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Lessons from My Masters 1

“My blade moves like the softest breeze…Cutting the clouds of fear…Evading the clash of steel…Only to pierce the heart of resistance…”

                                                                 – Grandmaster John Perkins

In this series which I will call “Lessons from My Masters” I’m going to delve into some of the things that I have learned and observed over the years as a practitioner and instructor in the art of Guided Chaos.

These are my own impressions and interpretations over the years as an instructor and life-long student of what I know for a fact regarding this awesome art. I’m doing this because I get a number of requests from folks all of the time about these matters or what we sometimes refer to as “the old days” of Guided Chaos. So rather than just talk about it among our regular students I thought I’d write about them for clarity for others who want, as Paul Harvey would say, “the rest of the story”.

These are not presented in any specific order, they will be just thoughts I’ve had about the art and when something comes to mind that I recall I’ll just write about it. In this first installment I’m going to get into a little about my early training with Grandmaster Carron and I’ll give you some of my impressions along with things that I came to discover from the many lessons I had with him.

The Essence of Motion

“No matter who you’re dealing with, it doesn’t matter what they do, when they move you’re just dealing with motion…”

                                                                   -Grandmaster Tim Carron

This is perhaps one of the most profound concepts about the art of Guided Chaos that if you get this understanding in my opinion it will go a long way in your development and resolve the sort of road blocks where people tend to get stuck.

But before I get into that I want to provide some background on Grandmaster Carron or as we referred to him as Tim because while there is much written about Grandmaster Perkins in our books and other promotional materials, little is known about Tim. As I’ve stated in previous posts, Tim was a Vietnam Veteran who served at Da Nang Air Base where they used to get hit by rockets and mortars every day and sometimes had to fight to repulse direct attacks against the base.

Tim was relatively quiet and really not one to boast or brag so if he said something, he meant it as a statement of fact and not hyperbole. His teaching style was a cross between Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid” where many of his drills and exercises had that “wax on wax off” feel where what you were learning wasn’t always apparent or what is referred to as “paradoxical learning”, and the exactness of The Evil Pai Mei from “Kill Bill”. When it came to developing people Tim was very methodical, he always had a purpose for what he was doing even if he just told you, “just move with me”. No matter what you thought was going on there was nothing random about what he was doing to your body. He was always doing stuff to affect your body.

However, unlike the character Pai Mei who was a fictional Master, Tim really could detach your arm from the socket, ligaments, tendons and all. Trust me: those who’ve been there know exactly what I’m talking about…which brings me to another point. Tim also had a touch of “The Outlaw Jose Wales” in him whereas with Jose Wales if he had to “spit” you were done, well if Tim had to put his cigarette down…it was game over. My point is his mind could go there in a microsecond from “zero to death”.

Tim generally only had two speeds, slow and extremely fast. If he had to go to warp speed on you the good news was it would be over before it started. I also want to point out (as he confided to me on a number of occasions) people used to try him all-of-the-time. He even told me that, like John, if some of these guys could get a piece of him it would make their day. He said:

“Listen they’re human and just like you don’t like to get hit either, and some guys for whatever reason are going to try you no matter what. When you’re teaching you just need to be on your guard for that”.

Yet in spite of his off the chart skill the “reverence” he had for John’s ability speaks volumes about John’s skill. I have to say that because John would never say it about his own skill but I know better and so did Tim. I only say this because you had for a time folks who trained primarily with Tim going around saying stuff like, “well we’re doing the art the way it’s supposed to be done etc.” and other inane stupidity.

So being all about enlightening people here let me help them out: if you think this way you don’t know what the Hell you are talking about and Tim would tell you that himself.

I don’t mean to come off so angry, but this kind of stuff really pisses me off especially when they have direct access to Grandmaster Perkins himself. This way of thinking is not just arrogance or hubris it’s just dumb.

If you are a practitioner of Guided Chaos and you run into one of these characters you need to run from them if you have to because they’ll only lead you down the wrong rabbit hole.

I’ll say this: very few people have ever seen John and Tim move where they are going at it. Let’s say no matter how fast you’ve seen people in the art move, whether its Master Michael, myself or a few others who can move extremely fast, it is not the same thing. Even the stuff we have on film doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just say that people who thought Tim could move have no idea of how John can “really move”. Like I said, John would never say this but it’s the truth, the stuff he does makes no sense.

I’m just sayin…

Anyway, one of the concepts that Tim pounded into my head and body, was the understanding that at the end of the day you’re just dealing with motion. You see, too many folks want me to show them how to deal with “this” or deal with “that”, which is understandable but as Tim said, the truth is at the end of the day “you’re just dealing with motion”.

