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Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Lessons With The Masters

I recently (finally!) began to take private lessons with David Randel (see his website,, a 4th Degree Black Belt in Guided Chaos and one of the most active instructors in John Perkins' organization. Very glad that I did!

What stands out most about Dave is his surprising gentleness and patience as a teacher, given his initially intimidating presence and rough background. He's a big guy, and he's had lots of brutal fighting experience in the Bronx (where he grew up), overseas, and in his bouncing and security career in some rather unsavory places. When he teaches, however, he explains things very clearly and patiently, and keeps the violence all around your body, rather than inside it. There can be no doubt about the power he can generate as you see and feel him move (extremely fluidly), but he doesn't do any more to you than is necessary to give you the impression of how you can do it too. I get the feeling when taking a lesson from Dave that he really enjoys sharing the art he loves with people who appreciate it.

Here are just a few tips from the first two lessons:

--My shoulders and hips are not in synch. I allow my shoulders to move and yield without adjusting my hips to maintain alignment and balance. Key to this is moving the feet to the right place to allow the hips to maintain their alignment with the shoulders.

--This bad habit may have been brought on by allowing myself to get lazy while working with less experienced students who may not always force me to move properly. In such cases, my superior sensitivity and looseness, combined with their inability to feel and attack my center, allow me to "get away with" not moving the entire body in synch at all times. When Dave moves in on me, however, I have to either move everything together properly or get jammed up and lose balance. Solution: When working with less experienced students, even at slow speeds, try to move as if they are blasting in very powerfully. Keep the reality of violence in mind (i.e. sudden, powerful forces) so that contact flow doesn't degenerate into a game with the more experienced person "playing with" the less experienced in ways that would not be applicable if the less experienced student were more skillful and/or truly violent.

--Cool drill to "wake up" the feet: Stay on your tip-toes while doing contact flow, while your partner stands and moves normally. This forces you to adjust your feet to avoid giving any resistance that might jeopardize your own balance, rather than thinking you can stand your ground and resist something with your oak tree root. Far better to have a Root No One Can Find! Note that this is just a remedial drill to allow you to feel more precisely where and why you need to move your feet. Don't overdo it, or you may get into the bad habit of rising up as you move, which may leave you worse off than you were initially.

--A big part of Guided Chaos is simply GETTING OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY to allow yourself to continuously move in and attack. You can't always control what the enemy does--but you can control what you do and stay out of the way of your own attacks regardless of what he does.

--Use long stepping to "stand where he's standing" by stepping through his legs, thus effortlessly breaking his balance (and sometimes his legs) while retaining your balance and hitting.

--Hip strikes should be more downward with a drop to break things and secure your balance, rather than pushing the hip outward, which is just a push that does no real damage and jeopardizes your balance.

--USE WHAT YOU'VE GOT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE at all times. For example, if your elbow happens to be in contact with a non-lethal area, rather than simply moving to get it to a better target, why not use the contact to disrupt his balance on the way to moving to good targets? This can apply to practically any contact. Feel how you can get to his center through any contact.

--Don't make grabbing too much of a habit in contact flow, such that you start to depend on it as a crutch. At full speed, grabs can be tough to get unless you have the high skill to set them up--and if you have such skill, why bother grabbing much? Most grabs in slower speed contact flow between less skilled students are unrealistic increases in energy (speed and/or pressure), which would be impossible to pull off at full speed. However, some of the positive effects of grabbing can be realized simply through friction and angular hitting, without overcommitting or doing anything unrealistic. Very cool stuff.

