AAR ShivWorks ECQC - 2012-05-17/18/19 - Houston, TX

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I apologize ahead of time for any vagueness, omissions, or mistakes in the AAR, as my notes are a bit incomplete, as there was simply a deluge of information and I was often scrambling to catch up. My hastiness did not help my handwriting either, and I sadly could not decipher everything I had written.

The ShivWorks Extreme Close Quarter Concepts (ECQC) course is a two and a half day (20 hours) block of instruction which focuses on a multi-disciplinary approach to building functional, combative handgun skills at zero to five feet. The course is designed to instill core concepts of seamless integration and provide the platform for aggressive problem solving during a life or death struggle. A heavy emphasis is placed upon commonality of body mechanics between skill sub-sets, which means that all combative software is reinforcing. Once the student’s skill sets are initially ingrained, the participant will be stress inoculated with force on force drills utilizing marking cartridges and protective equipment.
This is my first formal combatives-oriented course. I have previously taken a Vickers Tactical Basic Handgun, Vickers Tactical Handgun I, a pistol-training.com Aim Fast, Hit Fast, and a F.A.S.T. Inc. Night Self Defense Handgun. I used an H&K P30LS with the Grayguns Reduced Reset Carry Perfection Package, with an X400 mounted with the DG-11 and zeroed for 7 yards, and IWB carried it using a RCS Phantom at about the 0130 position in condition 1. I also had two mag carriers, Cane & Derby Pardus SSLs, a Paul Moore BoB trainer blade carried at my 1100 with the handle angled upward toward the centerline at a 45°, and used a Wilderness Tactical Ti Instructor Belt. I purposely chose to wear what I would normally wear outside of work, besides the addition of a long sleeve Under Armour HeatGear shirt, which meant relatively form fitting jeans and T-shirts, along with low cut Chucks. While I did bring various other protective gear was recommended for the evolutions, such as a mouth guard, kneepads, gloves, etc., I chose to only utilize a cup as my extra protective equipment during the evolutions. I am 5'8", and approximately 140 lbs.

Craig Douglas (AKA SouthNarc) was the primary instructor, with Ferrell Munson as the primary AI, and Justin as a secondary AI. Class started the first day at 1810; weather was fairly hot and some what humid. There were 19 students at the start of the course; one was an LEO, two were trainers, while the rest were civilians, though several had security/law enforcement related jobs (two trainers and a bail enforcement agent). The three repeat students were all civilians. The vast majority of guns were Glocks, with a couple of M&Ps, an XD, and an H&K. With the exception of the LEO, who used some sort of Safariland with a hood, all students utilized holsters without retention, and close to half ran IWB appendix, with the rest going with strong side hip, with a mix of IWB and OWB.

We started out in the classroom, with everyone giving a quick bio of themselves. Craig gave his bio last, and stated that one of the things he realized over the years was that 70%-75% of his formal training was essentially useless in the field, while the vast majority of the training that actually was useful was still generally used in a different context than taught.

We then moved into talking about the criminal assault paradigm, which is to say, how criminals work. The key thing to remember is that most criminals are opportunists, which thus negates much of what standard training tends to be structured, as most adversarial training tends to occur with equal initiative and equal armament. Classic examples would be spars in TMA, in which two opponents start a set distance apart, both knowing the intent of the opponent, with relatively equal weapons. Various knife fighting classes or force on force scenarios operate much in the same manner. Obviously, this does not apply in the real world, where criminals generally operate with ambushes and misdirection. Ferrell and Craig role-played various scenarios to illustrate how a criminal might act, demonstrating how easy it is for them to have both the initiative and superior armament available.

Craig also noted that three core elements were often seen in these criminal assaults: very close range, multiple assailants, and presence of a weapon, yet the vast majority of training, especially in the past, never acknowledged these circumstances. The reasons for this are varied, including the lack of proper equipment, a lack of proper facilities, difficulties in finding instructors knowledgeable about this type of training, etc. Still, the most common reason is probably the simple fact that such training is often outside of people's comfort zone. Yet, as Craig says, being uncomfortable is a critical part of learning (he states that a 50% win rate is fairly standard in the class's evolutions and in actual fights on the streets); the bottom line was that one should train to overcome one's deficits.

Craig then demonstrated with Ferrell how vast majority of non-electronic human interaction, both malignant and benign, occur at arm's reach. This, of course, negates much most of the advantage of a concealed firearm. Still, every little bit of range counts, which Craig demonstrated with a simple drill: standing arms length away, try to touch his hand before his hand touches your stomach. The success rate was extremely low at arm's length, yet shot up to 100% when Craig moved a mere half a foot length backwards. This emphasized the need to have as much range as possible, no matter how small the extra distance might be. Range is maintained by situational awareness; unfortunately in today's world, many people fall prey to task fixation, which drastically decreases situational awareness, which in turn tends to draw in criminals.

Even with situational awareness, one must be able to identify the people who encroach upon your space. Normally, various factors come into play in to how close you might allow a person to you, such as age, gender, dress, race, demeanor, etc. However, Craig notes that these selection factors are hardly foolproof, and that for the average person just starting MUC, the easiest way is to have just two classifications: people you know, and people you don't know.

Once you have identified an encroacher as someone you don't know, the next step is to stop them from further encroaching upon you. However, there is a fine balance between simply keeping people at bay versus being confrontational. Craig starts out with a simple, polite request, e.g., "hey man, can you just stay there for me?". This gives people an opportunity to stop coming toward you without any kind of escalation. However, it's quite possible for people to ignore such requests for perfectly benign reasons, ranging from simply not hearing you to outright ignoring you due to them being in a state of panic; in the latter possibility, they may even seem quite threatening at first, as they would most likely be moving toward you in a very rapid fashion, which most people would associate with malicious intent. Craig then moves on to a command, generally in a much louder and authoritative tone, in order to jar people and make them actually understand what you're saying. If that fails, and you still have enough distance to still continue with verbal commands, profanity can be tried, although this risks confrontation. There are two key points to note for the usage of profanity. The first one is to keep from insulting the person; there is a large amount of difference in "back the fuck up" as opposed to "back up, motherfucker", in terms of how confrontational one is. The second point to remember is that profanity is an integral part of criminal cant, and its usage by someone who typical does not curse can easily become unconvincing and a sign of weakness; as Craig stated, if you're generally not one to curse, this is not the time to start.

