solely from the feet while remaining rooted, it is practically impossible for the enemy to control your balance unless he controls your center directly.

Remember that a person can stop your motion, jam you up and off-balance you only if he has a direct line with his pressure to your center, no matter where he's pushing from.

Now, bear in mind that as far as I know, this is only a first step. Once you gain the proprioception and relaxation to move exclusively from your root, which results in body unity, you can start to "break the rules" and isolate movements of your limbs and body apart from your root.

Confused yet? Good. Come to class and it will all be made clear. ;)

P.S. Don't forget to hit him and escape.

Monday, October 01, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #31


From a recent lesson with Al:

Use your sensitivity to create things--create the chaos for the other guy, manipulating it for yourself.

Move your body in behind momentary equal pressure.

Moving your body in puts him in checkmate no matter how he reacts to the pulse . . . unless he moves his whole body himself.

You can pulse and apply equal pressure with any part of the body, and while tool replacing.

From a recent class with John:

You must feel the state of your own body, you must feel the state of the other guy's body, AND you must feel what vulnerabilities you are exposing to the other guy at any given moment and move to eliminate them.

John can feel subconsciously what's open and move to close as many of the openings as possible, both by moving his own body and disrupting the other guy's balance and position and the relationship between the two bodies.

For example, John felt all the places I could possibly hit him and eliminated all of them by moving his body into mine in such a way that my balance was slightly thrown while he moved to a place where because of the state of my balance, I could not come close to damaging him.

His minimal movement prevented me from doing anything to him without significant readjustment. He used that readjustment time to destroy me while keeping me off-balance and continuously moving himself into a better position as the situation changes.

New saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of pain!

John pointed out the contrast between me, a 2nd Degree Guided Chaos Black Belt, and Andre, a 3rd Degree Guided Chaos Black Belt: Even though I'm relatively loose and can move pretty well in an evasive, reactive manner, occasionally even better than Andre who has more mass to control and move out of the way of things, Andre is far better at PREVENTING me from being able to damage him by cutting off his vulnerabilities. This is the "next level" of sensitivity that I have to work on. Unfortunately, as usual, it can't really be worked on consciously. Now that I have the general idea, consistent, proper contact flow practice will eventually bring the subconscious into line with this idea.

Also from John, from another class:

John told Andre to work on timing my motion to shoot in combat boxing punches to my body from outside of physical contact range. My task was simply to time HIS motion to get offline with a close combat entry as he shot in with his punch. This very quickly turned into a very frustrating drill! After a couple of unsuccessful tries at timing Andre's motion and getting around him, I started a slow "lawnmower" (as shown by Lt. Col. Al on the Attackproof Companion DVD Part 3), advancing with alternate low straight kicks and loose dog-dig-style close combat strikes. I felt that this made it much more difficult for Andre to get in, even though I wasn't actually kicking with any power, but just tapping his legs. John soon told me to go back to trying to get offline from a dead-still start. It again became a very frustrating drill, especially when Andre started to shoot in with his punches at angles that cut off where he knew I wanted to go, so that even if I DID get offline from where his straight punch would have been, he had already moved to hit me where I was going! I don't think I got around Andre cleanly even once. John then took my place in the drill, and showed how with his superior timing and subconscious reading of Andre's body, develped through decades of experience, he was able to get cleanly offline nearly 100% of the time (and the couple times it was less clean, it didn't matter, as John simply adapted and did other stuff).

After the training had ended, John explained that for me, that drill had been primarily a lesson in what NOT to do. Like raw speed and strength, timing is an attribute you can never be sure of being the best at. He said that as good as Andre's timing is, John knew many people, some even untrained, who had far better natural timing (like his brothers and Michael Watson). We shouldn't try to beat them at their own game. John told me that my switching to the lawnmower tactic early in the drill was actually the right idea. Done full-power and with full offensive commitment, that tactic would give me my best chance of disrupting a guy's superior timing to take him out or at least get to a place where tactile sensitivity could best be utilized. He likened it to what Bruce Lee used to say about sparring beginners vs. experienced fighters: A scrappy beginner was often more difficult to deal with in a sparring context because his timing and rhythm was completely unpredictable because of his awkwardness and lack of knowledge. It was easier for Bruce to time a more polished fighter who moved with more smoothness and a "learned" rhythm. John said his father often looked "awkward" going into action because he would intentionally move in a "strange" way that would similarly baffle the timing of experienced fighters, allowing him to get in and pounce.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #30


My apologies for not posting in a while. Things have been really busy (mostly good-busy), and I've been working on another project you may see on news stands before the end of the year. . . .

But for now, some thoughts from a recent private lesson with Tim and a great class with John:

Tim explained that the strike itself that hit me wasn't the issue. The issue was all the little changes that happened in both our bodies that eventually culminated in that strike getting through. Tim may have started to move to say five different things, all of which were eliminated by subconscious changes in my body. However . . . did I feel all of those??? Those tiny changes are what I have to feel.

To improve your sensitivity, really feel the details in "normal" situations, e.g. holding your wife's hand.

From Tim's perspective, I'm really just placing him in good positions to hit me every time I move.

Tim's advice: work with women! They force you to be subtle and to feel their subtlety. After you work with women, men feel very obvious and heavy in their movement. (Compare this advice with recent discussions on the Guided Chaos forum.)

Tim demonstrated the same movements done "heavy" and then done "light." The "heavy" movements I could deal with and evade (barely) because of the excessive contact and motion. The "light" movement I could do NOTHING about. The tap to move my arm simply moved it just enough, and everything else slammed in with no excess contact or motion.

John taught a great class recently.

He explained that most who excel quickly in Guided Chaos are those with especially creative and artistic minds--generally, right-brain-oriented individuals. Those who tend to intuit the big picture rather than logically build up the details will pick up Guided Chaos the quickest. Besides citing examples of sucessful right-brain vs. left-brain thinking from his own experience, John also pointed out that Einstein initially "felt" relativity (intuition), as opposed to discovering it through a mathematical process (logical reasoning).

John then had us do an exercise to stimulate our creativity and intuitive learning, regardless of how creative and "outside the box" our thinking may normally be. We did Contact Flow with an eye towards maximum creativity and variety in our movement, regardless of our conscious perception of its effectiveness. John implored us to, while doing this drill, experiment with extremes of elevation and stepping, even turning completely around while flowing and moving as if to touch the training partner's leg and head simultaneously with each hand. He described it as doing "Polishing the Sphere" and "Washing the Body" as crazily as possible, but with another person. We moved through extremely strange positions, often discovering interesting opportunities along the way (e.g. massive multidirectional hits and neck breaks) while subconsciously learning to work from ANY position we could possibly find ourselves in amidst the chaos of real violence. Getting the most out of this drill requires that both training partners agree not to hit too hard and to pull shots to sensitive areas, as both partners WILL get hit during this drill, regardless of skill level. However, the benefits are immense, as the drill really challenges your looseness, balance, sensitivity and freedom of motion, even before you consider the more esoteric benefits (intuitive perception and action) that are the primary focus of the exercise. Whatever your range of motion based on your physical limitations, training like this will allow your subconscious to identify far more opportunities amidst the chaos of violence than you could otherwise perceive.

