Martial Arts as War (MAW) and Martial Arts as Sport (MAS)—these are the two paradigms that, by and large, define the contemporary universe of the martial arts. Or so I have argued in previous essays. Now, it’s true, of course, that—as my own Master-Instructor observed to me in one of our countless conversations over this […]
Warrior Flow Combatives is a martial system founded by retired USMC Lieutenant-Colonel Al Ridenhour. It is unique among all such systems in two respects:
First, it unapologetically underscores the martial character of the martial arts. “Martial,” it is all too easy to forget nowadays, means “of or pertaining to war.” Historically speaking, it went without saying that the martial arts were the warrior arts. Thus, all who trained in them trained to become warriors.
Given this last point, Warrior Flow instructors, in training their students to become warriors, train them not to merely survive if and when they must deploy their skill to incapacitate threats to themselves, their loved ones, and/or other would-be victims. Warrior Flow students are taught, as soldiers in war are taught, to flourish, to settle for nothing less than victory over those who would choose to make of themselves the enemy of God and man by preying upon innocents.
This means that Warrior Flow students are taught from day one that theirs will be a training designed to maximize their odds of destroying the enemy, and doing so in the absence of a long face. Because students—training as they do to become not “tough guys” but, rather, warriors—train to unleash, within a microsecond and with brutal efficiency, unrelenting violence against all and only those by whom they are imminently threatened, they are powered by a conviction in the moral righteousness of their cause.
Warrior Flow students do not “fight.” Those who train in the pugilistic and “combat” sports “fight.” This is fine and good and as it should be, for sport is sport. On the streets, however, “fighting” is the stuff of adolescents, and adults who fight in any venue other than those of sporting events are at once idiotic, embarrassing, and sophomoric. In contrast, Warrior Flow students train for battle.
They train for war.
Nor is this hyperbole. Whether an act of violent aggression against an innocent is perpetrated by a criminal predator or your garden-variety douche bag is neither here nor there: Either way, people have been seriously injured and killed in such attacks. Therefore, in Warrior Flow, practitioners regard all such attacks as acts of war—and train to respond accordingly.
This brings us to the second respect in which Warrior Flow distinguishes itself from all other arts. I refer to its training modality.
Unlike all other martial arts of both the classical and “realist” varieties, Warrior Flow’s training modality is at once sub-technique and post-technique. Warrior Flow explicitly transcends all techniques.
This is critical for two reasons:
(1)Most of those systems that are of a piece with what are commonly known as “World War II Close Quarter Combatives,” “reality-based self-defense,” “martial realism,” etc. impart to their students a battery of moves, of techniques that, if students can succeed in executing them, will indeed prove to be devastating to those against whom they’re deployed. This focus upon such techniques demands of students that they possess at least a fundamental understanding of human anatomy, for the strikes that they are trained to deliver are aimed at potentially lethal targets on the body.
(2)These systems note, correctly, that while physical training is obviously necessary, it is not sufficient, for martial excellence is impossible without mental conditioning. Yet inasmuch as the physical component of these systems centers in the perfection of techniques, whatever mental training they offer (if anything on the order of genuine training in this area is even offered) can only ever be an extraneous accompaniment to the physical training.
As such, the contemporary world of the martial arts presupposes that the human-person is a duality of mind and body. This is a philosophical fiction that has been in circulation for centuries.
Warrior Flow, recognizing, as it does, that the person is a unity of mind and body and that, moreover, the body is the subconscious mind, as neuroscientist Joe Dispensa describes it, is having none of it.
Thus, Warrior Flow’s principles-based, as opposed to techniques-based, training modality: Warrior Flow practitioners train not in moves, but in moving, and moving with peerless economy of motion. Yet—and this is unequivocal—each and every movement, from striking a dummy, a heavy bag, or one’s training partner to lifting a glass, stepping from one point to another, and brushing one’s teeth, every movement is related to every other in serving an overarching telos. Every movement, that is, possesses a larger purpose that eclipses the short-term, surface purpose brought to fruition by its execution.
That larger purpose is nothing more or less than the annihilation of the enemy.
Warrior Flow students train to perfect their movement, not for movement’s sake, but for the sake of moving with an effortlessness that will upset an aggressor’s perception of space and time just long enough to remove him from the planet.
Practitioners train not in what to do, but in how to do whatever it is they decide they need to do. They learn about human anatomy well enough, but it is mostly indirectly, via their immersion in the machinations of human physiology—i.e. the principles, processes, the mechanisms by which the anatomical ingredients of the human body constitute the organism that it is.
The five principles of Warrior Flow are as follows:
“Balance” is a term that seems to endlessly spring from the lips of martial artists. It is commonplace. Equilibrium control, however, is something else. Obviously, it encompasses balance, but it surpasses it as well.
