Striking from the Void Part I: Creativity
striking-from-the-void Oct 19, 2017
This will be the first in a series of blog posts focusing on various concepts such as “Freedom of Action” or “Creativity” because I feel even in GUIDED CHAOS it is often overlooked or misunderstood. Plus, I just like talking about this kind of stuff because I find it fascinating. This will be more of a philosophical discussion than anything.
Now if you get this, it’s going to open up a whole new world for you on how you train, how you strike how you think about personal protection and make everything you do way more efficient and effective. I know it did for me.
In my last blog post "Your Journey Into Fluid Power - PART II", I hinted at something called “The Future” or as Grandmaster Perkins commonly refer to as “Fighting in the Future”.
I have given it some thought and I realized before I could get into that in order to Fight in the Future there is something you have to be able to do first and that is “Strike from the Void” the place of “unlimited possibilities” of “Creativity”.
But before you can do that there is even something else you have to be able to do and that is understand human movement especially as it relates to self-protection from the perspective of how people actually move under dynamic conditions and not how we think they move or may move.
Confused? Well stay with me as I try to explain this because this is not something that is easy to understand especially when explained without seeing it in action.
This is one of those times where I’m going to ask you to suspend disbelief not your common sense but disbelief. I’m going to ask you to step outside of what you may view as your personal comfort zone. We all have one because its where we retreat whenever presented with something that may seem to contradict or challenge our preconceived notions about the world.
A long time ago when I first started training in GUIDED CHAOS which, back in those days was known as “Ki Chuan Do” which loosely translates into “The Way of the Spirit Fist” (which I kind of still like). Anyway, while training with Grandmaster Tim Carron he would from time to time say to me, “Don’t try to over think this, this is weird stuff…” and weird stuff at times it is.
You see like most people when I first started studying the pugilistic arts I viewed fighting as a series of moves, techniques and strategies where you developed your skills and practiced dealing with a variety of possible situations. Such things are the nature of sport fighting, “move / counter move” etc. So when it comes to real fighting it is tempting to apply the same way of thinking because after all movement is movement right?
The problem is a real situation doesn’t always go down the way we think the reason is obvious the bad guy gets a vote. As Mike Tyson so famously said as he channeled Carl von Clausewitz, author of “On War”, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit in the face…” in other words no plan survives initial contact.
Now before I go much further understand Striking from the Void doesn’t mean there is no foundation to what you do in fact just the opposite. It is understanding how humans move within the laws of physics and human physiology. This is why GUIDED CHAOS focuses on “principles of movement” versus any specific sanctified technique. Because no matter how one moves the principles never change.
This is the reasons why in GUIDED CHAOS from the very beginning we place emphasis on the Fifth Principle of Freedom of Action and Adaptivity. More often than not you don’t know what you have to do until you have to do it. Personally I don’t think we place enough emphasis on it but that is beyond the scope of this blog entry.
The Void as I stated before is the place of limitless possibilities. It is “The Way of Nature”, the “Way of Natural Movement”. It is the wind bending a willow tree, a blade of grass. It is the wind pushing the water from the sea causing it to swell as it travels inland only to crest and crash against the rocks on the shore with tremendous force.
You cannot see the wind you can only witness and feel it’s effects but you know it exists because you know it, in your mind. The Void like the wind cannot be seen with your eyes you can only witness and feel its effects but it is always there. The Void can only be seen with your mind.
Freedom of Action / Adaptivity What We Really Mean
When we talk Freedom of Action and Adaptivity what we’re really taking about is a way of moving and thinking where you are able to create on the fly. Where your body seems to go on autopilot where as people who’ve had to employ their skills have at times stated it felt as if they were watching themselves move in the third person. Where without thought their body “just did it”.
I believe through proper training in the principles of GUIDED CHAOS along with proper Contact Flow our body’s reach a point where our limbs seem to take on a mind of their own. Where we don’t have to tell our hands what to do they know what to do. Some call this “muscle memory” though I believe it’s much deeper than that it’s more like “muscle thought” where everything becomes a focus of our will.
Sort of like driving your car, in the beginning everyone’s movements are choppy and stiff. You over steer the car, run off the road all sorts of nonsense. Then for some strange reason when it all comes together you reach a point where some how you just know how to drive. Like driving a car where there are certain laws of physics and ways we as humans interact with the technology. Well developing this ability for fighting is like that and if you make it any harder than that you’re wrong because it isn’t.
