Shivworks IEK/ECQC AAR

Posted: October 9, 2011 in Advanced, After Action Reports

First, let me give you some background. Shivworks is a training company operated by Southnarc. He goes by an alias to protect his real identity. Sounds cheesy, but it’s legit. He’s done a lot of undercover work and there are probably a lot of bad dudes who would just love to know his schedule. So anyway, he teaches close fighting skills. Some of it is unarmed, some is with a blade and some is with a gun. Everything is based on solid principles that work regardless of the weapon you have. This is very much a personal defense class, and has almost nothing to do with target shooting. If you aren’t interested in defending yourself with deadly force, this is probably not going to be your scene. Fair warning.

It’s a 2.5 day class, with the first evening being IEK and the next two days being ECQC. I took this course on May 6-8, 2011.

This is a much more basic AAR than the one I started writing. I’m going to try to keep it short and simple, and hopefully it won’t be incredibly boring. We’ll see.

Friday night was IEK (In Extremis Knife), which was split into the first section, which was about Managing Unknown Contacts, and the second section, which was about trying to get a knife into the fight.

The first section was where we learned a few of the basics that would follow through the weekend. The first being that distance = time. Keeping unknown contacts at a distance is the best way to ensure you have enough time to respond to whatever they do. Even a distance of less than a foot can be the difference between blocking a strike and getting hit. Second big principle is that you have two goals in any confrontation: to stay conscious and to stay on your feet. If you fail to do either of these, the chance of you surviving drops precipitously. The other big principle is that your responses need to be defaults and non-diagnostic. Non-diagnostic (if you’re not familiar with the term) means that you don’t try to figure out what is happening and respond accordingly. You just do what you do regardless of the input. This cuts down on your response time by a huge margin, because you’re not taking in information, processing it, deciding what to do and then acting (sound like OODA?), you’re just playing a tape reel as a default. For example, if your pistol malfunctions, a non-diagnostic response is to tap and rack without looking to see what went wrong. There’s also something called the “timing rule” that you really need to pay attention to. The idea is that you have to control the other guy’s limb that’s closest to your weapon before you can get it into the fight. if you don’t, it’s way too easy for him to foul your draw or to knock your weapon out of your hand. We saw over the following couple of days just how bad it is to get the weapon into the fight too early. Part of this, and another overriding principle, is that position trumps everything else. If you are in a dominant position, it doesn’t matter if he is better armed than you are. If you are in a bad position, it doesn’t matter what weapon you have or how much skill you have. You need to get into a better position before you’re able to do anything. So there you go. Those are the basic major principles I picked up from the class.

So we practiced having someone approach and doing our default responses and all that jazz. It was interesting and it was really helpful to get to do a bit of roleplaying on both sides. We also learned about an eye poke that makes a good “back off” strike. Risk to yourself is low, and you’re very unlikely to do any permanent damage to the other guy. The host (not the teacher) got hit in the eyes with one of these strikes (from the teacher) and it put him down for more than a few minutes. It would be plenty of time to get your gun out or to escape if you could.

We also went over knives to see what everyone was carrying and Southnarc discussed the different types and their strengths and weaknesses. Turns out my knife is kinda crap. You want something you can get out in a hurry and with a minimum of fine motor skills. The emerson Wave concept is pretty cool because it gets the knife into the fight without you having to get the knife out, get it into a particular position and then make a specific movement with your thumb. Then we did some drills about controlling the opponent for long enough to pull out the knife. It was much tougher than you would think. Very fun though, and it was definitely eye-opening about just how hard it is to do something with someone actively resisting you. Far too many martial arts classes have you practice something on a partner who isn’t resisting at all and it is an entirely different experience.

The next morning, we showed up at the range and started working on our 4-count draw stroke. It’s a very specific set of movements and it would be almost impossible to describe accurately in text so it’ll have to be something we all practice together in person sometime. We worked on the draw and shooting from retention a great deal. We learned that your level of extension/compression is based on your distance to the target. If they’re within arm’s reach, you need to be shooting from full retention to keep the gun from them. We also learned that it’s better to keep the gun tight against your body (with the thumb flagged straight up against the side of your chest) than to rotate the gun outboard. You get the room you need for it to cycle, but you can be much more consistent with your shot placement. We shot mostly at extreme close range, which I had previously though meant “arm’s reach” but learned at this class meant “forehead’s reach.”

