On February 18-19, 2017 I hosted (and attended) two days of unarmed training taught by Cecil Burch. I brought Cecil to KR Training because I had trained with him at one of the Rangemaster Tactical Conferences a few years ago, and because Craig Douglas recommended him as an instructor that could teach students skills that would be useful when attending the Extreme Close Quarters Concepts class I’ll be hosting in March.
John Daub’s AAR from the class goes into more detail about Cecil’s background so I won’t repeat that information here.
I’ve hosted Craig’s ECQC class many times, going back to the original ECQC 1 and 2 one day courses he and Paul Gomez offered in the early days of his program. One of the key lessons learned for me after that first ECQC weekend was that having a stronger set of fundamentals in unarmed skills was essential to doing well in the course. And obviously, having better unarmed skills would be useful in situations where using them, instead of a firearm, was the best choice to solve a self-defense problem.
Unarmed skills are an interest, but not a passion, of mine. As I told Cecil and the class when it was my turn in the “background and motivation to attend class” student introductions, I try to take 8-24 hours of unarmed & knife training each year to maintain my basic skills. Over the past 20 years that means I’ve taken hundreds of hours of training…which doesn’t equate to a high level of skill or subject matter expertise. That level of training is enough to maintain some basic skills, though.
Over the past decade the most popular training courses are apparently carbine classes, where students fire a lot of rounds at targets at close distances, using gear and tactics familiar and appropriate to the “operator”/contractor types teaching the classes. These courses seem to be popular because shooting targets at handgun distances with a rifle is easier than using a handgun, it gives people reasons to build and use their carbines, and the ‘fantasy camp’ aspect of doing “cool guy” stuff adds to the fun.
During the last 10 years I worked on a program at Texas A&M funded by DHS, where we taught Threat and Risk Assessment courses to communities all over the country. Applying that same approach to the threats and risks facing armed citizens led me to taking and hosting classes in medical skills, unarmed skills, knife skills and general individual emergency preparedness…basically swimming upstream against the direction the industry was turning.
As a reminder of this, response to Cecil’s classes was low, both from those enrolled in the March ECQC (which was heavy with unarmed defense hobbyists with much lighter ‘gun training resumes’, including a few that wanted to enroll but had no prior firearms training in how to draw from concealment or other defensive pistol skills), or my more frequent students who fill up my own and guest instructor live fire pistol courses.
As it worked out, we had a small number of students that fit the target demographic (gun people with limited unarmed skills), mixed with those that regularly train in standup and groundfighting skills.
Having the more experienced students in class was a great benefit to those of us with lesser skills, and frequent rotation of partners allowed those with more skills to get more benefit from the training than simply being “good bad guys” for those of us in the kiddie pool.
Cecil’s program is structured very similar to my Defensive Pistol Skills 1 class, teaching a basic response to a threat, with emphasis on developing good fundamentals for each step of that response. That approach was applied to both the stand up and ground fighting days, and he even discussed how and when firearms would integrate with his responses as part of each day’s training. Day 1 included default cover positions, escapes from grabs and chokes, and counter attack techniques, in many cases including skills that would carry over to the ground fighting class.
Day 2 was all ground work. Each drill started with a disadvantaged start position. You started on your knees with eyes closed, and your opponent knocked, dragged or pulled you to the ground. This did an excellent job of simulating either being taken by surprise or your opponent in a stand up fight knocking you down. Just as in day 1, a basic response to a ground attack was learned, adding steps as the students reached competence with each part.
Ground work is more physically taxing than stand up training. After lunch on Day 2, Cecil encouraged us to “up the pressure” on our opponents, raising it to 50% or higher of our maximum possible. At that point I realized that when attacking I was holding back, when defending, even in ‘learning mode’, I was running at more than 50% and with some partners I was already at max capability. By 2-3 pm on day 2, even the more experienced students were showing signs of fatigue. Most typical martial arts classes are a few hours long; we had been going at it for 12+hours over 2 days by then.
Takeaways from the courses: Cecil is an excellent instructor. Back in the early 2000’s I joined a BJJ school, lasted about 6 months before getting frustrated with not being able to make techniques work and an instructor that could not explain that failure beyond “you need to come in even more days a week”. Cecil’s instruction in one of those specific techniques identified the key change I needed to make to be successful.
His program, as promised, really is accessible to people with a wide range of physical abilities – not just young fit men. It is those that are older or appear weaker who are mostly likely to be attacked physically, making it even more important for those at higher risk to attend this type of training. The challenge for many is endurance.
I plan on bringing Cecil back either in late 2017 or early 2018 to offer more training, probably in a modified format focused on 1/2 day courses or blended courses that integrate live fire, scenario or other less physical components.