Another key part of the verbal exchange is to think of it as a monologue rather than a dialogue. In order to process what the other party is saying, you would take away precious focus, which in turn slows your reactions. Craig likened this exchange as a tape of sorts that you should play when confronted, rather than try to think of something on the fly.
 

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At the same time the verbal exchange occurs, one should strive to maintain, though not necessarily increase, the distance between one's self and the encroacher. If spacing permits, do not move backwards, as you can't see what's behind you, and a backwards movement tends to put people on a heel to toe motion, which greatly weakens one's balance and position. Instead, try to move laterally in an arc: if the unknown contact is at 0600, while you are at 1200, try to get to their 0300 or 0900. Moving in an arc rather than straight laterally helps defend against multiple assailants, as one can now see what used to be one’s rear with the peripheral vision while keeping focus on the main contact. It also helps moves the field of the threat into a more manageable position, potentially from a 180° to a mere 45°.

During this time, you should be keeping your hands up at what Craig calls a ready position, to keep a barrier up against the contact. The hands should be high up on the chest, and compressed, and can be thought of as a fence. This helps make the two main goals of staying conscious and staying upright much easier, as by having the hands in a high compressed state gives you less time needed to use them to defend the head.

Thus, MUC is essentially composed of three distinct points: what we say, how we move, and what we do with our hands. Craig notes that practicing MUC is not mutually inclusive with being paranoids; for example, if an unknown contact asks you to help render aid at an unknown location, one could do so while practicing MUC by asking the contact to lead you to the location, rather than taking the lead to return to the location.

The classroom portion of the course ended at this point, and we started practicing the MUC component we just learned, switching partners every so often. After a couple of rounds of it, Craig paused the MUC practice to point out something that many people do: the so-called interview position, where the weak hand is held high, but out, while the strong hand was placed low, near the belt, generally near or even on a holstered gun. Craig states that while this is a classically trained response came about as a way to make the draw faster, while being able to also have a boost in the ability to boost the gun, especially if the hip is bladed back, as this would make the distance from the contact to your gun even further. While it is true that ever little bit counts, Craig noted that the distance gained is actually quite small, while it also significantly weakens your ability to take frontal impact (he noted how football players kept their hips square to where they expect to take the impact, not bladed). It also telegraphs to the contact that you have a weapon, while also tying up a hand from protecting you. The fact that your hand is not compressed also makes it very easy for you to get sucker punched.

Most of us, myself included, found it rather counterintuitive to arc around the contact rather than simply going laterally or backwards. I was guilty of using the interview position, as I also tended to drop my right thumb into my right pocket, both because it was where I kept my waved Emerson, and because I tended to do that whenever trying not to wave my hands around.

After finishing MUC practice, Craig states that one of the benchmarks we could use for it is to react odd enough to get avoided at the water cooler, but not enough so that we’d get an HR complaint; an LE equivalent would be to be odd enough to get someone to feel very uncomfortable, but not be able to articulate it enough that it could become an official complaint. He states that the mere usage of the arc is often odd enough to get people to disengage, as it is a very unnatural and jarring response; it could be seen as being a real life “Jedi mind trick” of sorts.

Craig then went over the four main physical and behavioral tells (what he called pre-assault cues) that hinted at an imminent physical confrontation: the grooming cue (any hand movement in which there is touching of the face or neck, such as rubbing of the hair, the chin, picking of the ear, pinching of nose, etc.), target glances (darting eyes to the side or behind), a definite weight shift (weight shifts from a balanced stance to a load stance, generally feet will become 90° to each other), and furtive hand movements around the waist (pulling of the shirt, rubbing a particular area, touching the same place repeatedly, etc.; generally denotes the presence of a weapon). He stated that if one starts looking at the many fights on YouTube or other social media video sites, they become telegraphic to those who know what to look for. Craig demoed what each tell looked like for us as he explained. He then had us do the MUC practice again, but this time, the contact would role play out movements and have the person being approach have to call out “cue” whenever we performed such a cue.

The drill was a little hard to pull off convincingly, simply because it would often interrupt the flow of our attempts to MUC when calling out “cue”.

Craig then showed us a good way to create distance while performing MUC: the eye jab. While having the hands in the ready position, use one to suddenly strike forward in an arcing motion, being careful not to telegraph. The fingers should be somewhat curled, a bit like holding a ball and throwing overhand; they should not be splayed, nor should you attempt to palm or pluck at a person’s eye. This is generally good for creating distance and signaling intent, and gives you time to disengage and retreat, while at the same time, not particularly confrontational or damaging; if you make the an erroneous assumption about the hostility of the contact, the worse that could happen is probably a scratched cornea, versus a potential broken bone or other more serious injury if one decides to throw a punch. To practice this, we first tried it by simply practicing an eye jab on a boxing glove that was put on backwards by our partner. We then tried to use it while practicing MUC, with the contact putting up the glove at random times and other person having to react properly to it. In the second drill, there was often a “cognition gap” for most people, in which people would have a noticeable pause and flounder for a second as they transitioned from talking to performing the eye jab once the glove came up.

I had to focus hard to not telegraph my movements. I also was not keeping my hips facing the contact, as I had a tendency to blade. Beyond that, I also tended to keep my hands too far out, rather than close in, leaving me open to attacks.

