This was my third combatives-oriented course, and my second class that focused primarily around edged weapons. I have previously taken a ShivWorks ECQC, a Steve Tarani/HiTS Edged Weapons, and various beginner and intermediate pistol courses. I have also been taking BJJ classes (directly because of ECQC) once or twice a week for the last 5 months, and am currently a white belt with one stripe. I used a Nok training Clinch Pick (CP) primarily, carried at the 1145 by slipping it through a belt loop, with the occasional use of a Chinese CP trainer, carried at the 1130 with the handle angled downward, and a Sypderco Endura trainer with zip ties on the thumb hole to simulate a waved folder, carried in the left side pocket, tip up, the spine of the blade toward my centerline. My clothing was standard streetwear, besides the usage of an Under Armour compression long-sleeve, t-shirt with relative form-fitting jeans, with a pair of low-cut sneakers. Protective gear was recommended, but I only utilized a mouth guard during the final evolution, and a soft neosprene knee pad for the entire duration of the class on my right leg, more for therapeutic compression than protection. I am 5'8", and approximately 140 lbs.
Craig Douglas (AKA SouthNarc) was the primary instructor. Class started at around 0840 on TD1. Weather was slightly chilly to start out with, but warmed up to being a beautiful day, a clear 70ish degrees. There were 24 students, with roughly half having of taken prior ShivWorks courses, with the majority of the repeats having of taken ECQC, although a few had only taken AMIS. Most of the students were just civilians (including several doctors, very useful in case of injuries), although we had a couple of members of the military, military contractors, a LEO, and a trainer.
We started out with a weapons check, removing all live blades, firearms, mags, etc., then with everyone giving a quick bio of themselves, with Craig going last, detailing his undercover work, which dealt primarily in narcotics, and included both buys, sells, and even murder-for-hires. He noted that through his career, he had many failures in training, particularly an incident when he was almost beaten to death in a hotel room by a socket wrench during a coke buy gone bad, resulting in a fractured skull, surviving only because of the quick intervention of a backup team. This forced him to re-evaluate much of his training, and he realized that only about 25%-30% of his training actually worked, and that even then, it was rarely taught in the correct context.
We then moved on the the criminal assault paradigm, which is to say how criminals work. As most criminals are opportunists, the five basic tenets of the criminal assault paradigm are: uneven initiative (one party will surprise the other, significantly increasing the surprised party's reaction time and reducing their motor skills), uneven armament (one party will be definitively better armed), extremely close range, multiple assailants, and the general usage of weapons. Most training does not adequately address these issues, e.g., assuming both parties are aware of each other's intent, assuming both parties have their weapons deployed already, etc., and thus fail to adequately prepare students for the kind of attacks they are likely to encounter in the real world. Even with adequate training, Craig estimates that there is generally only a 50% win ratio, and that his survival through his UC career could be attributed just as much to luck as it was to skill.
Craig then went on to discuss the issue of range. A basic axiom that essentially all edged weapons courses will agree on is that, for the purposes of defense, range buys time. However, the problem with that is that most human interactions occur at a very close range, typically arm's reach. At such a close range, even a small change in distance could have a large effect (changes in distance becoming exponentially more important as the range closes). To illustrate that, Craig stood at arm's reach to a student; Craig would attempt to touch the student's stomach before the student could slap his hand away, with both starting with their hands at their side. Craig had essentially a 100% success rate at that distance, yet just a half-step backwards resulted in a complete reversal of fortunes, with Craig getting intercepted every time.
Of course, in order to be able to maintain range, one must have situational awareness. Despite the popular clichÉ of how one should "always be in condition yellow", the reality is, different environs and times will result in different states of awareness; for example, it is unlikely that one would exhibit the same amount awareness walking down the aisle of a grocery store during the day and walking through a dark alley next to a dive bar downtime at 0130.
Craig stated that it's easy to think of awareness as being something in a constant state of flux, as a field that narrows and broadens constantly, depending on the situation at hand. The key thing to remember is to avoid task fixation in an exposed area, to keep from narrowing one's field of awareness too much; common examples include the now-classic holding a texting conversation while walking, trying to balance a checkbook in the car while in a parking lot, etc. The obvious issue with having a narrow field of vision is that this allows the criminal to very easily attack with uneven initiative.
