Today I went in for a mammogram. During the procedure I was getting side glances from the tech who kept staring at the multitude of bruises and sores along my arms and upper torso. In order to head her off from giving me a domestic violence pamphlet I quickly told her about my recent weekend. ECQC an intense course that I had read about on Warrior Poets Society.
A fellow female marital artist told me that she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t do what she could to contribute to changing the outcomes of attacks like those of Jessica Chambers. She wanted to put her money, time, and energy where her mouth was and like her, that’s what I spent the last three days doing; going into the uncomfortable gaining more experience and knowledge to continually share with the women in my life.
Extreme Close Quarters Concepts is a 24 hour course run by, well for lack of better terms, basic bad ass Craig Douglas. Craig is a retired law enforcement officer who spent most of his 21 year career in narcotics and SWAT. He travels the globe teaching classes to civilians, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, and three branches of the U.S. military. He is the founder of Shivworks which is a group of people devoted to, “training and product development in the emerging field of interdisciplinary problem-solving for self defense.”
This course is intense and according to the majority of the men taking the class with me that are law enforcement and military, the closest and best you are going to get to real life fighting and simulations in close quarters. It was practical and hard and uncomfortable and I loved it.
When I first started my elephant eating journey almost 20 years ago, one of the bigger mental and physical accomplishments at that time was a 17 mile hike alone. It wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do, but the weekend before I was rock climbing and had several grand-daddy long legs crawl across my hand while a hold had broken off; it was a miserable climb. I freaked out and I cried and cussed and when I reached the top was super pissed at how I handled the situation so I basically set myself up for something I felt I could mentally redeem from.
I chose to hike the Butterfield Trail at Devils Den in August with no bug spray (that was not on purpose, just a terrible mistake of forgetfulness.) I packed a couple cans of spaghettios, a 2 person tent, and the bladder from my camel back. It was humid, sticky, 97 degrees, and I was ill equipped with no cell service and a plan to hike in, camp, and hike back out the next day. The horseflies were equally as bad as the mosquitos, the only reprieve from them was keeping myself mostly submerged in the river or staying in the sauna of a tent. It was scary that night and with basically no sleep, I woke up the next morning and started my trek back towards my car. About five miles from the end I rolled my right ankle in my cheap tennis shoes and ended up crying on the trail. I started to panic because I was in pain and had no cell service; though I had signed in at the station before I started, I was once again sobbing and cussing and shouting alone on this trail. I literally had no choice other than get my ass up and keep going. I rolled the joint 4 more times as I limped back to the car. It was flat out the most miserable time I could think of, but the kicker of this whole story was how I felt when I finally sat in my drivers seat. I was gross, sticky, my ankle was the size of a grapefruit, hungry, likely dehydrated, and quite possibly the most elated I had ever been. It was a high I had not experienced until that point. I had done it and though I was a hot mess and pretty much couldn’t walk, I felt I could accomplish literally anything in that moment. These are moments that bleed over into other big things building and inching upward. If I can do this on my own under those circumstances, what else could I accomplish? Skys the limit.
Which leads me into ECQC…… I am a big believer in teach only what you know and you had better know it well. I want the best to pass on to the women in my life and Craig did not disappoint. Friday evening we arrived at 6pm to a field with an Army Tent just outside of Kansas City, MO. There was around 20 guys and two females including me. Craig gave the rundown of the weekend and we immediately got to it with awareness techniques, deselection, and deescalation tactics (in later articles I will be going over these intensely as I feel especially for women these are absolute key,) then came the big guns literally and figuratively; when the posturing and talking doesn’t work. Physically we started with Greco-Roman wrestling/grappling, learning how to better stay on our feet, and the goat drill, (my forehead is still bruised…) The next day was a morning of close concept gun fire followed by wrist grab slips and SIM gun rolls. This was ALL uncomfortable, not necessarily because I didn’t know if I could hold my own, I honestly didn’t know if I could; every man there was taller than and had several pounds on me. It was uncomfortable because it was unusual for a woman to be there and it was not expected. It was hard to find a partner that first night (it could not be my husband because what would be the point?) and I felt like the last picked kid in elementary kickball. I am super grateful that I finally got partnered with a man named Mike who threw me on the ground and the ice was broke. Craig later said, “The most insidious thing I can do for women is to take it easy on them,” give them self defense-lite and send them out into the world thinking they have it all under control. He talked about women needing to be able to carry themselves as, “assertive without being a bit*h.” Too far on the bit*hy spectrum and you become something to a predator that needs to be taken down a peg or two. Fine lines we women walk.