Dave recently went full-time with his Guided Chaos teaching career. He teaches a Thursday evening class in Manhattan, a Sunday morning class in New Jersey, and private lessons by appointment. He's also working on some Web and other projects to promote the art (see, and will be traveling a lot to teach seminars in the near future. I highly recommend you hook up with him for some training before the demand exceeds the supply! I'm glad I have!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Are We There Yet?": Shoulder Surgery Update

For all you achy middle-aged warriors out there wondering whether it's all worth it, here's my 4 month progress report on my double-row repair rotator cuff shoulder surgery:

To refresh your memories, I had 3 tendons torn (2 of them completely), 3 anchors and six screws set into my shoulder, as well as the top of my humerus shaved (nothing funny about it I can assure you). As such, your progress could be better or worse depending on how much work was done and whether you had open or arthroscopic surgery. For example, I met someone who had less work done and had twice the range of movement (ROM) I had in half the time. Dirt bag. (Do I sound impatient?) Shoulders apparently have more nerves and more planes of motion and so they really take awhile to get "better..." My surgeon told me that if you force too much in physical therapy and get too much ROM too early you actually potentially impair future joint stability, so it's dicey. Then I met another guy who had surgery a week before me and was back in the gym already. "Yeah, I can reach all the way up my back, lift weights, everything!" Frowning, I thought how I had just recently been able to reach far enough to my left armpit to put on deoderant. Dirtbag...

The thing is, I've broken a lot of bones and you always know that, barring any accidents or complications, you're gonna essentially be healed in 6-11 weeks. Anyone can put up with that. Nine months takes more patience. Then of course you've got soldiers blown up in Iraq or car accident victims that require years of healing and you've got to wonder how tough those people have to be!

Well it turns out my ROM (range of motion) improvement had ground to a halt. It was time for a change of tactics. No more play time in physical therapy; if I didn't start getting my ROM back now I might never fully recover. "This is fairly common," explained my surgeon, "the supporting muscles go into spasm and you must begin to tear up the scar tissue." "Tear?" I asked, "isn't that what prompted the surgery in the first place?"

This was different. My injuries were healed; now I had to fight the body's tendency to protect itself. "Make it hurt" my surgeon said. "How much?" I asked. "In your stretches, go to the point where the pain becomes unbearable. Then go further, hold for 20 seconds and repeat. You can do this 10 times a day," he told me cheerily.

And so I did. Tears would come to my eyes and the pain would make me dizzy. But suddenly I started making ROM progress again. I still have a long way to go, but I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And I keep meeting people who had shoulder surgery the same time I did who are almost fully recovered. I know what they're going through and I'm happy for them. Dirt bags.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Teaching Guided Chaos

I am hereby "hanging up my shingle" for anyone interested in doing private or semi-private lessons with me.

My training availability is limited by family situation and time constraints to specific locations in the Edgewater, NJ area. I am therefore extending this invitation to anyone who would be willing and able to travel to me for private or semi-private lessons. Rates negotiable, discounted prepayment for a block of lessons negotiable.You can get to me easily via NJ Transit bus or light rail, NY Waterwayferry, or by car (free parking). Scheduling will vary, but will generally include weekday early evenings and weekends.

Topics, depending on student interest, can include basic self-protection, Perkins Close Combat, and Guided Chaos. For Guided Chaos, while solo exercises can be taught, focus will be primarily on contact flow and related exercises. It is recommended that students supplement their lessons with study of the Attack Proof book and DVDs, and at least occasional attendance of Guided Chaos classes.

Please E-mail me at if you are interested.


"Ari Kandel is one of our finest trainers. He possesses a deep understanding of the principles of Guided Chaos and can be counted on to bring out the best in nearly any student. I have personally trained and tested him on many levels and Ari will satisfy any true search for martial ability that most seekers may possess."

--John Perkins, Founder, Guided Chaos

Student endorsements available by request.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lessons With The Masters

First blog post in a while.

I'd like to clear up a misconception regarding this blog: I'm the one who just had a baby. Matt Kovsky's the one who just had shoulder surgery. I've had several people congratulate me on the birth of my daughter, and in the same breath, ask how my shoulder's doing. My shoulder's fine! Matt's is messed up and slowly healing. So any posts on this blog regarding shoulders are from Matt. The others are from me. Capishe?

With that out of the way, the past few weeks have been very interesting Guided Chaos-wise (and in other ways too, but let's stick to the GC).

Here's an idea I've been mulling over the last few days and experimenting with on fellow students who have come by my place to train:

Do NOT confuse the exercise of Contact Flow with the application to real combat of the benefits you get from it. I believe many people do this, and thereby hinder their progress. Contact Flow is NOT simulated combat. Combat is combat, period, and cannot be exactly simulated. However, the benefits you get from Contact Flow can serve you very well in combat.