We then moved onto the somewhat famous managing unknown contacts (MUC) portion of the course. It was noted that in trying to keep range, most people would assign different levels of possible threats to different people, thus allowing some people in closer than others. Factors such as race, age, gender, dress, presence of children, etc., all would play a role in most people's threat assessments. Since it's difficult to accurately bin all contacts, Craig suggests it's simplest to just use just two classifications: known contacts and unknown contacts (UCs). The art of MUC is being able to keep an encroaching UC away without also agitating said UC.
For the first component of the MUC, Craig suggests starting out with a polite request for the UC stop. This may not work for many benign reasons, such not noticing the request due to task fixation, agitation (e.g., seeking help for an injury), mental development issues (e.g., autism), etc. If the request fails, one should try raising their voice, ideally to the level of a shout, while issuing a command. The shouted command will hopefully startle or jar the UC. If this also fails, a possible verbal last resort would be to include the usage of profanity, as it can clearly indicate that one's extreme displeasure at the UC. However, if one normally does not use profanity, this is probably not the time to start, as this could be seen as a weak attempt to posture, and may be taken as a sign of weakness/panic. Also, note the distinction between "back the fuck up" vs. "back up, motherfucker"; the former uses profanity simply to accentuate the command, while the latter uses it as an insult, which may result in agitating the UC further, an obviously undesirable effect. Craig also notes that for most people, it is far better to view this as a monologue of sorts, to essentially ignore what the UC might be saying, as trying to hold a dialogue takes away from one's ability to process information and react in a timely manner; verbal agility can have some rewards, but the risk of getting caught up in trying to think of what to say and thus lengthening one's reaction time is not worth the risk.
The second component of MUC is the lateral movement in an arc. Typically, one would not want to step straight backwards, as it is stepping blindly into unknown territory, while also leaving you vulnerable to any possible assailants that are behind you. Simply moving laterally, without an arc, is better in terms of checking for assailants, but still allows the encroaching UC to move in closer, albeit at a slower rate than just standing still. By incorporating the arc (if the UC is at 1200 and you are at 0600, move to the 0300 or 0900), one can keep the encroaching UC at a distance while also checking the rear easier, while also collapsing the sector/narrowing the field of threat, ideally from a 180° to a 45°.
The final component of MUC is "the fence", as coined by Geoff Thompson. To create a fence, keep the hands high and compressed. This will help greatly reduce the time needed to protect one's head if an attack comes in, while staying in a non-threatening position. It also allows for one to easily attack first if need be, while being able to minimize any telegraphing.
With all the MUC components taught, we then paired up and drilled this, rotating to new partners after several minutes.
I had been able to do some sustainment with some training partners in between EWO and ECQC, so I felt that I had decent movement, and keeping the fence up at all times came naturally. However, I had a tendency to resort to profanity first, and raising my volume last and to a not raise it high enough, most likely due to the large amount of profanity I use in everyday conversation, combined with most people's inhibitions with shouting. I was able to incorporate eye jabs, as taught in ECQC, and which was covered next.
After the MUC practice, we then went over pre-fight indicators, signs and cues that can be very obvious once learned that indicate that an encroaching UC was getting ready to attack. A good way to search for these cues is to simply look for them on video sharing sites with street fights and robberies. The first of four cues that Craig went over was the so-called "grooming cue", where the hand goes to the face or neck area and does something, such scratching the ear, brushing the jawline, rubbing the nose, running the hand through the hair, etc. The second is the "target glance", where the UC will do darting glances to the left, right, or rear. The third, and possibly hardest one to pick up on just because it may happen only right before the assault, is a definitive weight shift, where the UC will shift their weight from a neutral position to a loaded position, where one leg will have much more weight so they will be able to move more explosively. Thus, we then drilled the same thing, but this time with the encroaching UC simulating the cues, with the person being encroached upon calling out "cue" whenever a cue was seen. Craig stressed the importance of actually verbalizing "cue", as it was an actual action, and would help us actually react to a cue (such as drawing a gun, blade, etc.), rather than simply recognizing it but failing to act upon it.
I had a habit of missing the target glances, as I would be busy staring at the hands, which isn't entirely a bad thing, I suppose.
Next, Craig gave us the eye jab. This is to be utilized if excessive encroachment occurs, and one feels the need to initiate. The eye jab elicits a disproportionate amount of distraction compared to the actual damage done; generally, the worse thing that Craig has seen is a scratched cornea; the way he saw it, it would be far better to have to go to court (since you were the initiator of the "attack") with the encroacher having a case of pink eye over having his jaw wired shut. This was practiced with a backwards boxing glove, with the defender doing an eye jab at the boxing glove as held up by the encroacher. The first set of drills the glove was held up at all times, the second was reactionary, with the defender needing to eye jab only once the encroacher put it up.
I had issues with telegraphing the eye jab, as I would pull back a bit. Craig also noted what he called a cognition bump, where students would freeze up for a second on the reactionary target as their mind tried to process what they were suppose to do; ingraining this technique is really the only way to overcome this issue, which can occur for any number of trained reactive actions.
Craig then went over how traditionally, when an opponent initiates, many fighting styles emphasized a diagnostic response, which is to say, one would choose a defense or counter-attack based on the attack. However, this generally takes a huge amount of skill and reaction time, and is unrealistic for the vast majority of people. Thus, Craig prefers a non-diagnostic response, also known as a default response. The two goals of this response is to keep you conscious, and to keep you upright and thus mobile. To stay upright, keep the hips square to the target and do a level change, dropping the hips and widening the feet slightly. The back should be straight, and the head aligned with the hips. To stay conscious, the weak hand arm should make a vertical elbow shield, with the bicep against the cheek, while the strong hand arm should make a horizontal elbow shield, also with the bicep against the cheek. This leaves only the crown of the head exposed, and helps keep the head from moving in relation from the neck. We then practiced the default position, with the opponent attacking strictly at random. After a could rounds of that, MUC was added back in.
One of the failings of traditional training techniques popular in the gun world is the general lack of pressure testing. Thus, we would be classifying the rest of the drills being run in the class as being either consensual or non-consensual, competitive or non-competitive, and whether or not it was technical. For example, a consensual, technical drill would be one where one party offers no resistance, so the other party could learn the very basic idea of the technique. A non-consensual, non-competitive drill would have one party offer resistance, but their endgame is not to win that drill. A non-consensual, competitive drill would have both parties trying to win the drill.
To illustrate these ideas of drill classification, while also trying to emphasize how important posture can be, Craig had us do the infamous "mountain goat drill". In this drill, which was run non-consensual and competitive, one would lock forehead with another's forehead, and try to drive the other person back.
I had done this drill before in ECQC, and will candidly admit that I went in doing it rather softly, as I had already absorbed the lesson, and did not bring anything to help protect my forehead from the bruise that arises from going into this drill with full power.
We then went into the idea of cutting the corner, which is to transition the body so that one's hips are square to the side of the opponent's hips, giving one the ability to drive the opponent off balance and into the direction that one is facing. The face/forehead should be in the opponent's neck, to help push them off balance. The drills to do this was first done technically and consensually, before being run competitively and non-consensually.
At this point, we started to discuss what the arms and hands were doing. The basic things to do are: the underhook, the overhook, the bicep tie, and the wrist tie. Head control, while useful in a weapons free environment, is far more dangerous to attempt against an armed opponent, as it leaves a hand free for them to access their weapons. When able to get an opponent in a double underhook, the opponent cannot easily defend your weapon deployments, has a hard time accessing their own weapons, and nor can then easily defend their own weapons from being taken. In order to get out of an underhook, one would swim out and wind up getting their own underhook. We then ran the standard pummelling drill, in which both students would have one underhook and one overhook, swimming out from the overhook to and underhook at the same time, i.e., if your left arm started out in the underhook and your right arm started with an overhook, one pummel would have your left arm in the overhook now and the right arm in an underhook. Note that one should also be cutting the corner to the side that the underhook is on.
I would spend too much time trying to swim into an underhook, as instead of just cramming my hand into the opening underneath the armpit and forcing myself in, I would try to find an entry point first, thus leaving me vulnerable to getting into a double underhook.
We broke for lunch at this time.
After lunch, we went over the best way to try to break a very tight underhook, which might render any attempts to swim futile: the whizzer. Using the bony wrist edge on the opponent's elbow, try to turn their elbow in, while cutting the corner; getting the hips back for posture will help immensely. This was first practiced consensually and technically, then non-consensual and competitive, with both sides starting at the netural and trying to get hooks in.