Craig then talked about how in most traditional martial arts, there is a tendency to be reactive, to pick a certain countermove in response to a move initiated against you. However, this diagnostic tasking approach tends to work poorly in the real world, and so he advocates the usage of a default position. The non-diagnostic defense position that he advocates begins with a level change, which is when one drops their pelvis lower, keeps their back straight, and widens their feet a bit. The head should be within 15° of the hips in terms of orientation in order to keep stable. One then creates a “vertical elbow shield” with the weak arm, which basically has the left hand on the back-left side of the head, arms brought in as close as it can be against the face, and the shoulders raised. The strong arm then creates a “horizontal elbow shield”, in which the right hand is touching the outside of the left arm, the elbow tucked in front of the forehead, shoulders also raised. This helps protect the temples and jaws, and prevents neck movement, which are paramount to keeping conscious (the level change helps keep with the staying upright). Craig notes that boxers cover up rather than block, which is exactly what this defense position does. The only real weak points that this position has is against upper cuts and groin attacks, and the latter is still largely mitigated by the level change, which makes it very difficult to get low enough to get inside the elbow shields. We then practiced this defense position, with one person defending, the other attacking lightly, albeit with as little telegraphing as possible, with boxing gloves. This drill was first done without any kind of MUC, then MUC was incorporated.

I had practice Shotokan as a kid for a fairly long time, though never seriously. However, I would tend to go into the classic horse stance from Shotokan when doing the level change, which tended to be far too low and wide. I also had a tendency to bend my head further way further than my hips, which also unbalanced me.
 

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Craig then went over the need for there to be pressure in training, how most training done today did not have any real pressure. In ECQC, the rest of the drills done with a partner would be described as a combination of five different classifications: consensual, non-consensual, competitive, non-competitive, and technical. We then tried out the next drill, the so-called mountain goat drill: place your forehead against your partner’s and then, while keeping your back straight, try to push your partner back as they attempt to do the same thing. This was to help us learn about how the role that the pelvis would play in positional dominance, particularly the elevation of the hips. This drill was done non-consensual and competitive.

This drill certainly illustrated the importance of the height of the hips. It also left many of us, myself included, with a raw sore spot in the middle of the forehead, something was particularly noticeable while showering that night and visually the next day.

After the mountain goat drill, Craig then showed us a way to try to further exploit positioning to drive someone back, which is the usage of cutting the corner. In this particular drill, one would side step, and then drive one’s forehead into the neck/shoulder of the opponent on the side of the side step, and then push. This would get the opponent’s pelvis in a bladed-type angle, weakening their positioning, allowing you to push them back using both your chest and your head. The drill to practice this was done consensually and non-competitively, to help illustrate the point.

The difference was indeed huge. However, I sadly did not pick up the entire lesson, and it took multiple drills the next day to drive home the need to not only position the hips correctly, but also the head into the neck.

Craig then went into the various possible ties and hooks: the underhook, the overhook, the bicep tie (the grabbing of the elbows), and the wrist tie (the grabbing of the wrist). He specifically excluded any kind of head tie in ECQC, as that leaves at least one arm open for the accessing of weapons, something that does not exist in most traditional forms of grappling and wrestling. Instead, the focus in ECQC would be primarily on limb control, as this in turn controls the access to weapons, thus the emphasis on entanglement in the curriculum. Craig then showed us how to defend against a single overhook, by using the arm being hooked and pushing back on the hooking arm on the triceps. We practiced that drill technically and consensually, switching off on arms (one arm was doing hooks while the other arm was simultaneously fending off a hook).

Like previous drills, I had issues with poor pelvis orientation, as I kept going bladed.

Class ended at about this time, which was about 2200.
 

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Class started at approximately 0815 on TD2. Weather was very sunny and hot, starting out in the 80°s and staying in the mid 90°s for most of the day, with relatively little wind.

We started out with a safety brief, with Craig covering his take on the Four Rules. In terms of the first rule (guns are always assumed to be loaded), we were asked to avoid administrative gun handling in the rest area, and to keep all guns in holsters unless shooting. As for the second rule (muzzling), Craig stated that the muzzle needed to be kept within the shooter’s shoulders. For the third, instead of “finger off the trigger”, Craig preferred an opposing wording: pick a hard register point on the gun, and keep the trigger finger there at all times except when shooting. This helps prevent issues with trigger checking, possible sympathetic reflexes when running switch tapes, etc. Craig favors using the ejection port, as it is well clear of the trigger and very easily defined; though potentially uncomfortable, this should be seen as a non-issue, since the very act of having to need your weapon out suggests that comfort should not be a priority at this point. As for the fourth rule (be sure of target foreground and background), Craig stated we would ideally be aware of everything in the frontal 180°.

We had 3 doctors, so one was made a primary decision maker for any kind of serious injury, with a secondary designated in case the primary went down. We also had both a primary and secondary driver to get any injured person to the nearest hospital or ambulance RV point, should Life Flight not be available. The vehicles designated for this task were also reparked head out. Finally, a primary caller was designated for 911 contact duty. We were also made aware of the sign that had the address and coordinates of the range.

While Craig was obviously the main RSO, we were all to be aware of safety on the line, and to call out “freeze” three times if there was an issues that needed to be addressed immediately. We were also to look at the holster when reholstering, particularly for appendix carry and for those that were wearing any kind of outerwear that had adjustable shock cord waist adjustments. We were also to never try to catch a falling gun, but to simply let it hit the deck before retrieving.

We then started on the first drill of the day, which was a simple diagnostic. With all shooters on the line, we were to draw and fire one round into the chest of the target, and then do any kind of after action manipulation that you would normally do, e.g., scanning and assessing, tactical reloads, etc., before re-holstering. This was done at about 7 yards.

I was a bit confused as to the setup of the targets, and managed to get a great COM shot into my neighbor’s target. After correcting for that, I kept all my shots in the center A zone of the IDPA cardboard target (which was the only target used all class during the live fire portions) with relative ease.

After doing this for ten rounds, Craig then spoke about the reasoning for adverting the muzzle after shooting. Obviously, this is done so as not to muzzle anything while scanning and assessing (which is something that must be done with focus, without it become simple rote procedure). Regardless of whether the direction of adverting is up or down, be sure to keep it straight up or straight down. For example, if utilizing, SUL, Craig would have an aggressive roll of the shoulders to facilitate the gun pointing straight down, rather than just simply downward to the side, as it is so commonly seen.

