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 "HOW I DISCOVERED GUIDED CHAOS:
...my first experience"
 by Austin, Texas martial artist Derick Miller

My story:

I saw some references to the GC materials on the internet while
wasting time reading about doing martial arts instead of practicing
martial arts. :-)

I noticed that GC was controversial, but I also noticed one striking
fact: everyone who had tried GC thought it was great, and everyone who
was negative about it had not bothered to try it.

As anyone with critical judgment notices quickly, there is a small
army of people who love to read and write things on the internet who
do not bother to get any practical experience.  Many of them are
fairly articulate, and a few of them do a valuable service in
explaining things more clearly, but many of them make things more
obscure with their false assumptions and assertions.  These people
have taught me to be quite skeptical of those who might write well,
but who lack practical experience – those who have not yet “earned the
right” to have an opinion.

Those who did have a right to have an opinion based on direct
experience thought GC was fantastic.

I got a copy of the book and liked what I read.  The things in the
book summed up a number of things I had learned directly or from
friends (mostly cops in my classes and those I know who have been
victims of crime) about martial arts and, most importantly, about real-
world violence.

Since the book was so accurate about the things that I did have
experience with, I figured it probably had some good things to teach
me about that which I did not (yet) know :-).

The book asserted a number of things which made me a bit
uncomfortable, like that perhaps the methods I had learned and was
teaching were not the best way to go about preparing for self-
defense.  Perhaps this discomfort meant I needed to learn something.

I have studied a number of arts over the years.  The best way I have
found to learn martial arts is to get together with like-minded people
and practice doing things, asking questions and experiment by doing
more things.  This martial arts laboratory quickly reveals that many
things do not really work under pressure :-).

When we moved to Austin, I looked around but did not find a school
that was a good fit, so I got together a group of people to practice
“back yard combatives” (we actually use a parking lot at a friend's
business or a local park, but you get the idea).  All of us had
studied a bunch of things and we brought our diverse experiences to
the “laboratory.”  The only rules were that our practice had to be
safe and at a level agreeable to those working together.

I brought out the Attack Proof book and everyone thought it looked
good, so we started using some of the drills and incorporating them in
our practice.  What we were doing at the time was much more like a mix
between MMA and WWII combatives with some GC ideas mixed in.

I started getting some of the GC DVDs and picked up the second edition
when it came out (if you are still on the first edition, it is well
worth the upgrade).

So at this point, we are incorporating some GC ideas, but we are still
using it in the context of MMA clinch (stand-up grappling) with
strikes from WWII combatives.  This all seemed like a good idea at the
time (more on this later :-).  But it was clear to me that what we are
doing is not quite contact flow and I kept wondering “am I missing out
on something important?”

I tracked down the Attack Proof web site and looked for people in
Austin and put up a listing, as did one of the guys I practice with.
There was only one other person listed in Austin (a fantastic guy you
all know from his postings here :-), but no one with any direct
exposure.

It seemed clear that Contact Flow was the heart of the matter, but I
could not quite figure out how to do it.  I had the impression that it
was a lot like “push hands” (a Tai Chi practice), so I told the group
that to figure this out, maybe we  should learn push hands.
Fortunately, one of my friends already knew how to do push hands and
he showed me the basics and put me in touch with a group that meets
once a week to do push hands.  (If you are ever in Austin, look up
Pease Park Push Hands.)

Push hands is not contact flow, and it will teach you a few bad habits
if you are not careful, but it is a great way to develop sensitivity
and some aspects of balance.

I could tell that what we were doing was better than what we had been
doing before, but I could also tell that it was not the same as
contact flow (which I could see on the “Eye of the Storm” DVD set,
probably the best martial arts DVD set of all time, at least so far).

So, as I said above, we were doing a modified version of MMA clinch
and “This all seemed like a good idea at the time....”  After some
failed attempts, I finally got to NYC and had a chance to try it for
real.  The short version is this:

I met with Matt and within less than a minute of contact flow, it
became clear that my “A-game” just did not work against what he was
doing.  In fact, when I tried to use my “best” methods, it made things
much worse than when I simply flowed with push hands skills and
protected myself.  But even simply  protecting myself wasn't enough to
keep me from getting clobbered, it just kept me from getting clobbered
as much as when I tried to use clinch (stand-up grappling)
skills ;-).  With very deft instruction, Matt was able to help me see
how to re-focus my efforts so that I could use the more useful skills
I had, drop the ones which were getting in my way, and begin to do
real contact flow.  That is when the real learning started.  (To see
more about my experience with this, you can read my other post...).

