"What's up with this Guided Chaos stuff...?"

The following is excerpted from an E-mail exchange between a KCD black belt and a beginner who has participated in a couple of classes and has started to read "Attack Proof." The questions and answers have been shortened/summarized, and discussions about specific books and arts have been deleted.

I am very disappointed with [another self-defense book I bought at the same time as "Attack Proof"].  It presents a bunch of defenses against attacks, i.e. bear hugs, wrist grabs. . . .  Basically, every defense listed in the book is to either gouge the attacker's eyes or to slap him in the ear.  Of course this might work . . . but I hardly needed to buy a book to tell me this.  There has to be a better way to fend off an attacker without permanently disabling him. 

A:  Realize that depending on the commitment/psychosis/chemical fuel of an attacker or attackers, you MAY need to take him/them out completely in order to save your own life (i.e. they won't stop otherwise). This is why KCD training addresses the worst-case scenario first and foremost: lethal attacks requiring lethal defense. Once you learn to deal with the worst, the lesser threats are easy to dial down to (e.g. instead of hitting under the chin to break the neck, just pop the nose or the chest). As we say, "You can bunt with a Louisville Slugger, but you can't hit a major league pitch with a flyswatter."

KCD gives you the Slugger, allowing you to bunt when needed: everything from hitting non-lethal targets to developing sensitivity and balance so that you can control a low-threat person's balance and position without hurting him. But you can still hit a home run if needed.  Does that address the question? 

Q:  Yes, I agree totally.  Even in [previous art I studied] most of the defenses we learned did not involve seriously hurting the attacker.  Clearly, there are instances when an attacker refuses to back off and you may have to defend yourself using every means necessary.  However, if a drunken guy grabs your shirt in a bar there are plenty of defenses without seriously injuring the guy.  You don't need to respond by permanently blinding the guy!  Anyway, I want to read more of Attack Proof, see what I can apply to class training. 

A:  Just a couple more thoughts on this:  Don't think in terms of "defenses" against "situations." One major idea of the Guided Chaos concept is that:
a) there's no time amidst a hellstorm of real violence to identify a discrete "attack" or "situation" to perform a "defense" against;
b) specific "defenses" don't work because even if you identify a situation to perform one against, by the time this registers, the situation has changed; and
c) it's tough to "remember" specific defenses under real stress.

Once he violates your sphere of influence, you just GO, guided subconsciously by feel and fear. 

Re: drunken guy in a bar grabbing your shirt. Is he doing that to pull you onto the knife he has in his other hand (which you haven't seen yet)?

Why did you let him grab your shirt?

Did he suddenly materialize out of nowhere, grabbing your shirt?

Whether you blind him (BTW most attacks to the eyes will NOT do permanent damage--you really need to gouge deeply and disrupt stuff to do that--while sensitive, the eyeball itself is relatively resilient and will move within the socket as opposed to explode the way many people imagine--in a fight for your life, you either penetrate the brain through the eye socket or move your finger around within the socket in order to remove the eyeball, hit the vagus nerve, or control the head) or just off-balance and control him, key is being aware and moving adaptively from the very beginning (or before). 

You don't always know what a guy/gal has on his/her mind (e.g. "Excuse me, got the time?" then she grabs your shirt while her buddy behind you pumps your kidneys full of steel--and you thought it was just a nice girl who wanted the time), or how committed or insane s/he may be. Err on the side of caution, escape, report the incident, and say nothing to the authorities except: "I was afraid for my life. I'll be happy to talk more once my lawyer arrives." 

BTW, ever hear of [another martial art]?  I came across [it] on the web the other day.  His theory seems a lot like KCD . . . little technique, a lot of instinct.  Just an interesting thought. 

A:  [My Close Combat teacher] actually really liked the [art in question's] idea--basically, learn to hit freakin' hard and furiously and get in great shape so that you can do it longer than the other guy. The Close Combat idea is similar: Learn the most effective ways of damaging another body (NOT the punches and kicks of [art in question]), then train yourself to do them faster and harder and with more overwhelming ferocity than anyone else. Plus close combat addresses awareness, psychology and how to set up the attacker. Close Combat teaches one to Attack the Attacker, while [art in question] seems more about just fighting (with fragile fists).  Problem with both: What if the other guy happens to be bigger, stronger, and faster??? What's to stop him from hitting YOU???

In Close Combat, the strategy, forward drive and positioning help. With [art in question]--I don't know. . . . Also, I wouldn't want to just start punching and kicking a guy with a gun. . . . Maybe [art in question] addresses this, but the website doesn't. At least on the website, all the hitting seems to be for the "face-off" or match scenario, as opposed to hitting in all directions from all angles to address real situations.  Close Combat and [art in question] develop TOOLS (punches and kicks for [art in question], more efficient weapons for Close Combat) to very high levels, and Close Combat adds the strategy and general scenario work.

