Art of Escape – San Francisco, AAR

TPR Note:

I wrote this after action report soon after the class concluded – sometime in late January. This was RiftRecon’s first class, and had notable hiccups. You may notice RiftRecon continues to offer the class; however, please note that the original instructor, Kelly Alwood, is no longer associated with RiftRecon. For better or worse, this review may not reflect RiftRecon’s current operations


Insufficient Absent
– Pick and open locks
– Social Engineer/Solicit help
– Obtain transport out of crisis area
– Escape a kidnapping
– Use commonly found materials for tools and survival purposes
– Find critical medical supplies
– Build an urban survival/bug out kit
– Plan escape routes
– Perform medical triage specific to urban environments- Execute covert movement; move through crowds unnoticed
– Defend yourself, if needed with weapons (improved and proper)
– Find shelter in the city
– Find food/water
– Use a radio for information and communication
– Escape pursuit on food and in a vehicle.
– Gain access to unrestricted or unauthorized areas.
– Perform urban navigation and threat analysis
– Create alternative ID/find currency.

I enrolled in AoE for two reasons:
1)    To experience Triple Aught Design’s CORE program pilot.
2)    I was the beneficiary of a $400 ShivWorks EWO spot, at no cost to me.

The description of AoE implies students will learn basic skills “to outsmart, outmaneuver and survive in a destabilized, peninsula-based city.”  Following three days immersed in the AoE curriculum, I believe the instructors covered a majority of the topics advertised; however, I perceived there were topics insufficiently covered.  I will admit; however, I may have missed elements of the presentation – I would not be surprised if my attention was concentrated on handcuffs or lock picking throughout the presenters’ lectures.

With that said, the instructors were effective, overall.  I significantly benefited from the Field Training Exercises; however, potential improvements with delivery methodology or Field Training Exercise execution should be explored.

Students accurately described the curriculum as overwhelming.  While the material wasn’t complicated, I believe lecture was inappropriate for a topic that arguably requires extensive role-play, or at the very least, demonstration.  Significant material absorption was missed without a field exercise under the guidance of instructors to show examples of satisfactory cache locations, geographically relevant photos of potential safe houses, or videos of social engineering in play.  While experience through actual practice may be sufficient, real-time demonstration would have enhanced the experience.  The most practical remedy is for the instructors to photograph appropriate targets as part of their field reconnaissance.

Lock-picking, and escaping from bondage was the only real-time instructor guided material.

Field Training Exercise on day three forced me to try something new, or rather, approach problem solving with a unique set of pressures: Avoid capture, solicit help from strangers under the pretense of necessity, and utilize creativity in a different context.  Though there were overt deficits in the execution, I benefited the most from it.  The exercise provided insight on my perceived social limitations, and how to be more effective in genuine interactions: personal and professional.    I also saw several parts of San Francisco I would have not otherwise bothered to explore.  I even took the bus in San Francisco for the first time – suburban problems, right?

By the end of the day; however, it was apparent that coordination of the chase was insufficient.  With only three teams searching five pairs, there may have not been enough real pressure.  The instructors, however, were convincing enough to evoke paranoia anyway.

Completing the seven original objectives while being pursued seems unrealistic.  However, this may be entirely dependent on our ability to execute the skills learned.  Without a doubt, city layout is a factor.

The price of the course would imply planning of the FTXs and additional integration of real-time demonstration of the skills discussed.  I would not have enrolled in this course had I not contributed training funds I didn’t spend on a course that has demonstrated value.  I advise the price of this course not exceed the introductory price.

I believe AoE may contribute to developing new skillsets,  and having fun. City games, as Eric (CEO of RiftRecon) described, may attract future participants without the anxiety of being too far out of their comfort zone, yet just enough to be thrilling.  With careful execution for future classes, the AoE may be an adventure of a lifetime, with real world life-lessons.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: I Live in My Car, Just Me, Misc., Training


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  1. Covert Entry Concepts – Triple Aught Design CORE Program | The Packing Rat - August 20, 2015

    […] was a brief phase, and really hadn’t picked it up against until a few years ago when I attended Rift Recon’s Art of Escape. It was then I learned lockpicking is, indeed, a perishable skill. With my interest renewed, I […]

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