Time for a Tim Tune-up...
Before I went to Tim's photo studio in Yonkers for my first lesson with him, I received all sorts of advice from many people: "Whatever you do, DON'T SPEED UP!!!" "Do NOT try to kick!!!" "If he takes out a rusty screwdriver, MOVE!!!" "You'll DIE!!!" "You'll have your arms broken, THEN you'll DIE!!!" "Be sure to check your ego at the door and ask questions." (That last bit of advice was from Lt. Col. Al. It proved to be the most useful.) Many folks warned me that Tim has a much more brutal teaching style than Matt, Al or John. I wasn't especially nervous though, considering I'd never heard of Tim actually killing a student, and he has plenty of very skilled and devoted students. Heck, Al attributes a great deal of his progress in Guided Chaos to his year of weekly lessons with Tim. What concerned me most was the possibility of getting lost on the way to his studio. Fortunately, Patrick was nice enough to lead me there in his car.
I decided three things before the lesson began:
a) I would NOT attempt to strike Tim unless he told me to.
b) I would NOT kick, or even lift my legs, unless he told me to.
c) I would do my best to do exactly what he suggested to the best of my ability.
The lesson started with Tim feeling out what I could do. He was immediately very amused and a bit dismayed by how much I moved unnecessarily. I knew this was a problem for me: Lt. Col. Al's most frequent admonition during our last few lessons had been, "You're moving too much." Further, a key aspect of Tim's reputation is how he accomplishes so much destruction with so little movement. The first ten minutes or so of the lesson were indeed a bit brutal. Patrick, who was watching, told me later that while I was not speeding up to attempt strikes, I was unconsciously speeding up in attempts to avoid Tim's strikes, which necessitated Tim's accelerating slightly to maintain control--which he certainly did maintain!
Tim encouraged me to view contact flow differently from how many Guided Chaos students view it. As he explained, in a real violent confrontation, ANY successful attack from the enemy can mean your demise, either directly or because of what can follow. So, instead of treating contact flow like a fun exercise where both trainees will hit and be hit and learn from it, he demands from his student perfect movement and control of the situation at all times--and all mistakes are punished immediately. I felt right away that no matter how hard I tried (if I were indeed trying), I would never even come close to hitting him if he didn't want me to. His arms stuck to me lightly but consistently, like glue. His whole body moved subtly in response to any movement on my part, immediately cutting off tiny angles such that I'd have to move much further to get around. Any deviation on my part from good positioning and unitized motion allowed one or both of his arms to slip through and hit me or break one of my arms or disrupt my balance. All of Tim's strikes were incredibly loose and effortless--like they were "falling" horizontally--but every single one also had fully unitized body motion behind it. I felt that Tim was not hitting me hard, in that he was putting no effort into increasing the speed or power of his strikes. However, even at low speed with minimal motion, a loose, fully unitized body packs a lot of wallop! The only blood that was drawn (from my lip and a little bit from my nose) was the direct result of my running into his hands while unconsciously speeding up in attempts to squirm away from his strikes. Tim was very passive, never initiating anything (as far as I could consciously tell--more on that in the second lesson), but simply taking advantage of every mistake--and it seemed for the first ten minutes or more, every movement I made was a fatal mistake!
Some of the most memorable and frequent hits I took were neck and arm breaks. John and Al had done simulated neck breaks to me before, always stopping far short of doing any damage. The ones Tim did were different. He would drive the fingers of one hand into the hollow on the back of my head where the skull and spine join to secure my head for a split second, and WHACK with a straight palm strike with the other hand to the front of my head at just the right angle to send my head spinning. Every single time he did this, I felt a weird feeling in my neck--but no pain afterward. Also, my eyes seemed to vibrate back and forth horizontally for over a second after the WHACK. No doubts about the effectiveness of that one! This happened to me many times, and although it didn't really hurt or cause any damage, it was not a pleasant feeling. The best I accomplished in trying to prevent it at one point between the initial grab and the palm strike was to squirm my head so that Tim's palm accidentally hit my nose instead of the less painful areas he had been aiming at! That's where the nosebleed came from. And yes, it still felt like my neck would have been snapped. Tim's facility with arm breaks was amazing. I couldn't escape from them even when he put them on very slowly. He just made tiny adjustments to his body to prevent me from getting away. He never sought the arm breaks. He just picked them up whenever I overextended and put my arm into position for them. Good motivation not to overextend!
And while I suppose I didn't merit a rusty screwdriver, Tim's pocket knife did come out at one point to demonstrate the importance of getting out of the way and viewing all attacks in contact flow as potentially lethal. As he pointed the knife at me and slowly moved forward, he asked, "What would you do?" Without thinking about it, I stepped sideways and turned, giving the knife a wide berth. "Right," he said, "but you moved too far."
That's enough for this one. In my next post, I'll go over what specific things Tim suggested I do, and what specific lessons I took away from the lesson. Stay tuned. . .