By LtCol Al Ridenhour

Lately in discussions with students in our classes, through emails and our forum, some questions have been raised regarding the philosophy of fighting as espoused by practitioners of Guided Chaos versus various other systems of fighting.  While there have been a number of newsletters covering such aspects as proper mind setting and the like, I still think there is some confusion over this. Both for some students and enthusiasts alike, I feel they are still missing the point as to "why we teach what we teach the way we teach it."  

In this newsletter I will speak frankly and offer my own opinions on self defense and expound on what I believe is the proper mental attitude you need to have when training in whatever art you study. The reason I preface this newsletter in this fashion is so that you understand that I speak for myself and in no way I speak for the art of Guided Chaos or anyone else within the system. These are just my own streams of consciousness and personal observations; in this way if anyone has a problem with it they can attribute it directly to me.  

I just thought I would share my thoughts with readers of our newsletter because this is an issue that is brought up every now and then by our students and instructors alike, either during training or through personal correspondence.  This newsletter is more philosophical than anything and is in no way meant to sway anyone to change the particular style they study. Regardless of what system of fighting you study, your mindset and mental attitude (as outlined in previous newsletters on mind setting) is above all else the most critical aspect of your training, more so than any specific technique or principle, for without it, training becomes unfocused, unrealistic and basically worthless. Some of this will seem repetitive and I have discussed much of this in various ways in previous newsletters but it needs to be said just so that you have a full appreciation of where I am coming from.

If you study other arts, or disagree with our philosophy, that's fine, and frankly I could really care less, it is your right. I make neither apologies nor do I compromise on what I know works in a real fight and why, versus what doesn't work, and why. Again, this is more for our own students and for anyone who is only concerned with developing skills and the proper mindset for saving their life if their moment of truth arrives and is forced to defend themselves. Whatever you do, if you enjoy it then fine, continue likewise, I only concern myself with those skills and techniques that will give me a fighting chance against the psycho-street killer.


Regardless of what system you train, here's the deal: it doesn't matter what you know, what you think you know, how many fights you've won, tournaments or trophies you have, what rank you are, style you study (including Guided Chaos) or how many years you've been training. Nor does it matter who your master is. If you drop your guard, if the bad guy gets the drop on you and is on his game and you're not, you are done!

In that moment, that instant, when the fight goes down, in the seconds that you have to react, if you are not prepared, you are done. This is the reality that you must train for,--anything less is folly! And anyone who does not accept this reality is only kidding themselves. Trust me, the bad guys don't care what you know; moreover in the split-second you have to react, your attacker probably doesn't know you're a trained fighter. Actually, he probably doesn't care either-- to him you are just "meat."


According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports [UCR 06 table 4] in populations over 100,000 the number of murders was over 8,000 in 2006. For forcible rapes over 29,000, robberies over 233,000, aggravated assaults over 350,000 and for overall violent crimes within this population group nearly 600,000. The point I want to get across is that in all, very, very few are committed by what we as martial artists would call "skilled fighters," and yet many of these "unskilled" people are somehow very effective at murdering over 8,000 people annually within our cities. Bottom line: anyone can kill anyone.

In a real fight neither you nor I know anything about another person's intentions or what's in their minds at any given moment. As a result there are certain mental assumptions you have to make in your training. Below are some of my personal assumptions:

Like I said, I assume anyone can kill anyone and that people who attack you on the street are trying     to kill you; that weapons will be used against me; that people are capable of virtually anything and         can tolerate much more physical pain and trauma than you think; that an attack on the street or a         street fight is nothing less than an assassination attempt on my life and that any sudden movement     by an opponent against me is for the kill.

I therefore, train for the reality of running into those genetic freaks of nature that can move like the         wind, and are as strong as an ox, and can take tremendous punishment to include fighting with             broken bones, fight while being shot, stabbed or struck with baseball bats etc...

I train for the rare but possible 5%-10% of people who are just out to kill and cause total mayhem         and I do not allow people to get their stuff off in the first place if I can help it by preemptively striking     them if possible, "attacking the attacker."

