This moment marks one week since the kickoff of the November 3-5, 2017 Combative Movement Immersion Seminar in Elmsford, NY. About 30 newcomers, students, teachers and masters came from as nearby as down the road, and as far away as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Kansas, Washington, California and even Hawaii. We missed some of our local folks who couldn’t make it, as well as our Guided Chaos brothers and sisters from Europe, Asia, South America and other U.S. states, but they stay in touch well from afar and hopefully will visit and receive visits in the near future.
I almost did not attend. Between work and family obligations, I assumed that it would be impossible to spare the time and expense to travel to NY for an immersive three-day weekend. As the date drew closer, however, the excitement of fellow long-distance students, some gentle encouragement from John, the surprising availability of my student Keith to travel with me (and split costs!), and my incredibly understanding and resourceful wife conspired to make me think hey, this just might be possible.
WOW am I glad I made it! Keith and I flew into White Plains Airport the morning the seminar began (thus missing the first hour or so) and out the evening it ended (likewise missing the end of the seminar and dinner), but what we did manage to experience in Elmsford last weekend was perspective-changing and possibly life-changing (in addition to potentially life-saving, of course).
This was my first time attending a GC seminar as a long-distance student, since moving from northern New Jersey to Florida in 2014. I had attended portions of the 2012 Guided Chaos Boot Camp, and worked out with some of the long-distance students at their hotel a couple evenings during that event, but this would be different. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
The first thing that struck me (besides the limbs of various students and teachers) was the sense of family in GC that I had partly forgotten about. Within minutes of arriving at the seminar already in progress, it felt like being welcomed home. Great start.
The rest of this may become so gushy (splooshy to Archer fans) as to be almost unbelievable, but . . . heck I could hardly believe it myself, and I was THERE, so join the club!
John, the masters and teachers, and the enthusiastic students combined to create an extremely open atmosphere very conducive to deep learning.
The overarching theme of the seminar was how to understand and practice Guided Chaos better, at a deeper, more internal level. John and team made the higher levels of the art more understandable and accessible, and placed the students on the road to far deeper physical, mental and spiritual practice. And made it so freakin’ fun!
Being a long-distance person made it even more fun and immersive for me. Just look at this schedule:
Friday: Land at airport, drive to seminar, train, drive to dinner with a bunch of GC peeps, eat a great Italian dinner while discussing GC and related topics with Al and friends, return to hotel, train with the dozen or so students staying at the Hampton Inn, sleep.
Saturday: Wake up, have breakfast at the hotel with the students while discussing GC and related topics, drive to seminar, train, drive to dinner with a bunch of GC peeps, eat a great Japanese dinner while discussing GC and related topics with John and friends, return to hotel, train with the dozen or so students staying at the Hampton Inn (plus Patrick—thanks for visiting!), sleep.
Sunday: Wake up, have breakfast at the hotel with the students while discussing GC and related topics, drive to seminar, train, promise Keith we’d start saying goodbye at 4p in order to not miss our flight, manage to not leave until much later than planned yet still not miss our flight, talk GC and life at airport and after landing.
Thereafter: witnessing the torrent of texts, emails, Facebook posts, shared pictures, videos, etc., between new and old friends who were there, unable to contain themselves about how awesome the weekend was. Trying to pass on the lessons and experience to my class here in FL.
John demonstrating and teaching ideas that I may have already had certain inklings and impressions of . . . and then taking them to the eleventy-billionth level in practice and in application against big, fast, multiple attackers.
Making new “old” friends: new temporally, but as if old in terms of comfort, trust and general awesomeness. Reconnecting with old friends on much deeper levels.
Amazing conversations with amazing people about amazing experiences. Discovering connections between our lives and experiences that we never knew existed.
Witnessing vast improvement in students from beginning to end of weekend.
Witnessing vast improvement in old friends since I last saw them and worked with them.
Witnessing even longer term students starting to open up to the deeper possibilities of GC for the first time.
Doing that myself.
Starting to understand some things John and Tim have told me over the years:
- GC is really about understanding people. Understanding yourself, understanding others
- Higher level sensitivity = deep empathy, “Love”
- The importance of a clear, empty mind (Zen meditative state) to fully perceive the moment by moment reality of my own and others’ movement, as opposed to my clouded judgements/interpretations/biases about that movement
- Let Go
- Whatever someone may say, the hands don’t lie
- The importance of Yin and “feminine” movement
- And a lot more
Make no mistake, all of this was trained and discovered within the context of combative reality. GC has NOT gone all hippy/new-age/cultish in any way shape or form. John was his usual jocular self, steadfastly staving off any attempt (conscious or otherwise) of any student to view him as anything other than a regular guy who has merely built up a shitload of martial arts knowledge based on tons of real experience.
Following the seminar, among the long-distance crowd, notes were exchanged, impressions were shared, and plans are already being made to keep the contact and momentum going. Lamentations about the physical distance that separates us, preventing us from training together more frequently. A lot to figure out. . . .
I know I haven’t gone into detail about the curriculum of the seminar, the drills and exercises we did, etc. That wasn’t really the point. Heck, a lot of the best and most educational moments of the weekend came when John interrupted the planned curriculum, went off script and communicated exactly what was needed in the moment.