A GC 4th Degree's Meditation on Contact Flow
by Yosef Susskind
Listen Up: His Insights Could Ignite an Explosion in YOUR Ability

"If you want a peek into what I have wanted expressed about the inner pathways of Guided Chaos then read Yosef's excellent description. It will draw you deep within and enhance your own understanding." --Grand Master John Perkins

"This is the type of no BS meditative writing that needs to be amongst the cannon of our teachings and writings to get people's minds right and keep them there. Well done my Sith Apprentice!" --Master Al Ridenhour.

Yosef Susskind
"Dear Guided Chaos students,

Below are some thoughts on the mental aspects of the art. They are taken directly from, based on, or inspired by what John, Al, Matt, and many other advanced students have generously taught me. If you have comments, or if you would like to train near Suffern NY / Mahwah NJ, feel free to email me at JoeSusskind[at]gmail[dot]com."

[If interest is great enough Yosef will establish a Tuesday night group class in the area. --MattK]


A Fourth Degree Meditation on Contact Flow


I see all possible futures as I perceive the present moment.

The more clearly I perceive the moment the more intensely I experience it, and vice versa.

I imagine the future I desire and choose it from all possible futures.


The other movers also choose their movements.

In every moment I must harmonize my movement, my choices, my desire, with theirs.

Now my will and theirs are one, and drive our movement to a common end.


Contact Flow and Combat Flow


Contact flow is a drill.  It is not sparring; it is not a simulation of a fight.  It is a drill for developing attributes.  The drill can be practiced differently to focus on different attributes.  In order to cultivate the subtle touch, I practice without increases in speed or force.  When speed and strength are taken out of the equation, the drill becomes a game of movement—of timing and body positioning.  Unable to call on my strength or speed, I am forced to find the perfect movement, the perfect timing, the perfect body position.  I call them “perfect” precisely because they do not rely on superior speed or strength, but on the five principles of balance, looseness, sensitivity, body unity, and freedom of action.  Movements which rely on speed and strength can be overcome by a faster, stronger enemy.  When I challenge stronger, faster enemies with my own strength and speed, I die.  When I make my movement more perfect than those enemies', they die.


Practicing contact flow with increases in speed and force is called combat flow.  In the same way that soft contact flow allows me to focus on refining my movement, combat flow refines my use of force.  I learn to feel my body's mass and to use it efficiently to generate force, and to do so at the right time, at the right angle, and to the right effect.  I also get to feel the other mover doing the same to me. 


In any given position, there can be more than one right answer.  One answer might be efficient, ghosting movement, another might be efficient use of force.  Using power the right way at the right time might be called perfect, however, for the purposes of training, it is imperfect in one sense:  For any technique which requires force, there is an enemy with sufficient strength or mass to overcome that force.


The Emotional Response to Being Hit


Contact flow is a feeling drill.  Regardless of whether I am hitting or being hit, if I am feeling 100% of what is going on in my body and 100% of what is going on in the other mover's body, then I am getting 100% benefit of the drill.  Recognizing this, I forget the negative emotional response I used to produce when getting hit during the drill.  As a novice, I practiced contact flow at the level of a lab rat or a hungry pigeon, driven by little rewards and punishments.  Each strike I landed was a little, ego-affirming reward; each blow I ate was a little punishment telling me that I had been judged and found wanting.  If I had stayed in this mindset, I would be every bit as skilled as I was then.


The negative emotional response associated with being hit during contact flow confounds the learning process and defeats the purpose of the drill.  Instead of feeling what's happening in the flow, all I can feel is my frustration, and I learn nothing.  If in order to compensate for my inferior position I speed-up or muscle-up beyond the agreed upon level, I compromise the integrity of the drill, and delude myself. Imagine a game of chess.  Each player moves to gain advantage, and must constantly adapt to the other's movements, often with each bobbing in and out of check until the moment of checkmate.   At that moment, the kingless player would want to perceive every position of every piece on the board, bearing in mind how they got there and how each piece can move—not only their simple movement, but also how they can move in relation to the board and the other pieces.  The more the player can perceive, the faster they approach mastery.  Or they can freak out and knock over all the pieces.


When I get hit during contact flow, rather than responding negatively, I take in all the information I can feel, and I take it in hungrily.  This information is priceless: more code for the computer.  Only by feeling the angle of the strike can I learn to yield to it perfectly.  Only by feeling the strike with all of its nuances can I learn to recognize it and avoid it in the future.


When I am being hit and I cannot intuit how to yield, I do not frantically try to figure out the correct angle.  If my body cannot feel the correct yielding movement, my intellect will not be able calculate it on-the-fly.  This is because I can feel much faster than I can think.  If I try to outsmart the strike, I lose.  Instead, I feel the strike and let it move me; I let it teach me the perfect angle. 