Beyond the often-discussed Guided Chaos principles of balance, looseness, body unity, sensitivity, freedom of action and subconsciously-driven spontaneous movement, perhaps THE major benefit of Contact Flow is INCREASED INTUITIVE/SUBCONSCIOUS UNDERSTANDING OF THE HUMAN BODY. Contact Flow, trained in the right mindset, "downloads" knowledge about human body structure and movement (your own and others') to your subconscious mind faster than any other method I know of.

Tim once said to me something along the lines of: "This really comes down to understanding people--understanding yourself, understanding others. If everyone fully understood each other, things would probably be a lot better, don't you think?" At the time, I didn't really get what he was talking about, but I believe it may have had something to do with what I'm talking about now.

The PURPOSE of filling the subconscious mind with intuitive information about the human body and how it moves is to be able to do what John does. John has the uncanny ability to move his whole body to precisely the best place for himself and the worst place for his enemies, moment by moment, based on his perception of the enemies' movement and the rest of the environment. 30+ years of Contact Flow with all sorts of people, and 20+ years of Contact Flow's predecessors before that, have provided his subconscious mind with a wealth of data about how human beings move and what that movement feels like. This is what enables John to instantly, intuitively understand exactly what a person is going to do and how his body will move based on what it's currently doing, usually far better than that person himself understands it!

So, if the purpose of Contact Flow is to gather subconscious information about how people and their movement feel, with an eye towards using that information to intuitively adapt to people's movement in combat, how should we approach Contact Flow? What attitude should we have towards the contact?

I believe some people mess up their training by having incorrect attitudes toward the contact in Contact Flow. If in a person's mind Contact Flow is some sort of competitive activity or simulation of combat, then the person will have a judgemental attitude towards the contact (e.g. my palm contacting your chin is good, whereas your fist contacting my rib is bad). This will cause that person to miss all the subtle information available from each point and moment of contact. Often (not always), the people in class whose everyday lives are relatively sedate and safe, and for whom class is the biggest "adrenaline rush" of the week because it's about VIOLENCE and whatnot, have this problem. Some (not all) folks who deal with real violence and danger in their daily lives (e.g. cops, psych ward handlers, bouncers, construction workers and other experienced people), by contrast, view class as the most RELAXING part of the week, where they get to hang out and learn about themselves and others in a fun, relaxing, meditative environment (at least the Contact Flow part of class). These people often make faster progress because of their different attitude towards Contact Flow.

Think of it this way: If you wanted to gather maximum information about how e.g. a piece of fabric feels, how would you approach touching it? I actually did this experiment with a couple of students. Pointing to a folded blanket (this took place in the guest bedroom of my house, which I use for training), I said to the students, "Tell me how that feels. Describe it in as much detail as possible." Each student walked over to the blanket and casually ran his fingers lightly over the surface. I made the blanket move by running my hands back and forth underneath it, while asking each student to feel it again and describe everything about it--the texture, the wrinkles, how it moved, etc. Their answers weren't important. What mattered is how they touched the blanket in order to gain maximum information about it. They did not push it hard, use any particular "form," grab it, strike it or try to control it (even when it was moving). They did not stick stubbornly to any one point on it. Doing any of these things would have reduced the amount of information they could glean from the contact. Just for kicks, I told them to use their arms, shoulders and chests in the same way as their hands to feel how the blanket felt. Made them look pretty silly! However, the implications for Contact Flow were obvious.

If the goal is to get maximum information from the contact, why approach the contact in Contact Flow any differently?

Watch some of the scenes in the Attackproof Companion Video Part 3, where John is flowing at moderate speed with some of the more advanced students (e.g. Al), and observe whether his attitude varies greatly from how he'd approach feeling a fine hanging curtain for example. (Note that instructors don't always look like this when training with students, as often the instructors intentionally feed the students obvious pushes, strikes and other disruptions to deal with so that the students can develop. What I'm describing here is not ALL THERE IS to Contact Flow, but simply an important piece of it.)

