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Shivworks EWO Class Review

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You have a CHL/CCW (Concealed Handgun License/ Carrying Concealed Weapon), so you think that makes you a gunfighter? Same with that knife you carry every day; can you simply whip it out and defend yourself against that unforeseen attack that presents itself out of the blue?

Reality says otherwise. False confidence can be just as deadly as not being prepared. Those of us that have dealt with the sheer ugliness of violence on a first hand basis know that even if you are prepared and well trained, there is still a component of luck involved in the potential outcome. Knowing that you don't want to simply rely on luck, you try to have a diverse background when it comes to self defense. When it comes to getting real life training, I always know that Craig Douglas of Shivworks will thoroughly test your mental and physical fortitude when it comes to the dynamics of close in hands on violence.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - start of EWO class

This was my second class with Shivworks. I took the ECQC (Extreme Close Quarters Concepts) class six months prior in Houston, TX at the Impactzone Training Range. If you want an honest assessment of what close in fighting with a gun truly i, and you legally carry concealed, then the ECQC should be a must take class.

This particular course however was the EWO (Edge Weapons Overview) class. It was held in Bastrop, TX at the UpTex Training Range. Now, the EWO class is essentially the ECQC class when you look at the basics of the fundamentals taught. The main difference between the two is obviously the use of knives in the EWO class and the ECQC concentrates on firearms. So if you take both classes, at some point you will be able to see the similarities and how everything overlaps in the way of fundamental mechanics per say, yet learn the differences in the use of varying weapon platforms.

Let me take a moment before going further to say that the UpTex Training facility was absolutely a phenomenal environment for this class. It is obvious that the owner Russ Kellar is serious about making a first class private training facility.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Craig D

Craig started off day one of class dissecting the “criminal assault paradigm”. The professional violent criminal does not care about boosting his ego state or showing off, he cares about getting paid! (Usually due to some type of habitual habit.) Craig educated us on the four key components that are consistent with a violent criminal: the element of surprise, deception in order to close distance if surprise cannot be initiated, the use of a weapon, and the presence of another criminal. From there we discussed managing unknown contacts and some of the prominent “pre-assault cues” that are typically observed by an individual with bad intentions.

It makes a checklist of sorts; the incorporation of angle use to maintain distance and going through verbal “pre-recorded” demands all combine, hopefully allowing us the option of escape or avoiding the confrontation getting physical. The verbal jud, so to speak, was probably one of the hardest, yet can be the most effective skill if one can master it. The “what” and “how” of the presentation of words can either escalate or de-escalate a situation, so beware of what leaves the old mouth. If you are left with no other option other than physical, then you better be prepared for things to get very ugly, very quickly.

Craig repeatedly reminded us of the two main goals once things get physical in a violent event, that is; “Stay conscious” and “Stay on your feet”. If you lose in either of those two categories, then your chances of winning or even your survival go down dramatically. A simple defensive technique to assist us in staying conscience when being sucker punched was our first hands on drill. There was not any magical one-arm blocks, counters, or complicated foot movements. It is just using your body's natural reaction effectively when something like a fist comes flying at your head at warp speed.

Next a lot of time was spent on pummeling, vertical grappling, and fundamental dominance while on our feet. Roman Greco is the foundation from which one's fundamental base is built. Craig made a really good point when saying that, historically, man has been fighting since the beginning of time. The weapons have changed but the foundation in which those weapons are used have not. The old motto of last one standing usually has some significance when it comes to street violence/fighting. Thus we learned basic skills to keep us on our feet by repeating them with various simplistic methods. Controlling your opponent is going to be critical in the aspect of limiting the amount of physical injury inflicted upon you by your assailant (or should I say assailants in most cases).

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Grappling FundamentalsNow when it comes to street violence, there are no rules. This is where the third and fourth part of the criminal assault paradigm comes into play; weapons and additional assailants.  Craig brings in applicable and effective form of Jiu Jitsu to manage the weapons issue. Unlike your standard Brazilian Jiu Jitsu where a lock, choke, or submission is the goal, in street violence we have to account for a weapon such as a knife, broken bottle, gun etc. So having control over both hands is imperative.

