Ruthless Intent is the martial virtue par excellence.

Warrior Flow Combatives, or simply Warrior Flow, is rare among the combat arts inasmuch as it unabashedly underscores this fact.

While it is, of course, true that all forms of “martial realism” insist upon the distinction between Martial Arts as War (MAW) and Martial Arts as Sport (MAS), Warrior Flow stands alone in affirming that Ruthless Intent is not only a martial virtue, but a moral one.

This difference between Warrior Flow and every other martial art couldn’t be more critical.  It couldn’t be more essential.

The classical or traditional martial arts, both of the standing and grappling varieties, as well as pugilistic sports are of no relevance in this connection, for the training modalities on which they’re based are designed to prepare their practitioners for winning contests or competitions. As such, the excellence of Ruthless Intent not only has no place in these arts; the latter intrinsically precludes any occasion for its exercise.  In fact, Ruthless Intent, far from being a virtue, is actually a vice within the context of MAS.

To many observers, including those students of MAS, this commentary on Ruthless Intent may sound bizarre.  How, they may ask, can, say, a boxer not have Ruthless Intent when he is in the ring smashing his opponent to the mat?

If they would but slow down for a microsecond, they would realize that their question answers itself:

Boxers fight in rings on mats against opponents.  Theirs is the will to fight with an eye toward winning a contest.

Ruthless Intent, in glaring contrast, is nothing more or less than the will to destroy the enemy.  It is the will to kill, if need be, those who make of themselves enemies of the human race by preying upon innocents.

Lest readers get a mistaken impression, it must be stressed, once more, that this is both a martial and a moral excellence.  “Martial” means “of or pertaining to war.” While the mass commercialization of the martial arts and, consequently, their transformation into activities that are all too accommodating of the contemporary Western world’s legal, political, and cultural mores would have us forget it, we must nevertheless recall that, historically speaking, the martial arts are the warrior arts.

The martial arts are the arts of war.

No self-styled system of self-defense is anything of the kind unless and until it seeks to cultivate in students the will to annihilate “the bad guys,” as USMC Lieutenant-Colonel Al Ridenhour, founder of Warrior Flow Combatives, puts it.

Unless and until a martial arts instructor instills in his students the will to crush into nonbeing any and all who would imminently jeopardize their lives or those of their loved ones, that instructor is not functioning as a martial arts instructor.  And students are not receiving the service for which they’ve traded off their resources in time, money, and energy.

However, this raw end of the deal could become rawer yet if students, upon training for so long at a dojo, learn from some determined street predator that the belts they’ve earned and the techniques they’ve mastered utterly failed to spare them a trip to the hospital—or one to the morgue.

Only if students are taught to develop Ruthless Intent are they taught real self-defense.  Why?

Ruthless Intent—the will to end the existence of any and all who would dare to harm the innocent—is all that enables people to overcome their irrational fears of engaging with those who could potentially harm them.  This is what makes Ruthless Intent both a martial and moral excellence.

Ruthless Intent is, ultimately, indistinguishable from what Warrior Flow refers to as “Perfect Clarity” and “Moral Certainty,” two other aspects of the Warrior Mind.

Perfect Clarity unites what the ancients called “wisdom,” or “theoretical wisdom,” with “practical wisdom.”  The former is the knowledge of a general or universal truth.  The latter is the insight as to how that general truth pertains to one’s own specific set of circumstances.

However—and this is crucial—it would be a mistake to think that the theoretical and practical knowledge under discussion here is abstract; there’s nothing in the least abstract about it.  It is a conviction, a fiery conviction that, as such, permeates a person’s whole being, his mind, body, and spirit.

So, for example, the Warrior Flow practitioner knows that it is utterly unacceptable for a person to prey upon innocents.  This knowledge, though, is one and the same as an unmitigated contempt for such predators.  Simultaneously, while immersed within a situation in which he is personally imperiled by a prospective attacker—when, that is, an aggressor breaches a Warrior Flow student’s “sphere of influence” (the space whose outer limit is measured by extending one’s arms and fingers horizontally)—then the contempt that one rightfully has for all bullies and thugs will find expression toward this bully or thug, the particular punk who threatens him.

