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AAR: Extreme Close-Quarters Concepts (ECQC)

Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:08 pm

AAR: Shivworks Extreme Close-Quarters Concepts (ECQC), 9/29-10/1 2017
Location: Off the X Training, Glenview, Illinois, and The Compound, Crete, Illinois
Cost: $450

This is my first AAR, so I would appreciate feedback, but go gently

A Little About Me:
Mid 40's, work in an office job. This is only my second of *any* kind of firearms/combatives training of any kind, outside of my state's CCW licensing class. Took this class because I realized that I needed some "realistic" firearms and hand-to-hand training. I found out about Shivworks through "Teh Intarwebs," and figured, what the heck, might as well jump into the deep end first and see if I sink or swim.

Class Composition:
The class consisted of 16 people, seven of which were active law enforcement, the rest of us were normal dudes (two of which were women). Of the normal dudes, about half of them had has some sort of previous training, and a few, like me, were just starting out.

Instructor:
Craig "Southnarc" Douglas. Does this man really need any introduction? OK, OK - 20+ year cop, most of which was spent in narcotics and SWAT, including two years of undercover work, during which Douglas (I hope he won't mind me referring to him as "Douglas," but that's what one does when writing these sorts of things) experienced "extended contact with the criminal element." Douglas' teaching style is familiar and informal, but with a high "information density" factor. In other words, he may be speaking on a topic and you realize that in just a couple sentences, he has conveyed several important details in a very succinct manner. I like to take notes, and I found myself having to resort to very brief notes in order to keep up, often trying to go back and add in more detail to my notes during pauses. It seemed to me that Douglas knows what he's talking about, and every topic in the course was rooted in his own LEO experiences, in other words, there was a lot of "he does it like this because of xx reason." I particularly like this kind of instruction; knowing the "why" helps me work towards the end state of whatever technique we learned.

In an additional note, Douglas is very serious about safety. Before the live-fire component of the class, he conducted an intensive safety briefing, covering not only the Four Rules, but how he would like us to follow them. Included in this briefing was, in the unlikely event of an injury, designating a primary medical person, a secondary medical person (in case the primary gets injured), a vehicle staged to transport injuries to the nearest medical center, a designated primary driver, a secondary driver (in case the primary is injured), and a quick review of the location of the nearest medical center (preferably with a trauma unit). Between any live-fire portion and hand-to-hand portions, Douglas gave every participant a visual check and pat-down to prevent any unintended weapons/objects from getting into the mix. I was quite impressed by this level of commitment to safety.

On a personal level, I found Douglas very easy to talk to, and he was very patient with my (many) questions that may have been at the "well, Duh!" end of the spectrum. Encountering someone with Douglas' level of notoriety can be intimidating, but he quickly put me at ease.

Course Topics:
Criminal Assault Paradigm/Managing Unknown Contacts - this topic really set the stage for the whole class. How do criminal assaults happen? What does a criminal actor look like? What are the tactics that criminal actors use? Once we discussed these questions at a fairly detailed level, Douglas taught us techniques to deal with a person who has unknown intent. He introduced several concepts that I think sometimes get lost in self-defense discussions, namely what end-state do we want to reach? Once again, these two topics really shape the rest of the class. One important component is that encounters with criminal actors typically occur at ranges less than arms-length.

After CAP/MUC (Douglas does love him some acronyms), we went into some basic empty-hand techniques. Douglas' "system" is not complex. In fact, one of his sayings is that we've been preparing people for war within fairly short time periods for centuries, so maybe we shouldn't mess with that idea. I won't go into detail on the actual techniques (you can see them on YouTube videos from other students), but I was again struck how Douglas structured them to meet the demands from the CAP/MUC discussion.

Day two began with a live-fire portion that started to address the needs of bringing a firearm into play while engaged in a grapple-range encounter, and the specialized techniques that a extreme close-range encounter demands. Note that ECQC is a low round-count class, less than 300 rounds. Those who enjoy thousand-round mag-dump fests will be disappointed. Once again, high "information density" is the name of the game. I was nervous that my relative inexperience in drawing/presenting a firearm would cause problems, but the way that Douglas broke down the instruction had me able to keep up just fine.

Day two continued with more empty-hand instruction, but now he introduced the presence of firearms in the grappling context (through Blue Guns and training guns). Additionally, he introduced basics of ground-fighting. Having no background in this, I again was able to keep up with Douglas' instruction. We ended the day with an "evolution": an almost full-on encounter (with simulated firearms) to prove out the training we just had.

Day three started with more live-fire instruction, building on (and reinforcing) the topics from day two. We worked on some more empty-hand techniques, including weapon retention. The majority of the last part of day three was taken up by the two final evolutions. The most noteworthy of which is the "two on one." In this, the "good guy" has a firearm and encounters first one, then two, others with unknown intent. The "opponents" are free to act however they choose (within reason), but they (not Douglas) get to decide how the encounter proceeds, including acting on the actions of the "good guy." The good guy may have to deal with malicious intent, needing to decipher his opponents actions and act accordingly. Other times, the opponents might behave in a benign (but ambiguous) manner. This evolution acts as a great "capstone" exercise, requiring the "good guy" to bring together all the skill learned in the course. I cannot overstate how valuable this evolution is, with the group as a whole analyzing the encounter afterwards.

Conclusion:
This course was a bit like "drinking from the fire hose": there was a lot of material presented in a short period of time. That being said, I feel that I was able to absorb at least some of it that I can instantly use, and I mean right now. I would absolutely recommend this class to anyone, of pretty much any skill level. Did I get my money's worth? Hells yeah. Would I take this class again?

Hells yeah.
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