Road to ECQC: The Week Before D-Day

My videos, posts, and reviews of the Shivworks Extreme Close Quarters Concepts course by Craig Douglas are some of my most popular content. Unfortunately for me, the video where I get shot in the groin 7 times is the most popular and most shared. 😉

Since I took my first ECQC in 2015, my friends, training partners, instructors, and readers have stepped up to take it as well.

People have written to me or asked, “what should I do to prepare for ECQC?”

Usually this is the week before, or maybe two weeks ahead of time.

To be honest, it’s too late to do almost anything that will help your performance in class, but here are some things that might make your class more valuable, and less stressful.

Class Structure

It is important to understand what’s going to happen on each day, and plan accordingly. There is NO tool-based work on day one.

There is live fire on the beginning parts of day 2, and day 3.

Day 2 features the most drill work, and a 1-on-1 evolution at the end where one student is grounded, and the other starts standing. Partners will switch afterwards.

Day 3 features the more complex evolutions (2-on-1 with MUC, car fight if available). However, these take a long time to set up and do, so I found day 3 to have the most intense moments, but the least strenuous overall.

To maximize your comfort and reduce your anxiety, I recommend not wearing any training gear on day 1. You won’t be doing any tool-based techniques, and after all the sweat and the Greco-Roman style grappling, the weight of a training pistol, knife(s), med gear, etc all starts to add up. Also, once you start sweating that gear can rub on you. You are going to get a lot of “hot spots” and sore spots as you go through ECQC; don’t add extra ones if you can avoid it.

Food and water

No matter what time of the year it is, BRING AND DRINK A LOT OF FLUIDS. We had triple digit heat all 3 days of my first class, and “only” low 90s my second go-round.

I drank nearly three gallons of water on day 2 in 2015, and I still was concerned I wasn’t pissing enough. My urine was still dark later that night.

Bring salty snacks, preferably ones that don’t require you to use your hands to eat and can be eaten quickly. Bananas, or supplements with potassium and magnesium will help you recover, and retain the boatload of fluids you should be drinking.

I recommend eating a “usual” breakfast, a big lunch, and a light dinner for day 1. Day 1 has some managing unknown contacts material and some introductory grappling drills. You won’t have time to eat, and Day 1 typically starts when most people have dinner, and ends after when most people eat. For example, our next ECQC is 6-10PM.

I recommend eating a big breakfast, light lunch, and huge dinner on days 2 and 3. The shooting portions are in the morning, which will allow your breakfast to digest in time to freak out inside of a FIST helmet. If you eat a light breakfast and a huge lunch, you may vomit. Eat a lot a dinner to get you prepped for the next day. I like eating saltier meals to help with water retention / dehydration issues.

What to wear

I recommend a long sleeved baselayer. Your arms are going to get a ton of bruises, abrasions, and damage from grappling and the sim rounds. I only wore short sleeves in 2015, and had over two dozen ingrown hairs on each arm. Long sleeves that are relatively tight to your body will help a lot.

Wear a comfortable, but realistic shirt over your base layer. Don’t cheapen your experience by wearing competition race gear or a BJJ-style rash guard with open carry unless that’s what you do 24/7. Wearing a compression shirt helps keep you in good shape to continue training, and wearing a t-shirt over your tools keeps you honest.

If you’re a dude, bring a cup. Don’t wear it on day 1. Wear it after the shooting portion of days 2 and 3 (Craig is pretty good about indicating when you need to armor up). Due to my AIWB I find it difficult to sit down with a holstered weapon and my cup. so I don’t wear it during the shooting portions.

Bring a cap / bandanna for at least day 1. You’ll be doing the “billy goat drill,” and expect to get an abrasion on your forehead. You will probably develop one by the end of ECQC due to all of the head fighting. If you can minimize / avoid getting one on day 1, it will make your other two days much more enjoyable. And less bloody.

The She-Shepherd also highly recommends putting Monostat anti-chafing gel on your forehead repeatedly throughout class. I will be using it this year as well.

