TODAY'S TIP: One way to judge your progress in contact flow is by how "comfortable" you feel doing it. The fewer moments of feeling stuck, off-balance, effortful, emotionally aroused, frozen, resistant, etc., the better. The better you're flowing, the less effortful and uncomfortable it will feel, until it's as natural and comfortable as walking down the street or waving hello. Higher speed and more skilled/experienced training partners will tend to reduce your comfort. A goal is to push and expand your comfort zone. Do not judge your progress by things like how many times you hit or get hit or how much you can control your training partner, as these miss the point of the exercise and detract from your learning. Remember that contact flow should be one of the most comfortable and relaxing things you do all day, NOT the most effortful, combative or adrenalizing (except in some variations under the control of a high level instructor).
TODAY'S TIP: In contact flow, try constantly stepping on the point on the ground directly beneath your training partner's center of gravity. You're placing your (balanced) mass right where his needs to be in order for him to gain balance and be effective. If your balance is good, even if you're smaller, you can keep him way off balance with hardly any effort by doing this, leaving your arms free to adapt and hit. Of course, you need to be loose and sensitive enough to get there without stopping yourself with your own resistance; you need body unity to get there all at once; and of course you need to get there with better balance than he has in order to make it work.
TODAY'S TIP: When flowing, don't move with what you're afraid the other guy might do to you. It doesn't exist! Moving with something that doesn't exist always makes you vulnerable. Just be rude and bring the chaos to him and trust your body to move with whatever he may try to do, when he does it--not before.
TODAY'S TIP: Regarding "knife defense": Remember that there is NO reliable unarmed defense against anyone committed to killing you at close quarters with a good blade, despite what anyone may try to sell you. This is because it is impossible to reliably catch and control the movement of the blade such that it cannot cut you in vital areas while also dealing with everything else he can do. You must keep your vitals out of range of the blade, via movement or obstacles, and SHUT DOWN the attacker(s) as quickly as possible, reducing their opportunities to do you grave damage.
This points to the advantages of 1) awareness, to detect and avoid the impending attack before the attacker gets within range; 2) longer-range weapons, such as guns, canes, and perhaps even pepper spray (although this is unreliable) to damage the attacker before he gets close enough to cut you; 3) BALANCE for effective long-range kicking to try to again create damage before the blade can reach your vitals (steel-toe or otherwise hard shoes certainly help too!); 4) going to the ground in some circumstances to create more distance between the blade and your vitals while allowing you to dish out serious damage with both legs; 5) the Dog Dig tactic to keep the blade away from your vitals while you try to get distance and damage him; and 6) LOTS of good contact flow practice and hand training to enable you to SHUT HIM DOWN as quickly as possible at close quarters while staying away from his weapons.
Finally, remember that in a lot of real assaults, the victim is not even aware that a knife is in play until it's too late. That's why we always reiterate that you can't take any violence lightly, you never know whom (or what) you're dealing with, avoid violence at almost all costs, and if you must go hands-on, END things as quickly and decisively as possible. Wasting time trying to "control" the uncontrollable or second-guessing yourself can spell your doom.
TODAY'S TIP: In all your footwork exercises (box step, switch feet, across line, etc), strive for maximum smoothness, quietness and precision. Your feet need to land exactly where you need them, no pivoting nor adjusting after landing. You should sink into your legs so that you can fully isolate your leg movement so that you can change your feet without the other guy's feeling the change. Head should be level and steady, not bouncing around. You maintain your sink and root throughout the step, so that there's no point in the movement where your balance is vulnerable.
TODAY'S TIP: If you're having trouble getting your conscious mind out of the way during contact flow, note where your eyes are looking. Your central focal vision (using the "cones" in the retina) tends to draw the attention of your conscious, thinking mind, while your peripheral vision (using the "rods") does not. Your peripheral vision, tuned more to subconsciously detect movement than to consciously analyze and identify stuff, is less likely to draw your conscious attention to what it sees. Therefore, it's easier to stay in the flow without conscious interference if you do not look directly at what's going on.
Try looking at something on the other side of the room over your training partner's shoulder. This way, you're still observing and absorbing information with your peripheral vision, but your conscious mind is less likely to interfere with the experience through your central vision. A student today who was having trouble getting out of his own head during flow got great results from this, to the point where he told me that every time he allowed himself to look directly at me during flow (as opposed to past me or to my side), his body froze as his conscious mind started to take over, like that overeager child who wants to speak up and take over even though he doesn't know what he's doing (that's one of John's analogies).
Had a great time yesterday in Atlanta training with the folks from Atlanta Combatives and Trident Tactical Martial Arts (SC)! See their Facebook pages for photos and videos:
TODAY'S TIP: Remember that Body Unity is not just a power thing or a hitting thing. It must be present in every inch of your movement. If something changes, EVERYTHING changes. Body Unity protects your vitals as well. If you keep your body still and send out a strike with your arm, you are by necessity opening up vulnerabilities that your arm had previously been covering. However, if you move your whole body to bring the strike, you can stay safe behind the guard throughout the motion. You're still covered because your body stays behind the guard as your limb and body move together to strike.
TODAY'S TIP: In general, when in doubt, SINK! In contact flow, if you feel like you're stuck, out of space, or about to lose balance, simply bend your knees a little more and sink your weight and release all tension, and let things just flow out from there. You'll find that the sinking gains you the additional balance you need to allow your body to loosen (remember it's tough to get loose if you're off-balance), and the lowering of the contact points on your body will gain you a little space to move within (because the hypotenuse of a right triangle is always longer than the other sides--this assumes your training partner is not sensitive enough to follow your sink in time). Sinking like this in slow contact flow is analogous to dropping at full speed, so do it often. It doesn't have to be deep, it could be less than an inch or even internal. Compare with the idea of absorbing all motion into your feet (see book “Attackproof, Second Edition”).
TODAY'S TIP (via John): One thing that advanced GC practitioners do to help them deal especially with bigger, stronger people is to disrupt the big guy's setup. Even a huge guy (unless he's well GC trained or freakishly naturally talented) needs to set up/rev up/brace himself to deliver his murderous power. We have to feel and disrupt that setup, not wait for his power to be generated. He won't have full power/balance at all moments; we need to take advantage of the gaps to disrupt, get in and end it. This requires high sensitivity as well as looseness and balance and body unity, as you need to be able to act instantly and decisively on these gaps and setups while moving to stay out of the way--while a huge monster (or several) is (are) trying to remove your head.
Guided Chaos Instructor