After learning the hooks, we then moved on to arm ties, namely, the aforementioned bicep ties and wrist ties, which are great ways to control an opponent's limbs and thus help keep any deployed edged weapons from reaching you, along with how to escape them. To get out of a bicep tie, roll the thumb in and under the opponent's arm, also giving you the ability to get a bicep tie of your own. To get out of a wrist tie, strip out of the opponent's thumb; one can attempt to attach to the opponent's wrist at that point, too, though it may be quite difficult. We practiced this competitively and non-consensually.
Craig's preferred position of dominance is to have an underhook on the weak side and a tie on the strong side. This was practiced non-consensually and non-competitively. Afterward, it was drilled with the person that was doing the hook and tie trying to prevent their opponent from being able to deploy a Nok trainer (many students had their own, including a couple with multiple Nok trainers to provide to other student's to supplement Craig's own pile of Nok trainers), with the drill ending once the trainer was deployed; this was done non-competitive and non-consensual. After that, we ran the same drill again, but this time attempting to trap the blade-wielding arm with a tie of some sort before ending the drill.
Of course, a tie only a delaying action against a deployed blade. Craig showed us two techniques to use after establishing the tie, both of which involved getting both hands on the blade-wielding arm. The first is "the seatbelt": starting with one hand in a wrist tie on the blade-wielding arm, move to the opposite side of that arm, have your free arm come behind the person and also grab that arm, generally near also near the wrist, with the palm facing outward. The other technique is the baseball double wrist tie: grabbing the opponent's wrist like one would a baseball bat, lock your elbows and move the blade away from your body and the opponents body (the further from his core, the weaker he is), then hip switch to get to the outside, use your shoulders to drive him away, while still keeping the arm isolated; doing a level change will help significantly in keeping the opponent off balance and unable to just switch the blade to their free hand. This was practiced non-consensual and non-competitive, first trying to keep the blade from even being deployed, then utilizing one of the techniques to isolate the blade.
After that, Craig then had a lecture sorts over the different possible weapons that one could use. Knives can generally be put into two distinct categories, folders and fixed blades, with folders then being binned between those that open during deployment (i.e., waved knives, as exemplified by many EKI knives) and those that open after deployment. Craig prefers to wear his folders in the hip thigh crease, as it is easier to get a good grip on it compared to having it clipped in the pocket toward the outside of the waist. Ideally, when trying to draw the folder, one should try to get the base of the thumb all the way to the bottom of the folder before trying to draw it out. Craig prefers to hold the deployed blade in a hammer grip, rather than a saber grip; while certainly harder to slash with such a grip, Craig prefers a point driven methodology, as it is more versatile, e.g., if a blade is dropped during a fight and you must scramble to pick it up, you may not know which side has the edge by the time you recover the blade; also, the hammer grip has much more strength in terms of retention. As to the wave, while definitely superior to non-waved knives in terms of deployment, as it has less number of steps from the draw to deployment, still isn't perfect, and may often come out half-deployed or totally not deployed, the former being rather common in knives that are not maintained and thus having sticky deployments. In terms of size, a 5" to 7.5" OAL is probably the optimal size for any knife used for EDC, as a balance between useful blade length and concealment, with 1000 to 0200 midline carry being the easiest for deployment and defending against takeaways. One should try to set up a fixed blade for the most neutral position possible, i.e., one that allows for a draw with an unbroken wrist. While double edged knives are generally superior for self-defense, they tend to be illegal in most places. An interesting compromise between a folder and a fixed blade is having a fixed blade with a pocket clip and utilizing a pocket sheath.
In terms of actually attacking with a blade, Craig prefers three main areas, around the head and neck, under the arm pits, and what he calls "the fork", which is the area that runs from the inside of one knee to the inner thighs, to the inside of the other knee, while extending to the back of the waist. The usage of the blade in self-defense has two distinct stages: "get off me" and "stay off me". Most blade fight stoppages are like handgun fight stoppages in the sense that they are purely psychological, i.e., "I don't wanna be stabbed/shot anymore"; interestingly, entangled stabbing victims will often state that they were unaware that they were being stabbed initially, instead thinking that they were merely being struck with fists. When stabbing, utilize all one's strength to penetrate a high probability vascular as deeply as possible; Craig is personally not a fan of biomechanical cutting. One should try to keep the blade close to the core, as this helps with retention and control, and when stabbing, utilize the hips to help with driving the blade in.
