Sometimes Life is Like a Dope Deal: ShivWorks Extreme Close Quarter Concepts
The ShivWorks Extreme Close Quarter Concepts (ECQC) course is a two-and-a-half-day class that presents an aggressive problem-solving model simulating a life-or-death struggle inside arm’s length. ECQC emphasizes common body mechanics that apply across different skill sets. Using marking cartridges and protective helmets, students are placed in an increasingly complicated scenarios to build self-defense skills at zero to five feet.
ECQC fills a niche in the often-ignored area between contact distance and five yards. This is where fists, bats and knives take more lives each year than guns. This training explores the true nature of criminal attacks and drills effective techniques for dealing with realistic threats.
I had the opportunity to attend Craig Douglas’ famous Extreme Close Quarter Concepts Course, hosted by the Firearms Academy of Seattle (FAS) located in beautiful rural Lewis County, Washington. https://firearmsacademy.com/
The Firearms Academy of Seattle is a private facility. You may not enter unless you are part of a class. Their ranges are on a par with any range in the country and is an excellent training venue. FAS is a close-knit community of students and trainers with the mission of building thinking shooters. The owner and senior trainer at FAS, Belle McCormack, kindly allowed me to camp on site over the weekend. This made the whole experience much more pleasant as the second day’s training ran past 12 hours.
Craig Douglas, founder of ShivWorks, retired from polce officer with the bulk of his career spent in narcotics and SWAT. In his time undercover, the job placed him a the position vulnerable to assault and robbery. This experience with actual crime and criminals is the basis of all his training.
The gifts Craig offers are an understanding of the criminal mind and his genius ability to translate bad guys thoughts and tactics. Most people who own firearms for personal defense are nice people who don’t understand violence. The sucker punch and the surprise assault are not part of their daily lives.
Craig Douglas is a master of contextual training. Every drill has a real life genesis and most of the come with a war story. Whatever you brought with you and what you got from the class is pressure tested against another motivated student of violence who just got the same class you did.
I have been through a great many close quarters firearms drills, weapons take away techniques and some ground fighting escape training. I heard the ECQC was some thing very different and I did some homework. After seeing the videos of the drills, I had to take thisclass myself.
There is a dangerous rift in practical martial arts. Firearms training solves every problem with a gun. Defensive tactics either ignores guns or uses a rubber gun where the fight ends if you get off a shot. “Just shoot him” doesn’t work if your opponent doesn’t quit. If the bad guy has a gun or a knife, you shouldn’t just give up. This is the uncanny valley where ECQC teaches you to survive.
The first lecture describes the criminal assault paradigm. The professional violent criminal is not looking for conflict, he wants to get paid with as little risk as possible. The four common characteristics of criminal assault: the element of surprise, use of deception to close distance if surprise cannot be initiated, the use of a weapon and the presence of another criminal.
The construct of Craig’s Managing Unknown Contacts provides a framework for dealing with unknown contacts before they become threats and the pre-assault cues which precede attacks by an individual with bad intentions.
Craig preaches situational awareness and emphasizes “The High Art of Deselecting Yourself” to avoid crime. He describes how criminals select victims and what happens when they do. I you can’t leave, you can comply or fight. ECQC explores the entire continuum between the two.
One of the uncomfortable truths that Craig presents over and over is that there is no skill or technique that wins every time. You can impact how you lose and what you lose. Losing your gun is bad, but it is not the end. Losing your head fails every time.
This isn’t primarily a shooting class. There are two range sessions focused on presentation and building a firing position from retention. Drills worked from contact distance to about 10 yards. Several firing positions are taught dictated by the targets’ range. Post shooting scans and movement were exercised. Any quality handgun will work. Some of the police officers wore duty holsters others worked from concealment.
The class is a series of talks, skill building drills and scenarios. It is educational, grinding and intermittently terrifying. If you have never been shot a contact distance with marking cartridges, you quickly learn. The unpleasant reality of failure in scenarios is highly motivating. The bad news is your opponent is also thusly motivated.
