|Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone|
at a Guided Chaos Seminar
By Sifu Ken Gullette*
|*[Bolded emphasis added by Matt Kovsky]|
"There are some people who can flat out kick your ass.
I met a couple of them this weekend.
Col. Al Ridenhour and Kevin Harrell held a Guided Chaos workshop in
Cincinnati this weekend. Guided Chaos was developed by John Perkins as a
no-nonsense method of dealing with the chaos of real world violence.
enjoy getting out of my comfort zone and training with people that make
me feel like a child, like someone who has never been in a martial arts
class. When you meet someone who can get inside your defenses at will,
you have met someone with a valuable art.
Guided Chaos should be
required training for anyone interested in push hands and the
self-defense aspects of the internal arts. I took a lot of notes and
have plenty to practice."
"Have you ever emptied your
cup and attended a workshop that is outside your comfort zone -- outside
the art that you typically practice?
Some of the most valuable
instruction I have ever received has been from people who made me feel
like a complete beginner. I feel this way when I study with any of the
Chen family, and I felt that way when I worked with my best teachers. I
also felt that way when I attended a "Guided Chaos" workshop in
Cincinnati last weekend and worked with Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour and Kevin
I was introduced to Guided Chaos through my friend, Evan
Yeung, a few years ago.
How can I best describe this art? There are no
forms. It is a no-nonsense method of handling the chaos that can happen
when you are face-to-face with real-life violence. It is a fighting art.
I first heard of it, I was skeptical. The world is full of people who
"created" their own martial art. Very often, that means they were not
willing to put in the work to master a real martial art. During the past
few years, when Evan worked with me on Guided Chaos (at the same time I worked with him on Chen Taiji, Xingyi and Bagua)--he showed me an
exercise they call Contact Flow.
I immediately saw the connection with
push hands, but it was more than just a connection. Through Contact
Flow, I was recognizing skills that all internal artists -- especially
those who practice push hands and close-up fighting skills -- should
develop, but many of them don't.
I have seen Al Ridenhour in the Guided Chaos DVDs. The videos do not do him justice. When I read about him and
Kevin on their website, both had the title "Master." Naturally, I
rolled my eyes. But after I worked with them for a weekend, I realized
the titles are deserved.
Contact Flow is one of the skills they
practice that resembles push hands although there is no "pattern." You
start very slowly and match the speed of your partner. Each of you tries
to strike and defend, but by starting slowly, you learn just how
out-of-balance you can become and how inefficient your movement can be.
As you get better, you speed up, but as in any quality art, it takes a
while to get better as you overcome bad habits.
In person, both Al and Kevin
could get through my defenses at will. And as I worked on it with other
partners, they would offer coaching that was spot on. I took a lot of
notes and have plenty to practice -- and plenty to apply to my push
I used to drive a couple of hours to Rockford, Illinois,
to study with my teachers Jim and Angela Criscimagna. In the car on the
way home, I would always feel like bouncing around because I was excited
at what I had learned. I felt the same way driving the 7 1/2 hours from
Cincinnati back to the Quad Cities on Sunday night.
attended workshops by a lot of great martial artists -- from Bill
Wallace to Kathy Long and the Chen family, plus some workshops I have
forgotten. The Guided Chaos workshop was one of the best and most
practical that I have attended. I can't say enough about Al and Kevin.
They are great teachers.
The founder of Guided Chaos, John
Perkins, doesn't really have a lineage in Taiji. To look at him, you
certainly wouldn't guess he is a martial artist. And yet, he apparently
is one of those people who comes along once in a while and possesses a
gift. There are no forms in his art. It is designed for use in real-life
And yet, he [John Perkins] has captured the essence of something that
has eluded many internal artists. It should be required training for
anyone in the internal arts. Hell, it should be part of any martial
people never get to a level in push hands that approaches what I would
expect from a good Contact Flow practitioner. And while in push hands we
work hard to maintain a centered stance at all times, in Guided Chaos
they work to strike from their root even when they find themselves in an
off-balance or awkward position. It is a very complementary concept to
what good internal arts should be.
And we didn't even get into the
Guided Chaos ground-fighting or other aspects of their training. But
you can check it out on their website.
I enjoy the "art" part of
martial arts. I love the precision of the forms and enjoy working on my
body mechanics and movement. I have not been in a "real" fight since I
was 18, and I try to avoid situations where I would need to use my
martial skills. So at 62 years of age, I would not be satisfied to study
an art that does not include what I get from Chen Taiji, Xingyi and
Bagua, which are great fighting arts if studied and practiced properly.
And when it comes to real self-defense, there is NO one-size fits all.
For every attack that is raining chaos on you, I can show you two
YouTube videos where one punch ends the fight. So you can put down one
glass of Kool-Aid and replace it with another if you aren't careful. I
try not to drink the Kool-Aid, remaining open to the truth in different
There is truth to discover in Guided Chaos, and it fits
perfectly into whatever internal or external martial art you are
My thanks to R.J. Trusty for hosting the workshop at his Five White Tigers Martial Arts school. I will be at the next one, too."
Ken Gullette is certified as an instructor with the U.S. Chen Family
Chen Jiajou Taiji Quan Federation, connected directly to the Chen
Village tai chi school through Grandmaster Chen Xiaoxing. Ken has
students all over the world, studying with him through his Online Internal Arts school and Internal Fighting Arts blog.
Also see: "Combat Tai Chi--Does It Still Exist?"