At this point, we had the first evo of the class. The bad guy starts with a FIST helmet and boxing gloves and encroaches, attacking at one point; the defender has a Nok trainer, and cannot initiate. The evo ends after the entanglement ends. Ideally, one should disengage from behind.
Many people made the mistake of trading weapons access for getting hit in the head, which in a real fight could be disastrous. As for my own performance, I had planned to go into the default position and then immediately hammerfist to create space and hopefully deployed, but instead, I froze up upon the attack and failed to go into the default position. I was able to get in and tie up my opponent so that he couldn't attack me, but then had no exit strategy. I attempted to trip him up and thus make my escape, but instead wound up getting pulled down with him. I was able to put my opponent in half guard, tied him up, and was able to deploy my Nok CP after some initial difficulty (the foam caught up against the fabric of the belt loop), but failed to figure out a proper escape, although several options actually exist. While I would probably have been relatively safe against a single assailant in that position, as I was inflicting far more damage than he was, the fact that he had me trapped meant that a second assailant could have easily kicked my head in while I was pinned. My attempts to shrimp out were foiled by my lack of strength and sloppy technique, highlighting my inadequate escapes. Eventually, Craig just called the evo ended with me still somewhat pinned.
TD1 ended at this point, which was about 1830.
Can't wait for "the rest of the story" as the late Paul Harvey would say.
good AAR so far...
Awesome AAR. I've got to get into this class.
Class started at approximately 0830 on TD2. Weather was similar to yesterday, except much cloudier, although the sun poked through for the last couple hours of class.
To warm/limber up for the day, we started out with a non-consensual, non-competitive drill, in which one person attempts to draw a blade, and another attempts to prevent the draw as long as possible, restarting the drill once the blade is deployed and a few good attacks are put in. This was repeated several times, each iteration of the drill ramping up the resistance to allow us to get more and more warmed up. As the resistance was to be extremely low to start out with, we were allowed to use metal trainers instead of the Nok trainers for most of the iterations of this drill.
I had several key takeaways from this part of the drill. The first is that I often failed to put my full weight into the person, especially when trying to thrust with the knife. Another was the need to be aggressive in driving the person to the side while also bringing their blade-wielding arm down, when utilizing the baseball grip. I was able to remember to keep the elbows tucked in to maximize strength and retention of the blade for the rest of the class after some gentle reminders from Craig. Finally, while I was already aware of the difficulties of deploying a folder, even a waved one, this drill really highlighted the huge gulf in centerline SFB deployment and folder deployment. As a side note on training, this is where learning to be able to ramp down the competitiveness and effort showed to be rather valuable in a training partner, as I had one who seemed to only be able to back down to about 50%-60%, rather than the 10% suggest by Craig, which was rather annoying, since this was suppose to be a warm-up that also allowed us to practice our techniques.
After we were all properly warmed up, Craig then went over two possible techniques on how to get behind a person. The main advantages of doing so should be pretty obvious: it allows one to disengage much more safely, while also allowing one to have essentially unimpeded access to attack one's opponent's backside. The term Craig liked to use for these techniques are "escapes". Thus, the first escape taught was the "duck under".
In a duck under, one first initiates a level change. Craig stated that the position can be thought of lifting a heavy weight, so while one's posture still extremely important while doing the level change, as one's back should still be straight; a common issue is that people will take the name of the technique literally, and will bow their heads while doing the level change, thus hugely weakening their posture and opening themselves up for the possibility of being guillotined. The duck can be utilized in several different settings. If one has a hook and wrist tie, with the head on the hook side, try to force the bicep on the arm with the hook to one's cheek while also doing the level change; this should force the opponent's hooked arm up, giving one enough room to get under the arm. If the head is on the tie side, force the wrist up, thus again lifting the arm. If one has a hook, but the opponent has a wrist tie, with the head on the tie side, try to pull the tied wrist back; when the opponent fights back and tries to pull the tied wrist back to them, one should initiate the level change and duck under then, thus using the opponent's own actions to raise their arm. Finally, there is what Craig terms the "lazy elbow": many unskilled attackers may attempt to hold one's head, with a hand behind one's neck pushing in while leaving the elbow out and exposed rather than brought in tight to the core. Instead of simply just pushing back with brute strength, one can simply bump the elbow up, and duck under that. Of the utmost importance in all of these escapes is to make sure that no space is created between one's chest and the opponent while trying to get behind the opponent, as this gives the opponent space to turn and try to match one's duck under.