Wear pants. Don’t wear shorts. I know one of my friends is going to read this and wear shorts anyway, but a key to a successful ECQC is minimize the damage you can control. Doing so will allow you to absorb the real experience as much as possible. If you get your shin split by a burst of sim rounds on day 2, you are going to pay less attention on day 3.

I don’t recommend boots. You will be on your feet for about 20 hours, doing hard work, moving around, stepping on people, and getting stepped on. Comfortable shoes with good traction are very important.


If you are sensitive to germs, ECQC may not be for you. You are going to have at least the sweat of 17ish other students on your body,  your face, in your mouth, etc. You’ll also wear the immune system test known as Craig’s FIST Helmets™.

I recommend bringing (and using) deodorant, toothpaste, and gum/mints throughout class.

A handtowel is nice to have to dry your pits off. A larger towel is good to sit on the way home, if you don’t change clothes at the facility.

If you are prone to sweating a lot, and/or if you’re bigger, you may want to bring some powder for your groin and butt.

Other Gear

Bring a backup gun. ESPECIALLY if you don’t shoot a Glock or an M&P, as those pistols make up the majority of the class. If you shoot a Sig, a Walther, XD, etc you’re going to want to bring a backup and appropriate holster / mag carriers.

Ask your event sponsor if you need to bring your own chair.

Bring extra sunscreen, hand wipes, bug spray, and common boo-boo kit type items. People will forget, or not bring enough, etc.

If you are traveling

You are going to want to minimize what you do aside from:

  • go to class
  • get cleaned up from class
  • eat
  • sleep

Stay as close as possible to the training spot. If this is your first ECQC, you will be exhausted emotionally and physically. Last year we didn’t get location information until rather late, and we had to rent a hotel room over an hour away. Two hours behind the wheel each day wore on me, and frankly was a little dangerous for my passengers and other motorists. I was tired.

Stay where there is climate control. A fellow student in 2015 decided to camp out after day 1. It was over 105F with heat index during the day, with little breeze. The student said it was extremely hot at night, couldn’t sleep, and wound up driving home after day 2.

Unless you stay at a place with laundry facilities, bring at least four pairs of pants. You’ll want a fresh pair for each day (they won’t dry out overnight from the sweat), and if you train outside they will get pretty jacked from the dirt. You’ll also want a pair of traveling pants, so that brings your total to four.

After day 2. My pants were stiff from the dried sweat the next morning.

The round count is pretty “low,” so don’t worry about bringing or shipping a ton of ammunition. Unfortunately I don’t have a round count. I am pretty sure I fired less 400 rounds — and I shoot a four round burst unless otherwise directed by my instructors. If you’re a three-rounder or double tapper you may get by with less.

Pre-class visualization, study, and mindset

As my friend and personal safety coach Erik Pakieser states during his live fire safety briefing: “the person most likely to shoot you is YOU.”

Similarly, the person most likely to defeat you at ECQC is YOU.

This will happen in one of two ways — or in my case, both. 😉

Holding of breath

It is common for us to hold our breath while under duress. This isn’t too bad if you are in a 15 second force on force scenario, but that’s disaster in a 3 minute drilling session. Drills are typically 3 minutes on, 1 minute of rest, then switch partners.

You must remember to breathe, and to do so at all times. The physical exertion is tiring enough; you need to do your best to keep air coming in and going out of your body.


Some attendees, myself included, will be prior victims of violent assault. Being grounded, beaten on, verbally assaulted / bullied, etc may all trigger an emotional experience we may or may not be prepared for.

The FIST helmet protects you, but it can be stifling in many ways. Scratched up visors impair your vision, it’s more difficult to breathe inside of them, and some people get panicky inside of them.

The first time I was on the bottom at ECQC I freaked out and almost hyperventilated. The physical struggle was breathtaking, for sure, but I was taxing myself more by flailing instead of intelligently responding to the situation. Your continued exposure to things like ECQC or other opposed training will help with this, but until you earn that experience try to remember you’re training, and the people are there to help you.