Craig then went over his version of the four count draw stroke. In count one, establish a good grip on the gun with the strong hand. Using an ‘L’ shape with the thumb and the index finger is a very good way to get up on the gun as far as possible, as the web of the hand would be very open. At this point, the weak hand, if free, should be lying flat, high up on the chest, preferably on the sternum, to minimize the chances of flagging it. A common issue on this count that people often like to try to pick up the gun strictly from the front strap, to “scoop” up the gun, and thus come out of the holster with a poor grip. Another is the tangling of undershirts during the draw, which can be partially mitigated if one tries to touch the front strap first with the fingers before pushing the fingers across, to maximize the chances of pushing the undershirt out of the way. Yet another issue is the possibility of an open front cover garment falling back over the holster if simply flung out of the way; this can be solved by tracking the thumb down the body while drawing, thus pushing the cover garment out of the way. For non-open front cover garments, do not lift the garment just high enough to get the draw in, but as high as possible; this can be done easily with two hands, but can also be done one-handed, by using the elbow of the arm that will be drawing the weapon to pin down the fabric of the garment after it has been lifted. A dry drill was then done to practice just count one.

I had several poor grips due to the undershirt I was wearing; I normally did not wear undershirts, so this was particularly aggravating. I also had a habit of bending backwards slightly, which helped me draw easier usually, but also sacrificed my stability.

On count two, flag the thumb out and draw the gun up, until it was in what Craig called the thumb pectoral index. At this point, the entire thumb should be touching the pectoral muscle, while the arm and wrist should not have any bend to them. Shooting from this position would not be A zone hits for the most part, but given the fact that shooting from count two happens mainly during entanglement, this was not seen to be a huge issue. One should also have some bunching of the shoulders and the trapezius. If using appendix carry, one should actually end up more in the middle of the chest with the flagged thumb, since that would be the most direct path for a draw from appendix; however, this was not practiced as much during the course, as one could not shoot from retention in that position, as the slide of the gun would have nowhere to go, so any drill that was not incorporating a completed draw would be done into the thumb pectoral index. The thumb pectoral index is also seen as being superior than the magazine index for retention for several reasons: fits into the draw stroke better, easier to get alignment, since the gun is much more vertical than the relatively horizontal magazine index, the gun is closer to the body thus allowing better retention anyways, and tends to help keep someone square in facing the target, rather than being bladed. A dry drill was then done to practice both count one and count two.

I found the position rather awkward, particularly with the fact that I generally ride the safety, and this ran counter to how I had always had my thumb positioned. I also had issues with keeping the arm and wrist straight, but this was straightened out with repetition.

Count three was to get the gun level with a two handed grip as soon and as close to the body as possible, thus allowing you to get a slide index as early as possible. At this point, you should have some kind of visual reference of the top of the slide; if not, this is probably because you have relaxed your shoulders when leaving the pectoral index, which is non-ideal. Craig also went over the idea of “collection”, which is the transition from one handed grip to two handed grip. This must occur only if the weak hand can come from behind the gun, to make sure that it does not get muzzled; ideally, if the hand was not already high on the chest, one should keep the hand attached to the body while running it up to a high position touch the chest before collecting the gun. We then practiced up to count three.

Being that I carried appendix and had a t-shirt as a cover garment, making sure my weak hand was in the correct place before collecting the gun was not an issue. This technique also worked relatively well in conjunction with the press-out, which I had been utilizing a modified version of since taking AFHF.

Count four was simply punching the gun out to extension and finding an acceptable sight picture. We then practiced the entire draw stroke with live fire, aiming at the “-0” that was embossed into the targets.

I had one shot that went high, while the rest were more or less on target, although some were more on the left side (though not low). I had some issues picking up the “-0”, due to the fact that I tended to use a middle focus when shooting for speed, which leads to both a slightly blurry target and a slightly burry front sight, and given how faint the “-0” was, presented me with some issues.
 

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We then tried out shooting from the thumb pectoral index. Starting with the forehead or bill of the cap touching the target, Craig would give us the commands one by one: count one, count two, check the support hand, check the muzzle line, fire, holster.

Being that this was my first time utilizing the thumb pectoral index, my grouping was pretty big, even for not using the sights. Also, the safety started to slam uncomfortably into the base of my thumb, as the one handed shooting afforded me less recoil control.

Craig then stated that vertical stringing was usually due to joint issues, such as inconsistent position of the elbows or the wrist, while horizontal stringing could often be attributed to incorrect elbow positioning on the X axis. We then tried this drill again, this time with each command representing more movements.

At this point, some people had to reload part way through the drill. Craig told us to not just simply reload, but to do something else, like a light punch of the target, a hammer fist, a muzzle strike, or touching a sheathed blade, to simulate doing something other than trying to reload instinctively as such close quarters with an enemy.

The drill was then repeated several more times, each time with less and less commands to guide us and keep us from screwing it up. Craig stated that if one of us were to try to teach this to other people, be sure to use the progression of commands, in order to maximize safety.

Craig then went over the idea of shooting from various stages of compression. If a person is close enough to touch you, then obviously one should be shooting from the thumb pectoral index. However, there is obviously a small, but significant, grey area in which full extension would bring the gun too close to the adversary, but thumb pectoral offered excessively reduced accuracy. There is also the issue of having the gun out in very confined areas, such as crowds, trailer homes, or planes. We practiced moving backwards, step by step on Craig’s command, while moving the gun in and out from count three to count four and back.

The press out made this drill actually a bit disconcerting, as I had a slide recoiling right into my face much closer than I was used to. Thankfully, I did not hit myself in the face at any time; I’d already done that in the past with a GBB airsoft pistol and learned my lesson then.

This wrapped the live-fire portion of the drills for the day, and we broke for lunch.
 

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After lunch, we picked up where we left off last night in the vertical grappling, and went back to pummel trading, first consensually, then non-consensually. Craig then taught us how to get out of a double underhook. The first step is to get the hips back as far as possible. Then, perform a “whizzer”: using the bony edge of your wrist, push their elbows in, then cut the corner, and get your head back into the opponent’s neck. This helped illustrate the importance of trying to keep the opponent out of the inside.