Watching John do this drill, I noticed that his hyper-balance and hyper-looseness enabled him to "insert" extremely effective, fully body-connected strikes and kicks amidst the chaotic flow of the exercise. While other people's bodies got carried along by the large, crazy and creative movements, John had complete control over his body through every inch of every movement even while "letting go" and allowing crazy things to happen spontaneously. Very interesting phenomenon!

John demonstrated how such drilling applies directly to combative skill. You focus all the intuitively driven, completely free motion towards immediately destroying the enemy in any way available. He demonstrated various brutal methods from Native American and Greek combat arts, how they can be applied via the Guided Chaos principles, and finally how "pure" Guided Chaos can easily prevent them from being used against you. Scary stuff!

An image John used recently to explain the reality of lethal violence resonated with me because of a funny coincidence. John was trying to relate to us the magnitude of the speed, power and sheer violence an otherwise average person is capable of in the midst of a fully adrenalized murderous rage. John then said in passing that we should imagine dealing with "28 Weeks Later" violence when considering how bad it can get.

Coincidentally, I caught some of that movie ("28 Weeks Later") on TV immediately after John mentioned it. It's the more violent sequel to the movie "28 Days Later". It's about a bioengineered virus called "Rage," that infects people instantly upon contact and turns the infected into seething, fully adrenalized killers who can do nothing except visit brutal violence against uninfected people. (The infected also periodically projectile vomit blood and look pretty scary.) The speed, power, brutality and pure rage exhibited by the infected (who are, remember, still fully human) give a good impression of what a violent psychopath, fueled by adrenaline and/or stimulants and completely oblivious to his/her own well-being, is capable of. The reactions of the normal people when they are attacked by the infected are also fairly representative of how most normal people really react when faced with such violence. They freeze up with terror, ineffectually try to push the attackers away, and generally succumb to the sheer violence of the attack. The violence of the infected is a good image to have for keeping in perspective what we're training to deal with . . . and unleash.

So, go rent that movie! And stay tuned, both here and at the news stand. . . .

Sunday, July 29, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #29

Review of

by Ari Kandel

Well, I just finished watching "In the Eye of the Storm" for the second time through. It took a while. Six solid hours of instruction and demonstration take a while to get through, no matter how great your interest!

As long as it may take to WATCH the DVD, there's enough material in here for at least a lifetime of exploration.

And that, in a nutshell, is what "In the Eye of the Storm" primarily is: An audiovisual library of ideas to explore and experiment with in your training. It's not all "just" about Contact Flow. The reality of homicidal combat, self-defense scenarios, fighting out of hostile crowds, dealing with various kinds of movement (e.g. from boxers and grapplers) and closing distance are just some of the topics addressed, both purposefully and in "golden nugget" tangents by John, Al and Matt.

Most of the video consists of private lessons, in-class demos and some for-the-camera explanations detailing dozens of Guided Chaos principles and ideas. I believe just about everything Guided Chaos in the book is touched on here (besides some weapons and groundfighting matters), plus additional concepts that are not in the book (e.g. "Oneness Hitting"). As usual, it's not a "step 1, step 2, here's how you do it" presentation. The point of Guided Chaos is that real combat is not like that. However, through their explanations and demonstrations, the masters convey an idea of certain "feelings" and "ways of perceiving" that you can experiment with and discover for your own development. While it's tough to say what's basic and what's advanced, as different people pick up different things at different times, the material runs the gamut from simple ways of easing a person into contact flow training (e.g. "fixed-step flow") to esoteric ideas that I've never seen anyone except the masters utilize, and which I certainly don't "get" yet--but which ironically make combat even more "simple" for those who DO get it. Repeated with some regularity throughout the video in otherwise disparate segments are the essential core ideas of Guided Chaos that you're lost without. This is a very good thing, as even in the future when you may be using the very well laid out video menu (with nearly 60 chapters) to re-watch a particular concept you're working on, the DVD won't let you forget to e.g. be 99% yin and unavailable even while you're experimenting with the deceptive idea of equal pressure.

Matt really outdid himself with the production and editing of this one. From the amazingly tightly edited introductory verbal and visual explanation of contact flow, to the extremely useful visualizations of everyday experiences to understand sensitivity, to the fact that he's integrated footage from the 1990's through literally a month ago (including footage from the often asked about "master classes"), well, it's easy to now see why for months Matt showed up late to class, eyes bleary from staring at video screens all weekend!

As with Guided Chaos itself, it's impossible to do justice to this DVD through mere words. So here are just a few reasons why you should get it:

--You want to get an idea of what contact flow can look and feel like at all different speeds and skill levels.
--You want to understand how contact flow is NOT combat, yet applies to combat.
--You want to know how to make your Guided Chaos sing against:
a) boxers,
b) grapplers,
c) kickers,
d) stronger people,
e) taller people,
f) faster people,
g) surprise attackers,
h) groups thereof.
--You want endless variations of the basic contact flow exercise to expand your attributes and training.
--You want to know exactly what Al means in his newsletters when he talks about stuff like "Ride the Lightning!"
--You want to see a man who looks like Santa Claus move like the wind, effortlessly demolishing bigger, younger, stronger fighters trying their best to "get" him.
--You want to see a man who looks like a Marine Corps recruiting poster brutalize mere mortals with terrifying efficiency.
--You want to see Santa Claus casually smack around the recruiting poster.
--You want to see how Guided Chaos masters work with various people of various skill levels in order to make them better--in other words, how to teach.
--You want to discover that the masters really mean what they say, for example when they discuss flowing so slowly that you can hardly see any motion--or so quickly that the human eye cannot follow even from a distance.
--You want to see how an experienced, natural martial athlete processes and quickly absorbs new information through interactive learning.
--You want to be privy to immensely educational scenes that even regular Guided Chaos students rarely witness: contact flow between the highest level masters of the art, complete with slow motion and commentary.

And finally:

--You want to take advantage of by far the best (non-human) Guided Chaos learning resource ever. By paying close attention to the lessons in the DVD, contemplating them, and exploring them in your ego-free partner training . . . you almost can't help but get better.

That's what I plan to do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ari's Posts #28: Teaching the Blind...

Recently, a blind man came to class to learn Guided Chaos.

During his first visit, John gave him an introduction to what Guided Chaos is.

For his second class, after some warm-up exercises, John had me work with him on Contact Flow. While I've introduced plenty of beginners to the Contact Flow exercise, working with a blind person was a new experience for me.

His degree of sightlessness precluded me from demonstrating anything at all visually. He said that the most he could see was "shadows" of fast movement. He knew "something" was there if I stood in front of him and flailed my arms. However, he could not make out any details. Therefore, he would have to learn Guided Chaos exclusively by feel and verbal instruction.

One of the first hurdles for me was getting over my initial aversion to hitting a blind person. Let's face it--that's not something "nice" people typically do! However, he insisted that he could take whatever anyone else could (which he certainly could--he's a very sturdy guy) and he really wanted to learn, whatever it took. So soon I was whacking him around as I would any other beginner--in a non-injurious, educational manner.

As I would expect of a blind person, he started out with a decidedly higher level of tactile sensitivity than a typical beginner possesses. He also exhibited relatively good balance, likely a result of depending upon his proprioception for his balance and movement through the world, as opposed to the normal combination of proprioception and visual cues. (More on this later.) Afterall, Guided Chaos students often practice Contact Flow with eyes closed to enhance development of tactile sensitivity, and also do the solo exercises with eyes closed to further challenge and develop balance and proprioception. New to him, as to most people, were the ideas of looseness and relaxed body unity. The fact that he's a very well conditioned, strong athlete means that there's a lot of muscle to rid of tension before he can start feeling and moving to his full potential.

I took him through my "usual" introduction to contact flow, with some important variations. First of all, it was of course unnecessary to demonstrate to him the advantages subconscious tactile sensitivity has over conscious visual perception, as the latter was not an option for him anyway! Second, when introducing students to the great range of full-body motion a relaxed, rooted L-stance can give them, I usually "show" them how to stand and shift their weight. This, of course, would not work here. Through a combination of verbal instructions and my tightening my muscles to allow him to more easily feel the weight transfers of my body, he quickly picked up on the penetrative and evasive capabilities of full-body movement and weight transfer in an L-stance. In fact, he picked this up quicker than most, and despite his relative tightness, was soon evading my attacks and returning to take my balance.

I went on to flow with him in various "ways," giving him tastes of the effects of different levels of sensitivity and looseness and the possibilities of human movement. I did feel some pangs of conscience when demonstrating to him the effects of higher-level sensitivity and looseness--very light contact, approaching "ghostliness"--because I thought that for him, unable at his current level to perceive much besides the hits, it would seem like mere noneducational punishment. Most people experience ghostliness for the first time as something amazing and "fun," as they can SEE the Guided Chaos instructor moving yet can't feel where he's going or prevent the hits. However, I thought to myself that if he couldn't see me moving, and hence couldn't realize the paradox going on, the experience for him would basically be getting hit by surprise from different directions and not being able to do anything about it! He insisted, however, on experiencing and learning about everything, even it if was unpleasant. For most of the session, I made my sticking contact heavier so that he could feel most of what was going on, even as he was still too stiff to move with all of it.

He seemed to have a mental block going on as well: It was like pulling teeth to get him to hit towards my vital areas, even while moving slowly! He kept hitting my chest and shoulders. At times, I was physically pulling his arms into my throat and head, emphasizing that if someone were to try to take him out, he'd have to shut the attacker down as quickly as possible. He understood the idea, but I think he'll need to get some of his niceness drilled out of him to get him in the habit of moving to end it.

One thing I emphasized was that especially given his lack of sight, it was imperative that he close distance and prevent an attacker from regaining distance, lest he lose the tactile connection and with it most of his ability to perceive what's going on. So we drilled a lot of turning and yielding to pushes so as to retain balance and move in, as well as moving the feet well so as to maintain contact and chase down someone trying to gain distance to kick or draw a weapon. We worked this idea by flowing at higher speed (without strikes to vital areas), to the point where I was backpedaling, sidestepping and generally jinking around very quickly in attempts to get away.

Now, to set the scene: It was a nice day, so the class was being held outside the American Legion Hall in Hastings-On-Hudson. We were on the side of the hall where there is a descending gravel-covered hill. Between the gravel itself, the uneven ground and the patches of rocks and weeds, this is a difficult surface to balance and move on. We had spent most of the class training on the flat patch of concrete at the top of the hill, but as we started moving faster and I began to challenge his ability to stick with me as I tried to open distance, we ended up ranging all over the hill.

This is when everyone, including John, felt compelled to watch what was going on and how well he was doing.

Remember how I said before that he had good balance and proprioception? Well, this part of the session proved that! Not only did he not allow me to get away, but he was moving over the challenging terrain with extreme grace and athleticism, adapting to the ground better than most people who can actually see where they're going! And, whenever the gravel under his feet started to slide (which happened very frequently) . . . he was automatically dropping to instantly regain balance! Note that how to drop was NOT something I had taught him yet.

After a few minutes of this, he started to get a little winded because of his tension. However, John, I and everyone else there were VERY impressed by how he moved and handled himself. I stopped and pointed out how well he was naturally dropping and balancing. John came over and congratulated him, and he very graciously thanked me in front of John for teaching him. John pointed out quite correctly that with training, he will quickly become a force to be reckoned with, sightlessness be damned!

John also mentioned to me later that he was happy to see that my trained "empathetic sensitivity" enabled me to bring out such good work from the student. I realized upon thinking about this that he's right (as usual): Had I not been able to "feel what he was feeling," so to speak, and adapt appropriately during the training session, the training could have easily devolved into an exercise in frustration for both of us. John's statement also underscored an often-overlooked aspect of Guided Chaos sensitivity: You must feel your own body, you must feel the other guy, AND you must be aware of ("feel") what you're allowing HIM to feel. Frequently in class I'll find that a student will do the first two things well--feel where he is, feel where I am going, and begin to move appropriately--but will immediately give it all away by allowing me to feel exactly what he's doing, thereby allowing me to cut it off, rather than remaining subtle, preventing me from adapting until it's too late. Being "empathetically sensitive" must be a prerequisite to effectively utilizing concepts such as pulsing, equal pressure, etc.

The blind student's training from here, I believe, should focus primarily on looseness, aggression and using his limited visual perception combined with his acute hearing and "feeling" of the environment to immediately close distance and establish contact when necessary, enabling him to end things before someone can get the drop on him. I cannot think of any other self-defense training methodology that could even begin to give him the capability of escaping a violent confrontation intact that Guided Chaos will.

In other news, did I mention I got a sneak preview of the long-anticipated Attackproof Companion Video Part 3, "In the Eye of the Storm"??? Review coming soon. Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #27

Things to ponder on vacation...

I'm about to leave for vacation, and won't have time to put together a review of the Five-Second Fight seminar. So, those of you who were there, PLEASE post your impressions on the forum so that all the long-distance folks don't feel neglected. ;)

In the mean time, I just wanted to put a few recent training observations in writing, lest I forget them over vacation:

Contact flow is but a study of human movement. There is no pressure, speed, attack, defense, good stuff, bad stuff, etc., just movement to be studied. The lighter you stay, the move information the subconscious absorbs. So stay light no matter what, and study your partner's movement. There's nothing to be worried about, because it's just movement! No reason whatsoever to tense or push against anything, nor to accelerate to escape or "score".

