This weekend I attended the ECQC class from ShivWorks held in Utah. To get an idea of what it is like, here’s the official link.
I’ve heard about ECQC for years. Even among my most hard core training junkie friends, this is the class they all recommend and keep going back to. I was supposed to go last year but had to cancel when I got sick (stupid Corona). I am so glad I got to go this time because it was honestly one of the best training experiences I’ve had in my life.
Craig Douglas is one of those instructors that you can tell is passionate about his job. He truly loves this stuff. He’s got a hell of a resume, but he’s also testing, evaluating, and evolving. You can tell he really gives a shit about his students and wants to help them be successful.
ECQC is described as a close range, or entangled gun fighting class, which is true, but it’s so much more than that. The actual live fire shooting portion of the class is only one small part of the block of instruction. And it concentrates on drawing from concealment and going to shooting positions that can be used effectively while still defending your gun from getting snatched by your adversary.
The really cool part is how they take the shooting stuff and integrate it in with what happens while you’re actually being physically attacked. Gun comes out when you are too close and their limbs aren’t controlled and now you’re both fighting for your gun. Which as would be demonstrated a lot over the three days is a really nasty situation to be in!
It’s 20 hours of non stop firehose of information. You go over techniques, apply them against each other, and then test them out in stressful evaluations. This isn’t the kind of class where you take it once and know everything. There were a bunch of guys who were there for their 2nd or 3rd ECQC. You learn, you apply those techniques and tricks, you try to get better, and then you go back to see how you improved, and then set new goals. There were people there with more or less experience than me, but everybody picks up things to make them better.
It’s not all wrestling with guns either. A fantastic portion of the class is about what they call Managing Unknown Contacts, which is basically dealing with strangers in real life, who may or may not be a threat, and managing those events accordingly. I used to do something like this when I was teaching CCW classes, but this was that turned up to 11. Craig does a great job going through pre-assault indicators, and how to avoid getting your block knocked off, without looking like a paranoid psycho. The MUC portion alone makes this class worth it for anyone with a CCW.
Then there’s a whole lot of training about what to do once things get sideways, involving weapon retention, when and how to deploy your gun when entangled. And it’s not just lectures or boring ass Power Point. It’s hands on. Craig demonstrates, then you’re paired up with a different student and doing it hands on.
On that note, a class this physical, with such a wide range of physical abilities among the students could get stupid or dangerous, but Craig does a great job keeping it safe, with some really clear rules about how hard you can go at it. You don’t need to be a super jock MMA fighter to take ECQC, but it is really physical.
Once you’ve gone over the material, it gets tested and applied through a series of evaluations. These involved protective gear and sim guns (think really angry nasty little paint balls that hurt and leave a welt so you are seriously motivated to not get shot) These are set in various different scenarios, with my favorite being a really intense role play (I’ll talk about that one in a bit)
This video is some of my evos, and afterwards I share two showing some of the more advanced students who’d done this a few times so you can compare. The differences in their abilities on the ground compared to a crappy wrestler like me is staggering.
The first two are a weapon retention exercise, where both of us start with our guns out but grabbed. The next two, the guy on the bottom is armed, and the attacker isn’t.
One note on the protective helmets used, you can get hit pretty hard in them and be okay, but the reason I’m slapping instead of punching is that a good wallop to the helmet can still ring your bell and Craig doesn’t want anybody to get a concussion (you can hear him remind me a couple of times to open hand it).
The evos get intense, and they’re physical. In the one where I’m fighting the other tall guy in the bullet proof vest, I was thoroughly gassed at the end. When I “die” and roll off of him, that wasn’t acting. My fat ass needed air. That was at the end of an 11 hour day. (I also screwed up and the chin strap for the helmet rode up into my mouth, so I was breathing through my nose that whole time. Derp).
There’s a lot going on in those that you can’t really grasp from video. Like in the first one, I lever my gun free, go to shoot him, but it was out of battery and I couldn’t clear it one handed, so I tossed it and went for his gun instead. In the one where I shoot the guy in the chest, but then lose my gun, the reason he couldn’t shoot me was that I’d already shot to slide lock. This stuff gets kind of crazy.
