I’m not going to go into detail on the course content – if you would like a breakdown an excellent one is found in a previous AAR located here - http://www.lightfighter.net/to...-02-15-16-bastrop-tx .
In fact, that should be Required Reading before going further here as it goes into specific course content very well.
I will delve into highlights of the course, what I learned, what I should have done differently, ruthless personal assessments, and future recommendations.
Program Of Instruction (POI):
As per Southnarc: "The Edged Weapons Overview course is a 16 hour focused overview of knife application methods that will give the student a fundamental and broad understanding of edged weapons. Like all ShivWorks courses EWO is contextually underscored and emphasizes conceptual framework applied through the minimalist, functional toolbox. All software is presented from the “reductionist’s” point of view to maximize retention and maintenance efficiency."
Course was held at Wrightson BJJ in Towson, MD. Phil, the owner, not only hosted the course but also canceled his BJJ classes for the weekend in order to allow this course to occur. I was very impressed at that level of commitment, as it (losing revenue / possibly driving away students) is not something that is lightly done. I stopped by the previous day to meet him and verify the location and was glad I did.
Wrightson BJJ is a nice basement style gym with clean mats, ample space, and bathroom facility on site. There was plenty of room for students to pair off as well as evolutions. Total of 10 (?) PAX attending.
This was my first class with Southnarc and my first tactical training course in several months. It will not be my last. I took this course in order to learn new materiel, see Southnarc’s take on combatives, and have more of a reference for combatives on the whole.
As I’m preparing to finish my schooling and return to Active Duty, my training regimen is ramping up. I kick myself for many of the personal decisions made since ETS’ing – I should have focused on training and outfitting myself for the return to the fight. I could have a set of PVS-15’s and DMR and a solid training background in their use and operation on the commercial side of the house for what I paid in rent for the past year. Embrace being a Warrior. I don’t have family, don’t have a wife – I have the opportunity to fully commit to the program. Didn’t do it then – do it now.
My favorite part of this course was twofold:
1) This course compliments Full Spectrum Operations. It covers deselection and avoidance of a potential danger situation, what to do if a fight does occur, and how to end it with a principles-based approach.
2) Force On Force was used as a validation tool and was run pretty hard when the students did their part. FIST Helmets and boxing gloves allowed both a safety valve as well as an opportunity to go harder than usual. This is my first experience with FIST Helmets.
You will learn random things you may not even have thought about – in my case I understood my clothing selections can inhibit my combat efficacy. On TD1 I wore a thermal long sleeved undershirt and it became loose to such an extent that it covered my hand inhibiting dexterity and required my other hand to secure. Old hat to LEO’s I am sure, but I am glad I learned this in training rather than on the street or in combat.
Peer mentoring, insights, experiences, and coaching are immensely invaluable. They can also drive you harder and out of your comfort zone. I am indebted to everyone there for this, and especially one career military student in particular who embodies Leadership. MUC, footwork, position were all aspects that significantly improved directly due to this.
Peers make for outstanding coaches. Several times. I was mentored not only how to do things differently / better / more efficiently, but also on behaviors that I didn't even realize or notice I did. An example of this was during the MUC portion where during verbal interactions I was balling my fists.
I don't talk to a lot of people in the city, very rarely do I converse with strangers. I didn't regard this as a detriment until I had to use this skill during MUC and realized how bad I am at it. Other behavioral cues include my hands going from the open position to clenching into fists which can be construed as escalating / threatening. Combine that with my deep growly voice which can be hard to understand and its even worse. A very experienced student said he just talks to people to exercise this - makes perfect sense.
TD1 Evolution: (MUC - Aggressor in FIST Helmet & Boxing Gloves, Student with NOK Knife)
I failed to use the IA Drill / Non-Diagnostic protective position when engaged. I attribute this to my not conducting additional repetitions of it myself – something I should have done as it was new material to me. I don’t learn things as fast as I used to (TBI) and know how to correct his by now but neglected to get additional reps in throughout the day on my own. Lesson relearned – when encountering something new, use time just standing around to train and get the mental and physical reps required for it to be a viable technique for me. Understand your capabilities and limitations and successfully account / correct for them.
I didn’t make the mistake of trying to trade weapons access for elevating my scale of injury, but it still took me a while to close with, grapple, and achieve a dominant position for me to deploy the blade. When I did do so, I did not strike with the power I should have – I should be throwing my hips and body weight into the strikes more. Southnarc awesomely demonstrates how much power and ferocity this can bring to the fight – emulate that.
TD2 Straight Edge Evolution AAR: (Both Students With FIST Helmets & NOK Knives)
This wasn't a bad evolution for me per se, but I didn't perform as well as I wanted to. This was mostly a mindset issue - I failed to embrace a combat mindset prior to the evolution and commit to the slaughter. The other part was lack of physical preparation.
There was a moment where I knocked the blade out of my opponent's hand but failed to properly capitalize on this - stay in the fight, fuck a fair fight, finish the fight by any means necessary.
As the evolution went on, I returned to my mean old self but should have came out of the gate that way. This was also a point where my cardio and endurance failed - near the end of the evolution I was gassed and not being offensive / throwing techniques as required.