With experience, you'll learn to instantly know exactly where your partner's body is going based on what you feel. All that's left for you to do then is to move your body to where you're safe and he's dead based on where he's going to be. The lighter you stay, the sooner and more precisely you'll be able to tell where his body's going. Therefore, you actually have more "control" the lighter you stay, because you feel things faster and have more opportunity to act on them. "Control" through heaviness, pushing and tension is an illusion (just like muscular "power," which feels powerful to YOU, but not to HIM), because you can't feel as quickly, you're too committed to instantly move with what you feel, and remember, it's impossible to actually physically control a person's body unless he's helping you with his tension.

Tension kicks in when your conscious mind says, "You can't do that" or "I don't see a way out of this situation" while your body is trying to just get on with it! The conscious mind doesn't understand everything the body can do, and so holds it back. Silence the mind and just get on with it! (John, Tim, Al and Matt have now all told me in different ways something to the effect of, "Your brain is messing you up! Shut it up!" I recall that old saying: "When three people say you're dead, lie down!")

Everything, including hitting, should be effortless!

To create more space, pocket while sinking deeper. Pure geometry dictates you'll get more space because of the increased vertical distance.

Pocketing to create needed space can and should be done in advance. Just as you can feel where he's going to be and move accordingly, you can feel what space you'll need to get there and to execute once you're there, so begin to make it now.

When using the "drac" or similar elbow maneuvers, allowing the hand to relax into a loose spearhand position can allow your whole body to slip through tighter spaces (e.g. through his grip on your drac forearm).

The essence of internal dropping is its suddenness.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #26

--"Walking with weights" exercises--basically Gorilla Walk with small hand-held weights (1-10 pounds)--same-arm/same-leg walking straight, cross-arms/legs stepping offline--feel plyometric pendulum effect, do not muscle weights--use just enough muscular force to keep them from flying away
--Those exercises translate directly into loose sweeping motions in contact flow that negate both of his hands at once
--Switch feet (just like the "switch foot drill") in very little space to create more space and range of motion up top--in contact flow, don't hop, but place feet silently
--You don't need the contact--if you know where something is such that you can touch it, why bother touching it? Know where it is, and move to kill
--Lighter contact does not equal less control--Because you feel more when you're lighter and looser, you can get ahead of his motion better and take greater advantage of it
--Change in "thought process"--From the first touch or feeling (doesn't have to be tactile), the master "knows" (instinctively, through experience) exactly where your body is going, allowing him to simply place stuff for you to run into--Plus he "knows" several steps ahead of that, allowing him to set you up to run into multiple shots from multiple angles, seemingly out of nowhere
--In fighting, in which he has far more experience, he's always at least three steps ahead of me--If he were to challenge me in my business, where I have the experience advantage, I would be three steps ahead of him--Even if he's teaching me "all" he knows, he'll always have at least a step ahead of me, unless I learn from someone ahead of him
--I'm still doing a lot of movement that has nothing to do with what's really going on
--Don't lean back!
--Don't turn away from incoming strikes!
--I'm plenty loose when everything is okay--However, I tighten up when things get shitty--And by definition, if I'm getting attacked, things are already shitty! Stay loose!

Five-Second Fight seminar coming up this weekend (6/30/07). This one will be awesome! See you there!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Groundfighting Seminar Review #25

This past Saturday was the Groundfighting Seminar Part 2. For a variety of reasons, this may have been the best Guided Chaos seminar I've attended yet.

The plan was for Lt. Col. Al to do most of the teaching and demonstrating, as John had a bad back triggered recently by (of all things) bending to pick up his little dog. However, John still managed to get in some extremely enlightening and dynamic demonstrations and explanations. I don't think anyone in the audience could have perceived that John was injured, based on how he moved!

The seminar was, in my opinion, a perfect balance of review of material from the Groundfighting 1 seminar and material that hadn't been covered in the first seminar. This balance was critical, as there was a large number of students present who hadn't managed to attend Groundfighting 1 last year (including some out-of-state students and some experiencing Guided Chaos for the first time).

The seminar began with a short introduction by John, explaining the origins of what we'd be learning. Al then gave a short introduction, in which he emphasized that because no one could expect to completely master in a single day any of the ideas presented in the seminar, the goal was to give everyone the knowledge and drills necessary to go back home and continue to improve on what they had learned. He and John also made clear the distinction between the all-out survival groundfighting and ground avoidance we would be learning and the sportive grappling most people are familiar with. The two methods have completely different goals: demonstrably taking down and dominating the opponent for an extended period while unarmed and barefoot without causing serious injury in modern sportive grappling, vs. doing whatever is necessary while wearing shoes/boots and accessing weapons to avoid going to the ground and, if there, doing whatever is necessary to escape a lethal boot party in survival groundfighting.

I then took everyone through a warm-up consisting of some dynamic stretching and the basic Guided Chaos groundfighting exercises. These can be seen on the Guided Chaos Groundfighting DVD. We then reviewed the rolling and kicking drills from the first groundfighting seminar, where the student learns to spot and kick focus mitts while rolling across the ground. These skills would prove essential in the more dynamic drills to follow.

Al then taught a series of drills emphasizing the importance of dropping and drop-hitting in stopping any takedown attempt. We were very fortunate to have Steve, a relatively new Guided Chaos student and very talented and well-built wrestler (and a very nice guy), available to assist Al and John with the demonstrations. The distinction between the right way and the wrong way to execute the Guided Chaos methods was made very clear by the fact that every time Al demonstrated the "right" way, Steve was stopped cold, and every time Al showed the "wrong" way, Steve without hesitation slammed him to the ground or lifted him way up in the air with no discernible effort! It's a good thing for Al that the "wrong way" demonstrations took place on mats (and he still whispered to me later that he "hurt all over" from those "wrong way" demos).

Al showed the folly of the standard wrestling sprawl for real survival fighting, as it's easily countered by the wrestler who knows what he's doing (like Steve--it was scary how quickly and easily he could switch around Al's sprawl to slam him down from a different angle) and completely gives up your balance and striking and moving abilities. Assuming we were not able to attack and stop the shoot before it began, Al taught us to move forward and stuff the takedown attempt with a heavy, well-timed drop-strike. We drilled variations against a training partner using drop-strikes against the back of the head and neck, to the front and side of the head (leading into possible neck breaks), and while box-stepping offline in a single drop to gain a more advantageous position. John gave several dynamic and insightful demonstrations illustrating the importance of timing, alignment and body unity in making these ideas work. He also showed the importance of striking to penetrate and damage the attacker, as opposed to playing the grappler's game by merely pushing him away or grappling back. The key to everything John and Al were showing was not the actual strikes and kicks themselves (which by themselves have failed countless times against grappling attacks, e.g. in the first few Ultimate Fighting Championships), but the extreme balance, alignment and dropping energy behind them. This was reinforced to me as I was going around helping the less experienced students "get it" while they drilled with each other. To show Steve (the dangerous wrestler in the demonstrations) the difference that dropping and rooting makes, I hit his shoulders lightly as he moved in, first with the dropping and rooting, then without. He stated that moving into even my light drop-strike was like "running into a concrete wall," while my attempt to stop him without dropping didn't even slow him down (but did knock me off balance!). Fortunately, he didn't do to me what he did to Al when I showed him the "wrong" way!