Adopting this attitude of simply exploring how my training partner feels seems to be working well for me so far. I've received feedback that I feel more like Lt. Col. Al, more ghostly and unreadable and surprising, when I adopt this attitude.

We'll see where this goes. The journey continues. . . .

A tip from a recent lesson with Al (which focused more on application than on Contact Flow itself):

--If I drop to stop his motion, I must not stop my own motion with my own drop! When I drop against his arm or body, my body must continue to move in, taking immediate advantage of the space and time I created for myself via the drop. This is how I can get ahead of him. If we both stop at the moment of the drop, I give him time to recover and nail me. There is NO need to stop my whole body when dropping. It can move in behind my strikes and pulses just as the body can move in behind light contact or equal pressure in slower Contact Flow. Continuous contact and pulsing pressure in slower Contact Flow can become strikes and tool destructions in full-speed application, allowing the same levels of mobility and sensitivity--so long as the requisite looseness remains.

And a different way of thinking about looseness that has helped me in my recent quest to "use my looseness as a weapon" (per Al) and also to get some students to cut down their excess motion:

--Looseness is about FREEDOM IN ALL YOUR JOINTS. It's not about flexibility, contortion or "softness." If you're loose, each joint in your body is free to move however it must at any time, rather than being locked into a certain position or reduced range of motion. It is free to move whether the impetus to move comes from within the body or from outside the body.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Shoulder Surgery Rehabilitation--Don't Get Stupid!

For all you rotator cuff fans I thought I'd pass on some advice I just received from my surgeon today (who also BTW is a long time aikido practitioner) in response to my questions about regaining my range of motion. All through my physical therapy and whenever I do rehab exercises on my own, I would constantly say to myself "push thru the pain! You're a warrior--use it to your advantage and get better faster!" On range of motion exercises I'd try to eke out another 1/2 inch, trying to get back to normal on every repetition. If the physical therapist said go to a pain level of 3, I'd go to 6...well, maybe even 7, what the hell.

Well today my surgeon checked my range of movement and said I'm right where I need to be and glad I wasn't doing better. "What?!?" I said, "what's wrong with better?!" He said what happens is he often gets martial artists as patients and that they stretch and stretch and scream and fight thru the pain and they come in to his office all proud of themselves because they've surpassed their expected progress points and exclaim "see? I can bend my shoulder all the way to here now!" Next thing happens, they wreck their surgery because the damn tendons won't stay attached to their bones. They don't exactly pop their screws but their rotator cuff never turns out a strong as it could have.

I work with a guy who tore his shoulder to shreds as a high school baseball player. Being a self-described "exercise fanatic," whatever the therapist said to do, he'd do 3, 5, heck, 10 times as much! If a little is good then a ton is better! Well his shoulder never healed perfectly and to this day makes strange noises and doesn't work completely normal. Would he be better if he didn't push it to the max? Who knows.

The lesson is that it's not the amount and intensity of the rehab that gets you better, it's TIME and consistency without strain. Can I do it? Check back in January...

Monday, June 02, 2008

My Lessons With the Masters (and Fatherhood) Part 2

--From the two points of contact position (touching one of his arms with my hand, and his other arm with my elbow/forearm of the same arm as my touching hand), I have checkmate: I can isolate around the contact arm (hence ghosting) and hit with the free hand, and if he moves either of his hands or his body (without full isolation) to deal with it, either end of my contact arm can carry through the attack.

--I must use my looseness to hit powerfully, completely casually, with no apparent weapon or strike manifestation until the moment of impact. Don't "strike": just make you weapon appear on the target. Striking at this level becomes pure thought: I think, thereby it becomes.

--I must not move any more than is necessary. Rather than "completing" or "following through" motions (overextending/overcommitting), I must always "find the straight line in the circle," penetrate then strike again from there through the space my strike created, cut things off directly, strike repeatedly through the same line, and never make anything more complicated than it needs to be. I must pocket to clear my own line to strike, and to create space to draw my arm out to strike

--I can use my looseness to hit powerfully from nearly full extension of my arms via internal dropping.