And there's more, but you get the idea...

Also on the street you're dealing with any of a number of possibilities, the sucker punchers, multiple attackers, the schizophrenic brick throwers, the bar room brawlers, the subway platform shovers, the rape gangs, guns, knives, razors, bludgeons, bricks, beer bottles, broken glass, pavement, hydrants, uneven surfaces, parked cars, curbs, stairs, blood, ice, oil, dog poop you name it and the list just goes on.

And that's just the stuff that happens outside of the home or office, what happens inside of an office, your home, and underground garage, an elevator or even a car where an attacker has some privacy and your mobility is restricted is often far worse. If your training does not take these things into consideration you're only kidding yourself, and from my years of martial study I know that most martial artists let alone martial arts schools do not take such things into consideration in their training, and thus train for a reality of fighting that does not exist.

Over the years I have also noticed that too many martial artists-- even some within Guided Chaos-- measure themselves against how either they stack up to other martial artists or how their art stacks up against other arts rather than worrying about being able to protect themselves from the type of violence that actually happens in the real world.

This would be hilarious if it weren't for the fact that they are deadly serious. My question is: why do you study a martial art, to learn to fight and save your life, or for bragging rights?

Also most martial artists, when you describe self-defense, in their mind they're thinking of some form of "sportive" knock out competition or choking people out or into submission or some form of self defense class with a man in a padded suit moving slowly in an unnatural manner. While these are all praise-worthy skills to possess if they are based on some form of sportive mindset (i.e., winning in a competitive sense versus survival) or false assumptions (as I've seen in some self defense classes) then we are not talking about the same thing. As a corollary to this, because I have seen this especially with boxers, if you have used such techniques and have been successful then good on you but understand that the average person generally doesn't possess such physical skills or abilities and as a result could probably never make them work in a real scrap. Moreover, will you still have the same physical tools you now possess at 60 or 70? I think the fact that you no longer see any of the great sport fighters competing anymore speaks for itself: it is not for a lack of knowledge, they just aren't those guys anymore and yet, yet this simple fact seems to escape most people.

There's and old saying, "When two tigers meet one will be injured the other will be killed..." This is the way real fights more often than not end up. This is the nature of real life and death street fights. Master Carron once offered me his personal philosophy on fighting that I have carried with me ever since and continue to live by to this day,

"In truth, I don't know if I can kick anybody's butt, all I know is if you mess with me 'for real,' and I         think you're trying to hurt me, you're going to have to kill me, that's all."


While some schools teach self defense or some form of crime prevention training we teach what I like to refer to as "Homicide Prevention" training. The way I see it, our adversary is not the talented competition fighter, or gifted Tai Chi or forms competitor but the homicidal maniac, the prison trained monster or psychosexual killer. The reason being they (the trained talented fighters) generally aren't the ones out there raping and murdering people. In other words we train to prevent ourselves from becoming a homicide victim and making the FBI's infamous Uniform Crime Report. While I've had students over the years who were once involved in such activities, that is not our ball of wax, for that you'll have to go elsewhere. Such techniques under dynamic conditions of the street in my view are akin to the old refrain about bringing a knife to a gun fight.

[By the way for those who have wondered, we do teach gun and knife fighting techniques however we reserve that information for our seminars and specific courses for our Law Enforcement and Military students. No sense making the bad guys any more proficient than they already are.]

The truth is that most martial artists are generally good citizens; they are well disciplined and therefore, regardless of style (and I want people to understand this), are the least likely people you would run into on the street looking to do you harm. As I previously alluded to, part of the problem is there is a kind of "have gun will travel" mentality within the martial arts in which people feel the need to prove themselves like the gunfighters of the old west, or our favorite martial arts heroes from the movies, however, this has absolutely nothing to do with the brutal reality of a real attack on your life in which often what works in the dojo fails with disastrous results on the street. The speed, chaos and ferocity are too much to deal with except for the most physically gifted of us.

For those who wish to debate the issue of whether this style or that style is the best, understand that we are talking about fighting for your life on the street or in combat where anything goes. And once again I'm sorry but what these people are talking about with regard to a specific style versus another style and what we are talking about is not the same thing!