This was the start of the most physical portion of the course; while the evolutions on day through might have been more straining as they occurred, this part was a sustained physical activity. Being that I was going in with essentially zero knowledge of any kind of grappling, this was all extremely novel to me, and I often found myself lost and requiring further explanation from Justin, Ferrell, and/or a more knowledgeable partner.

We then went over the basics of limb control. We first were taught about the bicep tie: lock your elbows out, have your hand in the crook of their elbows or slightly higher, and then push them back as far as possible in that position. The way to get out of a bicep tie is to get your hands inside, and this allows you to easily to reverse the bicep tie and end up with one of your own. We then practiced this consensually, rotating positions with our partners. We then learned about the wrist tie, which is basically the grabbing of the wrist, and how to get out, which was done by driving the wrist straight against the tier’s thumbs while keeping your elbows inside the hips (as this will give you a strong position for your arms). Again, this was practiced consensually.

I found the bicep ties to be far easier to both execute and escape compared to the wrist ties. This is most likely a function of my upper body strength, or rather, lack thereof, as there were times that I was unable to escape the wrist tie even when doing it textbook perfect; I was also unable to keep a good grip on my opponent’s wrists sometimes, particularly if they were a bigger guy, and they could often break it through sheer force rather than driving it against my thumb.

Craig stated that he personally preferred to get an underhook in on the weak side, while using a bicep tie on the strong side. In order to escape (to break free from the entanglement) this with your head on the hook side, one can do a duck under escape. With the head on the tie side, both a duck under and an arm drag are possible. If an escape proves impossible, a tie up (using one arm to tie up both the opponent’s arms) is still possible. Generally, it is best to get out of a vertical entanglement, which in turn is better than being in a ground entanglement. Also, when escaping, it is generally best to get behind the target so as to give you some more time; the main exception to this is when the opponent is the one that is backing up, rather than you. For the most part, the two escapes are defined as getting behind the opponent and then letting go, generally with a good shove to keep them off balance and to get them further from you.

In a duck under, one is going under the opponent’s arms. Generally, this is accomplished by a level change, getting under the opponent’s arm with a straight neck and back, getting the head behind their shoulders, and then pushing back up while keeping the head straight, thus pushing the opponent behind you. It is paramount to not do an actual duck, in which the posture is broken. If someone is attempting to grab you, but has a “lazy elbow” (elbows not tucked down), then the escape is relatively trivial, as one can just pop one of the elbows up and execute the escape. In a hook, one would actually have to force the hooking arm up in order to do the escape. In a tie, faking a push forward can often trick the opponent to push back, making it easier for you to get under their arms when they push back.

I had trouble keeping my neck straight, as I had a tendency to do a literal duck, as my squats were not low enough.

In an arm drag, you should have a wrist tie on the opponent. Using your non-tying hand, get a bicep tie on the arm you have a wrist tie on, and bring it toward the center. You can then cut the corner, and slide around the opponent on the side that you tied their arm in. Be sure to not twist your hips here, as this gives up your posture.

I had a tendency to leave too much space between myself and my opponent, giving them to back off and re-establish their position, which can lead to a do-si-do type scenario in which the two of us would be circling around trying to get in a good position.

We then worked the various tie-ups. After that, Craig stated the importance of timing in such encounters. For example, a failed attempt at a duck escape might open up an opportunity to do a tie up. We then practiced all these things with inert weapons in entanglement non-consensually, but non-competitively.

I still had issues remember to use my entire body to try to turn the opponent, particularly the positioning of my head, since I had a tendency to face outwards rather than into their neck to help push.

Craig stated that weapons merely just augment one’s capabilities, and can almost never solve position issues. At this point, we finally introduced Simuntions (Glock 17s) and FIST helmets, but it was not an actual evolution. We broke up into groups of three: one person has the Sim gun, one person attempts to keep that person from drawing, and one person acts as a safety officer.

I had some issues with firing even when not using the pectoral index, which could easily have led to me shooting my own hand.

We then moved onto the ground basis. Craig states that while falling, one should try to take the fall like a paratrooper, by taking the brunt of the impact on the thighs and lats. If one is grounded but the adversary is still up, one must keep their feet between themselves and the adversary. Is it critical to keep the hips “above” the adversary, meaning that they are between your upper body and the adversary, rather than, say, a cross mount in which the adversary is between your head and your hips, as you are significantly weakened in such a state. When kicking an upright adversary while on the ground, make sure to target the knee or lower, as anything higher risks getting your legs grabbed; this techniques works much better than in MMA or other combat sports because we have shoes, which help deliver much more impact. Also, be sure to turn the toe outboard so your feet are much less likely to simply slide by instead of getting a good kick in.

If the opponent is moving to your right, use your right leg to piston yourself to meet them, while using your left leg to kick. If the opponent is moving to the left, the opposite holds true. With luck, your kicks will drive them back and give you room, hopefully enough to get up. Be sure that if you do try to get up, do not get up toward them, but away from them. If you cannot keep up with their movements and they attempt to do a cross mount while still up, do a hip escape: if an opponent is coming in from the right, use the left leg to push the hips up, and do an explosive pull out toward the head, essentially going from an ‘I’ position to an ‘L’ position, where the torso is represented by the horizontal portion of the ‘L’. Your right elbow should be touching your right knee, so as to keep as much space open as possible. Then, get your legs into the crease of the opponent’s hip and basically walk your way to the top of their body by cycling your legs when trying to get them away from you.

Trying to practice this was a bit counter intuitive at first, having to use the leg that you’re going in the direction in. Also, practicing this highlighted a severe lack of core strength on my part, making my attempts to get into a hip escape after skittering about on the ground to be severely poor form. Also, at about this point, one of the students had to go back to the classroom as they were suffering from heat exhaustion.

After this, we had our first evolution: the person with the gun is on the ground, while the unarmed person is on their feet. The evolution does not end until Craig deemed it so.