--I can use my looseness and internal dropping to snap extremely hard, repeated tool destructions/checks with absolutely no wind-up or pretensioning, going straight from steam to ice and back again instantly, to economically clear lines to strike through. This can be practiced on the slam bag, striking very short, right in front of the chest, with no wind-up.

--This can be expanded to full, powerful "liquid/solid" heavy arm striking, contouring along the body with an arm as loose as water that nevertheless cuts like a knife through whatever gets in its way via internal dropping.

--I must Ride the Vortex: use extremely light tool replacement and minute body movement to let strikes BARELY miss me while taking space and maintaining control with NO overcommitment.

--This requires the PATIENCE and faith in sensitivity to NOT MOVE TOO EARLY, but to wait for the overcommitment and panic to penetrate. It's about TIMING, allowing him to run into things. Swinging for the baseball too early is just as bad as swinging too late!

--Kicking: The foot moves directly to the target with complete looseness ("release") and balance, with devastating effect. (My bad luck--I was wearing shorts!) Try out a few funky angles. . . .

I then watched as John worked with Al, and demonstrated the differences he feels between Al and me. I probably didn't get most of what was going on, as my head was already bursting from all the information Al had just downloaded to it!

--John feels how to disrupt the spine, allowing him to completely take Al's balance and crush his structure to deliver fight-ending blows, sometimes simultaneously.

--In addition, John "brings the chaos," creating sensory overload with multiple attacks to different locations.

--Compared to Al, my root feels more fixed (less elusive--NOT stronger) and much easier to pin down and disrupt. From any particular spot, John may have a couple things he could do to Al, but he feels dozens of things he could do to me.

Hopefully my subconscious mind will digest at least some of this powerful stuff while my conscious mind is preoccupied with feedings, diaper changes, playtime, and doing well at work to pay for it all! (Then again, if I could teach say 8 private lessons per day, 5 days per week, maybe I wouldn't have to work. . . . Oh well!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Lessons With the Masters (and Fatherhood) Part 1

Mega blog post to make up for not posting for so long. (Thanks for taking up the slack, Matt! Happy healings!)

I was going to write an extensive post about Guided Chaos-related things I've learned from my new daughter, but a) there's just too much, b) I've only just begun the learning, and c) it seems a bit personal for this blog. Suffice to say that fatherhood is AWESOME and worth missing tons of class time for (although it would be best if I could do both!). Thanks very much for the congrats and good wishes.

That being said, the few classes and private lessons I've been able to make it to have been jam-packed with powerful stuff!

From a class with John:

--I'm "thinking about getting loose" while I flow. BAD!!! I must use my looseness to immediately bring weapons online, not to "be loose!" Reactive looseness vs. wimpy/sloppy looseness.

--In some cases, the arms should be less loose than I think they should be, in order to penetrate and move the guy. Very cool thing: how to curve the penetration in and downwards with different parts of the palm in order to make the penetration inescapable, while internally dropping.

From a private lesson with Al:

--I'm actually looser than Al. The difference is in how we each use our looseness.

--I must use my looseness as an offensive weapon, not as a defensive measure.

--Sensitivity: I can feel everything faster than you can move. Every minute change I feel, I should move to end it. This can be practiced in Washing the Body.

--If I can feel everything like that, I must assume the other guy can as well. Therefore, I need to completely ghost my movement, isolating with no pressure. I must be able to step in and tool replace to my chest, drawing my arm out to strike from close range, without giving any pressure or apparent change. [Do NOT ask Al to "walk like an Egyptian" to illustrate this point. Trust me, you DON'T wanna see it!]

Stay Tuned for more super secret training tips from John and Al in Part 2...........

Monday, May 26, 2008

Shoulder Surgery Rehabiltation and Training Update

It seems there's a lot of us 40 and 50 year old aging warriors with shoulder problems because I've been getting asked lots of questions about the surgery, pain and rehab, so I thought I'd give monthly updates about what to expect (of course everyone's different but according to my physical therapist I'm slightly above average in my recovery).

