When I was 20 I jumped out of an airplane. It was a bucket list item made by my teenage self I have long since discarded due to safety variables realized as I got older and wiser; Jazz Lettuce Larry running the show at Bungee Jump Mountain just doesn’t quite tick all my safety boxes for a free fall. Also if I break a leg or something my house would end up with an even thicker layer of fine filth permanently. Even though teenage goals got pushed to the wayside, I did fit the skydiving part in.
What was interesting about skydiving, outside of my lack of respect for mortality at that tender age, was the understanding in myself that my fear hit only at the doorway of the plane. It took quite a bit to edge towards the opening, but once I fell out all my terror vanished. I had done the hard part of getting there, the decision of death had been made. I was either going to become a bloody splat in a field somewhere or I was going textbook land (obviously there are other variables), but no matter what I was going to enjoy the ride.
I have found that the concept of falling out the doorway is pretty much how I deal with anything I am fearful of or find difficult. It seems the mantra of, “Welp, this is what we are doing now…” has served me well. The first big step into a free fall is life changing and being able to now attend ECQC for a second time allowed me to witness things from another perspective because I knew what to expect. I had already taken the plunge before. What I had not anticipated and was pleasantly surprised by was the magnitude of watching other women face their inner demons by putting on those helmets.
ECQC or Extreme Close Quarters Concepts is a three day pistol course taught by Craig Douglas with Shivworks. I could write you his bio here and why he is pretty damn qualified to teach this, but a quick google search will do better justice. Basically you are learning to fight with and deploy a pistol up really close and personal. This course can also be entitled, “Don’t Ask Anyone Their Occupation Because They Can’t Tell You Due To It Being Classified,” as well.
At the end of day two I did an interview with Practically Tactical’s Jeff Blooven that will likely never see the light of day because I am truly a nightmare on camera. During this he asked me if I thought ECQC was a course for all women. I am not sure how I answered, but I am pretty sure I hesitated. Would I recommend this course to everyone? Absolutely hands down. Can I sell it to women? Uh no. I feel most will look at bloody sim round mark pictures and evolution videos and be like, yeah, not for me. But here goes nothing, If you carry a pistol, you need this course. I truly cannot stress that more. Perfection in range time means nothing if you cannot draw your gun at the appropriate time under stress and use it lawfully to defend yourself. The amount of what ifs during an attack are endless. Can you draw safely from a seated position? Can you draw if you fell on your back? Hell if you carry in your purse, can you even get to your gun in the first place?
I feel this looks very much like a GI Jane boot camp that is only for rough chicks and that could not be further from the truth. Is it hard? Utterly. Will it change your life? I don’t know anyone who has taken it male or female that has walked away from it saying, “meh.” Instead what I have heard is a constant, “I would have paid well over the amount I put down for this material and experience.”
But for women? Yes. Can everyone do it? Well no not necessarily right off the bat. You do need an equivalent of a concealed carry course prior, be able to safely draw your gun, and have a basic knowledge of efficient mag changes. Outside of that you do not need fighting or martial arts knowledge, trust me, you will get some reps in. Hell you don’t even need to be in shape. I have seen all shapes, sizes, ages attend; I have watched some rather hard core muddy evolutions by men in their 60’s and sympathized with neck wrenching.
Why should you take this course? Because the material covered in the first four hours of any Shivworks course is probably one of the most lifesaving things you can learn and it has nothing to do with guns. Craig spends that time going over MUC or Managing Unknown Contacts. This is literally what every first and second women’s self defense class should look like. It covers deescalation/avoidance tactics and teaches how to point out predatory movement from a potential threat. This is something I feel is so important and often overlooked by both sexes. We just jump to the fighting aspect without mastering and understanding the weight/mortality of physical conflict when training. There is very little taught it seems in the art of talking and either being able to show yourself as not worth the trouble or just bringing down an intense situation. There is no pride in this part, just the higher percentage that you get home safely to your babies and loved ones. I have seen certified bad a$$es struggle with this section of the class because it is an art in itself to be cultivated.
Craig has been asked several times to do a women’s only class. At first I was on board with this idea, but understood that is not his niche; he has so much to offer by keeping it coed. However, after thinking over this for the last year I realized that it would not have the effect it does if it was women only. It is meant to be unsettling. It is uncomfortable running drills with strange men and to be honest the more you do it the better the nerves wear off gearing you up for handling conflict in the real world and that is just a beginning. He rarely pairs women with other women because that is not the reality. Realistically in this situation I am going to be dealing with a man larger than me and what I need to know most is how to maneuver with that physicality. Craig says, “The worst thing I can do is give someone a dishonest win.”
You are going to struggle and you are going to fail. You will have those butterfly wings ripped clean off when you grasp the notion that force on force is much different than what you originally perceived. And here is the deal, its better to get punched for the first time in training around people that care about you than to get hit in the streets by someone trying to haul you into the mystery machine. The harsh truth is that women need to know this; so yes, yes I would absolutely recommend this to all women because it is a rare chance for them to face and fight their demons in a safe atmosphere.
This is a pretty male saturated course. At my first, out of 24 people, there was one other woman named Tammy. My new friend Kyle whom I met at this one said this was the first he had been to out of three where women were in attendance. One is a gal that I met at EWO; experience wise my friend Rachel has one of those jobs you can’t talk about, but it involves a rather impressive understanding of in-fight mechanical gun issues and malfunctions. So yeah, she shot me a lot. Thanks Scott. Marlana and Aimee had previous firearm experience, but no marital arts. They definitely had more gun knowledge than I did for their first time at ECQC. They also came with their spouses that had extensive firearm know-how, and by know-how I mean if your gun broke, one of them could likely fix it MacGyver style on the fly since his job is making guns for like the whole world (apparently I was the only one in this class that didn’t know what Langdon Tactical is…. I know now); the other, a former SEAL, well he would just let you borrow his third back up after treading through a swamp undetected.
