by Lt Col Al Ridenhour USMC, Guided Chaos Master

See video #23 ADAPTIVE DEFENSE: Why Lethal Striking Alone Is Not Enough to Save Your Life 

Training, as stated in a previous newsletter, serves as the foundation for the development of all of the attributes of Guided Chaos [i.e., balance, looseness, sensitivity and body unity] that are necessary to develop the spontaneous adaptive movement to deal with the ever-changing chaotic nature of a real fight. Through proper training we are able to develop the subconscious attributes of total freedom of action and creativity. Two of the most critical exercises toward developing this are Contact Flow and Combat Flow. Both are very similar in terms of movement but differ slightly in practice in that one is totally dedicated toward developing free flowing spontaneous movement while the other inserts the combative striking aspects of Guided Chaos Combatives as well as other tools into the movement at various speeds and levels of striking intensity.

What is Contact Flow?

Each time you touch someone there is information going back and forth between you and that person--sort of a subconscious communication. When you train you must work on becoming so sensitive that even in shades of gray you can distinguish between the specks of black and white. You must learn to feel everything with every part of your body and not just your hands and understand what it means. This in turn will drive your actions and your Body Unity
--Grand Master Perkins

...Or words to that effect. Again, the better you are at applying the principles the more efficient and proficient you become at it. Those who understand the subtle differences and how to use their physical attributes within their own bodies [Body Unity] will have an advantage over a more physically developed adversary.

Contact Flow is a free flowing exercise which as described in various newsletters and in Attack Proof is designed to train your mind and body on a subconscious level to develop the feel or touch if you will necessary for dealing with another persons motion. It is an exercise that allows your mind and body to develop an infinite number of sensations and body positions within the movement while dealing with another human being.

What Contact Flow is not!

It is not a set of preordained patterned movements that only serve to lock your mind into one idea or type of movement (brain lock). Nor is Contact Flow the slap happy standoff movement that some (as we have seen) have tried to imitate. It is close-in movement in which you move with another human being--in many cases within their most intimate personal comfort zone.

In fact dare I say Contact Flow is a form of adaptive free flowing moving meditation that allows your brain and central nervous system or better yet neural muscular anatomy to develop a multitude of sensations on a subconscious level. It is this lack of preordained movements and freedom of action during the exercise that enables people to develop the adaptive qualities necessary for dealing with the ever-changing nature of a real fight. This is accomplished because your brain is now free to adapt and create on the fly rather than look for the patterned matching response to a given movement.

This is one of the main reasons (at least in my view) why many martial arts systems with dogmatic techniques (no matter how logically contrived) that appear to work in the dojo almost never work in a real street fight. Unless you are fighting another martial artist who has trained basically the same way, you are doing no better than guessing when attempting to apply patterned movement to a chaotic situation. This is why structured, choreographed or sportive techniques with rules do not work in real fights. The limitations imposed on it make the techniques unsuitable in an environment where the movement dynamics are virtually limitless. A fight is no time for guesswork. The Contact Flow exercise resolves some of this by reducing the amount of uncertainty by teaching you to deal with another persons motion when in direct contact with them.

How to practice Contact Flow

When performing contact flow you are trying to develop as many experiences with as many different body types as possible while moving with another human being to train and teach your mind and body simultaneously how to deal with another persons motion applying the principles of Guided Chaos.

When practicing Contact Flow (especially for the first time) you want to move slooooooooooowly. I cannot overemphasize this point because believe it or not, the faster you move (especially in the beginning) the less you will learn and the slower your development. I know this sounds paradoxical to what you think you will need to do to be able to develop the ability to deal with the utter chaos of a real fight but think of it this way: Just as when you first learned how to drive a car, throw a baseball or play a musical instrument, you started off slowly and then as you gradually developed proficiency you were able to increase the speed, tempo etc.

Contact Flow is no different except you want to generally stay at a very slow speed when you practice it. One of the analogies I like that one of our instructors uses is when you are driving your car and following directions you intuitively drive at a slower speed to ensure that you have time to see where you are going. It allows you to pay attention to where you are going otherwise you will miss when you need to turn, get off at an exit etc.

When working with people during contact flow you want to start off being very light at first, moving slowly so that you learn to feel everything. Now, and please pay close attention to this, when flowing when your arm or hand is on top [Fig-2a below] with your hands or arms you are just "there", when you're on the bottom [Fig-2b] you're just there and so on. Your touch is ultra-light and your arms have almost a floating feeling. This same thing applies even when hands / arms are on the inside or outside of their arms or if you're touching their body. At this point in the training you are NOT pushing or applying force of any kind. You are neither hard nor soft; you're just there. Your muscles (with the exception of only those muscles involved in the movement) are so relaxed they seem almost flaccid.

In the sequence of photos above, you can see that as I flow with Al Tino (Close Combat Master and 4th Dan Guided Chaos) you can see that no matter where the other person moves, because we are staying light to the touch with our arms as well as our hands, we are able to follow the other person's movements and negate potential strikes since we feel the other persons intentions as they move.