TD2 Reverse Edge Evolution AAR: (Both Students With FIST Helmets & NOK Knives)
This was my best evolution of the course. This was largely due to previous edge weapon training, a sustainment training regimen (both of which where I tend to use a reverse grip), new methods taught in this course, and that I had a much larger reach advantage over my opponent. I was able to strike from further away as well as keep him out of range, which allows me more time to Observe / Orient myself when he Decides & Acts as he has more time / distance to cover. This is not to say that I owned this fight whatsoever - I took several good hits, there was a good period of time where my opponent dictated the tempo of the fight, and I failed to capitalize on many opportunities. There were just several instances in which I was in the zone and forcing my opponent to deal with outdated information or he got stuck in a loop. Another factor that helped me was a high pain threshold - there were quite a few times our wrists clashed together during strikes and I'm just used to it so it didn't negatively affect me at the time.
Southnarc stated that if something doesn't work the first time, try something else. Maybe come back to the first thing later to see if anything changed since, but adaptability reigns supreme. How'd Einstein define insanity? By doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Reverse Edge strikes have a LOT of power.
TD2 FINAL EVOLUTION: (Aggressor 1 In Overhook & Bicep Tie With FIST Helmet & NOK Knife, Aggressor 2 In FIST Helmet & Boxing Gloves Released After 4 Seconds)
Final Evolution for TD2 saw me get my ass trounced. Straight up, no bullshit. I was outnumbered and outclassed, and failed to develop a course of action prior. About the only thing right I did was not get taken to the ground - though if my opponents wanted to do so I guarantee it would have happened. I managed to get my blade out for a bit later, but between getting grappled early on with my opponent successfully deploying a blade during that initial encounter set the tone for the rest of the evolution. Lesson learned - Start smart, start decisively, have a plan.
It's interesting to note in my mind I was going through my layered offense, and defaulted to my daily carry layered offense (handgun, 2 karambits) as opposed to just the NOK knife for the evolution layered offense.
During a 2 on 1 evolution where I was an aggressor, the gym owner stripped my blade from me after losing his. Even though it was by the "blade" section and would have increased his scale of injury, it served as a learning point for me reference retention - grip tight (and why my preferred blade is a karambit). It's a lot easier when you have friends on your side.
I'll be taking Southnarc's other courses in the future - starting with ECQC in September in PA. I'd like to take EWO again after obtaining a baseline in wrestling / grappling and sourcing my daily / duty kit in NOK form.
Video does not lie. It records what actually occurred, though it will not catch everything. It supplements (rather than replaces) the need for an instructor and peers to observe.
It can be a very humbling experience.
Looking back on it now, there were multiple times I would have yelled at myself to up the intensity on my end. I wasn’t going as hard as I should have. Not only was this a disservice to me personally, but also to my teammates which is a much worse offense in my mind. Recommendation: Commit to a higher percentage before the evolution even starts.
Training Courses are a time and fiscal investment. Course tuition is a constant. Everything else (transportation, lodging, chow, materiel) is a variable. Seek to minimize those expenses so you can maximize attending other courses as well.
For this event in lieu of a hotel I used AirBnb - a cross between Couchsurfing, hostels, and a hotel. The place I stayed was less than a mile from the training site and very college freshman-y, but had a hot shower, bed, and resulted in a savings of $60 per night. I'll live like a Private to get to more courses and buy more ammo.
I brought my own chow in an effort to eat healthier and save, but this is a double-edged sword as you're missing out on interacting with students and the instructor at courses where most folks travel off site for lunch. Networking, learning from peers, and talking to folks make for serious gains so don't discount them.
I had a notebook which I scrawled notes on, but I should have used the breaks during the course better to fill in what I missed. One of the students had a very good observation about the percentage of information retained in a course for the first time.
An audio recorder would have been beneficial, but requires prior permission from the instructor to make sure its allowed. I didn't ask because I still haven't found mine from the recent move yet.
Another thing I should have done was to have two students demonstrate various techniques / ties / hooks in photo and video during breaks or after class so I had those to refer back to. For me, its hard to look at a block of text and recreate exactly what it is trying to convey whereas a photo and / or video will instantly bring clarity. Next time…
Things I'll be doing in the future / changing based off this course in DOTMLPF format:
I'm a firm believer that everyone has a piece of the puzzle, especially so in Combatives-centric courses. No one individual holds the keys to the kingdom. There are several things I will be adding to / updating / changing in the Unit Combatives TACSOP we made at the Company level in my last Unit before ETS'ing.
This course, especially the Force On Force scenarios, highlighted several deficiency areas / absences in my background that need to be addressed / corrected. Talking with Southnarc post class, wrestling and grappling need to be commodity areas for me. I'll be adding boxing as well.
It also revealed that I failed in physical fitness. My strength and conditioning is inadequate as made evident by some bruised ribs, as is my level of cardio and endurance. Simply put, I fucked up this past year and need to better plan and adhere to a personal training and diet regimen.
Ass-kickings keep you honest...
I’ll be adding additional combatives courses to my training list.
This is my first experience with NOK knives, I'll be ordering some of my own and see if I can modify one of the types to fashion into a karambit to replicate my daily and duty kit. Maybe find a custom kydex maker for sheaths for them and my aluminum karambits…
The BOB XL dummy, while decent, has limitations - namely no arms. I'm wondering if a grappling dummy would be a suitable alternative with a way to rig it upright. Or a way to fashion arms onto a BOB XL...more to follow on that possibly.
Southnarc is a passionate, experienced, and extremely proficient instructor. Watching him work as well as point out better ways of doing things or insights was invaluable. These courses typically have hard charger types sign up which is a great experience and learning environment. It's nice to be back around them. I look forward to obtaining a background in various disciplines and ECQC in September.