Which leads to the most important mistake and how you can avoid it...
The most important step in learning GC, in my opinion, is to get a
hands-on feel for how it works.  To do this, you need to do two
things: find a person who can do contact flow with competence (they
don't have to be an expert, but an expert is best) and be willing to
let go of everything you know long enough to understand how it works.

This does NOT mean you have to ignore all of your past training.  As
John said to me, you can keep everything that is useful from your past—
you don't have to let anything go.  It just means you need to be open
to the experience.

Having said that, my personal reaction to the experience was that I
was ready to “drink the Kool-ade.” ;-).  What I mean by that is that I
believe the best way to learn what GC has to teach is to commit to the
training methodology 100% and not try to reevaluate and redesign the
methods as you go along.  [Please note: I completely sympathize with
those who do this.  That is what I have done so far in my martial
training before finding GC.  But there is such a well-developed method
to the GC material that straying from the path simply slows progress
as far as I can tell.].

So if you want to continue studying other arts, just designate a time
that is focused on GC and a time that is focused on other stuff.  That
way you can focus your effort on learning instead of focusing it on
deciding what to learn.

Remember, there is no limit to what material you can incorporate in
Contact Flow.  If you know how to do something well because you
learned how to do it when you were studying (fill in the art here),
you can use it in CF and test if it works well or not.  All I am
saying is that it has been helpful for me to separate time for the
practice of CF from the study of other materials.

So what can you do better than I did: If you don't have a local
training opportunity, get hands on experience with someone who knows
how to do CF as your highest priority; get to NYC or a local seminar
as quickly as you can and get a feel for CF directly.  Or if someone
like Ari is travelling anywhere near where you live....  This
experience will save you a lot of time.  And it doesn't take a lot to
get a clear sense if you are open to the instruction.

If your experience is anything like mine, you will also have a lot of
enthusiasm once you try it.  At its best, my group was meeting three
times a week (although we had some random pick up sessions between
meetings).  Since I brought back direct, hands on experience with CF,
we have six scheduled meetings a week!

What you can do that I think I did well: gather some like minded
people to practice with – hands on practice is the most important
aspect of martial development.  I have gotten most participants from
face to face meetings, but Craig's list has worked well, too.  Steven
in CA suggested meet up, which I plan to try.

Get the book and DVDs and study them.  “Eye of the Storm” is amazing
and, once you have a feel for CF, it will give you years of material
to study and work from.

I initially skipped AP Companion 1 and 2 and got the Combat
Conditioning DVD and “Eye of the Storm”, reasoning that I could learn
the exercises by combining the book for instructions with the DVD for
the video “visuals” to see how the exercises are done.  This did work
ok because my group and I had fairly extensive experience with
striking arts, but the explanations on companions 1 and 2 are very
helpful and they do a good job of setting the context and priorities,
as well as showing better ways to do a number of things that we
“thought” we knew how to do :-).

GCC (the combatives part) is presented on Companion 1.  If you do not
have any martial experience and are reading this post (seems highly
improbable, but the wonders of Google...), you must start with this
disk.  Probably the quickest road to usable self-defense skill short
of hands-on instruction.  If you have more experience, you may be
inclined to skip this disk as I was.  Learn from my mistake: watch
this one first.

I plan to get more of the DVDs as funds allow.  The next steps for us
are to look into weapons and ground, but we have more than enough to
work on with CF for now.

So, to sum up my advice: Get the book and companion DVDs and get some
hands-on experience as quickly as you can.  Then practice, practice,
practice.  And if you continue with other martial pursuits at the same
time, I suggest designating separate times so you use your time
efficiently.

Thank you for reading this far.  If you are a remote student, please
share your experiences, too, so we can all learn from each others
successes and mistakes!

And if you live in Austin or near and have not contacted us yet, what
are you waiting for?  We meet regularly and, if you can't make our
regular times, we will set up a time you can make.  You can find
contact information in the training groups section of the attack proof
web site.  And keep your eyes open for a seminar coming to Austin soon
(probably early December).

--Derick