When describing Striking from the Void Grandmaster Perkins has described it as striking from wherever whenever. Because his body is unitized he is free to strike with power and move freely at will with little effort. His body and movements are unencumbered because his mind is unencumbered. Because of the principles and the unitized movement, he exhibits. His movements always seem “effortless” it’s because for the most part they are because his movement is as natural as possible.
Believe me there’s a whole lot more I could say on this. Like Grandmaster Carron said, “this is weird stuff”.
Why People Primarily Focus on Fixed Striking Methodologies
Let’s face it without contact there generally is no fight. When I first started studying the martial arts I too was obsessed with developing my striking, my speed and power because it all seemed to make sense. Don’t get me wrong they’re all still important but they’re not as important as being able to strike what you aim at.
But I believe we focus on them because they are easy to develop. The reason is there are only so many ways you can move your arms and legs at their joints so what we’re really talking about here is the development of the proper coordination and timing when we strike.
The problem is as I said before the bad guy gets a vote and is probably not going to stand there and wait for you to get your best shot off. Remember the bad guys don’t want to get hurt either.
For the most part when people throw strikes their punches and kicks are like a fire and forget type of weapon like shooting a gun, where they throw the strike if they hit great, but if they miss they reset the problem and start again. The problem is if you don’t hit them you don’t hurt them.
It’s like a gun fight you may have a .357 magnum and I may have a .22cal pistol, but if you can’t hit me and I can hit you. How long do you think you’re going to be able to keep that game up?
As we say in the Marine Corps it’s not the dope on the rifle but the “dope” behind the “dope”. The point is power is useless if YOU can’t focus it where you want it to go with accuracy.
Now what if you could throw your strikes where they were more akin to a guided missile?
Where, as you tracked your opponent you were not only able to adjust on the fly as they moved but at some point get ahead of their movement to lead them into the strikes?
What if you could create as you went along?
That’s what I’m talking about.
Creativity is Hard
“the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work...”
Okay I know that I said in order to Fight in the Future you first have to be able to Strike from the Void and that is true but there is also something else I mentioned “Creativity”. In order to become “creative” you have to first begin the process of “learning how to think creatively”.
Right now I’m sure there are some folks that are saying, “What you talkin bout Willis?”
Let me first start by saying that what I’m saying here is in no way the definitive answer on creativity, how to develop it or even what it really is. Creativity like “talent” which is sometimes defined as, “a special or natural ability or aptitude”, both are extremely difficult to define and are probably the same thing because they often go hand-in-hand. I also believe that creativity / talent is just as much a “way of thinking” than just something you’re able to do or are born with.
I say this because if you looked at the top athletes in the world we’ll use basketball as an example. If you looked at all of the players in the NBA and all of the Division 1A College players on paper and looked at such things as height, weight, vertical leap etc. and you removed all of the information that would identify them such as their names, ages and obviously the teams the play for.
You couldn’t tell them apart. Yet the difference in ability is in most cases “night and day”. All I’m saying is that people in any field who compete at the professional level seem to have that certain “je ne sais quoi” thing going on.
I believe they just have a different way of looking at things whether consciously or subconsciously and through trial and error they stumbled on some fundamental truths and just accepted them for what they were.
Some time ago I was holding court in a class I was giving on this very subject and I was explaining that in order to begin this process we have to get back to the way we thought as children. You can give a child a rock, a paper clip, a rubber band and a bottle cap and they go all “MacGyver” on you.
They’ll find a way to entertain themselves for hours. A child could play with a stick for hours. To them it’s a sword, a bat, a digging tool you name it. It’s not just a stick because in their minds there is no stick it’s just them and their imagination.
I told a story once about a question my granddaughter asked she said, “Papa, why don’t you ever take your wedding ring off?”
So I said “because I can’t get it off”, so she said, “but why?”