This level of sensitivity can only be accomplished through the proper practice of Contact Flow. Notice that in photo sequence 3 through 5 that as I feel his elbow come up against me rather than trying to stop his elbow (which would be impractical under high-speed conditions) I simply move out of the way and redirect his energy. Notice in photo 12 that as he strikes my mid-section, rather than try to do something that may be impractical (such as attempting to block his strike) I simply pocket my body. This would allow me to strike simultaneously, becoming the spike in the sponge.

This sort of back and forth flowing within the Contact Flow exercise is what you want. At this level there are no winners or losers, just two people moving with each other within the principles of Guided Chaos trying to develop the attributes on a subconscious level.

Remember, when you can feel them, they can also feel you. Also, you can't change the density or structure of your body so through your sensitivity [see the Attackproof Companion Part 3 and Guided Chaos Combat Conditioning DVDs to see this applied] you are able to achieve the Ghost-like quality expounded throughout Guided Chaos by remaining light throughout your body and not just through your hands and arms.

Remember that when performing the Contact Flow Exercise it is just that--an exercise. Also note that in photos 1 through 3 below that no matter where the other person moves you'll want to be able to respond to a variety of movements based on what you feel. Do not limit your movement to moving in just one direction, also do not get caught up in developing patterned movements as you flow but accept what you feel for what it is and noting more. Final point to this: Notice in photos 4,5 and 6 that my arm moves back and forth as I am describing an aspect of Contact Flow. The reason for this is that as I sense through my sensitivity subtle changes in his movement I am able to adjust without thought.

The point is, by controlling your body (especially your arms) and remaining light to the touch, not only do you feel everything that they are doing but with practice you will learn to isolate around these points and mask your intentions, thus making your body unavailable and your strikes unavoidable since the person you are in contact with never gains a point or reference from which to counter your movement. Eventually you'll want to extend this type of movement to the rest of your body in order to develop the ability to Ghost your movements or intentions as you enter (that will be the subject of another newsletter).

Key points to remember when performing Contact Flow:

  • Train to develop as many experiences with as many different body types as possible
  • Train and teach your mind and body simultaneously to deal with another person's motion
  • Focus on applying the principles of Guided Chaos
  • When practicing for the first time you want to move extremely slowly
  • Do not rest your arms or hands on top of their arms

[Final note: Once again, do not, do not, do not, do not, do not rest your arms or hands on top of theirs. If you do this, not only will they feel this pressure, but you have now given up control of your arms, something you should never do. DONT DO IT!!! Just thought I'd mention it again...]

Combat Flow?

The Way of strategy is the Way of nature. When you appreciate the power of nature, knowing rhythm of any situation, you will be able to hit the enemy naturally and strike naturally. All this is the Way of the Void.
--Shinmen Musashi, A Book of Five Rings

By practicing proper Contact Flow through the principles of Guided Chaos over time one begins to develop a natural, relaxed way of moving. Each movement is fluid and free flowing so while it may not look pretty it is often more efficient and powerful than the flashy cool-looking stuff [remember: cool will get you killed]. This is because the natural movement that is emphasized within the art is seamless and fluid whereas structured movement as taught in many arts is stiff, choppy and predictable. Through the development of the principles, one is able to be whatever they need to be when they need to be it. It is the ability to be hard and soft all at the same time.

In the photos below [1 through 8] you can see the basic GC Combatives Strikes. Really nothing fancy here, which by the way is why they work. When performing Combat Flow you begin to insert the various lethal strikes into your movement, moving slowly since for obvious reasons such strikes are inherently dangerous. Oh--one point I want to stress and that is when viewing either a demonstration in our books or DVDs, please understand that what may appear to look like grappling is far from it. These are lethal strikes and neck breaks or what we refer to as finishing moves. The problem is there is no way to demonstrate them full speed without someone ending up either being killed or breathing through a tube in their necks for the rest of their lives.


While practicing Combat Flow when I move, I am always moving to strike no matter what, even when I am Ghosting my movements as I enter and eluding the opponent's strikes simultaneously. I insert the strikes into the flow as a part of the movement and not in isolation of it. Also I never try to “block” another persons' arm per se because the act of blocking actually slows you down as well as gives away your intention.

For example in photo’s 1 to 4 as Al Tino attempts to strike me, rather than trying to block what he is doing, as I feel his intention, I simply re-direct his fist. As he attempts to recover by slipping out of the way I am able to catch his opposite arm in a nasty break.  Understand that this is all happening within the flow and not in isolation of it.  This is not a choppy sort of sequence of movements much like you see in many martial arts movies where even when the movement is dynamic it is more akin to stop motion animation.  This is fluid and seamless. It is also "alive" and unchoreographed!

As we flow we continue to move to strike and negate the effects of the other person's strikes by either becoming unavailable as they move to strike, while becoming unavoidable by striking first.   Thus our strike is our block and our block is our strike.

