…I left sore and tired. I left with a thumb that ached from being bent precariously in the wrong direction, and two elbows that were treated to the same. I left with bruises to my ears, both of my forearms, and to my thighs. I was hit in the face and reminded of what taking a shot to the temple was like; but what I left with that truly sticks with me 4 days later though is a greater awareness and appreciation for the sheer violence an armed encounter with someone who is intent on severely hurting you can entail.

Retention work while armed is not something new to us. We stress training this way for anyone who carries a firearm for a living, or for their own protection, and have since we started. The statistics will tell you that the distance of violent encounters often occurs within arm’s reach, or very nearly to it. One question we ask all our students is the time they believe they would last in a no-holds barred, hands on fight to severe injury or death. The puzzled looks we get are quickly replaced with a sobering thought of the small amount of time they realistically would last before suffering a seriously bad day. Facts are that very often, the gun that you carry concealed may simply not be readily accessible when the shit hits the fan. Being able to effectively and violently repel an attack unarmed remains a paramount skill to hone and train frequently on.

We as trainers must practice what we preach and must have the prerequisite experience actually DOING the skills we teach. Context is king in our business. So, with 4 hours to spare in between shifts last Friday night, I, and two other close associates, traveled to GriffonRawl Combat Sports and Fitness in Mentor, Ohio to attend the CCW Gun Retention Seminar taught by Jay Wadsworth of Progressive Force Concepts. GriffonRawl is a sanctuary of the holy fight game, teaching and mentoring fighters from various combat sport backgrounds; from BJJ to boxing, and to Muy Thai. Jay is a veteran combatives and Defensive Tactics Instructor with PFC, as well as a veteran Law Enforcement/SWAT Officer with the City of Jamestown, New York Police Department. The opportunity to train in this environment, with this level of instruction, was something I simply could not miss.

After some discussion of fight dynamics and the realities of violent encounters, we jumped right into the importance of proper movement out of the line of attack, as well as creating space in order to be able to draw effectively. This was a short period of instruction for the subject, but that did not take away from the quick progression of topic and skill development. Draw stroke, clearing of garments, dynamic movement….all leading into retention skills with your firearm. Students are encouraged to increase the level of resistance with each repetition with their partner, replicating the real speed at which many of these encounters can take place. While skills like this are not new to us being trained on, the techniques that Jay employed were simple and very effective.  His expertise at teaching these tactics was evident from start to finish.

We moved into the meat of the seminar, which was defense against edged weapons, and fighting to divert an attack. Getting space, retaining and getting to your firearm was the ultimate goal, and if I can leave you with one lesson, it’s that the notion of “Eh, I’m not worried about that….I’ll just shoot them before they can…” is a notion that will very quickly get you killed if you believe your firearm some sort of magic talisman against being repeatedly stabbed or slashed. That is nothing to take away from the notion that you are not already being beaten into unconsciousness with fists or blunt objects as well before you are even remotely able to access your firearm. It was almost universally failed by all students involved. If they had been real attacks, the outcome would have been catastrophic before the gun was even a factor.

If I may have a moment of honesty….this class brought home some very personally sobering reminders. Firstly, this is something that personally I need to be training in more often in. Skills are perishable, as am I if I do not keep up my level of unarmed tactics. Secondly, I was able to answer my own endurance question that we pose so often to our students, and I have let my work schedule get in the way of being optimally fit to handle something like this for extended periods; something I will be rectifying. OUR students deserve no less than us being the example of the proficiency level we expect them to attain. Yet, this is exactly why we train….to reinforce what we know and to force us to push past our preconceived limitations.

In the end, we all were sweaty and breathing fast, but smiling. I know I was, and am still, energized to get my ass kicked some more, and to push myself to be the sharpest end of the stick that I can be. Learning comes best with being uncomfortable and in pain in the world of personal protection. This cannot be said enough….if you carry a firearm, or and edged weapon for self-defense, if you are not incorporating realistic and frequent defensive tactics into your training regimen, you are completely setting yourself up for failure when nothing less that your life can be at stake.

Many, many thanks to Jason Dent from GriffonRawl for hosting this seminar, and to Jay Wadsworth for bringing this nugget of goodness to NE Ohio. The lessons learned here are invaluable, and I for one hope to see Jay back for a longer session of training in the very near future. Follow the hyperlinks for more info on GriffonRawl and Progressive Force Concepts. Train folks….your life depends on it.