I was told for years in martial arts that you need to work people up to understanding violence. I disagree. I feel women have an innate understanding of violence just not the reality check for it sometimes. We unconsciously grasp it at a young age as the smaller framed of the sexes. That is why I am back pedaling a bit on my statement in that interview of saying whether this is for all women. It is. And once you take the plunge out of the plane with that first bit of demon killing, you are more prepared.
“We all have inner demons to fight, fear, and hatred, and anger. If you do not conquer them then a life of one hundred years is a tragedy. If you do, then a life of a single day can be a triumph,” Yip Man.
Watching evolutions for the first time IS violent. It’s not a movie or tv, it is happening right before your eyes with the knowledge that you will be in the fray soon. It’s knowing as soon as you put on that helmet that the only thing really protected is your head and anything else is fair game. You also don’t want to look stupid or weak, that’s pride and that’s everyone. When you get that first understanding that you are being overpowered by force on force and you are losing it is earth shattering and demoralizing. You can’t breathe and the fear and adrenaline coursing are overwhelming. But what’s amazing, is that’s the first time, after that you have jumped and now you know. Now you are set up to calm down and learn. It needs to be understood that most people will not willingly put themselves in this situation, but you have made the decision to understand more, to learn more, and make yourself safer in the process. Adult men have cried during these evolutions, ladies you are no different, you just have to work harder so give yourselves a break and set that aside to flourish.
Tears are not gender biased. The things that are pulled from the dark recesses of your mind while kicking, punching, and blasting energy on your back in the mud are paramount. I have heard so many healing stories from men and women alike who speak of flashbacks; this exact moment in the fight during ECQC is where they claim they met the beginning point of recovery. They fought themselves to put on the helmet, they panicked, they scrambled, they cried, they rolled through horrific memories they thought best left alone and untouched, then they faced them head on while screaming in frustration, and then they overcame. Maybe not that exact day, but the next they showed up. They stood there, put on the helmet again, they shoved the fear back down their throat and fought their Goliath by making the decision to throat punch their past and move. This class does that. This class gives that back.
The debrief was a heavily emotional one. Everyone got a chance to speak about what the weekend gifted them with and there were tears, men and women alike. It was seriously a blessing to witness. Because I was able to relax, relax, relax more at this one I was able to observe more, soak more of it up. A fellow male student told me later that when he saw that there were four ladies present he was concerned selfishly about the physical aspect in the evolutions of having to, “dial them back,” a bit. He went on to mention that, “Very shortly after the class began any hesitations were put to rest knowing that all the men and women showed up to work and none sought special considerations.” He mentioned he was honored to be a training partner to the women who attended. This was an incredible group of individuals and definitely an adventure worth writing about to encourage other women to take the dive. “I hear so much how this course is needed, but doing it firsthand was unbelievably eye opening. Craigs aspect of safety is so incredible and his ability to read students is phenomenal.” Marlena.
So tips for women taking this course:
1. Bring a notebook and take notes. I believe I hear the phrase, “drinking from a water hose,” a lot. You will want to go back and read and when you take it a second time (because you will) take more notes.
2. Have someone video your evolutions. What you think happens in the middle is not necessarily what happens in reality. Perception is crazy and you will want to watch it.
3. Understand you are going to fail. That’s the point, understanding your errors. It seems most people go in wanting to win, you won’t, and that’s awesome. Go in to try and to think and to problem solve knowing you are going to screw up, that’s the best place to learn from.
4. Put some Velcro on your belt tail to stick it back to your belt. Otherwise if it’s a longer one it will impede your draw. I saw other belts that had this and seriously I wish I had done this.
5. This is not the time to test your equipment, make sure it all works so you can glean more. I went in with a taurus 380 the first time and was told that wasn’t likely going to be beneficial. It wasn’t. It malfunctioned a lot and I ended up pulling myself off the line. I don’t normally wear a belt and have ran the gamut on conceal carry holsters for my lifestyle. I wore a belt for this class because this wasn’t tester city, I wanted my brain to not have to worry about fixing stuff for my everyday life, I could do that later on my own. Get the most out of class by eliminating equipment and clothing issues.
6. Layers. You will need them because it goes from early in the morning till late at night and you will constantly be in various states of undress, especially when you want added protection from sim rounds. If its not in summer months bring a beanie, at the very least this will protect when you do the mountain goat drill. Ugh.
7. Encourage everyone. To take the tag from Fit to Fight, “Everyone is fighting something.”
8. Be open minded to understanding violence. Craig said, “Sadly most people don’t think there is a risk and the reality of humans is that people will do fu@#$d up sh*t all day long” he is not lying so the quicker this is grasped the easier it will be to put on that helmet.
9. Bring snacks and don’t eat a full lunch. You can have a good muddy exhaustive dinner with a great glass of wine when the day is over. I live off of beef jerky and skinny pop during these, that seems to work out well. Drink lots of water.
10. Go pee on every break. Just do it.
11. Be a good partner. Everyone is learning don’t try to win all the damn time.
12. Take the class again. I seriously got just as much out of it a second time if not more
#shivworks #ECQC #womensselfdefense #backtheeffoff #simround #dothiscourse #9mm #thanksevanforthe30rounds #theseladiesarebeasts #demonkillers #takingbackyourmind #stillnotjumpingrope #ihateshadowboxing #pistolfighting #betterlearnjiujitsu #thumbpectoral #beefjerkyskinnypopandaprayer #yesihaveheardabouttheenigma #marlanasbrokenheart #hookerwithaheartofgold
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