There's no getting around it: the first week just sucks. The pain is relentless and you need vicodin, percoset and motrin simultaneously just maintain your sanity. You have to sleep upright in a chair or propped in bed with pillows because lying down is excrucitaing. After about a week, the vicodin begins to make you feel sick so you stop taking it and the percoset and survive on motrin (don't take more than 2400 mg of motrin a day or you'll be going back to surgery to have your liver taken out). If you have a good surgeon, he'll be getting you out of the sling after just a few days because the most important thing is to gently get back your range of motion (which isn't much cause you can't raise your arm more than 2 inches.)

After 2 weeks the pain subsides a bit but it's still there constantly at about a 3 or 4 level out of 10, going up to a 6 at night (just in time for bed). That's when you take your pain pills.

The good news is that I'm now at the 1 month mark and now the pain is down to about a constant 1-2 and it no longer goes up much at night. I can finally sleep in a bed again (but you have to watch your positions.) Rehab helps significantly (twice a week) and I can now just barely comb my own hair without propping my arm up on the mantlepiece.

It was driving me insane not to be able to do contact flow, not to mention missing the UK seminar. But I've finally started one-armed contact flow in class and that seems to (not surprisingly) help the other arm heal quicker. I'm trying to take advantage of the situation by improving my tool replacement skills (hand to forearm to tricep to shoulder) against partners using both arms. This is critical, as you will all notice how John can basically feel, defend and attack you with just one arm against your 2 easily, leaving the other hand in reserve to put your lights out. Al has also been working this with me. I'm also using my feet like a soccer player, trying to develop foot sensitivity and using all working weapons simultaneously and as creatively as I can.

Well that's it for now, hopefully new-daddy Ari gets a break long enough to pen his thoughts on mixing fatherhood with class time (Al has been kind enough to pummel him in private lessons however so I'm sure there's fodder there!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Shoulder Surgery and the One armed bandit

As some of you from class may know, I finally closed the book on 30 years of inadequate rehab, bit the bullet, and got arthroscopic surgery done on my right shoulder. Man, does this sucker hurt! The surgeon surprised me after I woke up because what we both assumed from the MRI was a simple tear and a 2 point reattachment...turned out to be three times more damage that required 2 more hours of surgery and 6 total reattachments once he got the scope in. So if you've been suffering like I have since college (30 years ago) with shoulder pain that comes and goes, thinking "I can fix this myself".... you may help yourself by getting that MRI you've been avoiding.

'Course now I'm looking at 9 months rehab til I can really go at it again but after that--watch out! I'll be tearing phone books in half and throwing big Mike thru the window (in my dreams!) In the meantime, good thing they invented Vicodin! Anybody else gone thru the shoulder 'scope ordeal? How'd it turn out? All I know is there's lots of one-armed contact flow in my future... I'm going to have to work on drills that don't screw up the surgery. One lesson I can take away from all this is the importance of warming up and not leaving your brains in your ass. The original injury was from lifting weights--and then going out and throwing 300 passes in a football game. Couldn't lift my arm for a week. That got better, but I kept re-injuring it. The final insult was 3 months ago when, after breaking my personal record in pull-ups, I decided to celebrate by immediately doing an hour of intense contact flow. Snap. After 30 years I think I finally learned my lesson. Maybe.

P.S. Just to put my whining in perspective, John needs double knee replacement and two shoulder surgeries and he's still devastating.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New expanded 2nd edition of our book coming...

Hey everybody--

This is Attack Proof co-author Matt Kovsky. You know how you can have an important face-to-face conversation with someone you don't see very often, and then, on your way home, you realize all the things you forgot to mention? Or you're on your cell phone in the car, trying to get directions before you hit that dead spot on the road ("can you hear me now??"). Well that's kind of what it was like when we put out the first edition of our book. The publisher had a deadline, a page limit, and their own ideas about what the book should be (and look like, and be titled, etc...
an interesting story in itself...) 'Course now, since we sold 20,000 copies and are one of Human Kinetics best sellers, things are a little different! it's really exciting because the 2nd edition of Attack Proof is finally going to have everything we originally wanted in it...and more.

