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Thursday, February 01, 2007

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #9

Mixing With Mike...
If you've never met Big Michael Watson personally, you can see him in action in a couple of the video clips on the Attack Proof website, demonstrating groundfighting. You might notice on one clip that a lot of his demonstration partners seem very hesitant to close in and attack him hard. If you ever have the chance to work with him, you'll understand why. You just don't want to run into any part of Mike.

It's not that Mike is mean or brutal. Quite the opposite--he's one of the nicest, most low-key guys you'll ever meet. He also has extremely good control. The standard John Perkins set for him to achieve his Guided Chaos fifth degree black belt was the ability to flow full-speed with students without injuring them. For a guy built like Mike, that's a tall order.

Returning to that suspicion of mine mentioned in a previous post, if Lt. Col. Al is a government-built combat machine, physically speaking, Big Mike is the next-generation model: taller, broader, heavier, bigger (yet perfectly coordinated) muscles, and a skeleton made of depleted uranium (John says it's titanium but I suspect he's wrong--Mike's bones are too hard and heavy to be mere titanium). Many who have trained with him can recall the experience of watching a bruise form where one of his fingers lightly tapped. No funky chi stuff going on here, just the effect of a big, hard, heavy and relaxed hand.

Mike can put those hands (and elbows, feet, knees, shoulders, etc.) wherever he wants. John sometimes tells the story about the first thing he taught Mike. Logically, because of his imposing stature, no one is going to attack Mike unless that attacker is a) VERY big, b) VERY insane, c) armed (heavily), or d) with very reliable friends, or some combination thereof. In other words, what Mike would face in an attack would be particularly bad, requiring a very devastating response. Therefore, taking advantage of Mike's very long reach, John trained him to be able to get eye gouges anytime, from any position, on anyone. No matter what you do, Mike's fingers will find your eyes, his body loosely twisting and contorting around your attacks to find the available angles. This precise sensitivity extends to everything Mike does with any part of his body. He can use his chest literally like a jackhammer as his arms pull you into a series of rapid-fire dropping slams that he can use to either move you across a room or simply rattle you silly. He can use his long legs like arms, sliding them carefully and precisely past any obstacles to tap your root leg or, if he feels like it, your throat. (Incidentally, Mike was very accomplished in Tae Kwon Do / Hapkido before he found Guided Chaos. Lt. Col. Al relates the story of the first time he and John met Mike. Mike's response to a question about his previous martial arts experience was to jump up and gently kick a light fixture.)

While I've never had a formal private lesson with him, training with Mike in class is always a good and challenging experience. He's a very caring and careful teacher, as long as you're not trying to get your willies by "beating" him. (Don't ask me why some people try this.) John often "uses" him to push people just slightly beyond their limits in terms of sensitivity, looseness, speed, endurance and scrappiness. Mike is an expert at quickly feeling where such limits lie for each individual and adjusting accordingly. It takes a lot of mental focus (not to mention physical prowess) just to stay in with Mike for more than a minute and do what you know you should do despite the constant barrage of light (for Mike--heavy for you!) dropping strikes raining down on your arms and torso and pulling just short of your head and neck. In order to get his own work in, Mike will often flow while standing on one leg, using only one arm. A humorous and slightly annoying phenomenon occurs when you work with Mike in class: other students in the class feel compelled to give you great advice to help you out of your pathetic predicament. "Get to his side! Don't stand in front of him! Stay loose! Don't challenge his strength!" Oh, okay! So if I just wise up and do those things, I'll be A-OK, right??? Sheesh. The point is, if you can even begin to pull off good stuff against Mike (and rest assured, unless you're also a Guided Chaos master, he's letting you do it), you're making good progress.

I recall an incident relatively early in my Guided Chaos journey that led to a great training experience with Mike. I didn't have access to a car, so I had to take a 45-minute bus ride to the Nanuet class. It was winter, and the weather that night was horrible--cold, windy, wet snowstorm. The bus was late and slow, so when it pulled up to the Nanuet stop a half-hour late at 7:10 (the class starts at 7), I was already ticked off. In order to get to the gym where the class is held from the bus stop, you have to walk several hundred yards across a mall parking lot. It was one of the worst walks of my life--I was whipped by strong winds (of course blowing right into my face) and stinging snow, and chilled to the bone. I slipped on ice several times, but luckily didn't fall (thank you Guided Chaos balance training!). When I finally arrived at the gym (7:20-something) and went to the studio where class is held, I found a sign on the door saying that class that evening was canceled. Fuming, I took off my soaked coat and paced around the empty studio. I called my then-fiancee on my cell phone just to vent. As I began to explain the situation to her, in walked Big Mike. Maybe this will be good. . . . I ended up getting an impromptu half-hour private lesson with Mike, during which he introduced me to the concept of dropping on everything. Eventually a few other people showed up and Mike ran a great class. Up until then, I had seen Mike only as a sort of Guided Chaos regulator, there to give the big brutes a real challenge and show them why they had to get loose and sensitive just like the smaller guys. I found out that night what a good and patient teacher Mike can be when given the chance.

And now, as a SPECIAL BONUS, a few recent tips from Lt. Col. Al:

--Use Stacking the Spears with full body rotation, skimming in very small space. Impact includes pull-back like whipping towel.

--Reach-under to clear hand pushing on elbow: pocket deeply to ghost reaching hand as far up and back as possible, tool-replacing further up offending arm, thereby ghosting your body in to where he has no escape.

--Equal pressure to tool replacement further up arm: tool is replaced as whole body arrives to kill.

--Use downward-angled elbow strike to get in and around stuff.

--"Answer the Phone" (see book Attack Proof). Keep horizontal--not too high, with body turning to chop back of neck.

--Pop-check elbow with mini-drop to enter.

--The patented Al Tie-Up: catch one arm, catch the other, turn hips, close distance, kill.

--Anticipate the VICTORY, as well as the GIVING SOMETHING UP.

Remember, none of these are "techniques," but merely ideas about movements to experiment with in contact flow if the opportunity arises. For further clarification, ask questions here or in the forum.

Hopefully I'll be able to arrange another lesson with Tim soon . . . so stay tuned!

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