Thursday, November 1, 2012

Southnarc ECQC AAR

 I took Southnarc's Extreme Close Quarters Combat class in Sacramento CA in October 2012, and this is a belated AAR.  I normally don't go to Sacramento for training since there is a lot of quality instruction already in the Bay Area, but Southnarc does not come to the Bay Area since there isn't a host here who's set up for him. It was well worth the trip, and I would have to say it was probably the best shooting related class I've ever taken.

Craig Douglas, a.k.a. Southnarc, was a SWAT team leader and did undercover narcotics work as a LEO.  ECQC focuses on defending yourself in a weapons based environment where the attacker is within arm's length.

Self defense situations most commonly start within arm's length. Having the fastest draw or Bill Drill or El Presidente time in the world doesn't matter much when the attacker can grab your gun arm and get in a tangle with you and take the gun away. Also keep in mind that one or two handgun shots may not be enough to stop an attack.  It's important to be able to deal with a determined attacker who continues to press forward and crash into you even after taking some hits.

This situation is underexplored in the civilian shooting training world.  Most shooting courses have most of the training take place at 5 yards or beyond.  To the extent that they do cover close quarters work, it typically involves shooting from the retention position on a paper target, and practicing some disarms and retention techniques with a non resisting partner. ECQC is very different in that a lot of the curriculum involves going against a resisting partner who is trying to accomplish a goal of his own. When you are wrestling with someone over a gun, you need to know wrestling techniques and training methods; the gun isn't automatically going to solve the problem for you. This training with resistance is _crucial_ for getting the right feeling when it comes to wrestling with someone over a gun. 
To understand why, I refer you to the video "Matt Thornton on Aliveness in martial arts".

ECQC is the only open enrollment class for civilians that I'm aware of that combines shooting and combatives with resistance. This is for several reasons.
- Many shooting instructors don't have a deep combatives background
- Many instructors may be concerned about liability due to injuries
- Many shooting students are not willing to get dirty and get sweaty wrestling around and getting beaten up and shot with Simunition rounds.

Friday night started at a martial arts gym in Rocklin with a 4 hour block on Managing Unknown Contacts. This went quickly but was some of the most valuable part of the curriculum.  Southnarc covered a little bit about how criminals think and how they choose their victims, and how best to handle encounters with suspicious people, without necessarily overreacting or being rude unless they cross a certain threshold. He described common pre-assault cues that are a hint that someone may be about to attack. He taught a basic defensive posture, 'The Fence', and a defensive move to protect your head when someone punches you.  Each of these were followed by unscripted improvised role playing training with a partner, where the technique was put into context.  We finished the night with some drills to teach fundamental wrestling concepts, including the mountain goat drill (see the pictures in the Calguns AAR linked at the end) and a pummeling drill.

See for a taste of what MUC is about. Reading the PDF and actually practicing it in person is a very different experience. Knowing it in your head and actually doing it are very different.

Training days 2 and 3 were on the range at Sacramento Valley Shooting Center.
Both days had live fire shooting in the morning, then being thoroughly scrubbed for live weapons and training force on force with Sims in the afternoon.  One major takeaway from the live fire drills is that most people were doing 'retention shooting' from the #2 position(#2 count in the standard 4 count draw stroke) in a very lazy way.  At close quarters, a few inches can make a big difference in whether or not the opponent can get their hands on your gun.  So it's important to pull the hand as far back and as high as possible, to the point where it's uncomfortable to your shoulder.  This also makes it more consistent, since it's at the limit of your range of motion.  The consistency is important when shooting in a tangle since you may be moving around in circles while wrestling the opponent and shooting and it's important to know where your rounds are going to go.

The force on force training had a lot of basis in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. There wasn't much material on striking due to time and safety limitations. Some key concepts are
- Don't try to access your weapon in-fight until you have a dominant position where the opponent can't grab the weapon. Pulling your gun out when the opponent can grab it is generally causing more problems than it solves. Generally you want to get to your opponent's back or side.
- It's not over until it's over. Getting a few shots on the opponent did not end the scenario, so we had to develop the mentality to continue fighting until Southnarc called the scenario over.
- Controlling the arms is more important than controlling the head, since the arms can access weapons.  This can be tricky for people with prior experience with grappling in a non weapons based context since they may be more used to going for head control.
- On the ground, it's preferable to disengage rather than to dominate position, since a second or third opponent could attack you while you're winning the fight on the ground. Of course, if the opponent that's with you on the ground has a gun, maybe disengaging is a bad idea until they have been disarmed.
- Some techniques that were used standing up include underhook, whizzer, arm drag, and on the ground included bridging and shrimping to escape a pin, and some open guard work against a standing or kneeling opponent.
- Having more weapons on you, such as a gun and a knife, can be very useful, but it's also more things that the opponent can take away from you and use on you.

- Knives are actually more scary than guns at contact distance because they're much harder to disarm. When you go to disarm a gun, you can grab the gun itself, but grabbing the blade on a knife is very difficult in a live situation.

 Southnarc is very smart about adult education and how to get someone to learn something.  Each technique was drilled first with no resistance, to learn the basic mechanics of the move.
Then it was drilled with a resisting partner who was attempting to accomplish his own goal. But the drill was isolated so that each person could only do a very limited set of moves.
Then it was drilled in a more open ended context where many moves were available.
Finally everything was put together in very open ended scenarios where almost any move was available. 

The students who came to the class were all very cool about training at an appropriate level of resistance, and no one got hurt. The type of person who shows up to this kind of class can keep control of their ego and not care too much if they win or lose.  Big ego types typically don't show up. Also, not everyone that showed up was young / big / strong / experienced in martial arts. Far from it. Many of the guys were older or smaller or less fit or had no experience and may have had a hard time 'winning' the scenarios but I saw them all learn a lot and improve greatly compared to the start of the class.  They came away with a realistic understanding of what they can or can't do.  The videos you see on YouTube of ECQC are of the scenarios which are the culmination of the day's training.  Most of the training is at a much lower intensity. So if you are out of shape, or old, or small or weak, I wouldn't worry about it.  Just go to the class and you will get a lot out of it.  Winning or losing doesn't matter, it only matters if you got better.

Highest recommendations for this class.  It is as far as I know the only class of its kind in the whole country open to civilians. I won't name them, but I have taken 3 other shooting classes that were meant to be for close quarters, and ECQC is head and shoulders above them.  This class is more applicable to civilian self defense than any other shooting class I can think of.

There is another AAR with pictures at

Southnarc's website is and a class schedule can be found there.

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