So I cleared my throat, leaned back and placed my hand on her shoulder and summoning all of my grandfatherly wisdom I began:
“You see princess, every little girl wants to grow up and marry their prince, their knight in shining armor (trust me after having watched the movie “Frozen” with her 87 times she was all about it). And when she gets married and places the ring on her husband’s hand she seals the deal by hammering it on! Now it is said these rings are forged in the fires of Mount Doom and it’s been rumored that somewhere there is one ring that controls them all. Many men have searched for it to throw it back into the fire and break the ‘curse’ (having to shop with your wife at the Prada store off W57th St. Manhattan) never to return…and that’s why I can’t get it off.”
Now after saying all of that what does she say?
“Oh…”, and then she said something about ice cream.
Obviously that wasn't the reason but it made for a better story. Now some of you are probably saying, “Ah come on you didn’t say that”. Well for those who know me “you know” that conversation took place. I was also once accused of sorcery by her for mixing red and white paint together to make pink paint, so there you have it.
The point is kids just accept things for what they are, on the one hand their minds are very literal while at the same time fantasy and reality are one and the same. The point is there is little that is impossible to them. Children are totally unplugged from “The Matrix”!
This was, believe it or not, one of the more fascinating things I learned while studying with Grandmaster Tim Carron. He was all about “Occam’s Razor”. He had the unique ability to strip things down to their raw essence and then build on them. If it made logical sense, if it was scientific he just accepted it for what it was and no more discussion was necessary. He was off to the races.
Now Bruce Lee use to have a saying, “Absorb what is useful”, which I agree with but with one caveat, how do you know what is useful?
How do you determine that?
He, use to also say that,
“In order to learn something new one must be first willing to empty their cup only then can new tea be poured in otherwise it will overflow with the old idea.”
Again, I totally agree but with one caveat, “It does you no good to empty your cup if you can’t tell the difference between tea and horse piss!”
This is why the Principles of GUIDED CHAOS are so crucial when we train. Without a firm foundation in how humans move within the laws of physics that govern mass, speed, time, space, human physiology etc. you’re just making shit up and can’t tell the difference between tea and horse piss.
Now to be fair Grandmaster Carron had an unusual talent for seeing things for what they were. He wasn’t just a peerless martial artist he was a superb marksman, a craftsman, a painter, a photographer and a great cook. He was what we sometimes refer to certain people as “adepts”. He was “that guy”.
Grandmaster Perkins gave me a knife that Tim, as we use to call him, sharpened for him. I had to stop carrying it around until I could figure it out because I kept cutting my damn hand on it every time I opened it. It was crazy sharp!
I believe this talent, this gift if you will, was one of the reasons his skill was off the chart. The last time I worked out with him I had no clue what the Hell was going on. Well I knew I was getting hit, of that I was quite sure of. What it taught me was I have a lot to learn.
I was once asked by Master Martarano,
“What in your mind if you had to point to it is the one thing you’ve learned in the art over the years that’s been the biggest lesson?”
I gave it some thought and I said something along the lines, “You know the more I train, the more I learn and the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
I went on to explain, “that’s because every time I have an epiphany it opens the door to 100 more insights or 'whatever' that I never had before.”
The more insights you have the more you see with your mind, the more you see with your mind the more insights and “aha” moments you have, because you don’t know what you know until you know it.
He then went on to say something very profound that I never thought of but it put into perspective things that both Grandmaster’s Perkins and Carron have said throughout the years but never really dawned on me until then. He said,
“So it’s not so much there is a higher level within the art that you develop, but a deeper understanding of the same principles”.
That statement hit me right between the eyes. I never thought of it that way but he’s dead on. I said, “you see that’s why you’re the Zen Gorilla”.
In one sentence Master Martarano summed up “the essence” of how people become better within their bodies, within the art.
You see creativity is not some free for all where people just make things up without foundation. Rather I believe it is a "byproduct" of people learning to use what is already there, what is already known to be true, a set of facts, but in different ways, unrestricted ways thus "creative" ways.
It is people asking the questions why not? says who?
It is people saying to themselves "because no one said I couldn't", "because I can", and not allowing anyone to tell them what they can’t do based on some unwritten rule that is not based on anything other than someone else’s "opinion".
We're all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts.
Well that’s it for now in the next post I’m going to discuss some methods you can use to begin what I call “Unplugging from The Matrix” and start learning how we “bend spoons” or as some students have described it “bending time and space” through movement and liberate you from ideas that may be holding back your martial development.
Senior Master Instructor