Al then presented a series of drills using a heavy bag resting on the ground to improve full-power drop-striking ability. These were very useful drills I had not seen before. The drills with the bag resting upright on the floor improved the basic drop to stuff a takedown, the straight drop-knee and drop-kick, and the drop-knee and drop-kick while moving offline. The bag was then laid on its side on the ground to allow drilling of the knee drop to a recumbent adversary or to stop a very low shoot, and nasty dropping elbow strikes. The emphasis in these drills was on maintaining your own balance while delivering the full energy into the target, as opposed to simply falling on the target, which could get you into big trouble.

After much practice on the heavy bags by the students, Al called a 10-minute break. During the break, Matt Kovsky asked John and Brian (an extremely tall 2nd Degree Black Belt Guided Chaos student and law enforcement officer) to do a quick demonstration on video for the soon-to-be-released Attackproof Companion Video Part 3. The demonstration involved John explaining how to get in close against an adversary with a far superior reach without getting pulverized on the way in. One aspect of this demonstration captured the attention of several of the seminar students watching the filming: John's admonition NOT to key off of or wait for the adversary's punch or technique, but to simply move (forward and offline) at the initiation of any movement whatsoever. This was hard to grasp for several of the students, who were used to the conventional martial arts mindset of seeing and countering a specific technique, such as a jab. John demonstrated that if he waited for the jab to actually be launched, even when he knew it was coming, he had little chance, especially against the quick and far taller Brian. However, when John began to move immediately, not waiting for any specific attack to be launched, it was relatively simple for him to get offline and prevent Brian from landing anything before John took his balance and finished him off. This is referred to in the book I believe as "reaching out with your sensitivity" or "making contact with the opponent's intention." It involves the use of subcortical visual sensitivity or subconscious visual perception to drive your motion even before physical contact is established. It requires not only some level of sensitivity, developed during contact flow, but also a mindset shift away from consciously "defending against techniques" to subconsciously "dealing with movement." I explored these ideas further with a couple of seminars students, including how this relates to all the Guided Chaos principles. More on that in a near future blog post. . . .

After the break, we moved on to aggressive methods of going to the ground, both with and without a weapon. Al had the students practice several variations of rolling or falling to the ground while kicking and/or striking with a cane or other object against a standing heavy bag. Interestingly, a couple of students new to Guided Chaos but with extensive previous martial arts experience were immediately able to execute fast, picture-perfect rolls into kicks--but were at first unable to get them even close to the target! By contrast, some more experienced Guided Chaos students may not have looked as good in the roll, but were able to precisely and deeply fold the bag every time. With some practice, the new students will doubtless be doing the same very soon. Al and I pointed out the importance of falling loosely and adaptably to the ground rather than having some sort of braced or stiff position or fixed breakfall technique. Rather than treating the method as some sort of gymnastics routine that you must "set up" or concentrate on the appearance of, it's important to simply drop loosely to the ground while allowing the momentum to naturally power the strikes and kicks wherever they're needed.

Then next block of instruction focused on ideas that had been briefly demonstrated at the previous seminar and in the Groundfighting DVD, but not practiced extensively by the students. Al explained how to deal with an attacker who has gotten past your legs and is trying to hold you down in order to ground-and-pound, apply a submission hold, or keep you still for a stomping from his buddies. Al emphasized the danger in attempting to grapple back or do anything that similarly keeps you in one place for any amount of time. Because of the always present danger of multiple stomping attackers, it's essential for you to do something that gets you free and moving as quickly as possible. To that end, you must "bring the chaos" on the ground just like you would on your feet, going for vital targets (primarily the eyes, throat and groin) with looseness, sensitivity and body unity while moving to bring your feet back into the fight to finish him off. Al pointed out a couple examples of pocketing on the ground: pocketing the abdomen to create space to get to the groin of a mounted attacker, and expanding and pocketing the upper torso in order to slip out from under the pressure of an attacker trying to pin you. Al reiterated that we shouldn't be trying to grab and control the enemy, but we should move like ticked-off bobcats to damage the enemy as quickly and ruthlessly as possible. Also, Al and John pointed out that although we were practicing such things as getting out from under an attacker who has mounted us, a LOT must have already gone wrong in order for us to get into that situation in the first place.

While the students were drilling these ideas, I noticed that some were still so attached to conventional grappling methods that they were missing many opportunities to ensure their survival. For example, when working against an attacker mounted on them, many of the students resorted to reaching stiffly for the eyes, bumping with the hips and pushing on the attacker's torso in a futile attempt to throw him off. I even saw some attempts to grab the attacker's arm in order to create leverage to roll him off. I asked them why they would try such things against a bigger and heavier attacker. Rather than trying to heave his mass off of you, let him jump off himself when you crush his testicles! It's imperative that you continue to move quickly, loosely, sensitively, chaotically and ruthlessly with your whole body when on the ground, rather than getting locked into making a particular strength move work.

We then moved on to the part of the seminar that many were surely anticipating with excitement and maybe a little fear. Hung up on one side of the room was a tight triangle of "Paulies"--90-pound man-shaped striking dummies wearing boxing gloves and duct tape cervical collars (to keep the heads from being ripped off--a frequent problem with this crowd). After setting up mats underneath the triangle and assigning three big guys to aggressively manipulate the Paulies, Al explained that each student would have to fight like hell from a standing start in the middle of the triangle to keep the Paulies away as they tried to crush and punch him. After a few seconds, Al would call "DROP!" and the student would fall to the ground, kicking on the way down. He would then immediately kick out and move to avoid getting stomped and find a way to roll out of the triangle. This drill truly drilled home the importance of remaining disengaged, mobile and aggressive when on the ground in a real shitstorm--and it gave the students some not so subtle reminders to protect their heads while on the ground. For the second round, John added a crash mat underfoot and flashing lights to further challenge the students' balance and add to the disorientation.