Due to any of these factors, you might want to quit, either during an evo or sometime during the course. Don’t. Take a breath, gather your wits, and keep going. I almost threw up in my helmet last year, but I took a second and was able to finish the evolution.

Don’t let a moment of panic overwhelm you and rob you of your experience.

Do your homework

If you haven’t already, please read our posts about ECQC, and watch my YouTube videos about it. There are a TON of other reviews and videos of evolutions on the Web. This will help you understand what’s expected of you, and where you might have perceived strengths and weaknesses.

Get your mind right

Try to visualize the encounters, how you will deal with them, and what your path to victory looks like. Don’t worry about the negative outcomes as much — visualize how you might win. This is a technique used by many professional athletes and other successful people.

“Winning” doesn’t have to mean besting your training partner(s). It might be improving in a prior / known deficiency, or doing a technique properly, whatever.

If you know you lack ground skills, you might consider it a “win” if you end your grounded evo on top or standing, even if you took fatal damage during the encounter. We all have to start somewhere.

If you’re the nervous type like me, staying calm may be a victory unto itself.

You aren’t going to be able to acquire a ton of proficiency before class (especially if you’re reading this an actual week before your first time!), but you can identify and strive towards the small, personal victories that will increase the value of your experience.

Be open, and kind

I have made a lot of friends thanks to personal safety training, but ECQC helps people bond more than any other class I’ve ever taken.

Go into class with a willingness to help the other attendees, be open to taking advice from total strangers, and be kind to each other. When you’re in your evos, give it all you can without hurting your partner(s) — even if that means you wind up losing later in the encounter.

Do your best to leave your ego in your car at the start of each day. Some of what you learned before will prove useful, some not. Realize that others will have the same experience, and sometimes that can really rock them.

Support each other. I made several friends thanks to ECQC. If some shit really goes down, I hope that every ounce of opposition I gave them in class helped them become more likely to prevail.

When looked through this perspective, loss is easier to take. Your defeat may help a training partner in real life someday.

If my ego has to get bruised to help someone, so be it.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. You may not do as well as you expected, and that’s okay, too. You’re already tougher than most gun owners for completing the course, even if you got annihilated on every drill and every evo. You were honest about the problem, and did the work.

And that’s worthy of respect.


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.

4 Comments on "Road to ECQC: The Week Before D-Day"

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  1. Man, this is a really thoughtful and informative article. Wish I’d had it before I did ECQC. It’s a real service to the community. Good on you, brother.

  2. John says:

    Fantastic post, sir. I don’t have an ECQC on my calendar yet, but I will be referring back to this post when the time comes. Thanks for taking the time to put this all down for the rest of us!

  3. Bill says:

    Thank you – very much appreciate the info! Extremely useful to know as I’ll be attending in October for the first time.

  4. CR Williams says:

    I’ve been taken down by both dehydration and hyponeutremia, a condition caused by fluid intake that washes electrolytes out of the body. The following recommendations are based on that experience:

    There are a number of electrolyte supplements available. Forms range from capsules to tablets you dissolve in water to gels. The gels specifically often add some carbohydrates that might be useful during prolonged activity and some of them also contain caffeine. These kinds of supplements are very useful because they can be taken quickly (faster than you can drop a quart of Gatorade) and can provide more of what is needed than electrolyte drinks. They don’t fill you up, either.

    Whatever you use, set yourself a schedule and take it periodically whether you feel like you need it or not. You want to maintain the levels. It won’t necessarily put you in a ER to run some out, but performance will degrade before you fall out completely. Maintaining an intake will help you get the most out of the class.

    You want sodium and potassium and magnesium in the supplement or drink. All are important for function and performance.

    You don’t have to necessarily reduce or avoid caffeine (a diuretic) and may need it to keep your focus as you work. Just keep drinking the other fluids and keep electrolyte intake going to compensate.

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