In other words, Perfect Clarity is the unadulterated understanding that those who prey upon the innocent deserve to be crushed with abandon, to be struck with Ruthless Intent.  It is as well the conviction that I need to unleash my Ruthless Intent upon this predator for preying upon me.

Warrior Flow’s idea of Moral Certainty reflects its position on the superiority of the ancients over the moderns in that the former, unlike the latter, had an integrated worldview: the metaphysical, epistemological, and the ethical are all ultimately one.  Perfect Clarity is Moral Certainty.  The conviction that violent misanthropes deserved to be evicted from humanity, a conviction that translates into one’s resolve to distribute this justice to those violent misanthropes by whom he is threatened, is a moral conviction.

One’s life is a gift from God.  As such, it bears within it a spark of the Divine in whose image it is made.  By virtue of its source, a human being’s life possesses an inviolable dignity and the person is a subject of rights and duties. In short, what this entails is that no one has the authority to arbitrarily or capriciously harm another.

This in turn means that the person so threatened has the right to defend himself by whichever means necessary.  And he has the duty to protect his loved ones and even other innocents who he is capable of protecting.

Moral Certainty is the conviction that it is right and good that a person imminently imperiled besiege his attacker(s) with Ruthless Intent.

Perfect Clarity, Moral Certainty, and Ruthless Intent—all aspects of the mind, the will, of the Warrior.

And, to repeat, the will of the Warrior is the will to kill the enemy.

Kill the enemy.

The Warrior knows—he knows in his mind and body—that he is to kill the lowlife, or low lives, who physically endanger him, his loved ones, or, if need be, others who are incapable of protecting themselves.

The Warrior, given his uniquely intimate knowledge of his own situation at the time, will be able to determine whether he has to crush the enemy into nonexistence.  Maybe he will choose to spare the enemy’s life, choosing instead to simply hospitalize him, say.  The point, though, is that the Warrior, because of his Ruthless Intent, has a categorical advantage over the non-Warrior in that the Warrior can choose.

To be clear, though, he can choose only because he has trained to kill, and to kill whomever and how many ever vermin jeopardize the innocent.

Miyomato Musashi, a Japanese Samurai Warrior from the 17th century, remarked that the Warrior is distinguished (fundamentally, though not exclusively) on account of his “resolute acceptance of death.”  Those of us who train in Warrior Flow labor under no delusions regarding our own mortality.  We know we are not literally invincible. Thus, we train to sow within our persons the readiness to die in combat while protecting the innocent, if we must.

Yet there is a caveat here that should appear as if in neon lights to any and all, whether friend or foe:  If the bad guys succeed in killing us, theirs isn’t going to be any participation prize.  They’re going to have to earn that shit.

They’re going to have to be willing to risk getting slammed in their throats by strikes with several hundreds of pounds of pressure behind them.

They’re going to have to possess the will to stand in that space and risk having their eyeballs gouged out of their skulls, teeth plunged into their jugular vein, testicles severed from their bodies, noses smashed with a force that they’ll swear is designed to drive it straight through the backs of their heads, and knees and shins booted with a ferocity guaranteed to make it feel like they are moving in ways that aren’t just anatomically impossible, but logically impossible.

These are the kinds of costs that attackers will be expected to pay.

It is not squaring off, street brawling for which Warrior Flow students train.  We train, rather, for war, for mortal combat.

For MAS and the typical street brawler whose idea of a street or barroom fight has been heavily influenced by MAS, the opponent’s arms and hands are key weapons.  But from the vantage point of MAW, the enemy’s arms and hands are themselves targets. Why?  Because every detail of the enemy’s body is now a potential target.