Finally, after everyone was thoroughly tenderized by the Paulie drills, we got a taste of doing contact flow on the ground, with the legs as initial contact points. Here, all the same ideas apply as when you do contact flow on your feet with the arms as initial contact points. It was a new experience for some of the students to be fully sensitive and loose with the legs while keeping the speed constant, rooting through the hips, shoulders, back and other areas, and moving the whole body together so as to keep it behind all movements of the legs.
Some closing remarks, and the seminar was over. Everyone who made it through the whole thing (some came in late, and some sat out some drills) was satisfyingly exhausted.

I'm sure there's plenty I'm missing here--it was a seminar jam-packed with useful information. Check out the Attackproof forum for other people's responses and reviews.

Of course, Matt Kovsky was there, video taping the entire seminar for a possible future DVD release. I'm not sure whether it was Matt's idea of a joke or if he really needed additional shots, but he made Al repeat five or six times his demonstration of exactly how best to grab an attacker's balls. By the third or fourth take, Al's demonstration partner was beginning to insist that Al buy him a drink before he'd be allowed to go that way with him yet again!

An extra bonus for me and many others was having Bob Miller at the seminar. He's a corrections officer and Guided Chaos instructor from out west. Bob continues to train hard on his own and with his crew, and his efforts were evident in his great improvement since his last visit to NYC last year. It's always a pleasure to hang out and train with Bob.

For that matter, it's always a pleasure to see all the long-distance Guided Chaos students who come in for the seminars and other periodic visits. There were several first-timers at the seminar, and they certainly seemed satisfied and thrilled to finally experience Guided Chaos first-hand. I strongly encourage anyone interested to make it to NYC for one of the upcoming seminars, or even for any weekend class. If you're on the fence about it, don't worry. I can't imagine a more open and welcoming group.

Lucky for us, the next seminar is only a little more than a month away: The Five-Second Fight, June 30. I'm not sure exactly what it's going to be about, but if past experience is any indicator, these seminars just keep getting better and better. . . .

. . . See you there!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #24

Guided Chaos Close In
Sorry I haven't posted anything in a month. Been very busy--not much time for private lessons. However, I've still managed to make it to some regular classes, and as always, the learning continues. . . .

Here are some ideas I've been grappling (or Keeching) with lately:

John has mentioned in the past that one unique aspect of Guided Chaos is effective grappling-range striking, made possible by dropping, body unity and the ability to create space to strike in extremely close quarters via pocketing. A skilled Guided Chaos practitioner can be so close to an enemy that the enemy can't generate effective power, yet the Guided Chaos practitioner can destroy him. This is frequently illustrated to me when a) Matt Kovsky closes in and pulses to the point where I start tensing up and pushing to get space, giving him energy to work off of to smack me silly; b) Lt. Col. Al subtly moves in and drop-strikes with his torso, freezing and off-balancing me to allow his weapons to go to work; and c) John ghosts his entire body into the perfect close-range position to effortlessly take my balance and/or strike with finality.

Even when a Guided Chaos master is not actually at very close range (e.g. when I work with Tim, who rarely allows things to get very close), his body is usually still moving towards that position, however subtly. This is what allows him to take away space and cut off angles while bringing massive fully-body power to bear on the enemy. Even when Tim hits me from long range, toward the end of his reach and far from his body, his body is still moving as if to penetrate to close quarters. All the power of this body movement is condensed into his strike, the impact of which makes any further advance unnecessary.

Of course, one has to be able to do this while not getting impaled or stopped by the attacks of the enemy. This is where pocketing, turning, moving offline and subtle changes in the body come into play. The practitioner moves as little as s/he needs to in order to avoid obstacles to his/her body's forward-moving penetration. You cannot be stopped from closing in on the enemy if you give the enemy nothing solid to push or hit against to keep you away.

Your ability to feel the relative positions of your and your enemy's center of gravity also comes into play here. I was shown how subtle and powerful this can be when I got the opportunity to do ULTRA-slow contact flow with Lt. Col. Al, then watch Al do it with John. This is contact flow done so slowly that you can literally hardly see any movement at all. We started with the hands touching, then began slowly moving. The scary thing is, within very little time (maybe 10-15 seconds) and with very little overt movement (again, hardly observable), someone has already "won." "Winning" here means that one person, through subtle shifts in balance and alignment, has moved into a position whereby he can penetrate and take the other's balance before the other can readjust to survive without speeding up. Much of the movement could be considered "internal," in that it cannot be easily seen because it involves extremely small shifts in weight and the alignment of the joints in relation to the training partner. This has to be felt intuitively--it's too subtle and minute and involves too many variables for the conscious mind to completely control. John said that if in several minutes of this kind of practice, you're able to achieve even ten seconds of pure "mushin" or no-mindedness, you're off to a good start.

Beyond a basic level, so much of Guided Chaos really is mental. The key to functional looseness, for example, is not just the ability to free up your joints and move through your full range of motion without excess tension, but REACTIVE looseness: the ability to maintain your full freedom of movement in response to whatever other people are doing to you. I can be "loose as a goose" on my own, but when Matt pulses me, I suddenly feel hard as a rock. I need to jump that mental hurdle to allow myself to go with whatever comes, regardless of what it is--indeed, not to consciously attach to it and judge it to be anything in particular. There's nothing physically preventing me from getting reactively loose. It's just a mental block.

Likewise, you can never truly be "stopped" or hindered except by your own tension or attachment to whatever's "hindering" you. If you're blocked in your forward motion, it's because you're pushing against whatever's in your path, rather than going around it. Again, a mental thing: there's nothing physically forcing you to push against or remain attached to whatever's hindering you.

Anyway, enough ramblings for now. Hopefully I'll be able to do more private lessons soon. . . .

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 20, 2007

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM--update (Attackproof Companion DVD Part 3)

IN THE EYE OF THE STORM (Attackproof Companion DVD Part 3)
Progress report: Looking at a late May release. Here's the Chapter Index for the video as it stands now:

Intro to Contact Flow
Taking Balance
Balance, Kicking & Over-commitment
Body Unity
How to Ruin Your Sensitivity
Applying the Principles While Changing Range In Contact Flow
Sub-principles: Move Behind A Guard, Always bring A Weapon On Line
Always Form Weapons
The Spike In the Sponge
Shadowing and Molding
The Closer You Get, The Looser You Get
Sliding and Skimming Energy
Blocking Is a Waste: The 3 Part Insurance Policy
Folding Energy
Weaseling Energy
Tool Replacement
One-ness Hitting
Blocking Is a Waste: Make Them Miss
Why We Flow Slow
Loading the Spring
Grabbing & Over-commitment
Suspend and Release
Pulsing: Directing and Exploiting Responses
Leg Pulsing
Vibrating Energy
Multi-Hitting As a Function of Sensitivity and Balance
Applying the Sphere of Influence Against Larger Attackers
Using Box-stepping, Long Stepping and Drop-kicking
Close Combat to KCD: Taking Space on Larger Opponents
Training Lethal Blows with Dropping Power
Using Soft and Hard Energy While Avoiding Double-weightedness
99% Yin, 1% Yang
Ride the Lightning
Multiple Attackers
Fixed "Animal" Forms vs. Free Human Motion
How Do You Begin Contact Flow? With Chaos
Studies In Contrast: Boxing vs. KCD
Some Contact Flow Analyses
Specific Contact Flow Variations
"The Coin Dance" Flow
Super-Slow Flow
Fixed-Step Flow
"Stalker" and Multiple Attacker Flow
The "Melee" Flow
Set-up Attack Flows
Typical Contact Flow Errors

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #23

Excellent lesson with Al last Monday...

