Striking from the Void Part II: Unplugging from The Matrix
striking-from-the-void Oct 27, 2017
For those familiar with the movie “The Matrix” you are aware that the main plot of the movie is the fact that in the distant future humans have been reduced to living in an artificial computer generated virtual reality world in order to serve as a power source for the machines.
The reason I believe the movie was so successful was because it touched on a theme that on a subconscious level we all feel. That the world as we know it is not always what it appears to be. That many things we’ve been led to believe are not always on the level.
That there is some malevolent force that is always present cloaking its intentions but always there and rarely for the good. That there’s always something missing, that you never get the full story no matter what.
As a result, the movie and the concept of “The Matrix” or “A Matrix” has become a metaphor to describe the status quo in a negative light. In the same way taking the “Red Pill” has become the metaphor for people finally taking the leap of faith, seeing the light and allowing the scales to fall from their eyes in order to see and accept the truth.
Mental Change is Hard
Mental change is hard because how you think about something influences how you view it, react to it and deal with it. The concepts that I’m discussing here are just that “concepts” and nothing more.
I only present them to aid toward develop a different way of thinking about how you train to fight for your life.
Just remember if you can’t see it with your mind you can’t see it with your eyes. So if you think a fight is like a sport with rules you will train in that fashion. If you think a fight is anything goes more than likely you will train in that fashion.
“The Matrix” as I’m using it here is a metaphor for this “thing” this way of thought, that envelops us, influences and “shapes” our thinking.
The reason this is hard is The Matrix is comfortable, The Matrix is warm, The Matrix Is familiar, The Matrix tells us what we want to hear, what we want to believe, what we want the world to be versus what it is.
"The Matrix” lies…
It lies because it is built on many false assumptions, anecdotal evidence, “theories” not "theorems" that are accepted as fact, like "conventional wisdom" The Matrix is almost always wrong because usually the premise of the original assumptions, are wrong.
You see “truth” is simple whereas “lies” are complex, The Matrix is complex. Not because it’s complex like “differential equations” but because it is made to be unnecessarily complex.
Unfortunately, the fighting arts are not immune to the influence and effects of The Matrix. As we all know the fighting arts are full of stories of “fire from hand”, “five step death touches” and outright fraud.
The problem is in everything there is sort of a “Matrix” built around it. From my observation in the fighting arts most of what we think of as the martial arts is shaped by entertainment and sport.
It starts with a mindset based on of how we think people move, which influences how we should move when fighting or are supposed to move, versus how we can move or are capable of moving. None of us knows what we have to do until we have to do it so why train in a fashion that limits your "Freedom of Action"?
We cling to certain assumptions and if not credibly challenged they take on a life of their own. Worse we double down on them or we create what I call “rules that don’t exist” thus creating a Matrix of our own making, which is the hardest one to break free of. Every man thinks he’s right in his own eyes.
Breaking free from The Matrix means following as some have described it as “the way of no way” where the only limitations are those governed by physics and human physiology and nothing else, “the art of the possible”. But it’s not a free for all either because it still needs to conform to some semblance of reality.
In the shooting world like the martial arts there are all sorts of “legends” of people being able to shoot a fly off a horse’s ear at full gallop while rolling a cigarette etc.
Even in the military you have this sort of nonsense. I remember once on a range hearing a guy talk about the use of grenades saying,
“Well in the Nam I heard guys use to ‘milk a grenade’ to take some time off of it so that when they threw it at the enemy he wouldn’t have enough time to throw it back against you.”
Even as a “green” 2nd Lt fresh out of the wrapper, (heck I still smelled like a new rifle, fresh packing grease and all). I don’t know where he heard that but even then I knew that was dangerous bullshit to say. I later pulled him aside and corrected him by saying something like, “Are you nuts? Don’t ever say that again!” I was pissed especially since I knew even then that our grenades were made by the lowest bidder. 3 to 5 second fuse my ass. Good luck with that!
As an aside understand that in a grenade there is a fuse, there is no “timer” like on a clock as people think. Once that pin is pulled and the spoon is released the clock is ticking. That nonsense you see on TV of people putting the pin back is BS. You do so at your own peril but I’ll tell you what in 5 seconds you’ll have your answer. Let’s just say you won’t need a plane to fly.
