Lessons from My Masters 15: Observations–Deceptions

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All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Of all the principles in Guided Chaos probably none is more amorphous than the fifth principle of Adaptivity. This principle covers so many aspects of the art and crosses so many boundaries I really don’t know where to begin. What I’m going to do is to try to take a swing at it and see where it goes. Once again as always these are just my impressions and observations so they are relative to my experiences and I’m sure others who study the art have their own. They for the most part are all good and valid since it is personal to the person who is experiencing whatever they are experiencing at the time.

I call this observation “Deception” because I believe it is an aspect of the art that is little discussed let alone understood and the importance it plays on making things work. It’s not really something that’s taught within Guided Chaos let alone the martial arts as a whole but is more of a byproduct due to the level of freedom within your movement you’re able to create.




de·cep·tion | \di-ˈsep-shən

1: the act of causing someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid

2: something that deceives


Deception is as old as when the first man picked up the jaw bone of an animal and slew him unawares.  According the Bible, 1 Kings 22, we see even God gets in on the act in order to destroy King Ahab where we read:


“And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead?’ And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ And the LORD said unto him, ‘Wherewith?’ And he said, ‘I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.'”

–1 Kings 22:19-23 KJV


So for those who missed it in Sunday school, basically God had enough of Ahab and wanted him to fall in a very disgraceful manner but he wanted it to be due to Ahab’s own arrogance and overconfidence. So in the verses above what we have here is God talking to the Heavenly Hosts and is looking for a volunteer to go forth to persuade Ahab to enter into battle only to be slain. So incredibly, an angel steps forward and volunteers to become a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets to persuade him into fighting. Not only does God approve of this plot but he also states, “Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so…”

My reason for pointing this out is because for whatever reason in the martial arts among practitioners, including some in our own school, there is this mentality, or weird sense that we are either above the use of deception or that it does not exist at all.


I can’t speak for other arts but I will tell you that in the art of Guided Chaos not only do we believe that there is no such thing as a fair fight, we’re counting on it! We will do everything in our power to not make it fair.

I remember recently having a conversation in class with Grandmaster Perkins and he asked me what I said about if I had to deal with Killeen (one of our female instructors) if it were for real and I said very matter of factly, “I’m just going to hit her with a shovel and be done with it…” People laughed but they also knew I was dead serious.

Some people are too dangerous to fool around with and even though she’s a woman and I’m twice her size I’m having none of it. She moves too well, too elusively, too deceptively and if she has a weapon in her hand like a blade, by the time you see it you’ve already been cut long, wide and deep. Her skills are no bullshit.

The same is true for Tina Dawn, by the time you see the weapon she’s already cut you, as she would say, from head to head (i.e., from dick to head. Ouch!). It is because of her skills and that type of thinking which is why she’s earned the right to be put on my “shovel list.”

Trust me, my “Shovel List” is a list of great honor: only those women deemed worthy of me hitting them from behind with a shovel can be on that list. I also have a “Truck List” for people who I’m going to hit with my truck. But that’s for another time.

When asked why certain people are on the truck list, I say,

“Listen: even shooting these guys is an iffy proposition unless I use a rifle. It’s simple to me, it’s the only way to be sure. I just gotta be sure…”

My point is, to the Devil with Queensberry Rules. A real fight is war and everything is on the table and everything is authorized especially deception, and there should be no ambiguity in your mind about it, and if your mind is not there in the right place then you had better get there. Thus the importance of deception.


Deception Starts in the Way You Think (But Resides in the Body)


This is weird stuff…

–Grandmaster Tim Carron


I used to think that Deception was a purely mental process but after observing it over the years I’m not so sure. Obviously in order to begin the process to develop it there is some thought that needs to be given to it, but I also believe that one of the reasons there are those who struggle to engage in what I’ll call here our “Sith-Like Powers,”  is because there is not enough emphasis on developing their body through the five principles of the art.

I define the Sith Powers as the following set of skills within Guided Chaos. They are:

  • Tool Replacement
  • Pulsing
  • Pocketing
  • Ghosting
  • Isolation
  • Getting Out of Phase
  • Skimming / Sliding Energy
  • Internal Dropping
  • Long Stepping
  • Teleportation / Push Step

There are more but I just want to focus on the most obvious ones that over time we’ve given names to that people are familiar with. But these attributes form the basis for how we hide our intention when moving with another human being and aid us in the ability to get ahead of their movement.

In any event, each one, in order to successfully accomplish, are a function of our ability to Adapt to whatever the circumstances are and move in a way that alters the perception of the other person long enough. To either lead them to the wrong place or fix their movement long enough for us to gain the advantage in body position and win the fight.

As I said, deception is as old as man himself and goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Not to get all biblical here but for our purposes for the sake of self-defense we’re going to focus on it from the perspective of how it can save your life. Think of it like this, in the military we use camouflage to hide ourselves from the enemy and weapons that can fire over the horizon (sorry flat earthers: the earth is a sphere and our weapons prove it). Why? The element of surprise!

But how do you gain it? Deception!

The Sniper wears a Ghillie Suit. Why? Deception!

Stealth Fighter? Deception!

Ambush? Deception!

Night Raids? Deception!

A Faint Attack? Deception!

Infiltration? Deception!

Sucker Punch? Deception!

Concealed Weapon? Deception!