Notable tips:

--MOVE IN around pocket! Staying in one place while pocketing allows Al to do whatever else he wants.

--Tool replace, penetrate and/or smother with shoulder while moving in, rather than staying out and trying to free arms if arms feel blocked.

--Don't second-guess yourself! Al punishes you (grabs arms, hits, etc.) primarily when you stop moving because you hesitate when things don't go as planned. Trust your sensitivity and keep moving!

--Allow arms to "fall" in when being suppressed (i.e. swing below obstruction) while using body to tool replace, penetrate and/or smother.

--Subtle pulsing: just a change in contact point from fingertips to palm (no pushing!) allows opponent to feel your structure. From there, no matter what he does (e.g. yield, push or go somewhere else), you're ready to take advantage.

Matt Kovsky, after watching part of the lesson, commented that I tend to stand too tall (i.e. straight-legged) when working with Al. Gotta remember that for next time!

Also, Matt implored me not to allow even much more experienced training partners to build pressure at the beginning of a contact flow engagement. Patrick, a fellow student, pointed out that he sees in me a bad habit that he deals with himself: When he begins contact flow with Al or Matt, he finds himself observing and thinking about what they're doing, as opposed to simply moving with the initial contact as he should. This allows the more experienced person to pulse or do whatever else he wants with the initial contact. The solution to this for the less experienced person is to simply not think about the fact that your training partner is more experienced, so that instead of watching/worrying about what he's going to do, you just trust your sensitivity and move normally. As it says in the book, you should be "reaching out" with your sensitivity in order to engage his intent and begin to move with him even before contact is made. Matt's and Patrick's diagnosis actually makes a lot of sense, and is something I'll work to correct--even if it may "feel" slightly disrespectful to do to people like Matt and Al. But hey, "respectful disrespect," according to John, is the way to go.

Looking forward to the Master Class with John this coming Sunday. . . .

Thursday, April 05, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #22

This past Saturday was an excellent seminar about Guided Chaos Combat Knife methods. Far from being a "knife fighting" seminar where everyone would learn techniques for dueling, the seminar was focused on the real-world use of and defense against knives and similar weapons.

The seminar began with an introduction by John. He discussed different types of commonly carried knives (small straight blades, folders, push daggers, etc.), their advantages and disadvantages, carry and concealment methods and accessibility issues. Emphasis was placed on the carrier's ability to bring the knife into play amidst the chaos of physical violence. John also demonstrated various ways of using a closed folding knife in those cases where you may be able to unclip the knife from your pocket but don't have the time/space/stability to open it. This is very important information, as real-world fights involving knives rarely begin along the lines of the "West Side Story" dueling paradigm (he pulls a knife and shows it to you, you pull yours, then you circle and fight with graceful movements as people snap and dance around you).

John and Lt. Col. Al then covered the use of the Dog-Dig motion (described in the book "Attackproof") to gain distance and run when someone is attempting to stab you up at close range, or even if you've already been stabbed. This presentation began with a demonstration of why most martial arts methods advocated for use against dynamic knife attacks (e.g. X-blocks, wrist locks and throws, grabbing the knife-wielding limb and other grappling methods) fail miserably when attempted against real attacks with knives. When an attacker is moving unpredictably to cut and stab you up at maximum adrenaline speed, using all weapons at his disposal, it becomes almost impossible to man up and control his movement to the point of avoiding getting stabbed and cut in vital areas. The Dog-Dig method is intended to keep the knife away from your most vital organs long enough to allow you to build distance and momentum to escape. My right (knife-holding) arm got severely abused while helping Al and John demonstrate this, as their "dog-digs" pack a hefty wallop thanks to internal dropping and hand conditioning with the slam bag! It was demonstrated that attempting to simply run from a close-range knife attack is a recipe for failure. Everyone got to practice Dog-Digging and running from close-range attacks with foam rubber knives. John also touched on the importance of kicking if you have more distance but can't immediately escape. Despite the advocacy of kicking as an unarmed method of defending against a knife attack by such close combat experts as Fairbairn, Applegate and others, many martial artists seem to doubt its effectiveness (often while supporting clearly ineffective methods). John pointed out that in order to have any chance of success, you have to be able to thrust kick HARD and FAST while maintaining good balance, and footwear can make the difference.

The next drill involved using a knife to survive an attack by multiple people. The drill began with the participant, foam rubber knife already in hand, standing on a crash mat surrounded by three hanging man dummies controlled by big guys standing behind them. On John's cue, the guys controlling the dummies would make them "attack," closing in and swinging to crush and hit the student in the middle. The student had to keep moving, spinning and striking with the knife and anatomical weapons to maintain space and balance and destroy the attackers as quickly as possible, minimizing damage to himself. The crash mat forced the student to lift his knees and stomp to protect his groin and maintain balance. Rapid, full-body movement and dropping power were necessary to avoid being crushed and immobilized between the dummies. John emphasized effective, powerful, gross-motor use of all parts of the knife (point, edge, butt) in the melee, and the need to BUTCHER the attackers (rather than merely stabbing or cutting) in order to achieve adequate stopping power with the knife. This was an extremely chaotic, exhausting, screaming wild drill. The lesson was not lost on the students that the skills needed to survive such an attack are NOT necessarily those developed for dueling, and are in fact similar to those needed to survive such a situation unarmed (e.g. balance, dropping power, efficient mobility, looseness, and the ability to adapt to chaotic motion) plus the coordination and knowledge to effectively employ the knife (and not stab yourself in the process!).

After a short break, we moved onto demonstrations and drills in the Hellevator. Technically, this is the "Hellevator II," the portable second-generation version of the structure featured in a couple of the video clips on the website. The Hellevator II is slightly bigger and has three instead of four walls so that students can easily observe demonstrations performed inside it. (Big thanks to Wayne for designing, building, transporting and assembling the Hellevator II!) John, Al and Big Mike demonstrated how using the walls in a confined space to enhance your balance can increase the effectiveness of your kicks for keeping away and damaging a knifer. They also showed how confined space can hinder many grappling attacks, as there may not be sufficient space to allow the victim to fall or be overextended or driven off-balance. Each student had a go at keeping a knife-wielding Big Mike out of knife range in the Hellevator by kicking away at the kicking shield he was holding while balancing against the wall. An important point was to STAY against the wall, rather than allowing yourself to bounce off of it in between kicks.

