By L tCol Al Ridenhour

Recently a reader of our newsletters took us to task by pointing out something that really goes to the heart of the matter and that is that none of us are getting any younger and wanted to know "why there weren't any materials addressing self defense training for the elderly?" He also pointed out something that I alluded to in my last newsletter, that regardless of martial arts style the bad guys are predators and will strike where they know they can win and are unconcerned with your martial prowess. As the saying goes "why hunt wolves when there are plenty of sheep to be had?"

While we don't specifically refer to the principles, skills and techniques that we teach as being geared toward the old or the young we do recognize that there are limitations as to what some people can do because of things like age, size, strength etc... I think the operative phrase here is not so much age but "diminished capacity". While that may sound like a bunch of "PC" gobbledy-gook I think it more clearly defines the problem. As the reader aptly points out, none of us are getting any younger and the more physically demanding the activity the more rapid the decline in one's physical ability to perform at whatever previous levels you were able to perform at.

Probably no other arena where this is more true is the business of professional sports. Pro sports (especially contact sports) is truly a young man's game which is why you don't see any of the great athletes of yesteryear still competing.  In a street attack, a thug will show a senior citizen no mercy. Remember that criminals are predators and they are always sizing up their prey. The question is, are you making yourself an easy target or are you someone who will be too much of a hassle for them to want to take a chance with? These are questions that only each person can answer for themselves but they are something to keep in mind throughout this newsletter.

In Part I of this newsletter I will offer some philosophical comments along with a few concepts on how to deal with size, strength and speed of a much more agile or robust person. In Part II I will focus on some basic exercises and drills to do but understand that there is nothing earth shattering in either newsletter that hasn't been said many times in a multitude of ways.


Often I'm asked "when training in order to improve what should I do?" usually I tell them to do the exercises as outlined in our book Attack Proof or as demonstrated in class but I also offer a few caveats. First of all only you can really judge your own level of fitness and physical ability therefore I always caution people to do what they can do within their own bodies limits and not beyond it. Let's face: it regardless of age, in something like 99% of the population no matter who you are there is always someone bigger, stronger or faster than you and if you always challenge those rules head on you will lose. And even if you are currently bigger and stronger than most people will you always be that way? It is this simple fact that prompted Grand Master Perkins to create the art of Guided Chaos.

As an aside, one of the main reasons why I know Guided Chaos is a real martial art is not because of what I can do or what some of our more physically gifted instructors can do but because we are able to duplicate the process in people with seemingly little to no physical advantages, allowing them to develop their fighting prowess well beyond their own physical limitations. This is not magic: with proper training in the true dynamics and forensic reality that govern mortal combat, people are able to develop their fighting prowess to a high level.

I've also noticed that unlike other arts, because we rely on principles and strategy rather than the physical, that the more people practice the art, even as they age, they continue to improve (unlike other arts where fighting prowess tends to diminish). While this may be hard for some to believe, it is none-the-less true. While in other more physically demanding arts their knowledge seems to increase with time, it does not always correlate into improvement in ability. Again I believe it is because much of their training is geared toward developing those things which only diminish over time (i.e., strength, speed, stamina etc...)

One of the things you have to learn when training is to not fight another person's fight. Below I will offer some very basic tips of what you can practice when performing contact flow and other drills that will move you in the right direction and teach you to fight within your own body 's abilities. As always, what I am describing here is in no way limited to what you can do but is merely presented to plant the idea in your mind. I will focus on the big three or what I call the Three "S's": size, speed and strength, and build on this over the next few pages.

--When dealing with Size: learn not to challenge size but to stay off line of their weapons in the fight and possibly use it against your attacker by forcing him to over commit on his strikes. This will temporarily place him out of position and possibly off balance enough for you to strike.

--When dealing with Speed: you must learn how to counteract speed through the use of your sensitivity versus challenging speed. Also be aware that people with speed generally possess a lot of explosive hitting power.  Yet it is only effective if they can penetrate your body. By changing your body and stepping out of the way even if you only move off line by a few inches, it's often enough to buy you time to deal with their speed.

When dealing with Strength: learn to stay out of the way and remain loose. Generally bigger people are stronger and usually have some measure of speed as a result of that strength. Resist the temptation to challenge strength with strength and use it against them, causing them to run into your strikes, thus increasing the power and speed of your own strikes.

