I recently completed the Craig Douglas Extreme Close Quarters Concepts course. Over the period I trained there was one kinked neck, one torn/sprained shoulder, a dislocated finger, and at least one bruised rib. I list the injuries first not because the drills were given in an unsafe manner, but because out of  class of 22 people, having around 20% of the class be injured in training is a sign that you are close to the edge of “good training.” At least three of the four who experienced an injury that they relayed to the rest of the class that they had injured that area before, so they were known weaknesses going into training. And if you train hard, usage injuries will happen.

Total props to Craig for the quality of the class. If you make everything too simple and easy, people aren’t learning anything of value, if you make it so hard that only black belts in BJJ and full time crossfit gym rats can learn something then the vast majority of students aren’t learning anything of value. So Craig really did a great job keeping the training at the right intensity and pace to get the maximum value for the majority of his students.

Day one, the most uncomfortable thing for me was the “Managing Unknown Contacts” drills which combined verbal and physical activities to take the initiative to clarify a situation. An unknown contact is neither good nor bad, just unknown, and verbally initiating contact allows you to take initiative and clarify the situation. As an introvert, this was probably the most challenging thing I had to deal with.

Thankfully the second drill I was more familiar with. Decades ago I took a self defense class from Jeff Alexander which focused on very similar strategies, an eye attack to change the dynamic, escaping a grab, and getting back on your feet. The techniques were slightly different, as Craig’s context for training is focused on training armed adults who are putting themselves in harms way and Jeff’s focus was on teaching unarmed people to escape a surprise attack without weapons in play (keeping women and kids from being abducted).

The “head cage” stance of vertical and horizontal elbow shields made a great deal of sense, to take a blow and then close space or disengage as needed. As the “one thing” to do when swung at is a very simple response and one that can be easily trained into muscle memory.

Day two, the shooting was new, but the unarmed part was a lot of repetition for me. The mat work I’ve done through various iterations of US Army Combatives made day two a pretty long grind on previous material. As far as shooting goes, I’ll never draw a pistol the same way again, nor will I hold a pistol the same way again. My trigger finger having an index point is great, and a draw that comes up in contact with my body to a high center position isn’t any slower than my old draw but has the added benefit of a much more consistent feel and feedback.

Day three, more new shooting drills, I got caught flagging my support hand once and I started to become much more focused on getting the mechanics of that hand correct. The combatives portion involved more people, unscripted scenarios, and group feedback. This also gave the class the time to incorporate all the tools/skills taught.

So, my final verdict is that yes, ECQC is expensive, however it is worth it. I would not recommend it as someone’s first class though, and if they don’t have some familiarity with grappling it will feel like drinking from a firehose. I was very lucky to have a background that made me feel like I was drinking from a firehose for only about two of the five major subject areas.

To someone preparing for ECQC, I recommend getting on the mats with a BJJ (or Aiki JJ, Danzan Ryu JJ), Judo, MMA, Hapkido, or wrestling club every week for about six months or so. This will get you comfortable with how your body works when struggling with someone else’s body, and help you not react intuitively (always make space, get away) as you’ll learn that sometimes you have to close space and take dominance. You will also get in much better shape, as I felt like hammered vomit after training was over (seriously, it’s a smoker).

If you can’t take the pounding of a wrestling intense martial art, one of the more serious branches of Aikido (such as Tomiki Aikido) would be beneficial to helping you get your body in shape, and helping you learn to take a fall without getting hurt and slightly more used to being in close contact with someone who means you harm. Do not bother with Karate, Tae Kwon Do, or Kung Fu styles.

I also recommend getting a Glock 17 or 19 and becoming familiar through a serious concealed carry pistol course, as that seemed to be the pistol of choice for instructor and student alike. Make sure it is in good working order before coming to class, as we did see one pistol failure during the class (a 13 lb mainspring just finally gave out, and the student transitioned to a back up gun).

So I don’t think that I’ll take ECQC again in the next year, but I will try to make room in my calendar for Shivworks EWO. I have enough information from ECQC that I need to internalize before taking it again to maximize my learning capability as a student, and EWO would focus on another set of things in which I currently have a skills gap which is edged weapons in the close fight.

Feel free to ask questions in the comments, or even just comment in the comments.

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2 Responses to ECQC

  1. DW says:

    As someone who has not really done any combative work since the army, which was a long time ago, I am curious as to what discipline you would recommend? From the research I have done, jiujistsu would seem a good choice for self defense. Just interested in your thoughts.


    • rthtgnbs says:

      Jiu Jitsu for a Japanese flavor, Hapkido for a Korean flavor, any MMA gym for a contemporary cross discipline flavor, even a straight up wrestling club would work very well. Krav Maga if that’s what available would be ok.

      The purpose of ECQC isn’t to become a great unarmed fighter, it is to get better at the space between disarmed fighting and creating the space where you’ve armed yourself. So any martial discipline that is truly “competitive” when they train so that participants are really working to apply a technique and someone is really resisting, is going to fit the bill to get you ready for a course like ECQC in terms of avoiding injury and getting the most learning value.


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