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Monday, August 31, 2009

Jedi Mind Tricks for Guided Chaos Growth

Here's another little "mind game" I've been using lately that seems to help some students.

Note that as in the "Art of Perception" section of the Attack Proof 2nd edition, a lot of the training tips I give in this blog are more mental tricks to get your body moving better than they are instructions to be taken literally. Don't get too caught up with them. Better movement and reactivity in line with the GC principles is a singular goal. However, different people will perceive, understand and feel this differently, and in many different ways along the jo
urney. Hence, certain mental tricks and instructions may work well for certain people, while other people will require different ones. This is one reason why John teaches different individuals differently. And in the end, mental tricks or not, there's no getting around the requirement of hours upon hours of good contact flow practice, backed up by consistent practice of the supplemental exercises.

Just play along with me on this: Imagine that your arms and your body are extremely weak. They are so weak that they cannot offer any resistance against the ultra-powerful arms and body of your training partner.

When I consider my arms to be strong, it is easy for you to hit me or unbalance me as my arms strain to keep you away.

When I consider my arms w
eak but my body strong, it becomes less easy for you to unbalance me via my arms, because they offer no resistance for you to push against. They stick lightly but move before any pressure can build. The problem for me arises, however, when you pin my arms to my "strong" body (torso) or bypass my arms to get to my body. My strong body "thinks" it can resist or "take" whatever you have to offer, hence it offers resistance, and can be easily unbalanced and penetrated.

When I consider both my arms and my body too weak to offer any resistance, the only thing that can "resist" you is the ground, which my feet rest on. I cannot resist or absorb any of your motion with my arms or body. Any movement I feel from you must immediately be absorbed down into the feet, which are supported by the "strong" ground. Nothing in between my feet and you can resist or stop in the face of your motion. The feet must absorb any movement by shifting weight, sinking or otherwise adjusting immediately, NOT waiting for any slack to be taken out of the arms or body. This movement can be EXTREMELY small. As the motion is absorbed by the feet into the ground, it can naturally bounce back u
p through my weak body and arms into you.

A corollary to this is that because my arms and body are weak, I cannot use them to hit you. My arm is too weak to hurt you; it's even too weak to move in a "striking" fashion! Only the ground is strong, so my feet must push against it in order to make the bones of my weak body and arms hit you.

Big credit to Steve in San Fran for first pulling this idea out of me (by his having "strong" arms!). They have a good group beginning out there.

he idea was greatly inspired by the new Grandmaster Tim Carron Contact Flow Workshop DVD. Get it, and turn the sound way up so that you don't miss anything that Tim says. A lot of gold there, some of it quite funny.

A Tim-ism to close on (not from the DVD):
"Movement is just movement, it's not personal." Repeat this to yourself when you flow--it's very powerful.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Balance Secrets Revealed...

A "eureka!" moment and subsequent musings born from recent semi-private sessions and advanced classes with John:

John showed how in multiple-attacker situations, he's able to "easily" (i.e. without significant muscular effort) move his body and the attackers' bodies such that the attackers get in each others' way and even hurt each other. The "aha!" moment for me was when he had me put my hand in between his hand and the body he was pushing. There was actually very little pressure! Certainly not enough to "push someone off-balance" in the conventional sense. John uses his sensitivity and body unity to position himself to push/pulse at just the right angle and location to control the bad guy's balance with very little actual pressure. As John explains, a person in motion can be on balance only at one particular point/angle at any given moment. John feels where this is and takes control of the person's balance from a different point/angle that requires very little pressure because some component of the person's balance is moving that way or close to it already. Here's the catch: If you're the person being pushed, it FEELS like John must be pushing very hard, with overwhelming force, because you can't catch your balance. That has been misleading me in my training up to this point. I always assumed that because it FELT like John was applying overwhelming force to take my balance, that must have been what was happening. I knew he wasn't applying brute muscular force, but I thought his body unity and alignment enabled him to push extremely hard to take my balance.