[Note: in truth each has a similar effect on you when fighting and have similar solutions as to how to negate their effects but work for different reasons. However in your responses you must understand that at the end of the day you're just dealing with their motion and nothing more. If you make it more complex than that you have completely missed the point.]


Let's get something straight here: in a real fight the only thing that matters is victory. Anything less is folly. As Mao stated in his "Little Red Book" outlining the principles of war, in war "...the ultimate goal is the preservation of yourself and the destruction of your enemy." Notice that none of this speaks to physical prowess, fitness or winning in a sparring match. It's because a real fight (like war) is an all or nothing proposition and useless nonsense quickly goes "the way of the Do-Do." Your goal in a real confrontation is victory in the quickest, most efficient manner possible and speaks directly to your mindset. It is with this understanding in mind that you must focus your training.

--Focus on target areas and end it as quickly as possible; the more protracted the fight the worse it becomes.

--Never overlook the obvious, when striking go for the "low hanging fruit;" take what he gives you and use everything available to you. I sort of liken this mindset to the scene in the movie "Unforgiven" when a man complains about Clint Eastwood's character gunning down an unarmed man and Eastwood's character replies, "Well, he should have armed himself..."

--Focus on function over form, remember "Cool" will get you killed. The sloppier it looks and the simpler the technique the more likely it will work.

THE BASICS [Balance, Looseness, Sensitivity and Body Unity Exercises]:

When training regardless of physical ability you must train in the principles to achieve optimum levels of lethality otherwise without them your strikes will lack focus. Rather than rehash it all here I have referenced some of the more relevant newsletters and as always for a more in-depth understanding please see our book Attack Proof and our DVD's. 

--Balance [Newsletters 54 & 55]
--Looseness [Newsletter 53]
--Sensitivity [Newsletter 51]
--Body Unity [Newsletters 68 and 70]
--Dropping Power [Newsletters 7 & 52]
--Stepping Off Line and Re-entering [Newsletter 44]

The bottom line is if you focus on the principles they will lead you in the right direction and give you what you need regardless of age, size, speed or strength. As long as you know your limitations the principles will enable you to work around them.


One of the best analogies for dealing with the Three "S's" that I often use is the analogy that Grand Master Perkins uses and that is being like a matador in a Bullfight. Let's face it: when it comes to dealing with all three there probably aren't too many things tougher than staring down a bull and avoiding his initial charge. Look at the size of these bulls in the pictures below, are you kidding me!?! Even on your best day you couldn't hope to best one of these animals at his game. Not only is he bigger, stronger and faster he is armed with two nasty horns designed for one thing, killing... barring those freaks of nature who seem strong and agile regardless of size here's the deal people: people who are lean and generally bigger are stronger, people who are generally stronger are more explosive and thus are generally more agile over shorter distances.

Above in Fig-1a, we can see that as the matador stares down the bull he is at a good distance. Notice that at this point his body is in line with the bull. As the bull charges [Fig-1b] notice that the matador moves only at the last possible moment. This is because if he moves too soon the bull has time to re-orient and mow him down. Fig-1c gives you a better understanding of this though harder to judge the distance it is clear that the matador is directly in line with the bull's horns.

Now in Fig-1d notice that the matador moves out of the way "at the last second" and notice also how "close" he remains to the bull. This is because in truth the matador knows that the best place for him to be is either far enough from the bull so that he can run or right at his side which prevents the bull from quickly changing direction since he doesn't have time to turn fast enough. In this same way are you able to negate the effects of size, speed and strength of a much larger person all at once using the same principles, which is the reason why we place so much emphasis on the principles to hone your body unity to that of the Matador's. No technique or strike is guaranteed to stop a much larger opponent which is why it's critical that you develop your Body Unity to become unavailable yet unavoidable, because as you can see below when it goes bad... Ouch!

As you can see above in Fig's-2a and 2b these guys didn't fare to well but this is important. Because in this same vein this is exactly what happens to folks who neglect the effects the Three "S's" have on them in a real fight. They think their fancy kicks, Eagle Claw, Cool Wrist Locks, Vulcan Neck Pinch or their cardio-kickboxing moves are going to allow them to stand up toe-to-toe with a physically superior opponent. These are the same clowns by the way who teach women how to place arm bars on men twice their size and then tell them that through "proper application" they will be able to over come their strength. Pulleeze...


