01-13 Class Seminar Weekend Recap

The 01-13 Class Graduates (excuse the poor resolution, I’ll be replacing this image with a higher quality one soon)

This past weekend I had the pleasure of instructing the first class of trainees to go through the Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences Basic Hand to Hand Combat Course (formal name still in development). This was the “01-13” class, meaning that it was the first class of 2013. Overall I could not have been happier with the progress made by everyone in attendance, and the remarkable level of proficiency that each student was able to achieve during the two and a half day event.

Class began on Friday night with my introductory remarks. We waited a short bit for a group of four students who were en route from Pittsburgh PA (roughly 7 hours from here) and were stuck in some nasty traffic. I took this time to prepare a “Course Expectations” list on one of the oversized, 3M “Post-it” notes that I had stuck up all over the walls by the end of the weekend. This list was not a list of what I expected from the students, but rather what they hoped to gain from the course.

This impromptu segment allowed me to apply an element of the “mission specific” aspect of training that I typically use when working with a smaller, more specifically purposed group. Generally speaking, a group consists of a few people who have the same requirements, limitations, tools available, etc. in terms of their needs with combat science. Uniform Law Enforcement personnel for example are provided instruction primarily on how to handle unruly individuals, and to get them into a controlled position, in handcuffs in as efficient of a manner as possible. Additionally, much attention is paid to the use of their duty gear, and to the retention of such equipment. These are the common needs of such personnel. Likewise, groups of bar bouncers are instructed primarily on how to limit personal and venue liability by being able to subdue, control, and escort unruly patrons from the premises with as little incident as possible. With a group of individuals representing such a diverse cross section of the population as the group that registered for this event, the course must encompass much more instruction. Speaking to the group, and discovering what their “individual missions” were, from the man who frequently found himself in hospitals encountering mental patients, to the business owner whose neighborhood businesses were frequently robbed at gunpoint, allowed me to ensure that each participants needs would be addressed throughout the course of instruction.

A snapshot of the “course expectations list” created by the attendees, in progress. 

The students each benefited greatly from this approach as well since they were not only trained specifically for their own missions but also were exposed to a much broader scope of application of the principles that were presented.

Once all students were in attendance, I began the class with my dedications. The class was dedicated the memory of Delta Force Snipers Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon, KIA in Mogadishu Somalia on October 3, 1993. If you are unfamiliar with the story of these two men, do yourself a favor and research their names. Additionally the class was dedicated to the memory of one of my good friends, Jerod Dennis who was KIA in Shkin Afghanistan on a mission with my unit in 2003. The dedications and stories that I relayed helped to establish the serious nature of the information that was to be presented. At this point I had the undivided attention of all in attendance.

I then got into the meat of the principles presentations that occurred that night. The next few hours consisted of a series of principles being introduced and demonstrated, after which each participant was able to apply the idea in an interactive exercise. Questions were generally held until each segment ended, and then were thoroughly answered.

We broke for the evening Friday after I told the students to go home, rest up, and hydrate for the grueling two days to come.

Saturday we began at 9am. I introduced the students to three targets and several methods of striking each target, as well as the spinal reflex reactions associated with trauma to each target. Additionally, questions were answered as to the pathophysiology of striking the targets in the manners presented. Once the students had ample time to learn each of the targets and their reactions, they then partnered up to apply the new information in a dynamic environment, accessing only the targets that they had learned, and taking the partner to the desired level of incapacitation.


Sammy, one of the graduates, assisting me during a demo for the class. 

The rest of the day Saturday consisted of similar blocks of instruction followed by breakout sessions where the information was applied. As the day drew near an end, I began to incorporate knives into the mix, having the student injuring the partner face a knife-wielding attacker. What occurs at this point is the realization on the part of the students that the skills that they had learned, and been immersed in, did not change in the presence of a weapon, and that they already had been taught how to deal with such an attack.

We wrapped up on Saturday and made plans to return to the building in a few hours to feast on steaks (grilled by yours truly) and other foods, and consume adult beverages. I hung around with a few of the international participants, answering some additional questions and discussing topics that they had saved until the day was over.

Saturday night was a blast. All were in attendance for the get together, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who said they had a less than awesome time. By this time everyone had sweated quite a bit together, and new friendships were being born based on their shared experiences.

On Saturday night I was being heavily critical of myself with regards to the progress that the students had made. In the past I have had up to 5 days to install this information into groups of trainees, so the timeframe I was working in was a bit close for comfort. Additionally, I was short-handed when it came to staff, so I did not have an optimal cadre for demonstration and circulation through the group. I knew that I had to pass or fail these guys the next day, and I was unsure whether or not I could get everyone there up to standard in terms of combat effectiveness given that I had only one day left with them. I thought about how I would adjust the instruction the next day in order to maximize the benefit of the participants.

Sunday morning everyone showed up bright and early, and brimming with enthusiasm. We all spoke outside of the building for a few minutes before we headed in to begin. Each student was telling of how they’d begun to see “targets” everywhere, and possessed a newfound level of confidence in their ability, born out of their new understanding of how simple it is to incapacitate a human being when the situation requires such action. I knew that, without a doubt, each participant was having a great time, but that was not my concern. My concern was that they would graduate Sunday with a level of proficiency that was up to my standard.

We began Sunday morning with some free-fighting (our dynamic training method), about 15 minutes worth, rotating partners, and forcing the students to adapt and face a variety of body types. I can honestly say that what I saw was nothing short of amazing.

The students were all applying the information with considerably less hesitation and much more initiative. They were accessing targets, exploiting spinal reflex, striking targets in sequences they had not before, and overall just dominating their opponents. The focus on their faces was impressive, they were singularly concerned with the task at hand at all times.

I could not have been happier.

Students applying their information under stress, and facing weapons.

The night’s rest (after the party) was magic. The students had all been exhausted and run down the day before. Many of these guys were not in the best physical condition (unlike many who I have instructed in this information over the years), and for many this was the most intense, grueling course that they had ever attended. After resting up and coming in fresh, with the whole night before to discuss and think about the material, their level of proficiency had shot up dramatically. Many of the students recalled dreaming about applying the information while they slept the night before.

Success. That’s exactly the result that I wanted.

My concerns about ramping them up adequately vanished and I soon began concerning myself with what “bonus” information I was going to be able to add to the course as a result of their solid grasp of the basic material.

Sunday ran much like Saturday in that there were, again, multiple blocks of instruction followed by breakouts. This time weapons were involved both offensively, and in the hands of the assailant. Students were using knives and impact tools to incapacitate, cripple or kill the other guy with seamless integration.

We spoke much about firearms on Sunday. I addressed the principles necessary to ensure their survival when facing a gun-wielding adversary. I had instructed the students in their welcome email to bring any concealed carry gear and tools that they personally used in order to receive personalized instruction on the deployment and use of their equipment. Though not everyone in attendance brought something in, all benefited from this eye-opening segment. Subsequently, I received several emails and text from students inquiring about purchases of various bits of equipment in the week that followed. I converted more than one student from “permit holder type” to competent armed citizen. A few guys traded in their guns for others on my recommendation, and I don’t think anyone left out of here without designs on acquiring a new setup gear wise for concealed carry.

At the request of the students, we went fairly in depth on pistol shooting. I had training aids and tools here to allow the students to practice what they had learned, and to stimulate the type of thinking that leads to productive questions for our Q and A segments.

To conclude the weekend, all students “tested out”. This consisted of me observing them apply the information that they had learned over the last two days under a variety of different stressful conditions. Students had to solve problems in real time facing more than one attacker (three or more at times) armed with a variety of modern weapons. Additionally, each student had to pair up with me and represent both the reaction and action partner roles against me several times.

Not one student in the class failed to meet my standard of combat effectiveness. Several looked like ugly ducklings in doing so, a slew of Bambi’s finding their legs on ice if you will, but all were able to get the job done. I’m still nursing bruises from their wrath as we speak.

Feeling the effects of a precise liver strike from Derrick, one of the graduates, during testing. 

I could not have been more proud of them as a class, and as a unit, which they had certainly become by that point. Bonds were formed between class members, and many who had never met are keeping in touch now through social media and the like. Several students have informed me of training groups that they’ve organized with family or friends to hone their skills, and two of my international graduates are slated to continue working with me towards an instructor rank in the future.

I also tentatively announced my next event for the first weekend in December (formal announcement and information to be released on here within the next few days). I was surprised to hear that, despite the “101” nature of this particular course, more than half of the students expressed their desire to register for the next class. Once I reach a critical mass of graduates of the basic course, I will be creating a “Level 2” sort of curriculum, and I made this clear to the participants. They said however that they wanted to get back here ASAP, and that attending the course again would only benefit them in further ingraining the material.

Again, I was overwhelmed by the progress that these men made, and am beyond proud of their hard work, dedication to the material, and intensity during training. I have no doubts in my mind that these men are now fully capable of using the tool of violence to incapacitate threats should the need arise.

I greatly look forward to working with them again, and to meeting and training as many readers as possible in the upcoming events. Keep an eye out for information on registering for the December event, this one will be (dare I say) even better than the first class since my staffing will be more solid, and with the lessons learned from this past weekend.

Also, if you are interested in booking an event at a location near you shoot me an email john@villainintl.com and we can certainly design a course of instruction for your individual mission, or conduct our basic course at your venue.

Until next time remember that an expert is merely a master of the basics.

Get to work.



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