The point is this stuff is not new and will probably always exist. The purpose of this blog is to inform those who desire to develop serious self-protection skills but also to educate on the art of the possible. Such stories of “fiery fists of fury” and “plucking out ribs” only serve to diminish the martial arts and relegate it to side show circus tricks.
This is not "The Way of No Way"! This is nonsense.
Some Red Pill Action
Something that I have observed over the years is that once a person develops the ability to move in a certain fashion for combat they are “resistant” to changing the way they not only move but even the way they think about moving.
There’s also the emotional investment after training a certain way for so many years only to have someone come along and challenge it. Understandable, like I said every man thinks they’re right in their own eyes.
Also and this is just an observation that I’ve had and that is over the years especially in the reality based martial arts world. I’ve noticed that some instructors just don’t want to admit that there are some situations that if you get caught in them you’re done.
I watch a lot of self-defense videos on YouTube and I cringe watching some folks teach things that would require you to be "Superman" to pull off. Instead of making shit up because that’s all they’re doing they should focus more on how not to let it happen in the first place if possible.
What it is, they don’t want to look as if they don’t have an answer for a given situation so they make up some contrived technique that seems like it makes sense but in reality would require superhuman speed to perform. A Matrix of their own creation.
When students ask me these types of things I'm just honest, that’s why they often here me say, “you can’t let that shit happen in the first place!”
I’ve seen videos where people teach people how to get out of a choke hold from the front after it's already been applied, deal with a pistol to the head and all sorts of things and then demonstrate some multi-step complicated move.
The real question they should be asking is how did that happen in the first place?
How did they get in that position in the first place?
What was going on before they had the weapon pulled on them?
Where was their awareness?
Nothing happens until somebody moves. My point is teaching someone what to do after the fact is not always the answer either. Granted it’s better than nothing but it shouldn’t be the first option that’s all.
I’m not saying it can’t happen but I’ll tell you I don’t know what the criminals are like where these folks come from but where I grew up if a person gets you around the throat. They tend to squeeze with all their might because they mean that shit, so I don’t know what these guys are talking about. This type of thinking is a trap within the Matrix.
The same with the pistol to the head, most of the bad guys don’t hold a gun in a perfect “isosceles stance”. Let alone directly on your head from the front. Again a trap within the Matrix.
A lot of criminals are "hip" to the fact that you could possibly slap the gun away or reach for it, that’s what makes this such a difficult problem to deal with.
My point is it would be nice if the bad guys were so inclined to attack you in the canned fashion you’ve trained but unfortunately they get a vote. And when you create absolutes in your training you close your mind off to all other possibilities. Creating a Matrix of your own making.
I’m not against scenario training because I engage in it from time-to-time as well, I’m against training of any kind that is designed to give people a false sense of ability or security rather than choices of what is the art of the possible.
No matter what you teach there is always an acceptable level of risk that a person has to accept if faced with a life and death situation. Someone pulls a weapon on you especially a gun there is nothing to stop them from killing you anyway.
To me there’s nothing wrong with teaching people what to do even if it’s risky as long you’re honest about the risks whether it’s to fight, escape or a combination of the two as in the case of multiple attackers. The reality is anything you do in such a situation can get you killed “especially doing nothing”. My thought is make a choice and do it with boldness, ferocity and if possible surprise.
I remember back in 2000 when the first addition of “Attack Proof” came out and I was doing a book signing at Borders Books in White Plains, NY.
Anyway, this guy came up to me and I could tell he was a police officer and after we chatted about tactics etc., he asked me,
“So what would you do if say you had to deal with a police attack dog?”
So I told him, “You’re fucked and if you run you’ll die tired…”
He burst out laughing but then he said something along the lines of,
“You know I put that question to a lot of guys into the martial arts like yourself and you’d be amazed at how many think they have some sort of technique that’s going to defeat a trained attack dog.”
He then bought a copy of the book. Who knows if he ever read it I think he just bought it because I’m probably one of the few guys who was honest enough to tell him the truth.
The reason I tell this story from time-to-time is because while I’m all about the art of the possible we also have to understand what is possible and what is just plain old “stupid”.
No matter how bitter the taste it’s all about taking the Red Pill and being done with it.
As Thomas Edison once said, “90% percent of genius is knowing what doesn’t work”.
A lot of stupid stuff within The Matrix.