I can show you techniques until I’m blue in the face but until you learn to deal with another person’s motion I’m just showing you a bunch of stuff and no matter how cool the technique is at the end of the day it’s just “a thing”.  While this seems simple enough it is a little harder to do because you not only have to learn to get out of the way of an attacker’s strikes but you have to “get out of your own way” in order to do it.

So to explain this a little better let’s do a little time traveling. Long ago when I first started in the art. I used to train with Tim at least once, sometimes twice a week.

As I began my training sessions with Tim one of the first things he did was to focus on getting my body to move correctly. You see while I was athletic and had been doing martial arts for a number of years it didn’t take me long to figure out there was something that was missing from my skill set. How else do you explain my getting throttled by some house wife?

Anyway, the first thing he did was to tell me to place one foot forward and one foot back in what he called the “L-Stance” and began to do a basic body movement drill with me (which I’ll provide an explanation of at the end of this Blog Post), that I still do to this day with any new student of the art.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils…”

                                                                                  –1 Timothy 4:1(KJV)

Now before I continue I need to go off a little here because this needs to be said because there is a school of thought out there teaching “doctrines of devils” that believes if you’re not in a perfect “L-Stance” at all times then you are not doing the art right. So let me be blunt, as I said before these people don’t know what the Hell they’re talking about. Period.

(For those unfamiliar with the L-Stance it is similar to how a boxer or a fencer may stand when facing an opponent but our feet are not as far apart so it provided for greater mobility as well as stability.)

The problem with this way of thinking is, it’s just outright wrong. As Tim explained it to me nearly 30 years ago (wow it’s been that long) when I asked him about this and why he or John were rarely in the L-Stance here’s what he said.

“Yeah I really shouldn’t do that because people get the wrong idea you see the L-Stance allows you to have greater control over your balance in the beginning when someone is directly in front of you. It makes it much easier to catch your balance since your rear leg is directly behind you if they try to push you. True you can turn more when you’re standing with your feet square but until you develop your balance well enough to shift your body from side-to-side under control, I need you to stay in the L-Stance so you can learn to control your body.”

Or words to that effect. Now that’s a “totally different” understanding of the application of the L-Stance than what some people are telling folks. Like I said they don’t know what the Hell they’re talking about.

Think of the L-Stance like training wheels on a bike, until you can learn how to really ride the bike and balance it you need those wheels. Once you learn you really don’t need them. But this notion that you must always be in the L-Stance flies in the face of reality because as I would learn later this was also one of the reasons it was impossible to get around Tim. His balance was so great he knew how to make the slightest adjustments to cut off your angles of attack while appearing like he barely moved, if at all.

Toward Unavailability

After placing me in the L-Stance Tim would then begin to move my body first with the lightest touch just getting me to move back and forth and then rotating around my center of gravity, then with more and more looseness until no matter how fast or how much force he exerted my body was able to respond without me losing control of my body.

Again, when dealing with another person regardless of their size, speed or strength in the end you are just dealing with motion and nothing else. This does not mean that these things are not an advantage to an attacker–on the contrary it is because they do matter is why all the more one must develop their body through the principles of Guided Chaos are you to have a chance at neutralizing the initial movement in an encounter with such an individual.

Part of Tim’s philosophy on this was he always assumed that people were stronger or faster than him. He would say things to me like:

“You can see for yourself if someone is bigger than you and yeah if they’re bigger they’re probably stronger but that can be deceptive too, but if you always assume they’re probably stronger or faster you’re already likely to get out of the way and just take their head off… Their head is still their head…”

His point was if your mind was already predisposed to think that way you were more likely to be out of the way as you move in to strike.

In order to successfully do this, let alone teach this concept, you must condition your own mind to accept and develop this understanding yourself. You must become so unavailable yet unavoidable that even in the light of day, the sun cannot ascertain your location. You must not only become the wind but its shadow…

Tim understood something very fundamental that would take me a long time to get and that is he only needed to do two things in the beginning:

1) If he could get your body moving effortlessly without you having to move your feet he could get you to neutralize another person’s motion without picking your feet up or step and…

2) If he could get you to step and move “as little as you needed” (which is a whole different discussion) with little to no effort (all the while neutralizing the other person’s motion) then he’s done like 90% percent of what he needs to do to get your body moving correctly where you can fight from anywhere within your body.

Please re-read what I just said because this goes right to the heart of getting people on the path to righteousness within the art as opposed to them fumbling around in the dark for years chasing after shinny objects, looking for hidden esoteric secrets and magic in secret corners.

 

How to Begin with New Students

“By training you will be able to freely control your own body, conquer men with your body, and with sufficient training you will be able to beat ten men with your spirit…”

                                – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

While the exercises I’m going to present can be performed on your own this is above all probably the most important thing you can do if you are an instructor of Guided Chaos because without establishing the basic principles, students will get lost or never gain a firm foundation in the art.  It is my personal belief that we have lost more students over the years because students never get this from the start.

