Course Review: Shivworks Extreme Close Quarter Concepts

During the Thanksgiving holiday one of my closer relations mentioned to one of my more distant relations that in the previous week I had gone to a class where multiple individuals wrestled me to the ground, stole a Simunitions weapon from me, and then used the Simunitions weapon to shoot me in the gentleman’s area at close range. They blinked really hard a time or two and asked, incredulously:

“You actually paid to have someone shoot you in the groin?”

In ECQC the student is guaranteed to come face to face with their limits.

Yes.

Yes, I did.

I have to admit that while I was on the ground fruitlessly flailing about in an unskilled and hopeless effort to do something other than get shot by a more skilled opponent, the thought of how strange it was for someone to actually be paying to experience this did cross my mind. That was right before the instructor, Craig “SouthNarc” Douglass, hollered:

“Tim, the man on top of you has taken your gun and is shooting you in the crotch. You should probably do something about it.”

Welcome to Extreme Close Quarters Concepts.

In the gunniverse it’s become pretty common to use ridiculous labels as a means of insulating various concepts or bits of gear from rational thought, but when you see the word “Extreme” in the title of the course rest assured that it’s being used in the truest possible sense. This isn’t brightly-colored energy drink commercial with a screaming narrator “extreme”. It’s actually extreme in the demands it places on the student and the level of stress it subjects them to. At this class I heard guys who spent time kicking in doors and dodging IED’s in Fallujah (among other interesting points on the map) say that being inside the FIST helmets was one of the most stressful things they’ve done. Face facts: that’s pretty extreme.

ECQC isn’t a shooting class, although guns and shooting are a large part of the presentation. It isn’t a hand-to-hand course, although a significant chunk of the instruction focuses on hand-to-hand techniques and drilling them. Instead, ECQC occupies this multidisciplinary niche in the too-rarely-trained zone between contact distance and five yards where guns, knives, and fists are often used in acts of criminal violence, teaching effective techniques for dealing with realistic threats. In the process, the nature of criminals and the methods they use are broken down into easily digestible lessons that are guaranteed to make you perceive the world a bit differently.

The vast majority of people who own a firearm as a tool of personal defense are nice, normal individuals who raise their children and pay their taxes and generally go about their life without the desire to do harm to other people. By definition, they do not understand the worldview of the criminal element or the techniques and tactics used by the bad guys to get over on the good guys. Craig understands the criminal mindset well and his presentation in ECQC is one of the most effective I’ve ever seen at communicating to the student just who bad guys are and how they operate. Why? Well…

It’s impossible to talk about the ECQC course content without first discussing the origins of the class. Craig, also known by the nom de screen “SouthNarc” served in the Armed Forces before embarking on a long and productive career in law enforcement. During his days wearing a badge he spent an extended amount of time working undercover, largely on dope. Frequently in movies and TV shows undercover work is portrayed as being a rather glamorous assignment with expensive suits and a Ferrari as your daily driver. In reality it means spending a bunch of time driving some beat-to-hell scrapheap wired up with some cameras and hanging around in ghettos with people who sling dope…all while trying very hard to appear as just another crackhead looking for a hit. It frequently meant going into the den of the sort of guys we typically send SWAT teams to raid armed with just a small handgun, a wire, and all the ballistic protection you can expect from a dirty t-shirt. On a number of occasions it also meant getting sucker punched by some dope dealer who figured that there’s no point in selling you the dope when he and a buddy can attack you and just take the money.

On a couple of occasions it meant more than getting sucker punched…and on at least one it led to narrowly escaping death and, in Craig’s words, wondering whether or not he’d feel the bullet that was about to be launched into his face.

Craig teaching use of the handgun inside the clench.

Craig told the class that those experiences convinced him that much of what he’d trained on over the years in firearms and martial arts just wasn’t reflective of the reality on the street. It’s worth noting here how very different it is to hear a combatives instructor telling the tale of what he labeled his failures rather than his successes. The world is filled with strip-mall “black belts” who advertise how many street fights they’ve won and how many opponents they’ve “devastated” over the years. A while back a friend sent me a blurb written on the internet by somebody who claimed to have a 500-0 record in “street fights”…which led me to believe that he must have gone around beating up middle schoolers and counting that as a “street fight”. You know you’re dealing with someone very different when the instructor talks about that time two low level crackheads almost beat him to death with a socket wrench instead of how many guys he knocked out of their shoes with his special “devastating” technique.

This difference is certainly largely explained by personal character, but it also has to do with Craig’s responsibilities as a law enforcement trainer. Craig’s experience on the street brought with it the responsibility to teach police trainees things that he knew they would have to depend on in a horrible moment to save their lives and that drove him to develop the content presented in the course.
Today the student who enrolls in ECQC gets the benefit of the blood and sweat that’s been poured into building, refining, and honing the course into a weapon of mass instruction that can change the world for practically anyone with a pulse. I tend to be a student of the art of teaching, and as a result I often spot subtleties that others may miss about how a particular course or drill is structured and how it leads to the desired end state. With ECQC I could go on for hours peeling the layers of the course’s presentation like an onion. From safety to stress inoculation, participating in ECQC is participating in a master class of how to imprint important information to students. Everybody leaves having learned something about criminal acts of violence and having learned some things about themselves. Everybody.

This class isn’t something that came from a powerpoint. Half a day in and you understand that you’re dealing with something that was built from the ground up on a foundation of conviction. Everything you’re presented is something Craig has researched, experimented with, and ultimately tested in the most realistic manner he can invent before it ever gets put in front of you. He doesn’t even ask you to trust him on whether or not something works….instead, he puts you in a FIST helmet and you get to see whether or not it works while there’s at least one other person trying very hard to crush you.

I’ve done a lot of courses with a lot of different people over the years, including some of the very best in the business. It takes a lot to impress me…but I have to say I was impressed. Craig’s dedication, exceptional skill as an instructor, sophisticated understanding of the topics he’s teaching, and general open-mindedness comes through in every aspect of ECQC. It’s an impressive thing to behold.

Trying to actually write about ECQC in an intelligent way is difficult. There’s simply too much to say to fit it all into one blog post, so I’ve broken it up to try and lay a foundation at first and then actually cover what you as a student can expect in ECQC and the major lessons I took away from the course…so look for that in the following week(s).

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