Most of our schools are located in the heart of the New York metropolitan area with our Manhattan school located in the Village and as you can imagine New York City has virtually every prominent system represented there. People of all arts are welcome and since we focus on principles rather than techniques, most are surprised to learn that by applying the principles and proper mind set of Guided Chaos to what they already know, it becomes as one student put it, "...the grease that makes all your other skills work better."

Our students come from all walks of life and are generally above the age of thirty when they begin training with us. Many are married with children, paying backbreaking mortgages, the whole nine yards and are generally only concerned with learning enough to be able to protect themselves if something happens between their place of work or home while walking to their cars. While many come to us with a varied martial arts, military, security or law enforcement / corrections background, like any other school, there are many that have little if any formal training and most have never been in a real fight before, including those who have studied various arts for years. Therefore we focus on what we believe to be the most effective and simplest skills one can learn in the shortest amount of time, such as WWII combative techniques with an emphasis on body movement principles rather than on any one specific technique since not everyone has the physical skills of an Olympic wrestler or pro boxer.

As a result of our unorthodox philosophy and methods we have acquired many detractors, however, from what I've seen, much of it stems from simply a lack of understanding of the true nature of real violence as experienced by everyday people on the street. Oh yeah, I've heard all of the comments over the years: "that looks like girl fighting," "it looks too sloppy to be effective," "It looks like a bunch of slappy nonsense," "...hey where are your Gi's?" and worse...

Even in the Marine Corps I've had to deal with this nonsense. I recall once I had a couple of hard charging Marines sitting around watching me work out with another Marine and one asked me, "Hey sir does that BS work for real? (with the obvious tone of cynicism in his voice mind you). You know, it's funny how their attitudes changed after I about separated their heads from their bodies. Even with some of my psycho-cousins and their "associates" that I grew up with (you know the types: the ones who are very "cagey" in their movement and who've spent most of their adult lives as "wards of the state" at places like Greenhaven and Rikers), these guys are all about the "beat down" and sudden violent action. It's only after I hit them hard enough where they practically cough up a lung that they get the picture.

Some people I suppose don't get it, you know just because I don't hurt people in a demonstration in class or on a video (for reasons that should be obvious) doesn't mean that if you get stupid with me I won't try to punch a hole in you and separate your soul from your body "if you get stupid."  The only reason this sort of thing doesn't happen to me anymore is because I don't frequent the old neighborhoods as often as I used to. I guess I got smarter in my old age.

The strange observation I've had over the years is that the folks who've done real time, once they feel what I'm doing for themselves in the flesh, so to speak, they "get it." The same is true for guys in the military, Law Enforcement or Corrections and the like: once they feel it they "get it." I remember receiving an email through our web site after our videos of fending off a knife attack in the "Hellevator" were posted on our web page from a guy who is a Corrections officer at Rikers Island.

I had an opportunity to speak with him on the phone and the main comment he made to me was that at first he was a little skeptical about much of what we had to say on the web site but once he saw the knife attack stuff there was no doubt in his mind that we knew what we were talking about because, "it looked exactly like every knife attack I've seen at the jail...the speed and the intensity, it was all there." They may not fully accept everything that we teach but one thing they do get is that real fights are exactly like the chaos we train to deliver, fast and ugly.

I also realize that much of their lack of understanding comes from their personal frame of reference. We all filter our world if you will through our experiences, religion, politics, education etc... and whatever doesn't pass muster when filtered through our own mental prisms is rejected. A person who has never seen a real beat down, shooting, knifing or what have you or known someone who was a victim of one or even worse  been a victim themselves. Many sincerely believe that the techniques that they have been taught will work in a real confrontation even if they have no basis in reality. After all what do they have to compare it to? Why would their instructor lie? And on and on it goes, unfortunately such ignorance in a real fight is a recipe for disaster and what you don't know or falsely perceive may very well kill you.

Truth is never easy because it always challenges people's egos and I've come to learn that no matter how large or powerful looking and individual may be, the ego is a very, very fragile thing. We've been through this sort of thing numerous times and in truth as long as we continue to teach what we teach it will probably always be that way.