After lunch on Saturday we did what was the first of three evolutions or affectionately called, “Thunderdome.” Craig paired us up with another person and you were pressure tested on your physical and mental reactions while carrying a concealed SIM gun. Out of the 20 people there I would say ¾ had grappling/jiu jitsu experience, several were military/veterans from all backgrounds, law enforcement, GI Joe, and Captain America. Side note, but an imperative one, ALL were there on their own dime, wanting to gain more knowledge and training to better themselves for their jobs and life. It was seriously an impressive group of individuals. I asked during a discussion at the end of our weekend how this course compared to the training received in the military and law enforcement and all of them said this was as close to real life encounters as you can get. Craigs concept was very little, but incredibly tested and solid content, with lots of reps.
I was unfamiliar with a SIM gun. I knew paint balls…… yeah, not the same thing. SIM rounds can and most likely break the skin, I have four on my arm to prove it. However, as a fellow patron of the class later said, “they should serve as a reminder to keep your skill levels proficient, in a real world we would be in a hospital.” I hear all the time from women that they do not need self defense on a physical level because they conceal carry. Well I am going to be Debbie Downer here and tell you that is an absolute farce. I watched in awe as several people well versed in gun culture and firearms safety either made bad shooting calls or very easily had their weapon taken only to be used on them. It was incredibly eye opening to see how common this was.
Major takeaways from this weekend……
Eating crow with a side of humble pie is always good. That means you are still learning. You were right Aaron, a 380 was not enough. There were several people there who were encouraging and chock full of gun knowledge that were kind enough to impart on me their ways. Will be the proud owner of a Glock 43 and a Fabriclip Holster in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned because I will be giving you proof I can pull those drills off soon!
This next one is one that was incredibly humbling to me considering I just spent the last six years in karate. I am not saying it was not useful, but the moves used from that were only the simple ones like a snap kick and an eye shot (always my go-to.) What ended up being used in ALL of the evolutions that could not be dissolved via deescalation was grappling and Jiu Jitsu. I have spent years shying away from that art only to be taught a couple of things in the last month reluctantly and when push came to literal shove, I not only used them, but was able to pull them off. I would say this was my biggest surprising takeaway.
And lastly, but the most important, if you think you have enough training, you don’t. I listened to an Army Ranger and a major city’s Police Officer of the Year (yes, I totally fa€ebook and google stalked) state that they were humbled by the scenarios and said the course was incredibly eye opening. Craig talked about Marie Kondoing your training repertoire, funnily enough I think Tammy and I were the only ones to get that statement…. Training scars that you must fix was a common statement tossed around, throwing out what won’t work no matter how much you might think it should. Realizing in real life scenarios it is an ugly scuffle that you won’t get out of with flowy moves. You must continue to train and continue to train under pressure. Craig said his philosophy was not so much giving us the answer but teaching us how to think in intense situations.
I cannot stress how much this weekend has changed my life and course for how I carry myself and view the world. Craig is confident, but not arrogant. He has an approachable no nonsense way to him and has managed to trim the fat on something that is so incredibly important in self defense to where you can learn it fast and learn it well. When chatting with him afterward I was so encouraged hearing him talk about women taking this course to take back and share with other women in a way he can’t relate. He was excited to share what is his business, that he makes his money and living, and pass down to those that attend his class to teach to others; no strings attached. Definitely a person to admire and follow.
It was also exciting to see those not back down or give up, they kept fighting, I saw people of all ages and physical shape keep going in the scuffle whether against an accidental body slam, SIM rounds, or a well placed chokehold. In the words of Margaret Atwood, “this above all, to refuse to be a victim.” I have to be comfortable in the uncomfortable, constantly go out and force myself to learn even when its awkward, to encourage my daughters and the precious women in my life to continually keep gaining more in their self protection boxes.
Also thanks Regina at Willowcreek Women’s Center for no judgement on the bruises.........
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Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal