Extreme Close Quarters Concepts 2014, Re: Reflecting on Progress

My initiation into hand-to-hand entanglement started with a punch in the face in 2012.

I was enrolled in a seminar instructed by Cecil Burch, whose background was in Crazy Monkey boxing and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, when I was guarding my head from gloved punches with my back against a wall – no where to go.  It’s a drill to keep your hands up high where it will become self-evident when you failed. I described that weekend as an introduction to “Tactical Jazz.”

The firearm is not always, or can be, the immediate solution. Even in a lethal encounter.  I understood how important this realization was; however, only recently am I able to articulate what I was looking for: a functional, fundamental set of skills that I can practice independently or within a small group that’s adaptable. I want my defense to play out like a jazz solo.

In my experience, martial arts have a tendency to teach you one skill to counteract a specific skill, at a precise moment. Struggling with this reality, I never bothered to pursue formal instruction through traditional means.

With little background in physical confrontation or martial arts, I was rather overwhelmed.  I’ll admit I thought more about my next breath and engaging in internal dialog.  “This sucks.  I paid for this?”.  With good attitude and honest self-evaluation, I was a better version of myself.  Burch’s two-day seminar provided me excellent guidance and confidence moving forward. More importantly, a problem-solving platform, while under stress.

Since meeting Burch, I’ve enrolled in a few of Craig Douglas‘ classes – Extreme Close Quarter Concepts 2012, Edged Weapons Overview 2013 and ECQC 2014.

Burch’s seminar was an excellent introduction to close quarters entanglement, and Douglas’ coursework was further confirmation that I needed to re-evaluate my training priorities.  I won’t admit to being sedentary, but when I came across an article written by Aaron Cowan at Moderno a few months ago, it really described a shift in my training paradigm.  Cowan writes, “All things considered, the case for a sedentary life or simply practicing the gun and not strengthening the body is not just weak, it’s effectively dead.”

At ECQC 2012, I consequently learned the importance of arching around an unknown contact only after being bear hugged by an unseen rocket scientist from behind, my pistol taken away from me, restrained to the ground, getting shot with my own piece in the ass by a CEO, all while being stabbed with a P’Kal trainer.  It was a valuable lesson on problem solving under pressure.

Gassed throughout Cecil Burch‘s class, and my ass handed to me at ECQC 2012, I knew it was a good idea to start some sort of regular scheduled exercise.  I’ve made considerable progress since.  Though EWO 2013 was particularly physically demanding, I was confident and able to focus on executing technique.  Further physical improvement was accomplished by adopting Jim Wendler‘s 5/3/1 program.  Aside becoming stronger, proprioceptive awareness increased as I became more familiar with a proper deadlift and squat.

Image from woot.com.  Artist: nrarmen

Image from woot.com. Artist: nrarmen

With more than 8 cycles through Wendler’s program, I participated in ECQC 2014.  I perceived greater success compared to my last two classes , especially in my ability to observe and anticipate opportunities for better positions.  I was also pleased how my firearm handling has improved during entanglement; however, I noted that I need to continue to develop firearm position in context of proper proximal relationship from the target, while on the move.  I compare it to a very complicated head tapping, belly rubbing motor skill.

I think the most valuable lesson I walked away from ECQC 2014 is the importance of verbal acumen.  Managing unknown contacts isn’t about being first to throw a punch, draw your gun, or avoid people all together.  It’s social ability, and engaging, or not, in an appropriate manner.  Douglas demonstrates exemplar verbal agility, which really speaks to his experience, as well as creative talent, developed and molded under pressure.  You don’t always have to tell people to go away, nor do you have to accept people to breathe on you.  You just need to have the social skill to communicate your choice based on a perceived issue – ask, tell, command.  However, as an event with an unknown contact unfolds (stress), layers of tasks (task load) are added.  As a result, physical reaction time drops.

I found myself getting wrapped up in dialogue, and getting bonked in the head.  On the other end, I stuck to my script so well I failed to consider other alternatives that would communicate the same request .

Scenario:
Unknown:  Hey, I need some money for the bus.
Me:  Go away.  I’m not your guy.
Unknown:  C’mon.  I really need the money.
Me: Go away.  I’m not your guy.
Unknown:  Fuck you.  I’m taking it.

Alternative:
Unknown:  Hey, I need some money for the bus.
Me:  Go away.  I’m not your guy.
Unknown:  C’mon.  I really need the money.
Me: You know what, sure.  Here’s a dollar.
Unknown:  Golly, thanks!

Giving people bus fare isn’t a guarantee you will avoid physical confrontation, but it is a viable alternative.

I think it’s outstanding that I can attend a course multiple times, and continue to discover new things.  Though Douglas’ course content continues to evolve, the premise and the importance of MUC remains paramount.  While I intend to continue to physically train, I have a new focus to improve my interaction with people – the good, bad, and even the ugly.

Triple Aught Design is hosting Edged Weapons Overview in San Francisco on February 7 and 8 2015.  In my humble opinion, Douglas offers excellent instruction on socially managing people in the context of real human interaction.  Further, if the interaction is anything other than friendly, Douglas delivers fundamental physical entanglement solutions that do not require specialized repetitions – ad nauseam.  I encourage anyone with a spirit for continue self-improvement to attend this course.  For the uninitiated or inexperienced, the attendees are typically standup individuals from various backgrounds and are happy to lend a helping hand.

Don’t take my word for it.  The training is more fulfilling in person than watching it on YouTube.

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Categories: Firearms, Guns, Just Me, Training

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