My point is there is a difference between being creative and being stupid because you can be creative in the wrong way by deluding yourself into thinking you can defy physics.
Again as I always tell students as long as it’s within the laws of physics and human physiology don’t ever let anyone tell you what you can’t do. This is what I mean by being able to tell the difference between tea and horse piss.
Cecil B. DeMille use to have a saying about the “Ten Commandments”,
“Those who throw themselves against The Law shall be broken by it!”
As one of my students likes to say, “If you go against nature you always lose.”
Now there was a time that when viewing other arts, I would be very critical as to the techniques they taught. Over the years I’ve sort of come 180 degrees on some of this because I realized that more often than not it was not the techniques per se as it was the delivery method or the philosophy behind why they moved the way they did.
The late Charlie Nelson use to have a saying, “a kick in the balls is a kick in the balls”. Meaning it doesn’t matter what type of kick you perform or where it came from or what style at the end of the day it’s still just a kick in the balls. The bottom line is the human body is the human body and you can only do so much with your foot.
Bruce Lee even had a saying,
“Before I knew Karate and Kung Fu a punch was just as punch a kick just a kick, after I knew Karate and Kung Fu a punch was still just a punch a kick a kick”.
The point is if you have the right modality of training and you develop yourself you can make some of the even more flashy techniques work because you are not limited in your movement to sanctified techniques, but what you will find is that more often than not the flashy stuff is nothing more than superfluous motion.
However, when you’re caught up in The Matrix you can only see a limited number of possibilities of striking. Like the saying goes, “when you’re hammer everything looks like a nail”.
There is No Spoon
Spoon Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That's impossible. Instead... only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Spoon Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Spoon Boy: Then you'll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
-The Matrix, 1999
In order to realize the truth, again you need to take the leap of faith and take the “Red Pill”. Good bad or indifferent you’ll find out soon enough how some of our assumptions about fighting are built on a foundation of sand.
One saying that I’ve come to hate is the proverbial “you need to think out of the box”. If you ever worked for a large corporation, the government or the military along with hearing the phrase “paradigm shift”, another overused term. You hear people constantly talking about “thinking outside the box”.
For all those who "think outside of the box", I have bad news for you, there is no box!
Never has been never will be.
The only box you are referring to is the one you’ve created for yourself or one that you have allowed someone to place you in.
Even thinking that way all you’ve done is created a larger box around the one you were just in or the one you are attacking. Just as Dee Schneider of Twisted Sister once said, “There are no flutes in metal otherwise it’s not metal!”
Well, there is no box especially when it comes to fighting for your life otherwise you’re not in a real fight. You’re playing a sport where there are rules.
When I was in high school I had a teacher Mr. Pete Soriano, Mr. Soriano was a lively character he was one of those guys that was larger than life. A former Korean War Vet and “smart as a fox”, he taught like five subjects including physics. He was perhaps the greatest story teller I’ve ever come across. So great were his stories we use to call him “Mr. Story-ano”.
Anyway, Pete use to always start his stories off by saying. “I’m going to tell you a story and you won’t believe it because it’s true.”
So in that vein I’m going to tell you some stories you may not believe but they are true.
The Wisdom Tree
Now for students who attend our regular classes they’ve heard me tell stories about "The Wisdom Tree". The Wisdom Tree represents lessons that I’ve had with Grandmaster Perkins under a tree in the parking lot of one of our old schools.
Sometimes these events would take place indoors as well but I like to group these experiences under that moniker. Understand, I was imparting "no wisdom" in these matters. I just wanted to be clear on that point.
So anyway I’m working out one time with the Grandmaster and we’re just moving and going at it and he’s really pushing my abilities, meaning I'm getting hit from everywhere. Anyway, for some reason I was able to step past him. I couldn’t believe it, this like never happens!
All I know is as I turned to strike the next thing I know he’s moving at me almost "floating in the air" bent at the waist “sideways” truly like something you’d see in the movie “The Matrix” and “belly bumps” me practically knocking the wind out of me. I kid you not!
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry from humiliation.
Okay, I have to admit that was pretty funny…
When I asked, “what the hell was that?”
He said, “that’s all I could do in that situation.”
Right there on the spot "he created that out of whole cloth" right out of the ether. He struck me from The Void, the place of limitless possibilities.
Who does that?
Who even thinks like that?