When working with a new student the first thing you need to do is give them an overview of the art regarding the 5 Principles or BALANCE, LOOSENESS, SENSITIVITY, BODY UNITY and ADAPTIVITY which are what makes Guided Chaos unique among other martial arts.  This information can be found on the Guided Chaos web site at the following link below.

https://guidedchaos.kartra.com/page/About

Basic Balance Work

After giving them the overview start them off by having them relax their arms and then move back and forth emphasizing that they keep their hips level while just letting their arms hang. You want them to focus on that relaxed feeling and want them to feel the weight of their upper body down to their feet.

Next you want them to begin the drill rolling the ball, concentrating on moving and turning with their shoulders and hips in sync with each other ensuring that their shoulders and hips do not become perpendicular to each other which will cause them to get their body out of alignment.

Next place them in the L-Stance with their feet no more than a shoulder’s width apart.

Then have them bring their arms up with a slight bend in the elbow and have them extend their thumbs.

Next lightly grab their thumbs and instruct them that you are going pull on their thumbs but you do not want them to move their arms but to move their whole body as you pull and push on their thumbs.

As you “very lightly” pull and push you want them to keep their hips as level to the ground as possible sliding their hips forward and back ensuring that as they move their knees do not go past their toe and their backsides do not go past their heels. Nor should they lean forward or backward throughout this movement.

Next begin to get them to move their arms back and forth while still moving forward and back then rotating around their hips and center of gravity.  Again this can be done by grabbing their thumbs and moving their arms back and forth as you move their body.

Basic Looseness Work

Next begin to work on their looseness, explain what looseness is and then start them off by having them relax their arms at their sides and begin by touching them on one side of their body and turn them all the way to one side as far as possible in order to get them to feel the full range of motion with their bodies. When you take them back the other way, do not let them move themselves but you bring them back around with as light as contact as possible so that they learn to move their bodies with the lightest possible contact.

Next you want to grab hold of their bodies and just like molding clay you want to begin the process of loosening their bodies by pushing in various directions to get them used to pocketing and turning all the while as you apply pressure to their body from all different angles. You want to feel their bodies and what they are doing so that you can continue to manipulate their bodies appropriately.

Basic Sensitivity Work

When starting with new students first explain the concept of sensitivity and while doing this lightly place your arms on top of their arms so that they gain an appreciation as to what you are describing. From there have them then place their arms on top of yours and begin by moving slowly allowing them to follow your arms.

Then “check” them by explaining that you are going to attempt to poke them in the eye when you attempt this (trust me they will stop it). After they stop your hands explain to them that the reason they were able to stop your arms is because they could actually feel your intention.

Next have them close their eyes and repeat this process. This will allow them to see that through their sense of touch they are still able to stop your arms because they were still able to feel your intention to poke them in the eye.

Basic Body Unity Work

After going through the first three principles (in that order) if instructing begin Contact Flow with them and explain that through the Contact Flow exercise they are able to bring all of the principles together and are able to train in the concepts through this.

Explain that this allows them to create the proper Body Unity that is in sync with another person’s body movement that allows them to fight with their body freely and in a coordinated manner. Also as you are doing this allow them to see where all of the openings are as you “guide them” or what I call “guiding the strikes”. This is important because they have to be shown right from the start where all of the openings are otherwise they never learn what is possible.

Well that’s it for this installment. Hope you got something out of this.

Thanks.

LtCol Al Ridenhour USMC (ret)

Senior Master Instructor

Al Ridenhour

Al Ridenhour

Al Ridenhour is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Marine Corps with 28 years of active and reserve military service with multiple combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is the Co-Author of "Attack Proof: The Ultimate Guide to Personal Protection, 2nd Addition", (Human Kinetics, 2009) and the Co-Author of "Fight for Your Life", (June 2010). Although he was an instructor in unarmed combat for his unit, Al Ridenhour knew he had found the right self-defense system when people half his size from John Perkins' school could strike him at will with "penetrating force," yet remain elusive to his own strikes. Even though he'd traveled the globe with the U.S. Marines and trained with a variety of U.S. military and Asian martial arts instructors, Al's first thought was "if this works for them, it'll work for me." He resolved then and there to become a student of Perkins' unusual, free-flowing and highly adaptive art. Lt Colonel Ridenhour has been with John Perkins since 1992 and risen to the rank of 7th degree Master and Senior Master Instructor. As a veteran of the Persian Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan, Al has put his Guided Chaos training to use everyday to stay alive--and where possible has passed that training on to his troops.

1 Comment

  1. MattK MattK on November 3, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Great

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