I can remember in a conversation with Ken Freeman, one of our Black Belt instructors out in Chicago, regarding our detractors, and I basically stated the following along these lines:

"Ken I really don't care what people think I only know what I'm prepared to do if I have to fight for my life. If they think that I'm full of it that's fine by me I only concern myself with what people do. The way I see it, it's really simple: if they want to get stupid then I'll get stupid and whatever happens, happens and if you cross the Rubicon with me as far as I'm concerned you had better bring your ‘A' Game because you're probably going to have to kill me..."

I kind of liken it to messing with a Bobcat, if you've even seen one they're really not that big but you would never drop one into a pit, hit it with pepper spray and then jump in the pit with it because you "knooooooow" it's going to rip you a new one and even if you win it's going to take something out of your hide that you're never getting back.   

This is the attitude that to the best of my abilities I try to instill in all of my students, it doesn't mean that I'm any better or worse or tougher than the next guy but simply like that Bobcat I'm prepared to take it to whatever level they want to take it to and I train with such a battle in mind.  That's all, and like I said if you want to get stupid then I'll get stupid. You know even with all of the times I've been in harm's way it's probably one of the greatest lessons, definitely the most important one that I have learned from people like Grand Master Perkins, Master Carron, Master Barnett and many, many others who over the years have helped hone my personal philosophy on self-defense, which brings me to my next point...


In another conversation with Ken I also stated the following:  

"Understand that regardless of what you do you have to know for yourself I mean really you have to know and be confident in your abilities otherwise what's the point? Regardless of where you come from or your upbringing whether in East New York, Cabrini Green or Greenwich, Connecticut it matters not, you either have this in you or you don't, and if you don't have it then you either develop it or you won't have it when you need it. I think this is an area that gets more folks in trouble than anything, they train and train and train and then when something comes along that challenge their beliefs about fighting they go ballistic because it rocks their little worlds. The truth is if they had any real confidence in their abilities regardless of what they studied they would care less about what other martial artists thought and worry more about developing their own skills to the highest possible levels for the fight that really matters, the one for your life."


The scary part is that in a real fight, especially as an adult, when the fight goes down you are generally on your own and neither your sensei or fellow students will probably be there to help you and if you can't bring it you're in serious trouble. In other words when you have to fight you pretty much have to bring yourself and all of this business about what their master's or sensei's can do, or what this famous fighter of this system or that famous fighter can do and on and on is all nonsense. The fact remains they had better be worried about themselves and what they can do. When I talk to martial artists I sometimes get the feeling that some of them think that through some type of mystical force or osmosis that because they studied under a certain instructor or system that they are somehow imbued with the same fighting abilities. It is absolutely amazing…

One thing that I always try to impress upon our students and that is that it doesn't matter what we do in class or what I can do per se, the only thing that matters is when you walk out of our class whether or not you can deliver the goods against an attacker and protect your life.  Until you touch swords all other arguments, boastings and what have you is all BS. This is not to trivialize the importance of what we teach but to reinforce the fact that the only real fight that matters is the one you're in when your life is on the line.

In a real fight there is only your sword and his sword and nothing else...


I hope this was of value for people however I also understand that it can be very difficult at times in describing the mindset to deal with the type of dynamic that takes place in a real blood bath on the street in the written word. I don't know what kind of experiences you have had or things you have seen so it is difficult to know from what frame of reference you are working. And as I've stated earlier even in our DVD's and video clips it can be difficult for some people to get this point since both the attackers and demonstrators have to hold back on their strikes in order to not permanently injure someone which is why I encourage people regardless of what you study if possible to get to attend one of our classes or seminars so that you can observe Guided Chaos first hand. Don't take any one's word for it; see it for yourself and then decide from there if it is of value to you.  

We don't set ourselves up as the final authority on such matters (at least I don't) however, we base our philosophy on what we know works. So if you train in "whatever," that's fine by me but develop it to make it work "for real" with real street applications in mind.

Enough said...