Life After Shivworks

| September 23, 2015 | 6 Comments

About two months ago  I attended the three day, 20-hour Shivworks Extreme Close Quarters Combat course taught by Craig “Southnarc” Douglas.

Almost immediately after the first day’s lecture we did the “billy goat drill.” Two students put their hands at their sides, squared their hips, and touched their foreheads together.

Then they pushed as hard as they could.

There are many benefits to this drill:

  • It got students acquainted with the “competitive, non-consensual” aspect of the class.
  • It illustrated any poor posture, such as off-set hips, poor spine-to-skull alignment, and body height (level). I was deficient in all three of these areas.
  • After several rounds of the drill, it was obvious who was in shape and who was not. It was hot, humid, and tensions were high. The stress of the drill and the environment took its toll on people rapidly.

At the end of the day my forehead was buzzing. I looked at the other students, and several had rubbed their skin raw from the billy goat drill and other headfighting. When I got home I looked in the mirror, and blood was blossoming through my pores.

Two months later I can still see the abrasion on my forehead. But that wasn’t the only permanent effect Craig Douglas and his class had on me.



“No matter how much you have,” someone said at class, “you always want more cardio.”

I am used to doing timed, explosive exercises. We work out with kettlebells and do body weight movements at the house. Each movement last for two minutes, and then we rest for a minute. I consider my cardio to be average or slightly below average, but my recovery time is above average.

Craig’s drills are usually run in sets of three. Each set is about a minute or two minutes, with a 30 second rest at most. The only thing going for me physically was that this matched my usual workout tempo.

I became winded during drills, but recovered faster than most in class. The end of each drill was very difficult for me, especially if my opponent was technically skilled. Less skill usually means more effort, and I was pooped by the end. However, I was ready to go by the next drill.

Since the class, I push myself more. I’ve attempted to go to the point where my lungs feel cold and/or I’m nervous about vomiting. I’ve been there before, but since the class I try to get here more frequently.

I bought a heavy bag and have been working on my striking at 70 – 80% effort. I do four rounds of two minutes. The ECQC doesn’t really emphasize striking, but I use this opportunity to work my cardio, keeping my hips square, and moving. Whenever the bag swings too far I assume the “DEFAULT” position to defend myself.

Grip strength

It was very clear during wrist tie exercises that my grip strength was substandard. I type on a keyboard for 12 – 16 hours a day. My hands are better at clamping sandwiches than an opponent.

I have attempted to increase my grip strength by doing the following:

  • Increased kettlebell weight across the board. I use a 22kg (50 pound) kettlebell for every swing movement I do except for snatches.
  • We are now doing about three times as many deadlifts as before.
  • I sneak in ways to grip stuff while at the office — for example I do Farmer Walks with 5 gallon jugs of water whenever the water dispenser needs filling.
  • Whenever I clasp my hands I do so in a Gable grip or a reverse Gable grip. Before the ECQC class I grabbed my wrists, and this is not ideal. Gable grip is best, so I am re-training myself to put my hands this way.

Leg strength

My legs held up the best. I am continuing to do swings, squats, snatches, burpees, getups and lunges. I’ve increased the frequency of deadlifts.

I noticed that the exertion in class was a slow, steady push followed by a quick explosive movement in order to gain a position or posture advantage. I’ve tried to emulate this with box jumps, “jellybeans,” jumping at the top of any burpee movement, etc. This also helps my cardio.

Arm strength

I definitely sucked here. I’ve never had a powerful chest or arms. Strength develops more easily to my legs and back.

Since the class we’re doing pushups in addition to our normal workout. I do a set in the morning, and I do a set before I go to bed. I’m at 40/40 right now.

More pullups, and more combination arm movements with kettlebells. More getups, and more windmills. This also helps my grip.


Craig Douglas told us: “If you feel like you need to get to your gun RIGHT NOW it probably isn’t the right time.”

It became clear that there was a huge mental component to everything. Part of being successful in a drill was having the physical and mental stamina to take advantage of the best possible moment. Taking advantage of the best possible moment requires one to recognize it in the first place. But it also requires us to have the endurance to last long enough to perceive it, the physical strength and skill to act on it, and the mental toughness to persist when endurance and strength fail.

It was disheartening to get schooled by a man twenty pounds lighter and ten years older — with a fused spine to boot. But he had skill, experience, and strength adapted to wrestling and grappling. He weathered my reach and leverage advantages and seized his best possible moment. Repeatedly. 😉

In response, I am trying not to get frustrated or angry when I feel weak or am unable to complete a movement. Defend, be patient, and then be ready and able to act in the best possible moment.


My wife and I now try to get dominant underhook position when we hug each other and other people. This is silly, but I wanted us to get in the habit of always going for underhooks, and denying underhooks to others.

My mom came to visit a month ago. She was mortified when The She Shepherd and I went from a seemingly gentle hug to sprawling and turning each other.

We are doing grappling drills, and I’m stressing the importance of posture and head position. I know this isn’t enough to prepare for the next ECQC class but I have to do something.

We have incorporated hip escape to butterfly guard movements in our workouts. This is much harder on The She Shepherd, as I am almost twice her weight. Again, trying to do something.


In general I am conditioning myself to square my hips whenever possible. Talk to someone at work? Square hips. Move towards the punching bag during a combination? Square hips. For 26 years I’ve been blading my hips and I know it’s going to take a lot to break that habit.

I’ve adjusted my shooting stance as well. I still trail my right foot, but I am trying to keep my hips facing forward.

New skills

Starting next month The She Shepherd and I will be working with a Kali instructor. We’ll be training with empty hands as well as edged and blunt tools. In addition to learning new things, I hope this increases my cardio, and improves my stance and posture.

Doing it again

The She Shepherd and I are already signed up for an ECQC class next summer. It seems very far away and too soon all at the same time. I have a lot of things to work on before then, but I know for sure that I’ll be better prepared than I was this year.

I knew I had shortcomings going into this year’s class. I’m not going to pretend that next year will be easy. But I will be in better shape, and I will have a better mind. And my scar will serve as my front sight.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

6 Comments on "Life After Shivworks"

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  1. Jon says:

    I’m really looking forward to and nervous to take ECQC next summer as well. I really appreciate these articles. I too have a lot of work to do to get ready!

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      I am proud of you for going!! It’s a challenge, but our class had an incredible group of students that helped me feel comfortable and learn. I am sure yours will, too. Craig is a great guy.

  2. MD says:

    Very interesting. Good for you for recognizing deficiencies in your current training, and incorporating changes. However I think many people over-emphasise the importance of cardio for real life hand to hand (H2H). As a former bouncer and security guard, I’ve had several dozen street fights and other “use of force” incidents, and I don’t recall ever being out of breath, even during the longer fights. On the other hand, every single time I’ve sparred or rolled in a gym, my cardio has been taxed. In other words, training for H2H requires far more cardio than actual H2H. This point is ignored or overlooked by a lot of instructors. Especially instructors who have a background in training people for combat sports. In my experience combat sports require enormous amounts of endurance and conditioning. On the other hand, self defense fighting takes aggression, strength, and commitment. As always, your mileage may vary. Keep up the good work.

  3. CR Williams says:

    Marc ‘Crafty Dog’ Denny of Dog Brothers Martial Arts says it this way:

    Can you be eighteen again for thirty seconds?

  4. Joe Curtis says:

    SBS. Where you taking the class next summer. I been itching at the one in LAX.

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