Without them saying "oh, you have to cut this, this is too long, you have to have a section that says things this way..." we can give you full, detailed explanations of this admittedly esoteric free-form art so that there's no question what we mean when we talk about Sensitivity, Sphere of Influence, Equilibrium, "Riding the Vortex"--all that stuff that you feel instantly when you're in class but hard to get from a book (though it seems we've been getting a lot of emails lately from people who've been practicing with nothing but the book and surprising their formerly superior teachers and training partners--and getting that look from them--you know, the kind that says "what the hell have you been doing??).

There's going to be a complete groundfighting training guide, footwork and balance regimen, jetliner hijacking survival guide, point-shooting drills, exhaustive contact flow variations, total Slambag's gonna be packed.

It would've been nice if we could've finally called it "In The Eye of the Storm"... but people'd walk right past it...

Sunday, March 02, 2008

"MY LESSONS WITH THE MASTERS..." Ari Kandel's personal training blog. #36

Recently had a private lesson with Tim, and one with Al.

From the lesson with Tim:

Frankly, I'm not sure what to say about this. It was a very interesting lesson, and I KNOW I learned something important subconsciously, but I'm not consciously sure what it was. I know there was SOMETHING, however, because when I worked with Al shortly after the lesson with Tim, things were definitely different--in a good way for me! It may have something to do with something Gary Abatelli has discussed with me in the past, regarding an attitude of "not caring." Maybe I'll figure out exactly what happened someday. . . . Then again, maybe it would be best if I NEVER consciously figure it out!

From a later lesson with Al:

Hit him with your skeleton.

I'd heard this before, but when Al brought it up in the middle of what we were working on, it took on a new meaning for me in the context of being looser and more fluid with my hitting. Simply by visualizing that I was just a skeleton, and I was just guiding my bones in to hit, I was able to get rid of some excess muscle that was hindering my hitting power and fluidity. Cool stuff!

Ride the vortex.

This idea is explained briefly in the book, but this was the first time I'd had the details pointed out to me in action. Al maintained very light contact on the outsides of my arms, allowing them to slip past him and positioning his body to always be out of the way without giving any pressure. To minimize the distance he had to move, he used lots of very light tool replacement. It almost looked like he was "polishing my sphere." However, every time he let something pass or tool replaced (actually, every time he moved his body into a superior position), he was able to penetrate in and begin hitting, contouring very lightly along my body, yet still moving along the outside of the "vortex" with his own body (even when very close) to avoid being in a position where I could penetrate him. When he let me experiment with this idea, I realized that it was an excellent way for me to work on cutting down my own vulnerability while being as ghostly as possible, which is something that I've struggled with. In the past, I've often found myself leaving myself too vulnerable when trying to be ghostly and unreadable, such that my training partner was able to hit me--even if he couldn't feel me at the moment. Not very useful! I'll have to play with Riding the Vortex, as it may present a solution to this problem.

Good stuff!!!

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Lessons With the Masters #35

Had a great private lesson with Al this weekend. Afterwards, Al had a private lesson with Kevin. Because Al wanted to teach Kevin some multiple attacker stuff, I got to join in as attacker #2 and pick up some important tips.

From my lesson with Al:

--Maximize fluidity, in order to:

1) Make hitting continuous, no breaks or pauses or pulling back--advance in ONE MOVEMENT with all hits in it
2) Hide the hitting and movement--no apparent weapon until the moment of impact

--NO wind-up nor follow-through--hit through an inch and then return with the next hit

--Glide along the body while hitting such that you're always in "contact" with his intent

--Send your hitting arm through the same line as your contact arm (as in Stacking the Spears or hitting right over or under a Drac) to hide the motion and thread through the opening.

--Anticipate that he'll negate your initial hit--hence, it doesn't matter when he does!

Then with Kevin, multiple attackers:

--Stop motion with loose, heavy hits to anywhere and low drop kicks

--Dig fingers in and lift under jaw/windpipe to manipulate head in any direction you want (after hitting of course)--crack the coconuts (crash heads into other heads)!

--Drop hit (not push!) one guy into the other and immediately follow through with hit to the other

--Hit to unbalance then drop hit to send

--Ride the Lightning around them so that you're always hitting and penetrating--ALWAYS be hitting, first!

--Load your spring on one guy to hit the other guy--bounce a hit off one guy into the other guy