I had responded to the call of suspicious circumstances. It was dark and cold and the sort of night that you wanted to spend in your cruiser writing reports with a cup of Starbucks on top of some parking structure and not walking around somebody’s backyard.
The call had been of a fight in progress by the I-10 freeway. This was an area frequented by the Santa Monica subculture of stree people. Unlike the images of the media, we did not find many widows and orphans in their ranks, but rather dopers, parolees at large, and thugs on the run. In that part of town it may have been anything from a common domestic to gang fight in progress…or both.
On arrival I was greeted by the victim with a huge gash across his face. The paramedics had arrived before me (something I had never seen before nor since…probably a mistake in dispatching). I recall the bloodied victim’s response when I asked him “Que paso hombre?”.
I moved through the freeway underbrush quietly without even a flashlight hunting the machete man. There had been plenty of times when a “nice cop” with a flashlight had been shot by the unseen in the shadows. As well, announcements of “Police”, had often been met with gunfire. So while both of those actions were required by official policy, I was never one to let that dictate my tactics…specially since I knew what such a weapon could do. My plan was to shoot the guy as soon as I saw him. No need for niceties. Yeah….I know how they do it on TV, but this was not TV.
I carried my ASP baton high in anticipation of a high blow, and my pistol low and back in what we now call the weapon retention position. It was dark and my eyes strained to see into the brush not daring to use a light…moving as if stalking dangerous game. Then I saw something up ahead…a dark blob…moving…bigger….bigger…
There is a great deal of discussion about training combat patterns, and how training patterns is wrong since all true fighters should be training patternless. Every combat generation has its key words. But what do they mean once we get beyond the labyrinthine quagmire of language and marketing?
We see the Karate fighter moving in a choreographed manner through the kata, moving in a deadly balance of speed and power as his punches and kicks pop in the morning air. We see the pro basketball player running hard down the court dribbling in an established pattern of movement and then launching the ball like a missile through the hoop so that the net is hardly disturbed.
And then we see each of these men pull off an unplanned execution, in combat, or in a game, of a movement so different from the usual or the norm, and so perfectly timed that it looks choreographed, and takes our breath away.
The art without art.
The formless moment.
The “In The Zone” that we hear about.
That is what we want…that is what we seek. That! The patternless, formlessness that both Musashi, (the Void) and Bruce Lee, and Michael Jordan spoke of. And we try to attain it by skipping all the work they did….and cutting to the chase in typical impatient, immediate gratification, American fashion.
At the risk of sounding too much like the fictional Miyagi –
How many hours did Musashi spend cutting with his sword…until the act of drawing and cutting…and killing, was as natural as breathing?
How many punches did Lee throw…until he could punch in his mind and men would fly onto the ground almost with no effort on his part?
How many basketballs did Jordan throw?
How many swings did Tiger Woods take?
How many strides did Bolt take?
Formlessness comes from establishing form. Patternlessness comes from establishing patterns. And both require physical effort and work. There is no time in the real world to develop a pattern for the problem in an instant…nor to think fast enough to analyze it. But training a sufficient number of movement patterns will allow you break from one and into another one, adapting to the moment as it is perceived…just like speaking.
To ask a man to enter a debate without having learned modern speech patterns, and having organized his thoughts and arguments beforehand is dooming him to failure don’t you think? It is the same with any physical endeavor...and for fighting, specially with guns.
There are no shortcuts….not then….and not now…in speaking…or in fighting.
The bad guy’s arm moved toward me in a predictable arc, faster than words can convey. I saw a blur….from an area….not a technique to adapt to. My ASP came up and struck his arm and his face hard. Then I moved under it and dropped him hard with a leg kick that broke his leg.
No machete…just a small knife.
My movements? A sloppy on-the-fly modification of a segment in the very old Kanku dai kata. Formlessness, mindlessness, patternlessness. The dirty secret? They all begin with extensive and repetitive work on the basics.