It seems that a big challenge for many in contact flow is the idea of MOVING WITH your training partner, rather than AGAINST him.
While there are many ways to do contact flow, with many respective benefits, moving slowly WITH your training partners pays big dividends in terms of sensitivity and subconscious knowledge. Don't try to thwart, oppose or stymie your training partner, simply move along with him, allowing his movement to move your body with no resistance. To the greatest extent you can, do not judge, anticipate or look back on motion. Remain passively in the moment. Don't worry about "hitting" him or not being "hit" yourself. You already know how to hit people, this is about subconsciously absorbing the subtleties of human motion. If you keep trying to stop or thwart that motion, how will you ever feel it and learn about it?
The Rewards of Patience
Lots of people seem to want to jump the gun and impose their own will on training partners without ever understanding what the training partner is doing. In combat, this can work IF you always manage to get the jump on the bad guys, if you're never surprised (by e.g. hidden weapons, unseen bad guys, etc.) and if you're bigger, stronger, faster, meaner, etc. than all bad guys combined. . . . If you're lacking in any of these, you'll need to learn how to adapt, and in order to learn to adapt, you need to MOVE WITH your training partners, rather than AGAINST them.
Power Through Visualization
Here's yet another mental image that might help you to advance in GC. I'll write it the way I'd explain it in person:
Yank on my arm, nice and hard. See what happens? My arm gets yanked, and it affects my body a bit in that my shoulder is pulled forward and I get a little off-balance. That's normal, and that's how most people respond if they're being "loose." (If I were to tighten up and resist the yank, I'd get tossed and/or injured.)
Now, I'm going to imagine that my body has almost no mass--it's nearly weightless, like a small feather floating on the wind. If you touch one part of that feather, the whole feather is moved.
Yank on my arm now. See how my whole body is now slammed into you???
Try pushing straight back on my arm. See how my whole body whirls around, steps in and cracks you with my other arm? I'm like that floating feather. If you give me the slightest impetus, I can't HELP but be moved, as I can't resist even the slightest pressure. My whole body gets launched into motion. Now, the fact remains that I actually DO have mass, which drops with a lot of impact as I come to "rest" from the motion you caused. And my motion always tends to bring my center of gravity closer to yours than it was before you moved me, as if there's some gravity between our centers. In this way, I can be completely passive, but ANY impetus from my training partner launches my entire body into loose, united motion. The launching and movement are very "light," as if I were weightless, but the landing is HEAVY (but still loose) as all my actual mass comes down in the new location. In this way, I always move WITH what's going on, not against it, as I have no "mass" with which to resist my partner's motion. His motion simply moves me. No need for the motion to be large, just responsive and effective.
Play with it, see if it helps. Periodically review other such mental tricks in this blog and in the newsletters, as different ideas can help different people at different stages of development.
Stop Taking Yourself So Seriously
A sense of humor in training, not taking yourself too seriously, seems to be an essential ingredient for advancing in GC. You should certainly take the ART and the TRAINING (and safety) seriously, but have fun with it and don't be afraid of looking foolish. I've noticed that ALL of the higher level GC black belts are a riot to hang out with outside of class, and are often nearly as funny during training, when appropriate. Some may be quieter and more reserved than others, but all have a great sense of humor about themselves and about life in general. John models this himself. He's very down to earth to the point of being the goofy "class clown," even while behind the facade it's obvious to those who know him that the gears are turning and he takes self-defense and survival VERY seriously. (It's too bad John's sense of humor doesn't usually come through on video.) I've seen folks who take themselves more seriously come through class, and they usually don't hang around for long. Maybe some people confuse the militaristic outward demonstrations of "discipline" common to conventional martial arts with real inner discipline, or warm bawdiness and self-effacement with foolishness. It's their loss. Remember not to take yourself too seriously and to HAVE FUN in your training. Not only is the mind most receptive to learning when it's in a state of "play," but the fact is that life is too short to spend too much time doing things that are no fun.