The second escape was the arm drag. With a wrist tie and a hook, with the head on the tie side, move the tied arm toward the centerline. Concede the hook, and transfer the tied arm at the elbow to the arm that had been hooking. At this point, cut the corner and drive. The escapes were practiced non-competitive, non-consensual.
This was one of the drills that I did not have much sustainment on between this class and ECQC, so it was a huge refresher. I once again found that the space issue to indeed a huge issue for both escapes that one needed to be aware of. I also had a bad habit of trying to literally duck when level changing, resulting in getting my head caught a couple of times before I wised up.
If one is unable to get an escape, the next best thing is probably a tie up, which is to say, using one arm to control both of your opponent's arm, leaving you a free arm to access a weapon or attack. The first possible tie up is the "seatbelt", which starts with one in an underhook and bicep tie with the head on the hook side. Level change, concede the bicep tie by putting the previously tying arm behind the opponent (ideally with your shoulder under their elbow), grab your own wrist that is doing the tie, then have the hook hand slide onto the opponent's arm and bring it into their body. At that point, one can then concede the wrist tie and use that arm for other things.
While drilling this, I found it a huge help to keep driving my partner while getting my arms set up on the wrist tied arm. Also, keeping the held arm close and tight to their ribs/stomach at the end helps hugely in control.
For the second tie, one must start with a wrist tie while being underhooked by the opponent. One should whizzer the underhook, while bringing the opponent's tied arm to the center, so that the hand on the arm doing the whizzer can grab onto the bicep. Next, do a level change to bring one's opponent out of posture, cut the corner to the side where the hook was, and now free the hand that had the wrist tie.
After running the non-consensual, mildly competitive drills for the ties, in which blade deployment reset the drill, we broke for lunch.
After lunch, we started covering the "stay off me" portion of the class, i.e., what to do when unentangled. The first grip covered was the standard forward grip. One should jack the elbow and shoulders up, keeping the point towards the opponent; it can be thought of being almost like hold the blade in the #2 position for a pistol, for those that know the ECQC jargon. Ideally, one should target the face, as it's hard to get attached when there is a blade coming in at the face. Interestingly, one should lead with the knife hand, which can be somewhat counter-intuitive; the reason for this is that Craig teaches leaning forward during the forward thrust, with a bit bend in the knee, while the back feet pivots, which gives a huge increase in range; twist the hips will also increase the range while putting more power behind the . Be sure to thrust straight forward, rather than using an arcing motion, as the later is a huge telegraph, while the former is far more difficult to judge in terms of distance, since only one axis is changing versus two. The thrusting arm will also turn around the axis somewhat, so while the spine of the blade (assuming it is being held edge down, as typical blades would be) would be on the top side when not attacking, the spine should be facing in at the apex of the thrust, i.e., the blade is now horizontally oriented rather than vertically oriented. Also of importance is to be able to get back out quickly; once the thrust is in, do not linger, but retreat back to the original position as quick as possible. We then ran a drill where we first found the maximum range of our own forward thrusts, and then practiced it.
It was extremely eye-opening just how much extra range could be squeezed out using the bending of the knee and pivoting the back feet, especially when combined with sliding the leading foot forward. This was a somewhat more difficult technique for me, though, since I was using a Nok CP, meaning my blade was much shorter than the typical blade.
We then entered the second evolution. This was simply a drill in which each party had a Nok trainer and a FIST helmet, and was limited to only forward thrusts, no entanglements, takedowns, etc. Craig noted that it's important to not just sit there and exchange forward thrusts with one's opponent, as that would defeat the purpose of this drill.
I attempted to mix things up during the evo by switching to my weak hand, so that my blade was on the same side as my opponents. It worked well enough to, IMO, to throw off my opponent, for at least a few seconds, before he adapted. At this point, I attempted to switch back to my strong hand, but dropped the blade. Luckily, I was able to recover it extremely quickly, so my opponent wasn't able to properly exploit my mistake, but it highlighted the dangers of trying to be tricky and having it backfire. Of note was also that several people had difficulties remember not to revert to the saber grip.