Whenever I don't know what to do in contact flow—how to yield, where to step, etc.—it is because I can't intuit how to apply the principles in that moment and in that position.  Sometimes I will feel stuck, deadlocked with the other mover.  If I am stuck, and can't feel my way to an answer, I have no choice but to slow down and resort to intellect.  To this end, I stop focusing on the particulars and return to the abstract principles:  Is my body tense?  If so I need to relax the tension.  Is there pressure?  If so I must yield to alleviate it.  Am I off-balance?  If so I must drop to a new root.  Am I moving efficiently?  If not, I must move my entire body with singular purpose.   Am I feeling the other mover's intention and harmonizing with their movement, or am I stubbornly trying to impose my will?  Am I owning my freedom of movement?  Clearly not, or I wouldn't be stuck.  I tell myself that I am a Master Killer: I can execute any movement as easily as I can imagine it.


I tell myself that I am a Master Killer: I can execute any movement as easily as I can imagine it.  This sounds more like a delusion than a martial arts tip.  At this point, we have moved from the theoretical to the fictional.  This begs an explanation.


Metaphor and Mindset


John taught us that the art is 90% mental.  Around the time I got my 3rd belt I asked myself what in the world that meant.  The purpose of this meditation is to share the progress I have made in my understanding of the mental aspects of contact flow.  Believe that this understanding, albeit incomplete, was hard-won, and in sharing it I am sharing one of the dearest gifts that I could possibly give—just as John shares his dearest gifts with us.   


When I was a kid in Hebrew School, I saw a video by a pro ballplayer on how to hit a baseball.  Unsurprisingly, he couldn't explain his athleticism to me such that it would become mine.  How do you explain excellence in movement?  How do you explain the laws of physics and human physiology such that someone with no athletic training can apply them masterfully in the field?  There are two general ways.  One is physical.  One is imaginary.


The first way to teach the art is with drills.  By “drills,” I mean any exercise which forces the student to move a certain way, so that they can experience what the proper movement feels like.  The second way is through metaphor.  A new student has no idea what looseness is.  They can't feel if they are loose or tight.  We tell them, “imagine your arms are hanging on strings, so that you use just enough muscle to hold them up.”  Taken literally, this is a nonsense statement, but as a metaphor, “arms hanging on strings” opens a door in our imagination that can result in a physical breakthrough. 


When it comes to the mental aspects of the art, metaphor is the primary tool.  I create little fictions for myself in order to cultivate the proper mindset.  I cultivate this mindset for its real-world effects.  It is the mindset that allows me to develop in the art.  It is the mindset that will sustain me in combat and see me through the moment of truth.


The Master Killer


I tell myself that I am a Master Killer: I can execute any movement as easily as I can imagine it.  At  every moment I must have complete trust in my ability.  If I doubt my ability and what I am feeling during contact flow, I retard my learning.   If I doubt my ability and what I am feeling during the moment of truth, I am already dead. 


While I accept that my limbs cannot block a crushing blow, I trust them to be my antennae, and to tell my body how to yield and move to protect itself.  Trusting my body to protect itself frees my arms to release and hit and kill my enemies.  If instead of trusting, moving, and hitting, I fixate on my enemy's arms and try to control them, I take away my ability to release and hit.  Any attempt to control my enemy's arms can distract me from what I actually need to do to survive.


The idea of the Master Killer frees my imagination to perform at peak creativity.  The Master Killer will pull off large, elaborate movements if and only if the situation calls for it, but large movements are not the sign of a master.  The Master Killer kills effortlessly.  He creates the smallest movements, the most subtle angles.  Taking the path of least resistance, he moves as little as he needs.  He makes it look so easy that the uninitiated mistake him for a novice.  In contact flow, I tell myself that the game really is as easy and simple as placing my hand on the other mover.  Their limbs cannot stop me or contain me; I simply move where they are not, like water slipping through the cracks, taking the path of least resistance.




John once wrote: “Courage is not only ignoring fear.  It is trust in God[1].”  I do not believe that he was making a theological claim.  He was teaching us something about how to stay alive.  This is a metaphor to cultivate a mindset.  In every moment, I must have unwavering faith in the outcome of the battle.  The enemy will make every effort to set the conditions for my failure.  If he succeeds in undermining my faith, I am already dead.  If I am small, my enemy will be large.  If I am large, my enemy will be larger.  If I am alone, my enemy will come in numbers.  If I am unarmed (shame on me), my enemy will be armed.  If I am prepared, he will use surprise, deception, and treachery.   If I am distracted, he will stab me in the perineum before I realize I’m in a fight[2].   If I allow the formidability of my enemies, the disadvantage of my position, or the brutality of injuries sustained, to make me lose faith, I am already dead. 


Who comes from Edom with soiled garments?..  Why is your clothing red, like one who trod in the winepress?


In the winepress, I trod alone.  From the nations, none were with me.  I trod them in my wrath, and trampled them in my fury.  The wine of their vitality sprayed on my garments, and all my clothing was soiled.  For a day of vengeance was in my heart; the year of my reckoning had arrived.


I looked, and there were none to save me.  In disbelief, I saw none to uphold me.  My arm saved me, and my fury upheld me.  I trod the nations with my wrath, and intoxicated them with my fury, and spilled their vitality to the earth.  (Isaiah 63:2-6)


If I allow the formidability of my enemies, the disadvantage of my position, or the brutality of injuries sustained, to make me lose faith, I am already dead.  I tell myself that I am the righteous firstborn of Mars, and that my movement will be so perfect and so effortless that it will seem divinely inspired.