I got paired with Tim, an active HPD officer who we later learned just turned 56 and was attending as a birthday present from his brother, the range owner. Both as the unarmed aggressor and the armed defender, I was defeated, but I was able to deploy the BoB. At one point, as the unarmed aggressor, I was able to get clear access to Tim’s gun, but was unable to figure out how to disengage the retention system, and arguably spent too much time trying to figure out what button or lever to press on the Safariland. This evolution highlighted my extremely weak ground skills.

Class ended at this time at around 1830.
 

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Regular Member
#7
Class started at approximately 0830 on TD3. The weather was similar to yesterday, albeit with slightly more cloud cover and wind. We unfortunately lost two students due to heat exhaustion, one of which had come down bad enough to have vomited in the morning.

We started the day off by drawing and firing at the “-0” on the targets. After doing that for ten rounds, we then tried the same thing, but this time, compressing to the three after firing at the “-0”, and firing a shot, so as to see where it would land. Relaxed shoulders could cause such shots to land low, while heeling the gun could push it left or right. A potential remedy for heeling issues is to have the strong hand thumb ride on the outside of the base of the weak hand thumb, rather the traditional over.

Most of my shots were in the lower part of the A zone and the upper part of the B zone on the bottom side. I had turned my laser off for this part of the drill, as it would influence my shooting; this way, I could get a good feel for my index, which turned out to be decent, though nowhere as tight as some people’s were.

We then executed the table drill: sit down in the middle of a table, very close to it, with a person to your left, to your right, and a person behind you with their hands on your shoulders. You would then draw and fire one shot at the target about 7 yards away, and then re-holster. The point being reinforced in this drill was to watch your muzzle discipline. During a draw from the strong side, if one does not flag the thumb out and track it up your chest, but instead simply floated the gun, it can be quite easy to flag the person on your right. On the re-holster, it can be quite easy to muzzle the person behind you, so don’t try to just feed the holster in without looking. On appendix carry, don’t arc the gun out, as this will muzzle the person to your left. Also, clear the cover garment behind the muzzle, rather than in front of it. In general, bringing the shoulders up can help you clear the gun of any horizontal obstructions.

Due to the possibility of muzzling your fellow students in this drill, it was executed at a very slow speed, with Craig observing you while standing on the other side of the table, to your right (so, yes, Craig was indeed in front of the firing line, but considering the nature of the drill and the emphasis on slow, deliberate movements, Craig has never had an issue with safety on this drill yet).

Craig stated that one of the reasons he places a very strict emphasis on trigger finger control (hard register point) and muzzle awareness is that, during a buy during his undercover days, he was almost shot by friendlies. While sitting in the car with a dealer, waiting to be arrested with the dealer so as to maintain a degree of cover, the officer that came up to Craig to “apprehend” him, by all accounts a very competent officer, accidently touched off a round and had the bullet miss by mere inches and bury itself into the dash.

Everyone went through the drill with very slow and deliberate movements. The main issues seen were issues with floating the support hand during the draw, rather than having it high up on the chest, and fumbling for the holster on the re-holster, which is solved by looking down at the holster. I personally had to be very deliberate about my drawing and re-holstering, as I had a tendency to do some mild arcing of the gun. This drill really hammered home the importance of not arcing the gun, and I made sure to keep the muzzle straight down during the re-holster at all times for the rest of the class.

Craig then went over the fending positions while drawn in the thumb pectoral index, with the usage of the vertical elbow shield and the horizontal elbow shield. For the vertical, have your hand on your back left side of the head, the shoulders raised up, and the bicep on the cheek. For the horizontal, with the fingers straight out, have it touch the other shoulder, chin tucked in and behind the crook of the elbow. The vertical is a much more defensive position, while the horizontal can also be used offensively, e.g., going around a corner this way to fend off a possible ambush, in confined spaces, etc. Craig stated that he had accidently broken a fairly large suspect’s sternum this way. For the drills, we actually drew, and then got into the shield position; Craig noted that this was strictly for reps, and that one generally would not do that.


I had a tendency to tilt my head when doing the vertical elbow shield, which was probably brought on by the fact that I would place my hand too far toward the middle; I tried to get rid of this issue, but I never got a chance to check if I really retained the lesson, since the usage of the FIST helmets during the evolutions kind of precluded the proper usage of it.

We then went over the idea of appropriate compression, by which Craig meant the idea of pushing the gun only far enough out or bringing it in close enough in to keep it out of the opponent’s reach while moving backwards or forwards. The drills covering this started out in a shield, and then transitioned into a count four position while stepping backwards, emphasizing the need to collect the gun with the weak hand on the chest. The opposite was also practiced, in which we moved from full extension into compression and then a shield, while advancing on the target (somewhat simulating a target advancing on us).

Again, the safety manipulation was something I had to work on, and it definitely made its presence felt during one handed shooting. Also, some shooters had issues with doing a sudden shield at the end, forgetting to compress appropriately while moving in. There were also issues with shooters standing still to reload, which was not only dangerous while on the line, but also a huge issue if someone was indeed advancing upon us. However, we also noted later on that during the evolutions, no one actually stayed still while trying to clear a malfunction or reload; still Craig stated that he had seen in the past people just standing there in evolutions, trying to troubleshoot the gun while an opponent was oncoming.

We then did a final, culmination drill that would be the last live-fire exercise of the day: Starting at a vertical shield close to the target, draw, fire, and move back using the appropriate compression, then moving forward again, using the appropriate compression, and ending in a horizontal elbow shield.

I had a lot of issues with this drill, primarily when moving in, and moving from count three to count two: I had trained myself to flip the safety on whenever taking the weak hand off the pistol, as this was good for safety in re-holstering, moving without shooting, reloading, etc. However, this meant that I would try to fire a handgun on safe at the pectoral index, and had to then think about flipping the safety off again. Speaking with Craig after the course, he stated that this was probably just a familiarity issue, and that with training, I could easily overcome it.

We then broke for lunch.
 