KCD develops the DELIVERY SYSTEM (essential body attributes of balance, sensitivity, looseness, body unity) so that you'll be able to make your tools and strategies work without getting killed, in any situation. As Lt. Col. Al likes to say: "Owning the finest tools in the world does not make you a carpenter." Or as Jeff Cooper says: "Owning a Stradivarius does not make you a world-class musician." 

Finally, based on the videos and general "attitude" of the site, it seems [art in question] students practice with more of a "health" mentality (setting records of # of punches on pads in an hour, etc.) than a "combat" mentality. They could be very unprepared psychologically for real violence (see my article in KCD newsletters #29 and #30, "Get Your Mind Right"). Close Combat and KCD do not have that problem.  No matter how hard a guy can hit, he still has to make it connect (against living, breathing, moving adversaries) without getting hit badly himself. And for self-defense, one also needs awareness, psychological skills, and adaptability, as well as knowledge about weapons and non-anatomical tools.  IMO, KCD teaches everything one needs (depending on the class and how long you've been doing it--it's not immediate). Close Combat teaches most of it (especially if you're naturally bigger and stronger and faster than most people--and it gets to the point quickly). Although [it's] on the right track (no b.s. techniques), [art in question] is pretty far behind, although still better than traditional martial arts. 

From what I can gather about [art in question], it does seem to emphasize total fitness almost as much as it emphasizes self defense.  In general, it is an all around lifestyle system.  I am not sure that KCD places the same emphasis on overall fitness (correct me if I'm wrong). 

A:  The fitness idea that [art in question] emphasizes (MORE than self-defense, IMO) is Western external, and only three elements at that (i.e. aerobic and anaerobic conditioning and flexibility, seemingly ignoring strength training besides push-ups and crunches). Didn't see anything about internal aspects. The kind of workout [art in question] uses is NOT complete by any standard and is likely dangerous in the long term (joint health) if taken to the extremes bragged about on the website. Also, [art in question] postulates a direct and exclusive correlation between external fitness and self-defense ability. This is a false postulate. It teaches that self-defense/fighting should be tiring and requires high levels of external fitness. What does one do as one gets older and inevitably less externally fit?  

KCD emphasizes internal fitness (balance, relaxation, proprioception, alignment, breathing, structural integrity, etc.) to at least the same degree that Tai Chi does. It emphasizes efficient use of the body so that combat is NOT so tiring and so that we can continue to improve and protect ourselves well into old age. Look at Master Perkins: 55 years young, and joint problems (because of several car accidents as a cop and hard [art in question]-like training when he was young)--yet he regularly easily dispatches young, fit, talented, aggressive athletes and soldiers without breaking a sweat. How? a) He retains the internal fitness even though the external stuff is not what it was, and b) he's learned how to move efficiently. He's not alone either: several of his most successful students are his age or older (e.g. Larry Granto, a few years over 60 and only 5' 7" or so yet he can beat the crap out of me and others, and Master Tim Carron, he destroys everyone [besides John] while hardly moving). You gain the internal strength and fitness by doing the KCD exercises (especially the various walks, Polishing the Sphere, Washing the Body and RHEM). 

Now, that being said, external fitness is ALSO important, which is why virtually all KCD practitioners (at least the smart ones) also do external fitness training outside of class. John personally recommends I've been doing it a couple weeks now and would certainly recommend it as well.  [Art in question] has a good marketing angle with the "Get your fitness training in class, so you don't have to waste time outside of class!" idea. However, their training is woefully incomplete, both from fitness and self-defense perspectives.  That being said, in the sense that [art in question] disdains myriad techniques, it is like Close Combat, and in that one way, also like KCD. As I said before, I would certainly recommend [art in question] over most martial arts classes. 

One of the reasons I stopped [previous art I studied] was because we got a new instructor, and the class evolved from being a self defense / fighting class into being a fitness class.  By the time I left we were spending about 3/4 of the class doing pushups, jumping jacks and crunches.  It was a good workout, but I can workout on my own.  We would spend the last 10 minutes or so of class doing basic punches and kicks.  However, the students would usually be so tired and exhausted at this time that even these few minutes of fight training were basically useless.  They used to tell us that if you want to fight a 3-round boxing match you had to train as if the fight was for 30 rounds.  I figured that class was not for me.  I wanted to learn how to defend myself.  What I do know about fitness is that cross training is important.  I have seen guys at the gym who can easily bench their own weight but can't do 5 proper pushups in a row.  I mix up my workouts by running, using the elliptical, free weights, body weight exercises (i.e. pushups, pull-ups) and resistance tubes.  I must admit, however, that I am probably weak in this whole balance, breathing, relaxation stuff.  It is all very foreign to me. 

