For years I have heard about the Southnarc/Shivworks/Craig Douglas ECQC class, and in most cases it was described as something that anyone who is serious about carrying concealed and self-defense has to take. The stars never aligned to make that happen until last weekend when it was going to be about a 5 hour drive. It wasn’t in the plan for the year, but I decided that it was going to happen.
The class was held at a large facility northeast of Greeley, Colorado from Friday night through Sunday night, but with the exception of about an hour on Friday it was all held outside. Friday night was warm, but it was mostly after dark so not too bad. Saturday was a hot, hot day. I am not sure where in the 90s it got, but the forecast was for 94 and shade was in very short supply, so I used my own as much as possible (palm leaf). Sunday wasn’t bad with a high of the mid-80s and drifting clouds. On Saturday, I was struck once again not only with the importance of hydration, but proper hydration, and knowing your own body. Everyone seemed to be doing alright with water intake, thankfully for some there was water available on site, but quite a few weren’t doing any kind of electrolyte replacement and paid for it. I did well both days in that aspect, but in retrospect should have not gotten lazy and just used HEED instead of taking Gatorade. I know that the lower sugar content is easier on my system at the volumes I was needing it. My biggest struggle with the heat intake wise was food. The class calls for exertion beyond a normal shooting class, but when it is that hot my body just doesn’t like food. I didn’t have any big issues, but ate a bit too fast at lunch on Sunday. On Saturday, I also just had to make the decision to pace myself and not hit it as hard during repetitions as I would normally.
Craig is an excellent teacher, and at this point I would recommend taking any class he teaches. His organization, presentation, and content was great. It was clear, concise, well-practiced, and based on personal experience. There were a couple of things I personally would have liked to see more of after reflection, there has been a lot of that this week as well as several long talks with other people who have taken it that I trust, and also a few things I would change. That being said I can guess at the reasons behind most of those decisions by Craig, and if not trust they are sound knowing him. Everyone is going to have a different take on things, and Craig has put together a class that teaches what it claims too. And teach it did, I think I have around 15 pages of notes from 2.5 days of training, and honestly I didn’t take a ton of notes during the two shooting sessions, or the larger evolution.
So what is ECQC, it stands for Extreme Close Quarters Concepts, and in short is self-defense from contact out to about 3 yards (5 according to the lecture, but in most cases we were closer) using empty hand and firearms. Knives were touched on, but not in a significant way, which is left for another class. The class can be broken down into three parts, shooting (two sessions), empty hand training (lots of sessions), and integration of the two through both drills and also hands on evolutions. Craig follows the sound crawl, walk, and run method so it is not like he just throws you in there. He builds each topic off the last. I am not going into a huge amount of detail on the exact stuff taught, you will have to take the class, but shooting focused on pectoral index and appropriate extension. I have had exposure to those topics before, and I can’t say that it was a completely new subject, but it certainly fine-tuned things and gave me a better understanding of the techniques. The hands on portion was largely based on Greco-Roman wrestling, and again parts were pretty familiar to me. Back in my college days I spent a lot of time training, and started it back up in February of this year. While none of the stuff that I have done was Greco-Roman a lot of the moves were pretty familiar with little differences. I do have to say that Craig is one of the more impressive MA guys I have been around, he has his stuff down pat, and is both fast, flexible, and strong. At one point, he did a little demonstration of how the same move was done in about 4-5 different arts and he obviously had a very good understanding of those arts based on how easily he flowed through each. To dispel one of the misconceptions of the class, this is not a BJJ class, and Craig doesn’t advocate going to the ground. However, based on the way the class was structured, that happened a lot. There was no striking taught really, just grappling. I did have some trepidation going in about my ground game, and expected to find that the experienced BJJ guys just dominated, but they didn’t in my opinion, as dojo or competition BJJ with a Gi is very different then street fighting especially when you include weapons. Craig likes BJJ as a way of training simply due to the physicality of it, people in your face and on you and how strenuous it is, but will tell you that it doesn’t necessarily translate. Like a lot arts there are aspects (like mount positions) that translate really well, but not in total.
Overall I was very pleased with my performance. The MA I have been doing since February, has greatly increased my mobility, flexibility, and stamina. I had some neck and back soreness, but overall came out of it far better physically than I thought I would. I also did far better in the evolutions than I expected. My program is clearly working, and while there are holes I want to plug, at this point I am going to keep on keeping on. The main thing is that for the most part I was able to be aware of what was going on and make decision, not always the right one, but I did make them. I really only lost awareness once of what was going on. After talking to one friend I probably also shouldn’t have made another decision I did, but hindsight is 20/20.
A few other thoughts:
AIWB is fast as heck, but to paraphrase Craig “The easier your access to your gun, the easier your opponents access to your gun.” He also didn’t see any difference in the ability to defend a gun grab between AIWB and Strong side. If you do choose to wear AIWB then don’t wear a tight t-shirt you aren’t concealing anything. Speed is fine, but like other guys with real experience Craig advocates accuracy 3x5 card as being more important.
Training at a good MA gym is a very good thing, and I am not convinced that it needs to be BJJ, but I am convinced it needs to be realistic.
One a 90 degree day when you are training in the sun is not the day to learn about your personal needs regarding hydration and food intake, sort that out on ahead of time.
So is ECQC a requirement for those who carry concealed? I am not sure I would say that, but I would say that if you want to be well rounded, have an understanding of the limitations of firearms, understand how to integrate empty hand and firearms, and test yourself under pressure you should certainly take it. Just try not to do it on a hot summer weekend. To be clear you don’t have to be an experienced MA guy or gal or even a high level shooter (you do have to be safe and have your gun handling down), you do have to be willing to learn and go hands on.