The reality, however, is something very different. Check out the next Guided Chaos Newsletter to find out how John is able to hit people anywhere at will with demolishing force and minimal energy...

Monday, May 04, 2009

My Lessons With the Masters: Stuff I'm Working On...

--If someone drops on your arm, you must, with as little movement as possible, yield and then reattach in a different position, i.e. having moved your center.

--When doing slower contact flow, you have to remember to move with the same dynamics as a full-speed, full-power fight. Avoid the temptation to move only as little as the slow-speed energy level demands in order to get your strike in sooner. For example, a student will sometimes slightly pocket a slow aligned strike to his left chest, while striking back with the left arm. He thinks this is economical and efficient, minimizing movement and time to strike. At low speed with low energy, it seems as if this would be possible. All you have to do, though, is imagine that the slow strike is being throw full-speed, full-power, full-body by a big, angry guy, and you'll realize that the slight pocket without any other change in the body would not save you at all. You'd be whacked completely off-balance, and your counterstrike would never land. You'd realize that you have to pocket, sink, turn and move your center to avoid being bowled over by the strike. Your counterstrike then naturally comes from your right arm as you turn. Moving slowly, this might appear to take a lot of time and movement. Full-speed, however, this movement actually allows for the fastest and most devastating counterstrike, that hits with maximum balance and alignment while the aggressor is still extending and committing into the impact. You want this kind of movement to be reinforced by the slow training, not the "shorter" yet unrealistic movement described earlier. The benefits of slow contact flow are immense. Do not, however, lose sight of the true dynamics of a full-energy fight. To do so is to implant unrealistic expectations in the subconscious mind that could get you killed in reality. This is also a reason to practice contact flow at all speeds once enough balance, looseness, sensitivity, control and trust have been developed. Understanding the dynamics inherent in higher-speed flow enable you to keep things realistic at lower speeds.

--To break base legs, the force of your kick should penetrate and angle downwards to pin the target leg to the ground, leaving no way for the target leg to escape out into the air. Of course, just casually jabbing your steel toe into the ankle just above the foot can do great damage regardless.

--The downward intention of your body, no matter what direction it's actually going, creates the unstoppable "weight" of Guided Chaos striking and unbalancing from any position, without any actual commitment of balance.

--John knows so many devastatingly subtle and surprising ways of using all possible ridges of the body (e.g. fingertips, second knuckles, many others) to damage other bodies . . . it's just WRONG!!! And it's possible only through mastery of the principles and the GC training exercises. Without a ton of balance, looseness, body unity, sensitivity, and slam bag practice, none of these evil methods would even be possible.

--As your mastery of the GC principles progresses, your teachers can increasingly show you more and more possibilities and "tricks" regarding movement and tactics, and your subconscious will increasingly quickly absorb and integrate them into your spontaneous movement. John is able to simply show and explain various ideas to the GC masters, and they are then able to utilize them free-form with very little additional practice or thought. Great example: John had Tim show Michael Watson some subtle uses of the fingers and wrists for control and cutting angles (at least that's what it looks like from the outside). Minutes later, Michael was utterly befuddling the rest of us by using these methods. It's the mastery of the basic principles that allows this. (Of course, Michael's subconscious integration and use of these methods will improve even further with additional practice, as with anything.) If John were to show me or another lower-level student the same idea, it would likely be close to useless, as my body does not yet move well enough (i.e. in line with the principles) to understand and utilize the idea.

So, time to go work the principles. . . .
--Ari Kandel

Friday, February 06, 2009

My Lessons With The Masters--Really Deep Stuff!

Here is some really deep stuff (and my interpretations of it) from my last couple months of training with John.

Incidentally, the reason why I have a lot more training tips on the blog from e.g. Lt. Col. Al than from John is that a greater percentage of John's training is completely subliminal and personal. Whatever John may be saying at the moment, most of the time the real lesson that he's teaching directly to your subconscious is contained in the contact, pressure and movement his body is giving you. Most of the time, you're not consciously aware of what your body and subconscious mind are being taught . . . but the improvement is evident when you subsequently work with other people.