In contact flow, when the other mover is formidable, when they put me in a disadvantageous position, when they strike me, I do not lose faith.  Each of these moments is a unique, invaluable opportunity for creativity and growth.  Only by feeling these positions in contact flow can I learn to adapt to them and survive. 


When I am overwhelmed or “killed” in contact flow, I do not give up and reset.  I recognize that I am being hit by blows that might kill me at full force, but as I am still conscious, I continue to move and recover, and put myself back in the fight.  I train to fight on from the brink of death.  Just as I must train to fight on, the other mover must train to finish the kill.


Love of Fate


Nietzsche taught unconditional love of existence as amor fati, love of fate.  By loving existence, and my place in it, unconditionally, I love all the vicissitudes of fate.  By loving fate, I “recreate every so it was into thus I willed it.[3]  In contact flow, when the other mover commits to a movement, I tell myself “I wanted them to do that.”  I make the necessary adjustment, and together, we move to their demise.


Love of fate frees me from fear and wanting.  I never want anything in contact flow.  When I feel an opening for a strike, if I become attached to that fixed movement, I lose my ability to adapt mid-strike.  My mind becomes fixated on a snapshot of the future, and is blinded to what is going on in the present.  My strike becomes a “dumb” weapon.  In order to remain in the present, I let myself savor every moment, every change, every millimeter of every position.  I savor each moment, not only when hitting, but also when I am being hit.  This prevents me from panicking and increasing my speed and force, and maximizes what I feel in the present.  I allow myself to feel the perfect timing, the perfect change, the perfect harmony of movers.




Fear is the most detrimental emotion in contact flow.  Fear blinds me to all possibilities except for those possibilities that I fear.  It hijacks my creativity, and in doing so, drives me toward the very end I am dreading.  When I tense-up during contact flow, it is a symptom of fear.  The tension cuts off my sensitivity, blinding me to any saving path.  When I feel the other mover moving to strike, and I say “No!”, and try to stop their movement, this is my fear.  Saying “no” alienates me from the present; instead of feeling what is going on in the present and adapting to it, all I can feel is my panic and indignation.  Instead, I say “yes” to the mover's movement; I make the necessary adjustment, and let our movement work to my advantage. 


Even the most subtle tension is a manifestation of fear, which will cut off my sensitivity and blind me to a world of possibilities.  Resisting the temptation to push is also a state of fear.  When I forget my fear, I open myself to the present and free my creative, martial spirit to do what it needs to save me.


Fear protects the ego.  When I dissolve my ego, I dissolve my fear.  In contact flow, I imagine that I am a third-party-observer.  I pretend that I am the god of war, and that the “combat” is all for my entertainment.    Whether I am hitting or being hit, if the movement is glorious, I gratefully applaud.


Emotional Content


It is essential that I cultivate the warrior state of mind.  Some call this state blood-lust.  Al calls it moral clarity.  If I put my ego aside, and withdraw mentally to the position of a third party, how can I cultivate the combative mindset and proper emotional content?  The proper emotional content during contact flow is that of a child at play.  The child takes their game seriously, without forgetting that it is a game.  Within the game of contact flow, I mean to kill the other mover.  When I deliver a strike, even without force, I line up my body like I mean to kill.  At the same time, it is just a game.  It is a consequence-free environment in which I am free to experiment.  I allow myself to be entertained.   


When I am not training or fighting for my life, I must never entirely forget my fear.  Fear roots me in reality and keeps me from deluding myself.  Healthy fear and rootedness in reality are common traits of  GC students.  While these traits may have brought us to the art, fear is not the emotion under which we practice.  The proper emotions to attach to our training are humility, gratitude, and joy—for being initiated into an art that has happened only once in the universe. 


Steel Sharpens Steel


We are all sharpened on the skill of the people we train with.  The more skilled my fellow students become, the more my training environment is enriched.  As peers, students, and teachers practice the principles at higher levels, the game becomes exponentially more nuanced.  If my fellow students—those at my level, above and below me—are not getting better, then the more I progress, the more my training environment is impoverished.  Pushing others to develop in the art enables my own qualitative growth.  The more they grow, the more they benefit me.  The more I grow, the more I benefit them.


This art is not a commodity.  It is not a training program.  It is a gift we receive from John.  It is a gift we give each other.  It is entirely personal.  When we train together, we take tacit responsibility for each other's very lives.  I receive this gift from John and Al and Matt, and from the other students who are senior to me.  I write this meditation out of love for our tribe.          


Humbly, Gratefully, Joyfully,

Yosef Susskind.

Copyright 4/5/2016

[1]           Email from John to 25 students, including Masters Ridenhour, Watson, and Martarano, on 5/22/2015.

[2]           This unsavory image comes from a true story John told in class in Elmsford NY on Sat 11/7/2015.

[3]           Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Part II, “On Redemption.”