But then you compare it to the experienced guys who have jujitsu training and the difference is stark. They’re more technical. They’re more aware. And when they’ve got the option, out come the knives. It’s amazing to watch guys like that in action.
I didn’t post any videos of the role playing evo, because for some of those I was playing a bad guy, and when I play the aggressor I go all in. The last thing I need is videos of Larry Correia being that level of cruel and insensitive asshole on the internet. I’ve already got enough people who hate my guts. 😀
One of those evos that didn’t get recorded is a great example of the value of ECQC, because in parts I did well, reinforcing the good stuff I’d just learned, but then I ultimately failed because under stress I reverted to something I’d been trained to do years ago, which wasn’t nearly as effective. And if I’d had the sense to use the technique Craig had just taught me, I would’ve been a lot better off. So even in failure, there’s learning. (ECQC is one of those classes where you check your ego at the door, because no matter who you are, you’re gonna make mistakes or get your ass kicked, but better to do it in a controlled environment than in real life)
That one started with me getting approached by a very angry (possibly psycho) man accusing me of some evil shit. I tried to de-escalate, avoid, and be verbal. When he moved on me, I eye poked him to make distance. Which was when the second “good Samaritan” jumped in, thinking I was the bad guy, and he was going to helpfully kick my ass. So then I had two angry guys, one I think is still actually murderous ragey, but neither of who I wanted to kill. I tried calling 911 but they kept moving on me. So then I went to pepper spray. And that turned into a fist fight. I’m still a pretty good striker, so I’m still dealing with this. Only when pyscho goes down, now he’s going for my legs, trying to trip me, and I’ve still got the other guy trying to punch me. Oh shit. I get knocked down. I get back up. They’re still coming. One up, one down. At this point I’m like, fuck they’re gonna kill me (CCW hat on, ability, opportunity, immediate threat, check, check check) and I try to make enough distance to clear my gun. I still don’t want to kill anybody and am hoping they’ll back off when they see it. Which is when I fucked up, and rather than do the thumb pectoral index, I went back to years of training and punched out like normal, which was when good Samaritian grabbed for my gun. He got shot in the hand, but then psycho took my legs. I went down hard this time with both of them. Psycho gets on my chest (knocked the air right out of me) and the guy I just shot in the hand now understandably executes me with my own gun.
So it was like handling my business, handling it, handling it, oh fuck that’s bad, I’m dead. And I lay there, utterly wrecked, panting, knowing exactly when I’d screwed the pooch, and learning occurred.
Like I said, these things get intense.
And it’s not just the ones you participate in, but every one of these is different, and you learn by watching everybody else go through this stuff. Some people are great fighters but make bad calls. Some people are tactical wizards but struggle elsewhere. Some guys can do verbal judo and others get tongue tied. Some evos resolve peacefully and deescalated. Others you start out in crazy town and it goes to hell from there. But you learn something from watching all of these.
One evo where I was playing a real dickhead of a bad guy, my last words were “Motherfucker, you don’t got the balls to shoot me!” And then I got some sim rounds right in the chest as I charged.
On that note, those little buggers sting. I got shot multiple times in the chest, stomach, side, arm, and head. And even two days later, I’m sore. It turns out that the muscles needed to type books all day are different than the ones used in entangled gunfighting, go figure. You don’t need to be in super shape for ECQC but I bet it sure helps.
This was a great bunch of guys to train with too. Nothing builds camaraderie quite like beating each other up. Everybody in my class put in a lot of work and showed a lot of heart. They were all there to learn and help each other. Like in the video where I got my arms pinned and then head shot, I was actually happy for the other guy, because right before that we’d been practicing gun snatches from each other, and he levered that against my thumb exactly as we’d practiced.
One note, if you are in Utah, check out:
They’re the people who brought Craig out here. They’ve been bringing a bunch of great instructors in from all over the country to teach classes in Utah. Of the three classes I’ve tried to take with them, this is first one I’ve actually been able to attend because of illness or scheduling conflicts, and every time they’ve been awesome to work with.
I learned a ton. I was shown lots of things that need work. And it was a blast. In conclusion, if you can, take this class.