He taught four very basic but essential fundamentals to maintaining control of your opponents arms and hands. They were the under hook, over hook, bicep tie, and wrist tie. As we learned the various methods and techniques, Craig set the training level at five levels of pressure: technical, consensual, non-consensual, competitive, and non-competitive.  The levels should be pretty self-explanatory. Sometimes those levels would be singular or a combination of the two. It was a great method to properly learn the technique and then up the pressure to put the technique in to context. As the pressure is increased, you find out quickly that going toe to toe is a bad idea and the importance of trying to defend and remove yourself from the situation is the ultimate goal.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Elbow TieNext Craig broke knives down into two different categories, fixed blade and folders. He proceeded to teach advantages and disadvantages of each. During our training we primarily used fixed foam trainers, though a few individuals had some training folders. The funny thing is, while many of us carry a daily folder thinking we can employ it as a defensive weapon at need, the reality is that stress, pressure, hand to hand engagement while trying to stay on your feet will likely prevent you from deploying it. Given enough time you might be successful getting your knife out your pocket and the blade extended, but during our training it was extremely rare that anyone was actually successful doing so. Exposing that false sense of security was eye opening. It definitely made me change my thinking regarding what to carry and how when it comes to a self defense knife. I’m not saying that with enough practice one could not become proficient, but the multiple evolutions solidified the practicality of keeping things simple under stress. A fixed blade definitely made things easier.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Knives.jpgFrom there, Craig broke down the basic mechanics of how to properly hold a knife and basic techniques. These were referred to as “point driven” methods. Craig’s term, “monkey with a screwdriver” essentially sums up what really happens when one has to use a knife to defend one's self in a violent event. All the pretty, fluid, choreographed dojo techniques go out the window when you have one or more individuals beating the snot out of you. Add in the physical and psychological process the body will involuntarily induce and it becomes clear simplicity is what will hopefully get you alive.

We ended the day with a little force on force drill that had one opponent with headgear and boxing gloves and the other with simply a training knife. From there, it was time to get it on and put what you learned to full use. This is where you get to experience that adrenaline dump, elevated heart and breathing rate, tunnel vision, exhaustion, confusion, and the importance of using simple techniques. It becomes obvious why keeping things simple works, if you apply what was taught throughout the day.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - one one one

Day 2 started off with a review and a thorough warming up of stiff bodies from the previous day of drilling and evolutions. Everyone worked hard and gave it their all the previous day and it showed. The second day was not going to be any less demanding. After a good hour of review, we moved into proper methods of drawing a knife, additional grips, disengagement, escapes, and attacks. What I loved was the fact that Craig broke the grips down into two simple grips, forward and reverse (thumb or pinkie) and each grip had only three different attack techniques.

The forward grip employed a tip/point, forward edge, and reverse edge in its application. The method in which to thrust or apply such method is basically a quick, powerful thrusting motion. The exact same three methods carried over to or the reverse grip as well. So in all, you have two simple grips and three methods in which to be effectively use said grips. Remember, it’s more than likely going to look like that “monkey thrusting a screwdriver” when we are engaged. One key point that Craig reminded us of is that when we are engaging, we want to move in and out quickly and not stand toe to toe exchanging blows with our adversary. The only place that tactic will take you is with more wounds or physical damage to yourself. Be quick, be powerful, maximize your effective range and get the point across to our assailant/assailants to “stay away or stay off of me”. Dissecting and putting it all together took the remainder of the day until our final evolution.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Backhand stabWe capped off the day with a two versus one evolution, which allowed us to test and evaluate where we stood in our skillsets after two days of training. Each group of three would rotate so everyone would have their chance at being a “bad” guy twice and the “good” guy defending himself once. Now I am not going to give away the evolution, as I believe that not knowing what is about to take place adds to the stress of how we perform. In real life, we do not choose when that life changing event takes place, it chooses you. I will tell you this; the final evolutions is as real as it gets mentally and physically and is meant to push you well above your comfort level. When the evolutions are complete, you will have an honest assessment of where you stand skill wise and mentally have a greater appreciation of just how complicated fighting for your life can be. Along with that will be the increased confidence that is gained knowing that if one simply applies the fundamentals that are taught in the class, your chances of coming out a winner are greatly increased. The two days of learning truly are empowering. There is nothing “Hollywood” about fighting violence with violence. It is raw, dirty, and when you throw in the fact that you are potentially thrusting and cutting another human being with your own hands, it brings a whole different perspective on how primitive fighting for your life can be.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - Two on one

We concluded with a personal review of the class and listened to the feedback on how each individual evaluated their performance over the last two days. Craig’s passion for teaching is self evident in how he encourages and entices students to push through their mental boundaries in order to achieve success. The skills are simplistic and when done correctly are effective and successful in keeping you in the fight until the aggressor gives up or you can escape. The course as a whole made me change my outlook on how and what I carry as a back up defensive weapon on a daily basis. I feel more confident now that I have simplistic, effective options and I better understand the reality involved.

There is a saying in the training world that goes, You don't know what you don't know. It is classes like these that bring home the reality that the learning process never stops.

Shivworks AAR - Vernon - End of DayFor more information, reach out to Craig Douglas of Shivworks,; training was conducted at UpTex Shooting Range, POC Russ Kellar, or

About the author: Lee Vernon is the founder and CEO of Combative Weapon Solutions based out of Austin, TX. Combative Weapon Solutions diverse and highly trained core of instructors are seasoned and active law enforcement officers, firefighter/EMS, and military personnel that have well over 50 years of combined, real life street experience dealing with the realities of violence. Lee can be reached at [email protected] Visit the CWS YouTube Channel.

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