--"New/old" exercise: flowing with the big foam cylinder. In John's youth, the ancestor to this drill was "fighting over a log." Using the big foam cylinder with a bit less "bad intention" makes for a more subtle drill that brings out very interesting feelings and movement. Through doing this drill with John, I had an "epiphany" regarding the CONSTANT rolling movement, NO STOPPING me or him, no seizing or muscling, just letting the cylinder roll and adjust. I must try to bring that same feeling to regular contact flow.

--More wet dishrag = more mushin. During contact flow with another student, John told me to feel more like a "wet dishrag". This allowed me to better release my looseness from the interference of conscious control. Rather than focusing on what was going on between me and my training partner, John's admonition made me focus more on my general internal feelings of looseness and heaviness (balance), disregarding (consciously) the actual movements, and hence making me far more dangerous.

--Balance can be in only one angle at a time. But if you keep it constantly moving and readjusting, it becomes difficult for your training partner or enemy to get a fix on it. Hence, the root that can't be found.

--Loosness can be in only one place at a time. If you loosen a part of your body, another part of your body must solidify. For example, if I loosen and pocket one side of my ribcage, the other side solidifies and is vulnerable. Therefore, I can't commit to or let my conscious focus go to a single loosening, but I must keep moving and flowing, loosening in any particular place only briefly with as little motion as is necessary, more trampoline-like than modeling clay-like.

--John makes me think/feel that something is coming in one place, which makes me loosen to absorb in that place, thereby solidifying in another place, which he then hits.

--I must have the PATIENCE to "ride" my training partner and feel where he's off-balancing himself and take advantage, rather than trying to force the issue and use muscular effort to disrupt his balance where it is strong.

--Natural athletes can pick stuff up quickly and "do" it (i.e.mimic kinds of motion), and can force things to happen through their superior athleticism (speed/strength/mass/coordination). We "non-naturals" (e.g. John, me) must understand the depth of the principles through experience, and be completely mushin, as we can't force anything to happen. Of course, the better we train the "naturals" to be like us (combining their natural attributes with deep understanding of the principles through experience), the better it forces us to become.

--Mushin, like most things, is present in degrees. It's not an all-or-nothing idea. You can have more or less conscious interference without being completely "no-mind" or completely "paralyzed by conscious analysis." Of course, all other things being equal, the "more Mushin" person has the advantage.

--The "Mind Like Water" analogy imagines the perceiving mind as a perfectly still, placid pond, perfectly reflecting the moon. The "moon" is REALITY, the reflection is the mind's perception of reality. Roil the waters with thought, emotion, etc., and the reflection gets distorted. The more roiled, the more distorted and distant from reality the perception becomes. Emotional attachment must be jettisoned. The opposite of hate is not love, but indifference--lack of any emotional attachment to the person or object. Love and hate of the enemy as well as love and hate of the self must not disturb the pond, or else you will not be able to accurately perceive and flow with reality.

Big shout-out to Bill in San Diego, and Marlon and Marc in Florida. They made the time and effort to get "hands-on" experience with Guided Chaos while I was visiting their towns, as I announced on the GC Forum. They've promised to post some impressions on the forum. I know that Bill has already gotten the opportunity to successfully apply the few hours of training he got (not to a life-and-death situation, but still, it clicked!). Also, shout-outs to Mike in L.A. and Evan and John in OH and KY. They got in touch with me and tried to hook up for training, but scheduling/circumstances prevented it. Hopefully soon guys! Props for making the effort. Good example for the other "fans" out there. Remember, reading/talking about GC/combat will not help you much. Training on your own is the critical first step. Getting instructor contact, either where you live or in NY, will multiply the benefits of your solo/group training exponentially. Just ask Bill, Marlon and Marc, or for that matter, Bob Miller in the Northwest and Ken Freeman in Chicago.

The new year is already one-twefth gone. Get on it!!!