Scenarios in ECQC don’t end until Craig says they are over. There is no happy ending when the bad guy gets shot. The sad reality is that guns jam, shots fail to incapacitate and you have to fight until the bad guy stops coming at you. The bad guy decides when the fight starts and when it ends.
When class starts you sign a waiver. ECQC provides the truest experience possible without gunshot wounds. Multiple iterations pit you against someone who has the skills you have and a hidden agenda. You may have a gun, but you can’t draw on everyone that walks past and looks at you aggressively. Your mission is to manage the violence in your favor. You’re going to get hit and you’re are going to bleed. One guy left our class in an ambulance with a dislocated shoulder.
Techniques are taught and then pressure tested in evolutions. The students wear padded helmets and sometimes have marking cartridge guns. Light to medium striking is encouraged. Your protective gear limits field of view and sound. You must access an uncertain, complex and ever-changing threat. Talk, deploy a weapon, fight and look for an escape. In each scenario, you are the victim, or you are the attacker. This perspective is mind expanding.
My goals are to Stay conscious and Stay on my feet. I was on the ground trying to draw and shoot the attacker on top of me. I drew on an aggressive guy who was suddenly trying to take my pistol from me. My partner and I tried to rob a guy who pulled a gun, I distracted him while my partner came up from behind. I was robbed but saw both guys early and aggressively kept them from getting behind me. I picked up a hitchhiker in a truck and he pulled a gun on me. My gun never solved the problem.
Who’s in class?
We had a large and diverse group of attendees in my ECQC. There were 17 men and 1 woman. The youngest was 22 and the oldest was in their 60s. The average age was probabily late 30’s. Many of the attendees knew each other from other Firearms Academy of Seattle training.
Several students had attended ECQC before, one guy was back for his fifth time. Almost half were active law enforcement and/or military. They were often paired up together since pairings were primarily made based on size and existing skill set.
Martial arts experience was highly varied. There were gun people with no background and some who regularly participated in BJJ and other types of training. While not required for ECQC, previous training was very helpful. I wish I had more BJJ. I will fix that before returning to another ECQC class.
First Day (Four Hours):
Criminal Assault Paradigm Unequal Initiative Events Managing Unknown Contacts
Practical Unarmed Combat or In-Extremis Knife modules
Second Day (Eight Hours):
Introduction to the components of the Combative Drawstroke
Building the #2 position in live-fire
Firing throughout the horizontal line of presentation
Off-hand fending positions
Basic empty hand blows
Theory of in-fight weapon access
Third Day (Eight Hours):
Challenging the potential attacker
Preemptive weapon access
Negotiating the F.U.T.
ECQ Handgun retention in holster
ECQ handgun retention out of holster
Carrying a gun can make things worse if the bad guys want to take it
I thought that BJJ was not useful in a street fight, I was wrong
If someone pulls a gun on me, I have a good chance if I feel I need to fight for it
A little Jujitsu goes a long way, and I should do some training
A little knowledge about fighting inside a car provides an advantage
Guns jam in fights and may not end fights
I should have brought a holster for the Glock 17 size marking cartridge gun – I had to stick it in my pants
What should you do to prepare for ECQC:
Make sure your handgun skills and grappling are up to speed
Watch the videos on YouTube and be prepared to fight
Realize that may people of all abilities have been through this class, you can do it too
This is a great class. While anyone at any level can walk into it and benefit, the best results come from a prepared student ready for advanced training. A concealed carry class and some basic jujitsu training would help you get the most from the class.
As criminal attacks increase across the US, this is the best preparation class that you can find. It tells you what is coming, how to avoid it and what to do if you are forced to fight.
Schedule your own class now right here:
Craig Douglas is the founder of ShivWorks, a consortium of like-minded professionals devoted to training and product development in the emerging field of interdisciplinary problem-solving for self-defense.
Craig retired from law enforcement after 21 years of service with the bulk of his career spent in narcotics and SWAT. Since 2003,
Craig has been teaching globally under the ShivWorks brand and has conducted coursework on entangled shooting skills in nearly 40 states and nine foreign countries. He has taught for federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and to three branches of the U.S. military.
Photos courtesy of Belle McCormack of Firearms Academy of Seattle