BLUF: This was hands-down the best training I have received thus far. If you can only afford to take one class, ECQC should be that one.
Author’s note: This After Action Report/review is not all-inclusive. I want to give readers an idea of what to expect from not only ECQC, but also the Shivworks mindset without spoiling the entire course. Wanting to know what else ECQC has to offer? Go sign up for a class of your own!
Armed Missouri hosted the class at their range, 30 minutes southeast of Jefferson City. The classroom had just finished being constructed a few days before the class began, and provided a safe haven from the outside heat. Bottled water was free of charge and plentiful.
Ranged from pleasant to hot, with high scattered clouds. Light rain on the second day throughout the morning, clearing up just before lunchtime. Little to no breeze.
Gen 4 Glock 26 with factory night sights carried in a G-Code INCOG. OEM 12 round mags and Magpul 15 round mags for all firing. Spare mags were carried in HSG Taco pouches and a Multi Holsters "Elite Single Magazine Pouch". Ammo was S&B 115gr standard pressure. Experienced 6x failure to fire, all from the same box of ammo (ammo got soaked from rain during shipping, suspect this to be the culprit).
15 Students ranging from a woman with zero firearms or martial arts training, to a professional mixed martial artist with special forces experience, and everywhere in between. The farthest traveler made his way out from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Our class developed an incredibly strong bond in such a short period of time, most likely due to the incredibly personal nature of the course. This is the only training event where I walked away with contact information of every other student.
1 Instructor, Crag Douglas (A.K.A. Southnarc). Craig has over 20 years of law enforcement experience, spending the majority of his career in narcotics and SWAT. You can find his official bio here.
My take on Craig: Precision. That is how I would describe the words and actions of Craig Douglas. It is clear that he knows exactly what he wants to say and exactly how he wants to say it, yet every word sounds natural. The material flows perfectly, from verbal instruction to hands-on demonstration without a hint of automation or even the subtlest verbal flub.
I arrived about an hour and a half early to the classroom, being the fourth student there. The day begins with introductions, expectations, and a little bit of paperwork. Once the formalities wrap, Craig goes into why ECQC exists and provides a few short demonstrations to explain some important points. After an hour of classroom academics, training begins in the grass outside where we work on our empty-handed skills and verbal judo. This ranges from simple commands (differences between "please leave me alone" and "GET THE FUCK BACK!") to the physical handling of unknown contacts (how to position yourself in relation to the threat, de-escalatory jabs, etc).
I walked away from Day 1 having been repeatedly punched in the face, both literally and figuratively. I was in way over my head, and couldn't wait to begin class the next day.
Day two begins on the firing range where students are introduced to the "Combative Drawstroke"-- how to draw and present your firearm in close quarters. ECQC is not a marksmanship focused class, though adjustments are made where necessary to ensure everyone has a baseline in weapons handling. The majority of the firearms training present throughout the course is martial in nature, with the main focus being on integrating the gun into the close-in fight. If you are a bad shooter when you arrive, you will be a slightly less bad shooter when you leave, but don't expect to punch bullseyes at 25 yards.
After lunch, we ditch our guns to work on empty handed strikes and basic grappling. After demonstrating various techniques, Craig pulls out Simunition training pistols to begin integrating the gun. We work on entangled weapon access, as well as attempting to prevent having our opponent disarm us.
Using a Galco Stow-In-Go holster, I had an attacker take my gun without feeling it leave my waistband. Luckily, I saw the muzzle as it closed in on my head, and was able to keep my adversary from splattering my (simulated) brains across the dirt. While I couldn't disarm him, I could keep him from killing me long enough for Craig to call the scenario. Not a win, but not a loss in my book.
Despite wearing protective gear, I hobbled back to the hotel with Simunition welts, along with bumps, bruises, and cuts from the day's events. On several occasions, I was thrown through the air by sparring partners. Day two had beaten day one's eagerness to a pulp, but I was still yearning for what day three had to offer.
Much like day two, the third day begins on the range. We refine techniques taught to us from the day prior and pick up a few more skills to carry with us. I won't go into specifics, but muzzle discipline was key.
The majority of day three is taken up by what is called "The Thunderdome." This is what ECQC is known for--the culmination of everything we have learned up to that point.
You are you, and you have your Simunitions gun. The second person is an unknown contact. They decide how to approach you, and you are to react to them as you would naturally. When seen fit, Craig throws in a third player, who is to react as though they just came upon what is playing out before them. Scenarios ranged from a simple mugging to a man begging for help to save his children from his burning home, to a mentally challenged man and his struggling caretaker.
This exercise sounds corny at first, and I admit I was skeptical, but in practice it is outstanding. No two scenarios ("Evolutions") end up the same. Some people react aggressively and turn the situation violent unnecessarily, others solve their problem with no confrontation whatsoever. After each Evolution, the players are debriefed by both Craig and the onlookers. I personally experienced auditory exclusion during one of my Evolutions, which caused me to react significantly differently compared to how I would have, had I heard what was being said to me.
A bit of acting is required to start a scenario, but the reactions are real. As an aggressor, I began to pick a fight with one student, intending to take him for everything he had. Unfortunately for me, he pulled his pistol, and I immediately backed down; Simunitions hurt and I didn't want any part of what he had to offer. This is as close as you can get to a real-life confrontation while avoiding the legal hassle of starting a legitimate fight.
After everyone has the chance to play all three positions, we break for lunch.
The afternoon kicks off with weapon retention both holstered and in hand with techniques shown for duty and concealment holsters. Unlike most retention techniques I'd seen to this point, what Craig provides are simple, succinct actions to both retain your firearm and deal devastating damage to your opponent.
A Little Extra
As a special treat, Craig provided a short preview of his VCAST course (imagine ECQC, but inside a vehicle). This is not standard practice, but something he likes to do when a location has a car available. Craig gives a short lecture on how to leverage different parts of the cab of the vehicle, then sets everyone up with Simunition guns and protective equipment. One person playing the good-guy driver, and the other playing the bad-guy hitchhiker in the passenger seat, both armed with pistols. Everyone plays both roles, with debriefing afterward.
Even though my earlier performances were mediocre at best, the stars aligned for a brief moment when I stepped into the driver's position. As my attacker drew his gun, I launched myself across the seat, pinning his body against the door. My right forearm driving into his neck and chest as I rip the pistol away from him with my left. Immediately I fire one round from his own gun into his stomach, resulting in a stovepipe. Without thinking, I tap and rack the gun off of my left thigh, clearing the malfunction, and dump six more rounds into the crook as Craig calls the scenario.
My first feeling is pride and amazement at how naturally everything just happened. Then concern takes over, as I realize I went all-out on another student. As I apologize profusely, we switch positions, with him in the driver seat.
I barely have my gun out of the holster when next thing I know I'm halfway in the backseat with my own muzzle in my face, the driver's hand wrapped around mine, trying to force my trigger finger into breaking a shot. He punches me in the face, knocking my facemask off, and Craig calls the scenario. We shake hands and laugh it off; blood dripping down my nose and his stomach covered in welts.
Once each person has their turn, we return to the classroom. Everyone gives feedback on the entirety of the course, as well as their performance throughout. A few tears are shed as folks come to terms with how much work is ahead of them. Phone numbers and Facebooks are exchanged, hands shook, and we go our separate ways.
ECQC will not coddle you, but it will make you better, and it's worth every penny. This class is a paradigm breaker; worlds were rocked and everyone's individual training plan had to be rewritten. Craig is an incredible teacher, without a doubt the best I have had the pleasure of learning from.
If there is one class that everyone should take, it is ECQC. This course is my top recommendation to everyone who asks me what they need to sign up for.