Next, Lt. Col. Al demonstrated the usefulness of "knife sparring" with foam rubber knives simply as a reflex and movement exercise. He and John showed how Guided Chaos concepts such as drop-hitting, body unity and isolation can be applied to the blade. Everyone squared off and sparred for a little while, with John and Al going around to give advice and point out interesting situations. Al gave me an idea about how to integrate kicking with knife use. John pointed out the ultimate futility of standard "knife dueling" by making "clean" hits impossible simply by wiggling the knife around in a "silly" (albeit unpredictable) fashion and advancing. Several times, I ended up on the receiving end of Native American-style killing entries by Lt. Col. Al. Even with the foam rubber knives, these were VERY scary, as they involved Al's whole body diving in. They felt impossible to resist or escape.

We then drilled countering static knife threats from all different angles, using the method of simultaneously drop-hitting the knife arm, moving the body offline and attacking the attacker, all in one motion, while controlling the knife arm with sensitivity. John and Al were quick to point out, however, that the methods typically used by criminals to threaten with a knife made countering and escaping extremely difficult, if not impossible. For example, it's typically not a "static" threat at all, as the attacker will usually violently jerk the victim off-balance with a semi-choke from behind, and/or continuously move the knife unpredictably between different targets while shoving and/or pinning the victim from the front. Frequently, a second attacker severely complicates the situation.

This led into a discussion of the behavioral aspects of hold-up scenarios. Matt Kovsky wanted me to present this part because he'd seen me cover it fairly thoroughly before in class. I went through the possibilities of a real attacker's goals. An attacker who threatens you with a knife may want your property, in which case, give it to him and immediately run away. However, he may want to take you to a second location, in which case you're probably best off attacking him to get free and escape as soon as any possibility of success presents itself. With John's help, I went over how saying the right things and acting in certain ways can facilitate escape. This presentation went fine . . . except for the fact that my voice was still rather hoarse from all the screaming I'd done in the multiple attacker drill earlier. One attendee compared the sound of my voice to that of Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch when his voice started changing! Don't worry: for the DVD, we'll either re-shoot the scene or Matt will digitally modify my voice to be less distracting. This could be funny--Darth Vader teaching self-defense. . . .

Oh yeah, did I mention? Matt Kovsky filmed the whole seminar for a future DVD release.

The last tactic covered in the seminar was going to the ground in a last-ditch effort to gain distance between your vital organs and the blade, as seen on the Guided Chaos Groundfighting DVD. Everyone got the chance to try this against a fast, close-range attack. The idea was to fend away the knife with your hands as you fell back, simultaneously kicking out the knifer's legs. As the "attacker" for this drill, I can say that a few people got this down very well, as my legs were saved only by virtue of the fact that I knew what was happening and yielded to all the kicks.

John showed how extremely high-level Guided Chaos skill--being able to stick and flow around anything with complete freedom of motion while maintaining perfect balance, moving in and taking the attacker's balance while striking with killing power--can help in dealing with a knife attack. However, he reiterated that there are certainly no guarantees, and the slightest mistake can get you killed. Further, stating explicitly what had been increasingly evident throughout the seminar, John pointed out that real knife attacks by committed criminals are rarely as predictable and easy to defend against as those demonstrated and trained against by even realistic-minded martial artists. The frequent cooperation of multiple armed attackers and the fact that recidivists practice specifically to allow victims no warning and no wherewithal nor opportunity to escape expand the already great advantage armed attackers always hold. As ever, awareness and acting to escape as early as possible are the keys to surviving such attacks. Also, as an aid to defending one's self, a knife can certainly be a useful weapon, but it is far from being a magic self-defense wand. Knife selection, carry method and training for deployment and use under any circumstances are key, and unarmed combat skill and the attributes involved are still paramount.

Al capped off the conclusion of the seminar by demonstrating some ideas regarding the integration of knife combat into contact flow. While he demonstrated, a group of students gradually bunched up on one side of the room, blocking John's view of the door. As John observed Al's demonstration, a big birthday cake, sodas and snacks were brought into the room and set up on a table behind the human screen that blocked John's view. Yes, it was John's birthday! As soon as everything was set up, Al ended his demonstration, the human screen parted, and the room broke out into just about the sorriest rendition of "Happy Birthday" I've ever heard. A great time was had by all! A few people took the opportunity to work with Big Mike. I would have beaten him up had I not just eaten, of course.

Incidentally, the party was NOT filmed for the DVD.

Overall, great seminar and party! Again, Happy Birthday John!!!

Kicking yourself for missing this seminar??? Get thyself to the next one! See the "Seminars, Events and Announcements" section of the website for details.

Next time, some excellent lessons from Al, taught during a private lesson the Monday following the seminar. . . . Stay tuned!

P.S. Very relevant info:

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #21

Had another great lesson with Al on Saturday. A few tips:

--Move the body in so that the arms feel like they simply float in with no effort.
--For your own development, pulse minimally. Don't constantly counter-pulse or get too heavy with people who pulse a lot, even if it seems to work.
--Feel and work off of the skeletal structure.
--Penetrate when tool replacing or smothering with the torso so that he can't readjust in time. You have to shock the body to momentarily hinder movement.

Looking forward to the knife seminar this Saturday. . . .

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #20

You've Got to Be In It to Win It.
In the Monday night class, John went over some important stuff for everyone to keep in mind.

He pointed out that as many people get lazy or complacent in their training, contact flow devolves into a medium-range hand-fighting game, with the training partners basically standing in front of each other while looking to hit and not be hit. Granted, it's fun, and Guided Chaos principles may be involved, but such training dangerously misses the point.

John showed that in order to deal with a bigger, stronger, faster enemy, you have to be able to close the distance and smother his movements while controlling his balance. Simply standing and trying to deal with his hands will get you killed quickly. Key skills to cultivate in contact flow, therefore, are getting offline, even if only a little, while closing the distance to smother his attacks and end things quickly. Instead of just hitting through an opening, you need to pour your entire loose, heavy body into it while feeling and adapting to his motion. This enables you to disrupt his balance and bring your whole body to strike with finality.

Further emphasizing why standing face to face while practicing contact flow is a bad mistake, John asked how often one can expect to be attacked head-on. The possibilities of getting blind-sided or being attacked from multiple directions simultaneously are too great and too dangerous to not keep them in mind while training. In such situations, the ability to slam the whole body into heavy dropping strikes that arrest motion and disrupt balance as well as do damage, while using these full-body steps and drops to keep yourself moving unpredictably, "bouncing" among and around assailants while staying loose enough to not get broken and covering your head, will do much more to save your hide than trying to play with incoming hands.

It was a very interesting class, replete with lots of high-impact demos with some of the biggest guys.

Lots of food for thought and training. . . .