A:  Why would you be in a [previous art you studied] class if you wanted to fight a 3-round boxing match??? You would be in a boxing club if that was your goal!  And . . . that's true about boxing, because it's a sport with all sorts of limitations intended to draw out the fight. In Perkins' experience, real violence (the pivotal physical part, at least) lasts 1-5 seconds on average. In my experience, maybe 3 seconds at most. And no matter how little time it takes, once the adrenaline wears off, you're completely spent no matter how great shape you're in--because the human fight-or-flight reaction is DESIGNED to expend all of your body's resources to keep you safe, then crash and recover once safety is achieved.

Being in good external shape is important to health, longevity and enjoyment of life, and certainly won't detract from your self-defense ability (as long as you don't gain muscle faster than you can learn to relax and control it--not a problem usually unless you're bodybuilding), but it's far less important in defending yourself than it is in e.g. winning a boxing match.

Also, when you learn to relax under stress, you expend a lot less energy.  Sounds like you're good as far as the external conditioning is concerned. Don't worry, EVERYONE is a beginner when they start KCD internal training, even many people with past Tai Chi, Chi Gung, etc. training. The level of balance, pliability and internal strength that you can develop quickly with just 10-15 minutes of the exercises per day is surprisingly great.  Read the book, go over the exercises with me, maybe get the Companion DVD Part 2 to have a reference for the internal exercises, and you'll be well on your way. 

The punches and defenses in [previous art I studied] are almost identical to boxing.  In fact, oftentimes we worked out with gloves.  Even Bruce Lee believed that American style boxing was the best punching.  [Previous art I studied] was very big on "muscle memory."  It was a term the instructors used a lot. The theory is that if you practiced a move enough times, i.e. hook punch, elbow strike, knee, whatever . . . your body would remember them.  In case you were ever in a fight, your body would subconsciously use these techniques.  Kind of like in the Karate Kid . . . when Daniel spends days and days waxing the cars using a circular pattern his body automatically knew how to block Miyagi's punches...... 

A:  Boxers are better punchers than most martial artists for several reasons: 
a) They focus ALL of their training on just five punches and body movement to support them, rather than the dozens of strikes, kicks, stances, scenarios, etc. that most martial artists try to memorize and practice. 
b) They use modern, scientific conditioning and training methods, rather than "centuries-old secret Asian traditions." 
c) A good portion of their training is dynamic uncooperative partner training (within the limits of boxing), rather than the choreographed patterns and cooperative exercises most martial artists spend their time on. 
d) Being a top pro boxer can get you mad $$$ and fame. Top martial artists (besides movie dudes whose paychecks are based on NOT hurting the other guy!) don't have this motivation, even in kickboxing or MMA. 

There's no secret, mystical essence about boxing techniques themselves that gives them any sort of magic power. Mike Tyson himself broke his hand on Mitch Green's face when he socked him in a bodega in Harlem. Winging a punch at a guy's head without massive hand protection is dumb when you have better options available (palms, chops, etc.). Also notice how differently modern boxers move vs. the bare-knuckle champs of the past. Rules and equipment change everything.  "EVEN" Bruce Lee??? A few teenage streetfights in Hong Kong, some classical Chinese martial arts training, some exposure to other martial artists in the U.S. (some of whom handed him his ass), genetically gifted athleticism, and a few movies featuring moves Americans hadn't yet seen, plus some good (published) ideas about not treating martial arts like religion. There are many people around today with far more knowledge and experience and skill. Bruce Lee was quick and had some good ideas, few of which he actually applied to his own training. He's not the Yoda of martial arts. America should get over him. 

"Muscle memory" is a misnomer. Muscles themselves have no pattern retention--it's all in the brain and nervous system. Rehearsed responses require matching stimuli to elicit them. Therefore your brain has to identify the precise stimulus in advance. No can do under the speed and chaos of violence. A change in the stimulus of a mere inch or a split-second difference in timing throws everything to crap. So, basically, your instructors are wrong, Karate Kid is wrong (in more ways than that!), traditional martial arts based primarily on repetition of pre-planned techniques are wrong. Again, read "The Way of Adaptation." 

Q:  Okay, thanks for your insight. 

A:  Hey, I don't know any more than anyone--and what I do know is mostly second-hand.  Just approach everything logically and critically. Think it out and test it out as well. As Perkins says, approach a master/guru/teacher/whatever with a "respectful disrespect." That's what John's father taught him, and how John approached all of his training--allowing him to learn from teachers and soon beat them.