That afternoon, we started working with the simunitions guns. Simunitions, if you aren’t familiar, are like paintballs that are fired with gunpowder. They hit much harder than airsoft, and the guns are exact copies of real guns, so they work in the same holsters and everything. They fire a 7 grain projectile (.5 grams) going 360-490 FPS. That’s about the same velocity as an airsoft pellet, but about twice the mass. They sting a little, but they’re not as bad as I was expecting. I think the heavy clothing I wore made a huge difference. We learned a lot about grappling on our feet, and worked on drawing the gun with a person resisting you. This is where the timing rule really came into play. Drawing the gun and getting it into play takes longer than you’d think, and you have to have one hand completely free for the whole time to get rounds on target. We also got introduced to the FIST helmet, which is a padded helmet with a plastic shield over the face. It covers the mouth, the top of the head, basically everything. It also makes it very hard to see and very hard to breathe. Some people had an almost claustrophobic response and started to panic once they got into the fight with the helmet on. We only had one evolution (live simunitions training exercise, at full force) with the sims guns and the helmets that evening. It was one on one, with only one person having the gun. The person with the gun was on the ground with the attacker on top and had to get him away far enough and keep him away long enough to get your gun out and get rounds into him.

We came back again the next day, starting at the range in the morning. This time we worked more on moving the gun to different levels of extension depending on our distance to the target. We walked forward and backward while firing, moving the gun closer to and farther from our bodies as we moved. We also practiced firing from inside a car, which was neat. We were sitting in the driver’s seat and had to unbuckle, shoot out the driver’s side window, then the passenger side window, then get out of the car and get in close with a target in front of the car, then take an aimed head shot at the passenger-side target from there. It was a really interesting exercise and was very helpful to learn how to move safely with a gun in such tight quarters.

Back in the dojo that afternoon, we did a little practice on grappling on the ground without guns to get used to some of the movements. After that we got to the last two evolutions. One was a 2-on-1 exercise where you were armed with a concealed sims gun and approached by one guy and had to keep your distance from him, while another guy approached you shortly thereafter. Keeping distance from both people was really tough, and it was really tempting to get to the gun too fast. Everyone got to play every role, and it was interesting to see how everyone did each part. The final evolution was both people on the ground (one on his back with the other on top) while both had guns already in hand. The goal was to get your gun into play without letting the other guy use his. This was a good exercise as well, because it teaches you that you may have your hands occupied with maneuvering your weapon or your opponent’s weapon so you have to use other parts of you body to try to control your attacker.

After that, we did our class wrap-up. Craig went around the room and asked everyone what they had learned from the class and then told them what they had done well. It was cool to hear the different lessons people had taken away. Some people had been there several times before, and their experiences tended to be different from the first-timers. I will definitely be going back, myself.

Overall, I would say that this is easily the best firearms class I’ve ever taken. The intensity of the training coupled with the quality of the instruction is simply unmatched by anything else I’ve seen. There’s a depth of knowledge and experience that I have seen elsewhere, but Craig’s willingness to dig into the “why” instead of focusing on the “how” really made the difference. Everything he taught was simple, effective, and he could explain exactly why it worked. That explanation really helped me see the principles behind the techniques, and kept them from being just more tools for my toolbox. I have too many tools in my toolbox already. I need to learn the one or two best methods that will work in the widest variety of situations instead of piling more and more techniques into my brain. The best part of the class was the experience of having actively resisting partners in a training environment. There really is no substitute for a live body trying as hard as it can to keep you from doing what you’re trying to do. The more time you can get on the ground with a guy on top of you trying to choke you out and smash your face in, the less likely you are to panic when it happens. I think anyone who carries a gun needs to take this class to get that experience and see just how hard it really is to bring a gun into play in a close quarters situation. I think far too many people (myself included) think that the gun is your defense, when really it is only a part and requires a lot of work just to get it into play.

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