When striking, resist the temptation to speed up or chamber your strike when feeling an opening; otherwise you will totally throw off the timing of your strike. Just as there is a certain timing to striking a baseball there is also a timing to striking people and depending on your body alignment will depend on how and where you strike and when.

Above all, by speeding up, not only do you teach your body to move in an unnatural manner but you are doing something that is scientifically impossible. If both of you are moving at, let’s say, full speed, there is no way (unless you’re Superman) that you can all of a sudden become two to three times as fast as another human being. Believe it or not, when you do this during the Combat Flow, all you are doing is creating a false dynamic to fighting in your mind and body that does not exist.

This is not to say that there is not a time to train moving fast but if you are to do this then it needs to be understood by your training partner that you want to move faster. In this way you are both moving in sync to facilitate the proper timing within the movement with your strikes.

Key points to remember when performing Combat Flow:

  • When practicing Combat Flow always move to strike
  • Insert the strikes into the flow as a part of the movement and not in isolation of it
  • Never try to block since the act of blocking actually slows you down as well as gives away your intention
  • When striking, resist the temptation to speed up or chamber your strikes when feeling an opening otherwise you will totally throw off the timing of your strike
  • Remember: Speeding up teaches your body to move in an unnatural, scientifically impossible manner

Advanced Combat Flow

As your ability to perform Combat Flow increases you will begin to develop the ability to drop strike with tremendous force form virtually every angle against a variety of targets.  So for example in the process of moving to strike if their arm gets in my way rather than trying to block it, I hit it out of the way as if I were striking it in an attempt to break it by clashing with it as I move in.  In doing this it allows me to knock it out of the way and continue onto my next strike. This is the essence of what I do when I “Ride the Lightning”.  At the higher levels you will even begin to develop the ability to either subtly take another person’s balance with a light touch from the slightest angle or take their balance “as you strike them”!  A little harder to do but it is something that is totally learnable.  Most of the Guided Chaos 2nd Degrees especially those with exceptional balance can do this.

At the end of the day there is a “fusion” of the concepts whereas there is no beginning or end to the movement but one of continuous “adaptive flow”.  It is this ability to adapt that in my view is what truly separates Guided Chaos Combatives as well as other Guided Chaos concepts from all others.  We accept up front that the enemy is not going to cooperate with your plan and that you must possess the ability to adapt with the ever-changing nature of a real fight.  Nor do we accept that one strike, even to a vital area, is enough to stop a determined attacker, especially one that is high on some sort of drug or is emotionally disturbed.


Remember when performing Contact Flow and Combat Flow, the slower you are able to move, the more you are able to feel and see. The more you are able to feel and see, the more you will be able to create what you need where you need it, when you need it. After a while you literally begin to develop a sixth sense as to where the other person's hands and other weapons are in relation to your body. More importantly, you begin to feel another person's intention before they are able to get their stuff off.

Eventually you begin to develop the ability to create false surfaces or become like a ghost and strike from seemingly every possible angle all at the same time. This is the ability that many practitioners have described as like being struck by a car: Just when you think you are clear, you are hit from out of nowhere with crushing force. This is because, as described in an earlier newsletter, this type of natural movement and striking comes from The Void of limitless possibilities where there is no beginning, there is no end; it merely is. The more natural the movement and coordinated the movement, the more likely it will work, the more structured or unnatural the movement, the less likely it will work.

Other Philosophical Points to Guide You in Your Training


Spoon Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Spoon Boy: There is no spoon.

Neo: There is no spoon?

Spoon Boy: Then you'll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
--Spoon Boy, The Matrix

I've discussed this before in a previous newsletter "It isnt Anything Parts I & II" so I wont rehash it all here but merely reemphasize some key points because the dialog above really nails it. When seeking the higher levels of anything (beyond mastering the basics), creative thinking is crucial. In order to accomplish this it often all boils down to changing your perspective or the way you think about a thing and seeing things differently than you currently do.

People like to call this "thinking outside of the box", which is the wrong way to look at it. Just as Neo needed to understand that there is no spoon in the film The Matrix, you need to realize that there is no box to step outside of. Once you start with a box you have already created something in your mind that limits your creativity because the box doesnt really exist.

In other words, from the basic principles one is able to develop a multitude of responses and you are not limited by them but eventually you begin to learn to manipulate them at will. From there, you are, for the most part, only limited by your imagination because there is no box.

This is another reason why when we train people, whenever we show them a technique we like to stress that this is only an idea of what you could do, however for that moment you are the master of that motion based on what you perceive. In other words, don't fall in love with any specific technique. Again, the truth is it isn't like anything, it is what we want it to be when we need it, where we need it, because the fight is what it is; it is less about what you want to do versus what you have to do. As we always say to students, "as long as it is within the laws of physics and human physiology don't ever let anyone tell you what you can't do."

Well that's all for now, hope this aids you in your practice and development.