Next, we went over the reverse grip knife thrust. Generally, Craig has found this technique to produce stronger thrusts than the forward thrust. Again, one should keep the point towards the opponent. Like the forward thrust, one should keep the hand straight while turning the body to maximize the range. Obviously, this attack isn't quite as directly into the face with the point as the forward thrust, but the turning of the body can get the point very close to being facing directly forward. Like the forward thrust, the blade goes from being from a vertical position to a horizontal position during the attack. Again, it is very important not to arc. This was practiced the same way as the forward thrust, with the third evolution that followed being the exact same format.
I didn't try anything tricky this time, so I didn't drop my knife, so I guess it went better? We also had our one major injury of the day, where one of the students slipped right at the end of the drill and hurt his knee, enough so that he could not actively participate in the rest of the class.
After the point-driven attacks, Craig then went over the edged attacks. With a forward grip, outer edge forward (the conventional grip with a conventional blade), Craig likes to do what he calls a short arc backhand. The big long arc, which many people like to do, telegraphs itself, and is much more easily countered. For a short arc backhand, just punch out, then bring the blade back in as quick as possible; Craig likened it to the motion of a Walschaerts valve gear on a steam locomotive, where the arms movement is relatively straight, with only a minor bend on the way back to help with the cutting. For the most part, Craig recommends using the edged attacks to attack anything that the opponent leaves out/exposed, rather in the a primary attack against the main body. It is useful to utilize this when the opponent uses a forward thrust: simply step to the outside to try to avoid the thrust, while slashing the thrusting arm; ideally, one would be maintaining distance still, so the forward thrust arm would be cut only at the apex of of the backhand. Stepping on the inside carries the hazard of hooking the thrusting arm towards one's self, thus bringing the opponent's blade to one's self. Obviously, the larger people will have somewhat more difficult with this particular part of the technique, due to its strong emphasis on mobility.
With an inner edged blade, such as a CP, P'kal, double-edged weapon, etc., one should utilize a short arc hook. It is essentially the same as the short arc backhand, except done horizontally instead of vertically, and is arguably harder to counter, as it seems to be a more deceptive attack. This short arc should be totally within the inside line of torso, so it is not an exaggerated movement at all. It is important to note that the point never stops pointing at the opponent, both here and with the short arc backhand. Again, this can also be used against a forward thrust, while still maintaining distance.
With a reverse grip, edge out (RGEO) set-up, one should try to use a shovel hook motion. Essentially, it is a short arc up and diagonal. With a RGEI, the opposite occurs, as one is now hooking it from up to down in a diagonal fashion. Both of these are much shorter range attacks than the forward grip slashes, and instead of being used just by themselves to engage a forward thrusting arm, one would still move to the outside, but because one is now much closer, one can follow up with a reverse thrust; note that this can also be applied to the forward grip slashes if one chooses to simply side-step, but not open up the distance.
After running the drills to practice the various edged attacks, we moved into the fourth and final evolution of the day: a 2v1 situation. The first person is the focus/protagonist of the drill, and is armed with a Nok training blade, and starts out with a hook and tie on the second person, who is also armed with a Nok training blade. The first person has four seconds to disentangle themselves from the second person, before the third person, who only has boxing gloves, is loosed and starts attacking the first person with the second person. Ideally, the first person will have the mobility to keep the second and third person in front of one another, so that they only have to deal with one person at a time. They should also strive to use attacks to the face, to keep from getting entangled again.
Unfortunately for me, once again, like the first evolution, I was in the rare evos that went to the ground. I was put in a group with a larger dude and a very experienced BJJ guy who was on his 6th ShivWorks course, Vu, with Vu being pressed in because of an uneven number of students that arose from losing the guy that hurt his knee. The first round of the evolution started with me being hooked and tied by the larger guy, with Vu in the boxing gloves. I knew that with the huge weight disparity (and thus probably strength disparity), there was probably little I could do, especially once he broke free from the entanglement. Thus, what happened was that I simply hung onto the hooking arm for dear life, allowing him to access his blade as I simply tried to cut the corner and drive him backwards, knowing that Vu would be reinforcing me soon. This panned out, as while he was able to access his blade and get a couple good thrusts into my rib area, Vu was able to come in and get entangled with the dude. Within the next few seconds, we somehow ended up on the ground. Having two BJJ guys against one guy on the ground meant that the dude was quickly pinned; I allowed Vu to do most of the work at that point while I deployed my blade, while also isolating the dude's blade hand. I even attempted to strip the blade, but Craig's statement about utilizing a hammer grip must have sunk in, because that blade was in tight. Eventually, Vu was able to get under the guy and tie up both arms, giving me free access to attack the dude, so Craig called the evo over at this point.