In nature, the crocodile moves in the water like a floating log, waiting for its prey to get too close. The rattle snake blends in with the rocks, the copper head blends with the leaves, the water moccasin looks like a wet branch coiled up by the banks of a stream. The lioness crouches in the tall grass, moving slowly, inching closer before it pounces. The hyena hunts in packs at night, circling to distract. Deception!

Deception is the way of nature, the way of close combat and the way of war, it is how you tip the scales in your favor, it is how you win!

Why would you give that up?

Why would you not want to know how to do this?

Why would you deny yourself this ability?

Why would you not want that which could literally mean the difference between life and death?

It’s funny, as obvious as this seems (and John says it more or less in a variety of ways) that is one of the many aspects of Guided Chaos that eludes people: how he uses deception through movement to throw the “monkey wrench” into another person’s movements.

This is important to understand and should be obvious to people but apparently it’s not. I believe much of this is because, for many folks, the martial arts (including those who study the art of Guided Chaos) with regard to fighting, is still a series of techniques or skills one acquires and whether the skills they develop when employed are automatic or not, they generally do not look beyond a given technique for answers.

It’s also been my observation that when some people do Contact Flow, they do the skills, the techniques and yet when they get to the “future” on another person they give no consideration as to how they got there in the first place. It is because they are not aware of it is why they can never learn how to use it to disappear right in front of people. For them Contact Flow is just a series of Guided Chaos moves that they practice without any consideration beyond a given technique so as a result they are never able to transcend technique.

They do not go much beyond what their eyes can see and so because they cannot see it with their minds, so they cannot see it with their eyes.

Even if it is staring them in the face…

In “Lessons from My Masters 13: Looseness” I discussed my frustration when working with Grandmaster Carron when it appeared that he was pushing me, yet telling me I was trying to push him only to be taught that what he was doing was “Pulsing” me. Without this explanation I would have never understood that he was using a form of deception to trick me into applying unnecessary force so that he could use it against me. Because until you understand what pulsing is and have felt it first-hand you do not have a clue that all along you were being set up to fail.

Once I understood that he was actively doing something to cause me to react in the manner I did, then things began to make more sense. You see, Pulsing, Tool Replacement, Sliding / Skimming, Ghosting etc. these are all forms of deception. All things designed to divert your mind away from the thing that is really happening long enough to lead you in the wrong direction or fix your movement long enough so that you can be crushed. As I’ve discussed numerous times, there isn’t any such thing as a fair fight. Well this is what I’m talking about.


Folding Space, Compressing Time


“…Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War


Once again, deception is an integral part of the art of Guided Chaos because it is an integral part of combat. Guided Chaos is about combat and more important (at least for me) winning in combat by any means necessary.

About two weeks ago I was talking with Dennis (one of our students) who’s a 1st Degree in the art, and we were discussing this very topic and I was telling him about the first time I really saw how John could disappear right in front of me. I guess I was a 3rd Degree at the time and this was over at our school we had in Nyack, NY. Anyway, it kind of went like this,

“So anyway Dennis, I’m working with John and I ask him, ‘So what would you ‘really do’ if you had to just go in on someone?'”

So he says,You really want to see it?”

So I said, “Yeah…

I then said to Dennis, “Now watch what I do…I’m going to show you what he did.” I guess I was standing about a good two paces away from him.

So I said, “You ready?” and he goes, “Yeah.”

All I said was, “It’s over.”

The next thing he says is, “What the Hell? How in the hell did you do that? I’m looking right at you!?!”

I said, “I know that’s crazy, right?”

He said, “I’m looking right at you and I still couldn’t see it! All I felt was you touch my nose with your fist! I can’t imagine if you meant to hit me, I could feel your whole body behind it. I’d be done.”

I said, “I know–that’s exactly what John did to me.”

He then said something along the lines of, “I don’t understand how you did that.”

To which I sad, “That’s the point…otherwise it’s not deception!”

Dennis smiles and then says, “Got it! So when you work with John…”

I cut him off mid-sentence and said,

“Yep, he can do that to me anytime… Why do you think when you see me work with him I’m always laughing? I just can’t believe the stuff he does. It’s hilarious because it makes no sense, yet it does…if you know what I mean.”

Dennis said, “Yeah, it’s just amazing stuff, but how did you learn that?”

I said, “He showed me how he did it. Now it took me forever to develop it but he showed me. You could never figure that out unless you are shown because it just doesn’t exist outside of our school.”

Like Sun Tzu said, “when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

(Obligatory Editorial Comment: Now, for all those who want to know how I did, what I did to Dennis what Grandmaster Perkins taught me all those years ago!?!  Because I know the suspense is killing you… Well? You can forget about it… for now at least. I used Dennis in this story so that you know that what I’m saying about the skill my Master taught me is not some BS because Dennis was a witness to it first-hand just as I was. He figuratively speaking, saw it for himself and no one is going to tell him different. It’s not magic or the end all to be all it’s just as John would say, “a thing.” Nothing more… but in my mind a powerful thing or concept nonetheless…)

Like I’ve said before way cool stuff…

Well that’s if for this installment.


Thank you.

LtCol Al Ridenhour

Senior Master Instructor


Want to learn the principles behind “deception” and the deeper aspects of the art?


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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. Although he was an instructor in unarmed combat for his unit, Al Ridenhour knew he had found the right self-defense system in 1992 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. In 2019, after rising to the rank of 7th degree master, Al Ridenhour left the Guided Chaos organization.

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