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Regular Member
#8
After lunch, we then started the second evolution: the 2v1. The primary person will be armed; the secondary person will then approach the primary; the tertiary person will be held in reserve by Craig until he deemed it appropriate to loose them. Craig stated that it would be a free for all role-play, in which any scenario was game, and that the evolution did not end until he called it. If safety equipment worked loose, there would be a pause (and work loose they did; the FIST helmets came off quite often) to get the equipment back on, but then the evolution would continue. After the evolution ended, we would then go over what happened, primarily focusing on the primary, although everyone got a say. Then, roles would switch, until each person in the trio got to play every role.

I was in a group with “French Jesus” and “Dog the Bounty Hunter” (I’m fairly terrible with names, and only remember their nicknames). In the first round, I was the secondary, while French Jesus was the primary. I approached him speaking in Mandarin, stating that there was a car accident and that I needed his help or at least his phone. I also pantomimed out a phone, but he consistently rejected me; while he moved around a fair bit, he often let me get very close. Eventually, Craig loosed Dog, who proceeded to try to solicit help for me from French Jesus; I assume that he figured out that I needed a phone. Again, French Jesus demurred and kept moving, and at this point, I also asked Dog if he had a phone I could use, but mostly focusing on Jesus. Eventually, Dog simply stated “well, you’re going to help us one way or another” (or something to that extent, in which a link between Dog and I seemed to be established), and attacked French Jesus. I responded by trying to break-up the fight, albeit half-heartedly. Jesus drew a gun eventually, at which point I decided to side against him; my role-play rationale was that many people would see the drawing of a gun in a “simple” fist fight while both parties were still upright and there didn’t seem to be any clear winner at the point was uncalled for, and that Jesus was liable to kill Dog at this point. I drew my knife and waded into the fight, and got a fair bit of sticks in without much issue. Jesus was eventually able to work free and get a couple of shots off before the evolution ended. Afterwards, Jesus stated that when Dog said “us”, he automatically assumed that the both of us were hostile, and acted accordingly. Others noted that my speaking of a foreign language made it very difficult to discern my intensions; as Justin stated, it’s very difficult to smoke a guy when you have no idea what he was saying.

When I was the primary, Dog was the secondary. He approached me with a piece of scrap paper, saying that I had dropped it. This is where I made the first of very many mistakes: I let him get way to close, and did my moving away and arcing very half-heartedly. Eventually, Jesus was loosed, and he made the statement that he, too, saw me drop the piece of scrap paper. At this point, Jesus had probably been loose less than five seconds, when Dog lunged in and basically had me on the ground in seconds. However, I made the conscious decision not to draw a weapon at this point, as it seemed to be just a fist fight, and the utilization of lethal force seemed disproportionate; it later dawned on me how easily he could have had a blade out and simply cut me to ribbons while I was down before I would have any chance to react. At this point, I had a magnificent stroke of luck, as Jesus became one of the very few tertiary people to side with the primary, rather than the secondary. While on the ground, Dog was able to feel out my gun and draw it out. At around this point, he also got entangled with Jesus, and I was able to escape. At this point, I had free reign to simply escape while Dog was tied up with Jesus; however, I instead re-entered the fray, trying to get my gun back (although the decision to help out Jesus, who had no reason to help me, was also part of it). I was able to wrest the gun away, and eventually wound up turtled up over it, while Dog was on my back. I actually rested there for a bit, for Dog simply kept me down, but didn’t really attack me; I assumed that he was busy with Jesus, although Craig also noted that this was actually a terrible position to be in if Jesus ever stopped the attack and Dog got a free reign to attack me. Eventually, Dog was able to wrest the gun back, but while he was doing so, I realized that I would lose the gun, and ejected the mag and managed to throw it outside the ring. Dog got the shot off on Jesus, emptying the chamber, and the evolution ended; interestingly, Dog did not realize that the gun was empty until the evolution ended.

With Dog as the primary, Jesus approached him to complain about Dog stealing his parking spot. This led to Dog evaluating Jesus as being hostile, and he seized the initiative by throwing a beautiful elbow right into Jesus’s FIST helmet visor. Dazing him, pushing him back, and giving Dog time to back up and draw. I was loosed at about this time, and I simply made a beeline for Dog while drawing my knife. The Sim gun malfunctioned at this point, and Dog made a couple of attempts to clear the gun before simply changing his grip and using the butt of the gun as a hammer. He had excellent mobility, and never stayed on the ground longer than a second or so. Jesus and I were unable to effectively get entangled with him at any point in time.

All of the repeat students tended to perform quite well, with one student never going to ground, as he was able to keep good distance, get a horizontal elbow shield up, and draw into count two. Another had excellent mobility, and only wound up on the ground because Craig purposely tripped him; even then, his ground work was good enough that he was able to prevail in the two versus one scenario (he was an avid practitioner of ju-jitsu). The amount of malfunctions that occurred throughout the evolutions with the Simunitions also made me very leery of depending on them on evolutions; I had already been leaning toward using a blade for anything this close, from all the reading I did, and the unreliability of the Sims and the difficulties in clearing the malfunctions (mostly double feeds) while entangled only reinforced my feelings about getting away from the gun at this close range.

After the evolutions, Craig stated that going toward weapons too early may work against you, presuming you survived, as it could make it look like you were the one that escalated the fight. His standard was to ask what the fight would look like on a cellphone or CCTV video with no sound. Obviously, every person has to make their own decisions based on their comfort and skill level, but it was something very important to consider.

The evolutions highlighted the need for knowing weapons retention. The easiest way to do this is, when the opponent has their hand on your gun, pin their hand onto the gun with your elbow; essentially, their hand should be trapped between your elbow and your hip. After pinning their hand, a level change will maximize your weight on the gun, and keep them from drawing the gun, as their arm is essentially fighting against your whole body. Afterwards, footwork can be used to get them into a tie or whatever and have them get off your gun. When grounded, the same idea applies; get into the standard butterfly guard, but with the elbow on the gun, then use your legs to push the opponent away.