As the final evo of the day, I had a hook and tie on Vu, with the big dude in boxing gloves. However, I felt that this would be a non-viable position, even if it was suppose to be a position of dominance, due to the height, skill, and strength differential. I went in with no game plan, and was quickly caught by Vu's whizzer within the opening seconds, leaving me unable to access my blade as I was totally tied up. At this point, my memory gets rather fuzzy, so what follows may not be accurate at all; I'm sure there will be video coming soon to clarify as to what actually happened. Anyways, I do not believe Vu attempted to access his blade, instead preferring to simply take me to ground once the big dude was able to come in throw me completely off balance. At this point, I was totally blind, as my FIST helmet was right over my eyes, it's interior as black as my prospects for victory in this evo. I was able to shoulder walk out a bit and start accessing my blade, thought I was still totally pinned and the big guy had essentially free reign to be wailing on me. Vu then was able to get me back into mount, however, I was then able to upa him somewhat off, and started shrimping out, and eventually wound up with some kind of weird position in which one of my legs was over his neck, and keeping him away from me, while I attempted to defend against the big dude who was raining bombs on me while I tried to stick him with the blade. While I felt like the evolution was a fairly big failure for the most part, as I was unable to disentangle and work on my mobility (something I had really wanted to work on, as I had never been able to keep from being entangled and taken down in all my previous full technique evolutions), I was pleasantly surprised that I had retained enough information from my BJJ classes to be able to escape from as skilled a practitioner as Vu, who I've seen manage to dominate 2 guys in one of his evolutions in ECQC with his entanglement skills when grounded.
At this point, we had a hot wash, with each student detailing how they felt about the course, and like ECQC, the first timers or people that had only taken non-combatives ShivWorks course (primarily AMIS) all expressed how eye-opening the course was.
I personally detailed my failure in engraining the default position, the failures of some of the other bladed weapons training that I have had, along with expressing mild frustration that, while I was generally quite comfortable being on the defense, lacked the confidence my physical abilities to be aggressive and dominate the fight, as I had seen some of the students do; for example, the owner of the range, Russ, was extremely aggressive in most of his evolutions, and generally dominated them through sheer force, though his skills certainly accentuated that domination.
Again, I felt that I was one of the poorer fighters in the course, though I definitely was much more confident and had a lot of the technical side of things down (just not quite enough, I guess, to overcome my sheer lack of physical presence). I found myself disappointed that so much of the stuff that we reviewed I had failed to do any sustainment training on; my current schedule preclude me from getting into one of the training groups that one of the students at the course holds weekly, but hopefully I will be able to get into that once my schedule goes back to "normal" in a couple of months. I found that the BJJ courses was a huge confidence booster whenever I was on the ground, and ironically, I feel much more comfortable on the ground than upright; hopefully I will be able to rectify this gaping hole in my skillset by getting into some kind wrestling course.
I did not find any significant issues with my gear beyond the intrinsic issues that folders have for self-defense.
Also, a very interesting note that was brought up during the class was that with the passage of the new knife laws in Texas last year, there appears to be a loophole that allows CHL holders to carry "clubs" (a very nebulous term in TX that could include even things like tactical pens and kubotans) and "illegal knives", so long as they are carrying a concealed handgun of the same category allowed by their CHL. This applies only in areas where it would be legal to carry a handgun with a CHL, and still can easily run afoul of county or municipal laws, and still does not apply to things such as "knuckles", since those are listed as prohibited weapons. Note that Section 46.15(b)(2) of the Texas Penal Code states that "Section 46.02 does not apply to a person who is carrying a concealed handgun and a valid license issued under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, to carry a concealed handgun of the same category as the handgun the person is carrying", where Section 46.02 defines the unlawful carrying of weapons. Obviously, your average LEO cannot be expected to know this, and the legislature may not have intended for this be allowed in the first place, so while one may eventually beat the charge if caught with a double-edged blade, one will probably not beat the ride. This is certainly an interesting area for the legal scholars.