The bastard, or bastards, if there are multiple attackers, are safe…nowhere.

Warriors aren’t born.  They are made. This is the philosophy behind Warrior Flow.  While Mike McNulty and Kevin O’Leary, Warrior Flow instructors and co-owners of Warriors Way Combatives, the premiere training school for Warrior Flow, maintain that within every person there is a warrior waiting to be released, I think it is more accurate to say—and I suspect that they would agree with me—that within every person there is warrior potential.  Unless, however, there is the will on the part of a person to actualize his potentiality, he will never become the Warrior who he may have otherwise become.

The potential can and will be actualized, but only if a person is determined to undergo a transformation every bit as fundamental and dramatic as that experienced by the caterpillar that exits its cocoon a butterfly, or the acorn that becomes an oak tree.  Just as Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish scholar who made his living persecuting the disciples of Christ, became Paul, not just a disciple of Christ himself but the greatest of disciples, a believer in the absence of whose efforts it is doubtful that the Gospel ever would’ve made it to the Gentile world, so too must the person who seeks to become a warrior kill his old self and assume a new identity.

The seed must die before the plant can bloom.

The suffering, anger, and fear; even the sadness and inadequacies that preoccupied much of one’s identity yesteryear constitute the seed from which the Warrior will materialize, for they are the ingredients of the fuel that motivated one to embark upon one’s martial quest in the first place.  These emotions power, intensify, and sustain one’s training into the Warrior.

They are the stuff of the Old Self, it is true.  But the difference between the Old Self and the New is that pain, anger, and fear served no productive purposes for the Old Self. They consumed or oppressed it.  The New Self, the Warrior, in glaring contrast, chooses to use these emotions for his own purposes.  He chooses to hold them in reserve.

So it’s not that the New Self, the Warrior, has rid himself of his pain, rage, and fear.  Rather, he has radically altered his relationship to them.  As Copernicus subverted the Ptolemaic model of the Earth’s relationship to the sun, so too does the Warrior subvert the relationship that he previously had with his pain, his rage, and his fear.

When Ruthless Intent becomes, or starts to become, the whole point and purpose of one’s every movement; when, in Musashi’s words, one’s everyday stance becomes one’s fighting stance and vice versa, then one starts to move like a different person.  And when one starts to move like a different person, then, inescapably, one begins to think and feel like a different person.

The logic is inexorable: If a person moves like he’s a different person, and thinks like a different person, and feels like a different person, then…he is a different person.

Warrior Flow is unique among the combat arts in making its mission the creation, not of men and women who are capable of “surviving” violent attacks, but of Warriors who will achieve unqualified victory over their attackers.

Yet in order to attain this objective, students must understand, appreciate, and seek to perfect the martial and moral virtue of Ruthless Intent.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

Warriors aren’t born.  They are made. This is the philosophy behind Warrior Flow Combatives, or Warrior Flow. And a Warrior without Ruthless Intent is like a library without books or, more accurate yet, a square without four sides. Ruthless Intent is nothing more or less than the will to crush the Enemy, those who would […]

Ruthless Intent is the martial virtue par excellence. Warrior Flow Combatives, or simply Warrior Flow, is rare among the combat arts inasmuch as it unabashedly underscores this fact. While it is, of course, true that all forms of “martial realism” insist upon the distinction between Martial Arts as War (MAW) and Martial Arts as Sport […]

Warrior Flow, being a variant as it is of what is commonly known as “World War II Close Quarter Combatives,” prizes the martial virtue of what it refers to as “Ruthless Intent.” Ruthless Intent is nothing more or less than the resolve to “kill the bad guys,” as its founder, retired USMC Lieutenant-Colonel Al Ridenhour, […]

Fear.  The most primal and universal of emotions, it is preposterous to think that there are any of us who are immune to it. It’s at least as preposterous to think that politics, the activity of adjusting and continually readjusting human institutions so as to facilitate peaceful co-existence between a society’s members, can somehow lay […]