In assuming control of one’s equilibrium, one ensures that all of the countless components of one’s body are making all of the countless mutual adjustments that they must make so that when one must blast the enemy one can do so, solidly rooted, with one’s whole body lined up behind one’s strikes.
Remember: Warrior Flow students do not train to move for movement’s sake. And they do not strike for the sake of stinging or bruising an attacker. Since they perfect their movement for the sake of neutralizing belligerents, they seek to guarantee that every strike possesses maximal power, bone-crushing might designed to critically injure, maim, and kill. But only by propelling one’s strikes by one’s whole body will this amount of power be generated.
Like “balance,” so too are “relaxed” and “loose” terms that are the common currency of martial artists. Yet, like “balance,” these last two are insufficiently precise, being simultaneously too broad and too narrow in scope. Neither, given both their denotative and connotative meanings, are they sufficiently conducive toward the ultimate goal of crushing the enemy, for if one is either too “relaxed” or too “loose” one can have one’s life extinguished.
Simply put, subtle muscle-control is the condition that obtains when the Many become One, when the body’s muscles, being unitized, operate with maximal fluidity and efficiency, all enlisted at once in the service of exploiting all of the possibilities within the space-time continuum for the purpose of becoming unavailable, yet unavoidable, to the enemy.
Reality-based martial arts systems stress the need for gross muscle movements. This emphasis is meant to distinguish these systems from the classical martial arts, with the latter’s focus upon techniques that tend to be more complicated and, thus, less practical. What the instructors of these combative programs neglect, though, is that to maximize their students’ odds of successfully prosecuting the “gross” muscle movements that they teach, their students need…subtle muscle-control!
Even the engagement of so-called “gross” muscle movements requires the refinement of a seemingly infinite number of other movements that must transpire in order for the “gross” action to be executed for effect. Without the perfection of granularity of movement, the successful actualization of the “gross” movement—the delivery of a devastating strike to the enemy—is significantly less likely to occur.
Subtle muscle-control also promotes versatility, the ability, within a micro-second, to make one’s natural weapon of choice at the point of impact, to, say, substitute a chop for a straight punch, a hammer fist for a spear hand or a palm strike, etc. depending upon whether one determines that the dynamic of the battle had changed sufficiently to demand the adjustment.
This includes two dimensions. The first is interoception. This is simply an awareness of all that one is feeling within one’s own body, particularly as one moves.
It also, however, consists of sensory awareness of one’s surroundings. Within the framework of combat, the development of perceptual awareness obviously consists in kinesthetic, optical, and auditory development. Yet it as well not only transcends each of the senses individually. It transcends them collectively, for perceptual awareness is the martial virtue of being able to perceive with the mind’s eye, so to speak, to discern the context of the battle and, within that context, the potentialities for victory over the enemy that have not yet been realized, options that can’t be seen by those who lack understanding, those who haven’t be trained.
There is dynamic coordination where the Warrior Flow student has weaved the last three principles—equilibrium control, subtle muscle-control, and perceptual awareness—together.
The situation constituted by the coordination of the first three principles permits the Warrior Flow student to spontaneously create an ever-proliferating array of possible ways within the ever-fluctuating dynamics of a confrontation to vanquish the enemy from the land of the living.
Now—and this is of crucial importance to grasp—each of these five principles are as mental as they are physical in nature. In glaring contrast to the founders and instructors of other real-world combat systems for whose regimen of mental conditioning is essentially additive, Warrior Flow recognizes that the mental and the physical are, in practice, indistinguishable. Accordingly, the mental training is baked into the cake of the physical training—just as the physical training is intrinsic to the mental training.
The two are one.
We should take care to be even more exact on this score: Within Warrior Flow, the physical and the mental fuse into a single, seamless Will.
Perfect Clarity, Moral Certainty, and Ruthless Intention—these are the three inseparable dimensions of the Warrior Flow student’s will:
Unlike in far, far too many other martial arts, there is no mixed messaging in Warrior Flow: Students, as I mentioned above, are informed from the first moment that they become acquainted with the art that they will be trained to “win the fight of their lives.” They are not trained to “survive violence,” but, rather, to win. To fucking win.
Whether the attacker is one or many, students have perfect clarity and moral certainty regarding both the nature and righteousness of their response. And they know that their response is the raw, undifferentiated embodiment of ruthless intention: They are to scorch the Earth with the bodies of their assailants.
No ambiguity. No hesitation. No doubts.
No mercy—unless and until the Warrior Flow student intuits, given his or her intimate and unique familiarity with the circumstances of the attack, that he or she can safely spare the life or lives of the attackers.
The point of this introduction to Warrior Flow Combatives is to impress upon readers the ways in which this art stands apart from all others. For those interested in learning more, they can check out my own articles as well as visit here and here.