A guy who knows there is no box, there is no spoon…
It would be the beginning of my understanding that there was a much "deeper" level to this game than I had thought.
All this time while I thought I was making great progress only to find out he was just having a little fun with me. Don’t get me wrong I was having fun too it’s just humbling to realize that after all these years.
There was a deeper level to the art than anything I had imagined and the key toward understanding it was to swallow the "Red Pill" by accepting the great gulf between our abilities.
Accepting that in his world there was no box, there was no spoon and the sooner I got my mind there the better I could understand the seemly cryptic statements he would say to me from time-to-time, when in fact he was stating very matter of fact what these things were.
Unplugging from The Matrix
“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,"
Like I've said before when I first started in the martial arts I always thought that in order to fight at the higher levels one had to master a certain set of techniques and strategies.
That by training in as many different skills and styles as possible that eventually I would reach the point where I was prepared for virtually any type of attack. That somehow it would all just "click".
Even within GUIDED CHAOS there were certain techniques or moves that while all valid as I worked with the Grandmaster I started to realize that there was more to what he was actually doing than just doing "this" or "that".
That the way he struck was not just about perhaps tens of millions of impressions over a life time of working with people, but how he viewed his body when in motion. There was no thought, there was no spoon just the way of no way.
When he struck there was no wind up, no preparatory movement just fluid effortless motion. His strikes came from everywhere and out of nowhere.
They were straight, arching, up, down, circular, diagonal, vertical, horizontal, and erratic seemingly all at the same time.
One of my favorites is how he will throw a strike "stop mid-motion" change his body position while "leaving his fist in the same place" and then hit you somewhere in the future.
The craziest thing he does is how he can throw a strike and instantly change direction at a 90°-degree angle in any direction.
Like Grandmaster Carron said, "weird stuff".
He taught me that by using the "Principles" of GUIDED CHAOS he could strike within his Sphere of Influence with tremendous power through simple natural graceful movement anywhere even at the shortest distances.
I discovered that as long as he was on balance and moved within the natural range of motion he could hit with power from crazy angles as long as you were within his Sphere of Influence.
Over time he would reiterate the importance of performing the “Washing the Body” and “Polishing the Sphere” exercises slowly from every angle possible within your Sphere of Influence.
He explained that as he entered on people by, figuratively speaking of course, Washing the Body he could continue his movement forward collapsing his sphere onto their sphere taking control of it if he wanted to, and through Polishing the Sphere he could train his body to strike and clear as he entered all within the same time frame with almost no effort.
He showed me that when he moves he is always to the best of his ability in control of every fiber of his being and does not allow anyone to control his sphere.
He also taught me that it is not necessary to know 5,000 striking and blocking combinations when you are in control of your body within your sphere because you are free to adjust as needed.
When you control your sphere you can affect everything that happens within with little to no effort because you can feel what they are doing in real time. Cutting off their movement before they get their stuff off.
When Striking from The Void everything just becomes a focus of your will.
This is one of the reasons why he describes GUIDED CHAOS as "The Study of Universal Movement within a Martial Application".
More importantly why would you give up such freedom in your body?
In a fight for your life why would you not want to have this ability?
Why would you want to be shackled to "The Matrix"?
“Striking from the Void” is just a thing a concept and nothing more, but I believe this concept is key to beginning the process of Unplugging from the Matrix. I believe there are several keys to this but understand these are just my observations and are in no way the definitive answer on this:
1) Develop your body to the "nth degree" to move in the most-subtle manner through the principles to allow for maximum possibilities and opportunities to change
2) Try to move your body in the most natural graceful manner possible focusing on moving your joins in a relaxed "smooth" manner
3) Unplug from The Matrix by ridding your mind of thinking you can only fight through "pre-sanctioned" contrived techniques and movements created in the mind of someone else. Remember there is no spoon
4) When practicing Washing the Body and Polishing the Sphere don’t be afraid to explore how far you can take your movement while on balance. Experiment and have fun with it. Then when practicing Contact Flow try apply the same type of free flowing movement
5) Start slow and eventually work up to full speed, "be creative" just make it up as you go along just to train your body and brain to become familiar with these movements, and positions but also to train your body to become comfortable in positions that would make most people panic due to their "awkwardness" for the other person
Well that’s it for now.
Senior Master Instructor