My good friend Tony Blauer of Blauer Tactical Systems (BTS) and Trident Concepts, LLC conducted our Extreme Close Quarters Fighting class in Austin, TX this past week. After the success from our first class Tony and I began to project forward multiple classes for this year. This was the first one and a huge success. We were very lucky that our first training program was so close to a final product that it required very little tweaking. That allowed us to actually expound on the existing curriculum even more. After the conclusion of the class we realized that the two-day format is an excellent format but that we wanted to be able to add more advance level content. So, the good news is you should see a one-day add on module for graduating students of the level one class.

The class was hosted by the Austin Police Department and conducted at their new training academy center. The facilities were perfect for the training and we’re already looking forward to returning later this year for a follow-up program. The class was largely made up of law enforcement as well as members of the military service. Many of the students were already students so it was nice to see so many returning faces. It also was helpful that many of them had a brief understanding of each of our own philosophies and were given the opportunity to expand on that knowledge.

We both believed that the primary goal of the class, which was focusing on worst-case scenarios, was a huge hit. Any fight or confrontation has the potential to be dangerous, but the ambush is by far the most dangerous. Tony spent the morning lecturing on fear and fear management. I cannot emphasize enough the importance behind understanding the psychology behind a lot of this and then understanding the body’s reactions to the various stimuli’s that they’re being exposed to. I think sometimes that people immediately label fear as an all-negative response. What we sometimes forget is that fear is a survival instinct that will initiate several pro-survival actions. Now I’m not saying that fear is good, what I’m saying is you have to have a better understanding of fear and how it relates to close quarters and in specific ambush scenarios.

Fear Management Lecture

With a greater understanding of fear and fear management and the body’s reaction to fear you start to realize that many of the actions resulting from fear are actually capable of being in utilized in a productive manner. Tony has done extensive research with regards to the startle reflex and how it relates to survival instincts and in specific how it relates to ambush and counter ambush scenarios. These types of confrontations are happening so fast and often times without warnings that they will on most occasions trigger that startle reflex. Once you can understand that, you have the opportunity to take that God-given talent and turn it into a tactic, which Tony has done extremely well with his SPEAR™ system. Converting the startle reflex into a tactic has given many students an incredible tool at their disposal.

We spent the afternoon working on practical drills that exposed the students to the SPEAR™ system and fundamental principles behind how it works. We started with simple static drills and gradually progressed to more dynamic drills that placed the students in less than optimal conditions. Many times folks will try to out think the drills. Again, the purpose behind this class was worse case scenarios, and in specific the pre-conflict cues that are present. Being familiar with these cues is so important that we spend a great deal of time exposing the students to what they “look” like. One of the observations that I’ve made over the years has to do with processing time and split-second decision-making. The first thing that has to be addressed is maintaining good situational awareness, but that is not always possible. We talk about placing yourself in these compromised positions so that you can get the feel and the look. From there you can start to anticipate when these actions are about to occur through recognizing the pre-conflict cues.

Up against a wall, worse case for sure

As we moved into the more dynamic drills the students started to recognize the importance behind the feel and the look of these worst-case scenarios. We spent the rest the day working on drills that would lead into the next day’s material. One of the nice things about partnering up with Tony is that our philosophies and training methodologies are so parallel that the transition between the two is often times seamless. As we transitioned more into the second phase of the class one of the maxims that we would repeat over and over was your actions should be driven towards obtaining superior position and or superior weaponry.

After conducting a safety check of all students we proceeded to begin the day with a short history on the high ready position. Most folks have a dim if not negative view on the high ready. While many have much experience I find that most have not had the opportunity to understand the benefits behind the high ready or to employ them operationally. I believe that the high ready really comes into its own when dealing with unknowns. Most trainers have solid programs that focus on two types of conditions you would most likely see during operations. The first are the shoot threats, which are nine times out of ten dealt with by employing lethal force. On the other side of the spectrum are the no shoot threats, which are more than likely dealt with through good strong verbal commands, presence and at times physical interaction. In between these two threats is probably the most dangerous simply because it is easily unrecognizable and that is the unknowns.

Working the High Ready

Many folks have a tendency overlook the dangers of the unknowns, we take great pains to make sure that folks understand and more importantly have the tools to deal with the unknowns. That is where the high ready comes into its own. So, we talk about the history then we go over positioning and implementation. One of the great things about the high ready is the fluidity between lethal force, hard contact and soft contact. We started off by reviewing positioning, then gradually progressed to implementation. We would continue to ratchet up the implementation culminating in rapid fire drills where precision was just as important as intensity. Just like throwing a punch it is important that the weapon strikes be delivered precisely.

Close contact shots

From there we would progress to contact and near contact shooting scenarios. There are a lot of different theories on this, our belief is that contact and close contact shooting skills are often ignored. The most basic idea is that the draw stroke should include your close contact position so that if you need this position you have rehearsed it with each and every draw stroke. Finding the body’s natural point of aim and indexing on to target become much easier with good body positioning from there. We talked about off angle close contact shots. These are the types of shots that are a result of real-life body positioning, the type where standing buckle to buckle in front of each other is not very likely.

Learning targeting

When we came back from lunch we introduce the folding knife, we talked about selection and features. Then we worked at exposing the students to the TRICON™ Vital template. The progression would be from static to more dynamic and as it went into more dynamic settings it became more complicated, but getting exposure to this now would pay dividends when we got to the more advanced drills. We covered a lot of the contingencies and dealt with a few of the “what if’s” we commonly.

The next phase would then introduce some of the components to being on the ground. Placing the students in worse case scenarios and then guiding them through the tools they’ve been shown produced excellent results. I love seeing a class where they ramp up the intensity given the opportunity to really learn and apply the new skills. There were several teachable moments that we stopped the class, brought them over to a pair and took the time to cover the lesson learned for the whole class. I was happy to see as many teachable moments; many of which were the result of the students starting to think outside the box. As we entered the culmination drills where we pile it all on you the newly learned skills were being applied in a more real-time setting.

Culminating drills

Not even before the class was finished Tony and I were already brainstorming the next phase to the class. Watching the intensity and energy from this class gave us a warm and fuzzy that an advanced program was the next step. We also want to add a few more topics and it’s just a matter of squeezing more information into the condensed program.

It’s always a pleasure to work with students that have and eagerness to learn, open mind and great intensity. In my opinion it only brings out the best from both the students and the instructors. Tony and I found ourselves both wanting to add more stuff as the class continued to improve, but in the end we’ve only got so many hours to work with. Is also a pleasure to spend more time with my good friend and great trainer, I will look forward to our next class in the fall. Of course, there’s a very good chance that will be coming back to Austin towards the end of the summer, as well as an article that should be hitting the newsstands about the same time. Be safe.

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