The Edged Weapons Overview course is a 16 hour focused overview of knife application methods that will give the student a fundamental and broad understanding of edged weapons. Like all ShivWorks courses EWO is contextually underscored and emphasizes conceptual framework applied through the minimalist, functional toolbox. All software is presented from the “reductionist’s” point of view to maximize retention and maintenance efficiency.
Craig Douglas (AKA SouthNarc) was the primary instructor. Class started at around 0840 on TD1. Weather was slightly chilly to start out with, but warmed up to being a beautiful day, a clear 70ish degrees. There were 24 students, with roughly half having of taken prior ShivWorks courses, with the majority of the repeats having of taken ECQC, although a few had only taken AMIS. Most of the students were just civilians (including several doctors, very useful in case of injuries), although we had a couple of members of the military, military contractors, a LEO, and a trainer.
We started out with a weapons check, removing all live blades, firearms, mags, etc., then with everyone giving a quick bio of themselves, with Craig going last, detailing his undercover work, which dealt primarily in narcotics, and included both buys, sells, and even murder-for-hires. He noted that through his career, he had many failures in training, particularly an incident when he was almost beaten to death in a hotel room by a socket wrench during a coke buy gone bad, resulting in a fractured skull, surviving only because of the quick intervention of a backup team. This forced him to re-evaluate much of his training, and he realized that only about 25%-30% of his training actually worked, and that even then, it was rarely taught in the correct context.
We then moved on the the criminal assault paradigm, which is to say how criminals work. As most criminals are opportunists, the five basic tenets of the criminal assault paradigm are: uneven initiative (one party will surprise the other, significantly increasing the surprised party's reaction time and reducing their motor skills), uneven armament (one party will be definitively better armed), extremely close range, multiple assailants, and the general usage of weapons. Most training does not adequately address these issues,e.g., assuming both parties are aware of each other's intent, assuming both parties have their weapons deployed already, etc., and thus fail to adequately prepare students for the kind of attacks they are likely to encounter in the real world. Even with adequate training, Craig estimates that there is generally only a 50% win ratio, and that his survival through his UC career could be attributed just as much to luck as it was to skill.
Craig then went on to discuss the issue of range. A basic axiom that essentially all edged weapons courses will agree on is that, for the purposes of defense, range buys time. However, the problem with that is that most human interactions occur at a very close range, typically arm's reach. At such a close range, even a small change in distance could have a large effect (changes in distance becoming exponentially more important as the range closes). To illustrate that, Craig stood at arm's reach to a student; Craig would attempt to touch the student's stomach before the student could slap his hand away, with both starting with their hands at their side. Craig had essentially a 100% success rate at that distance, yet just a half-step backwards resulted in a complete reversal of fortunes, with Craig getting intercepted every time.
Of course, in order to be able to maintain range, one must have situational awareness. Despite the popular cliché of how one should "always be in condition yellow", the reality is, different environs and times will result in different states of awareness; for example, it is unlikely that one would exhibit the same amount awareness walking down the aisle of a grocery store during the day and walking through a dark alley next to a dive bar downtime at 0130.
Craig stated that it's easy to think of awareness as being something in a constant state of flux, as a field that narrows and broadens constantly, depending on the situation at hand. The key thing to remember is to avoid task fixation in an exposed area, to keep from narrowing one's field of awareness too much; common examples include the now-classic holding a texting conversation while walking, trying to balance a checkbook in the car while in a parking lot, etc. The obvious issue with having a narrow field of vision is that this allows the criminal to very easily attack with uneven initiative.
We then moved onto the somewhat famous managing unknown contacts (MUC) portion of the course. It was noted that in trying to keep range, most people would assign different levels of possible threats to different people, thus allowing some people in closer than others. Factors such as race, age, gender, dress, presence of children, etc., all would play a role in most people's threat assessments. Since it's difficult to accurately bin all contacts, Craig suggests it's simplest to just use just two classifications: known contacts and unknown contacts (UCs). The art of MUC is being able to keep an encroaching UC away without also agitating said UC.
For the first component of the MUC, Craig suggests starting out with a polite request for the UC stop. This may not work for many benign reasons, such not noticing the request due to task fixation, agitation (e.g., seeking help for an injury), mental development issues (e.g., autism), etc. If the request fails, one should try raising their voice, ideally to the level of a shout, while issuing a command. The shouted command will hopefully startle or jar the UC. If this also fails, a possible verbal last resort would be to include the usage of profanity, as it can clearly indicate that one's extreme displeasure at the UC. However, if one normally does not use profanity, this is probably not the time to start, as this could be seen as a weak attempt to posture, and may be taken as a sign of weakness/panic. Also, note the distinction between "back the fuck up" vs. "back up, motherfucker"; the former uses profanity simply to accentuate the command, while the latter uses it as an insult, which may result in agitating the UC further, an obviously undesirable effect. Craig also notes that for most people, it is far better to view this as a monologue of sorts, to essentially ignore what the UC might be saying, as trying to hold a dialogue takes away from one's ability to process information and react in a timely manner; verbal agility can have some rewards, but the risk of getting caught up in trying to think of what to say and thus lengthening one's reaction time is not worth the risk.
The second component of MUC is the lateral movement in an arc. Typically, one would not want to step straight backwards, as it is stepping blindly into unknown territory, while also leaving you vulnerable to any possible assailants that are behind you. Simply moving laterally, without an arc, is better in terms of checking for assailants, but still allows the encroaching UC to move in closer, albeit at a slower rate than just standing still. By incorporating the arc (if the UC is at 1200 and you are at 0600, move to the 0300 or 0900), one can keep the encroaching UC at a distance while also checking the rear easier, while also collapsing the sector/narrowing the field of threat, ideally from a 180° to a 45°.
The final component of MUC is "the fence", as coined by Geoff Thompson. To create a fence, keep the hands high and compressed. This will help greatly reduce the time needed to protect one's head if an attack comes in, while staying in a non-threatening position. It also allows for one to easily attack first if need be, while being able to minimize any telegraphing.