This worked extraordinarily well; at several points, my partner was able to pull hard enough on the training gun that I was actually lifted off the ground, yet the gun stayed firmly tucked into my waist.

We then went over retention of a drawn gun and a disarm. Both worked off the same principle: strip the gun through their thumb, as that is definitely the weakest part of the hand, since there’s only the thumb there, versus fighting all four other fingers going the other way. For retention, one should use the bony edge of their wrist of the hand that is not holding the gun, place it against the opponent’s, and using your wrist as a fulcrum, twist the gun out by going in the direction their thumb is holding it. For disarms, we were only taught how to defend against one handed grips. There are two important steps: don’t get show, and get the gun out of their hand. To not get shot, move both the body and the muzzle, not just one. There is no rule as to which way to strip the gun, both in or out works, depending on the position you’re in. Generally, one should always assume that the enemy’s gun is loaded and functioning while they hold it; however, once you have disarmed them, one should assume that the gun is unloaded and non-functioning, given the poor quality of maintenance many criminals have on their firearms.

The disarms were a bit unintuitive; I would have to think about which way to torque the gun out, so it would leave me having of moved both myself and the muzzle, and then I would be standing there, staring at the gun for a moment, before moving onto the next step.
 

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Regular Member
#9
We then started what was supposed to be the final evolution of the day: fighting in a car, or in this case, the cab of a small pick-up. Both parties would be armed: the driver would have a gun in their holster, while the passenger (a hitchhiker) would have a gun under their right thigh. The hitchhiker would initiate a carjack or whatever, and, ideally, the driver would do a disarm and the struggle would be on.

The first evolution went quite well, and the guys wound up in the back seat both times, if I recall correctly. However, the second evolution killed the evolution for everyone, as seconds after a gun went into play, the front windshield had a hole kicked in it, and we had to stop the evolution. Craig stated that this was the first time it had ever happened.

We then moved on to the double gun grapple, in which both parties had their gun out, and both parties had their weak hand on the other’s gun. One was on the ground in a butterfly guard, while the other would be leaning over them.

During this evolution, we had what might be a serious injury, which would be the third time one had happened in the nine years Craig had been teaching ECQC: Craig partnered one of the strongest guys against one of the very skilled ju-jitsu guys. While on the ground, the ju-jitsu guy was able to get a good hold on the strong guy’s right arm; it was not a true arm lock, but the ju-jitsu guy had basically his whole body wrapped up in controlling the arm. The strong guy tried to get out of it by powering through it, and possibly tore a bicep tendon attempting to do so. We stopped the evolution, and had the secondary doctor (as the strong guy was the primary) look it over; he decided to leave in the end, and head over to the local hospital to take care of it.

I was the last guy to go, and because of the uneven number of students left, I only did half the evolution, starting on the ground. I attempted to get my gun out of play (somewhat reminiscent of another ju-jitsu guy’s play: he ejected his mag as early as possible to get it out of play so that he could just focus on his opponent’s gun) by getting a shot off on my partner Benny, and letting the gun go out of battery. I was unable to keep Benny from getting on top of me, but I was able to keep his gun out of play for some time, while being able to draw the BoB and get many good stabs in. However, in the end, he got positional dominance on me and ended the evolution with three point blank shots to the visor of the FIST helmet.

At this point, the class essentially ended, and we had a hot wash before everyone left. The comments from first timers were pretty much unanimous in its praise and evaluation that, after some basic marksmanship classes, this would be, by far, the most relevant coursework for any CCWer. Tim, the lone LEO, stated that this was also something that every person going through the academy should go through. The repeat students were much more muted in their praise for the most part (perfectly understandable, as repeating the course alone should implicitly be very heavy praise), and instead focused on what went wrong, and what they could improve upon during the evolutions. This ended at 1830.

I personally stated that the main difference between this class and all other courses that I had taken up to that point was that I went in to the previous courses knowing what I didn’t know; here, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. While I had certainly read up on the AARs and the such prior to coming to the class, my knowledge of hand to hand was so lacking that I simply never understood much of the material that I had read before in the context that it needed to be understood in.

I was definitely one of the poorest fighters in the class, and the lone evolution in which I was able to come out not obviously dominated was done so through sheer luck. I will most certainly be getting in contact with one of the ju-jitsu guys who was in the class, and seeing if I can’t start training with him regularly. On the other hand, I was very happy with the fact that, while I often simply ran out of strength in my upper body, I never truly gassed out; that is to say, I never felt out of breath, even if I simply couldn’t muster enough strength to get my arms or neck or whatever moving. I suppose the cardio regime I had started a couple months ago did have some effect. I also never really panicked, which was something I had read about before in AARs; I actually don’t think this was an advantage for me, as it thus never really gave me a sense of danger (to me, the evolutions were like roller coasters; seemingly scary, but I “knew” that I was perfectly safe), and it thus did not give me a chance to see how I would react under real stress. Then again, given my abysmal performance even while relatively calm, I’m sure it wouldn’t have made a big difference. To be sure, I will most certainly be attending ECQC again in the future.

In terms of the class outside of the material, there was a definite need for hydration; I was consistently slightly dehydrated through the whole class, which was not helped by the fact that I totally forgot about the need to use sunblock on the second day, and wound up burned pretty bad on my neck and a bit on my face (I had never done a class in the summer before, and I’d always been the indoors-y type). The second day was also by far the most physically strenuous; while there were more evolutions on the third day, the evolutions were actually not that bad, since most of the time was spent resting as you observed the rest of the class go.

Gear-wise, the main issue was the safety on the P30LS digging into the base of my thumb when shooting at the thumb pectoral index; however, I see this as a fairly mild issue, and will not alter my plans to stick with this platform and get a couple more for backup. There was also issues with the TekLok attachment on the BoB sliding around on the belt, although this was mainly an issue from a concealment point of view rather than a fighting point of view.

Overall, 269 rounds were expended, all of which were Freedom Munitions 115 gr. RN New (note that Craig had the round count for the class set up to be exactly 275 rounds; I most likely did not shoot a full five or ten round string a couple of times). No malfunctions occurred.