Still not convinced? Okay below is a magnificent Silver Back Gorilla [Fig-3], he probably weighs in at about 450lbs and can bench press the axle of a train. As you can see in the photo on the right he also looks pretty ticked off. Now anyone who thinks they can stand up against this creature and apply their bogus moves, whatever they're smoking it's probably not legal.  While these are extreme examples I think you get the point: size, strength and speed do matter. Anyone who doubts this, the next time you are at the primate house at the Bronx Zoo just hop in the cage and smack one of the gorillas in the head and then attempt the move of your choice. By the way, that crushing sound you hear, well that's your thigh bone cracking in half as he pull off your leg to beat you with it. Enough said...

If what I'm saying isn't true then why are there weight classes in sport fighting? The explanation is obvious, when there are rules limiting what you can do to an opponent, the bigger person has a serious physical advantage that cannot be overlooked. Those who defy the laws of physics will end up like the matadors in the pictures above who didn't get out of the way in time. The key is to learn to work around those things to the best of your ability.  


Okay here we go. In both Fig- 4a, and Fig- 4b we have two swords of the same type one obviously longer than the other. Because the sword on the left is longer when both swords move forward "at the same time" for the same distance [Fig-4b] the longer sword reaches its target first. This is the same when dealing with someone with greater reach. In the next set of pictures I illustrate this in more detail. 


The reason I use swords to illustrate this is because it's easier to explain in this fashion and just as with the analogy of fighting a bull it negates all bogus arguments, whether with knives, swords or even the hand, if you get whacked across the throat "for real" you're probably done and just like my bull fighting example unless you're the "son of Krypton" you're done, period. You and I regardless of size, age and strength must learn to be unavailable to their weapons and physical advantages while making our strikes unavoidable for the attacker. Once again "Red" is the bad guy "Blue" the good guy.

In Fig-5a [above] you can see that when you challenge reach or size head-on you are playing to their advantage.

Fig-5b illustrates this problem a little better-- you can see that the sword on the right is at a huge disadvantage.

In Fig-5c you can see the end result of challenging a sword or persons reach. By the way this applies when dealing with weapons such as a knife in which the attacker either is taller or has a longer reach which in turn extends the range of the blade.


"Whenever you cross swords with an enemy you must not think of cutting him either strongly or weakly; just think of cutting and killing him. Be intent solely on killing the enemy. Killing is the same for people who know about fighting and for those who do not...cutting down the enemy is the Way of strategy, and there is no need for many refinements of it. "
 - Miyamoto Musashi, "The Book of Five Rings,"

In this illustration we have the same set up only instead of walking straight into the teeth of the enemy's strength the Blue Man steps "off line and in" on a 45°degree angle cutting off the angle [Fig's- 6b& 6] while striking with the sword simultaneously delivering the coupe de' grace. Understand that the footwork / body unity is the same as with all of the footwork as outlined in Attack Proof and previous newsletters. And like the matador you only step as little as you need.


"When the enemy attacks and you also attack with the long sword, you should go in with a sticky feeling and fix your long sword against the enemy's as you receive his cut. The spirit of stickiness is not hitting very strongly, but hitting so that the long swords do not separate easily. It is best to approach as calmly as possible when hitting the enemy's long sword with stickiness. The difference between ‘Stickiness' and ‘Entanglement' is that stickiness is firm and entanglement is weak. You must appreciate this."
- Miyamoto Musashi, "The Book of Five Rings,"

In this example [Fig-7] we have the same set up as before only now as soon as you see the slightest movement you are going to begin your movement off line and in. Notice in each example that you actually touch swords. This is because if possible you always want to have a little contact forcing them to deal with your strike while allowing you to "feel" them through your sword as you enter. "Touch lightly" step in and strike to victory. This movement is the epitome of what is referred to in our newsletters (and the Attackproof Companion DVD Part 3) as "Ride the Lightning." By touching with your sword like Musashi [hands or feet...] you are able to know where they are in relation to your body thus judging how little you need to move off line and where to penetrate them.

Well that's it for now. In Part II I'm going to get into some of the techniques, drills and exercises that you can practice on your own.