A weekend with Modern Combative Systems

This weekend I attended two courses presented by George Matheis of Modern Combative Systems. Saturday’s course was a two-day Basic Edged Weapons course compressed into about 8 hours. The class started off with a couple of hours of discussion on basic combatives, human anatomy, and information about the preferred weapons used by criminals.     After a short break, we moved outside to start the hands-on section of the SAS course. Other than a hammer fist, Matheis stresses open hand strikes when defending against an attacker, something contrary to everything I learned in my years involved in the martial arts. His theory, and one I have now included in my personal beliefs, is that closed hand strikes, punches mainly, lead to hand injuries and if you injure you hand, you’ll be unable to deploy other means of defending yourself if the situation escalates. A injured hand quickly swells and would severely restrict a person’s ability to bring a edged weapon or firearm into play.
There are three ways to severely injure a human body. Doing structural damage, causing massive blood loss, or by interrupting the central nervous system. Matheis stresses the importance of central nervous system (CNS) in quickly ending a violent encounter but takes a multi-faceted approach in his open hand defense. Three major targets of the SAS system are the knees, the elbow and the head. Damaging the knees and elbows will limit the attacker’s locomotion, his ability to move, and his ability to continue his attack. Strikes to the neck and head injure the CNS and, using the SAS techniques, a knee or elbow strike is followed up with open hand or elbow strikes to the head or neck.
Matheis’ basic combatives techniques are the foundation for all his open hand, edged weapon or handgun defenses. Throughout the weekend’s courses, Matheis would move from open hand to a defensive folder to handgun using the same tactics. I’ve carried a folder daily since I was a teenager, but never felt truly comfortable that I could defend myself using only an edged weapon. I figured that if it came down to knife on knife, I’d just have to hack away until either myself or the attacker got a cut in that ended the fight. During the course of Saturday’s training, I spent most of my time behind the camera, shooting photos for George’s new training manuals, so I didn’t really get to practice the hands-on techniques. But the way Matheis teaches his tactics, during force-on-force training at the end of the day, I was still able to force the attacker off of me, deploy my training folder and make what would have been fatal cuts to the attackers groin, armpit and neck.
The Modern Combative System inverted edge tactics (IET) is truely an easy form of defense to teach and learn. At the beginning of the day Matheis had the trainees do force-on-force using whatever technique we knew for edged weapons fighting. Very few of the students opened their folder on the first attempt while being attacked. Most couldn’t land a fight-stopping cut, most were long slashes or stabs that never reached a target.  A few short hours later, we all quickly deployed our folder and most made at least one fatal cut within seconds of the start of the attack.
Sunday’s combative pistol course started out the same way as the edged weapons class, with a basic combatives briefing, weapon and holster selection and deployment instruction. The range session started with a two full mags to make sure each shooter had basic skills, a good master grip and trigger control. After a few adjustments, Matheis had each shooter approach within near contact distance with the target. One aspect of the MCS training that I really like is that Matheis uses a visual indicator to signal the shooter to draw his weapon. No whistles, shot-timer buzzers or verbal commands. Upon seeing an item, usually a tennis ball but because we were in a very wet area Matheis used a stick, the shooter would draw his weapon and engage the target with 3-4 rounds, while moving laterally. Two things to point out that separates the MCS technique of close quarters handgun from others. Matheis does not use the standard holster rocking technique popular with contact distance instructors. He also does not use rearward movement. He also uses a point shooting style, with the gun canted, for a right hand shooter, to the left with the wrist in a natural pointing position.
As with everything that Matheis teaches, he provides solid reasons backed up by common sense why a defender shouldn’t move to the rear while in a confrontation. Mainly, humans are not born with eyes in the back of our heads.  A step backwards onto or off a curb, into a hole or onto someone else’s foot could mean disaster for the victim. A minor fall can cause devastating injuries, imagine smacking your head on a concrete parking block, ending any defense by the victim. Moving laterally takes advantage of our wider peripheral vision and by utilizing basic footwork, not crossing your feet, a person can move to put distance between himself and his attacker or to move into a more advantageous position.
Each shooter ran through the drill a few times and then Matheis added a second “victim” to portray a family member or friend. The drill is run again, with the shooter using his reaction hand to control and move his “family” while drawing and engaging the target.
Matheis’ point shooting technique is a very natural movement and ensures center mass hits on the target. Unlike the holster rock, which puts the shooter back on his heels thus keeping him stationary, the gun is drawn and punched straight out from the body towards the target, while the shooter moves towards his reaction side. The target is engaged as the gun rises, almost guaranteeing hits in the pelvis, abdomen, chest and finally, as the attacker leans forward from the pelvis shot, the head. With this technique, the shooter is making multiple hits in high blood-loss anatomy and causing CNS disruption with head and possible spinal shots.  One thing to point out is that we fired very few rounds during this four hour course, a big plus with today’s ammunition shortages and expense. I think I expended about 40 rounds but I gained more in those 40 rounds than if I would have shot 1000 standing in front of a target, blasting away.
For me, this past weekend was an overwhelming success and a great step in the right direction with my training. I have confidence in my edged weapon defense skills and have learned new tactics to better my defensive handgun techniques. The great thing about Modern Combative System’s training is that all Matheis’ tactics are built on his basic combatives. The same basic combative skills support not only open-hand, edged weapons or firearms, but also improvised weapons such as flashlights or pens, sticks, tomahawks, and kubotons. I’m really looking forward to upcoming MCS training. I’m already planning on taking Matheis’ two day combative handgun course in a few weeks.
Thanks to George for inviting me along for the weekend and getting me started on my training. Thanks to Pete for hosting the edged weapon class and to Chaz for putting us up and hosting the handgun class. Looking forward to training with you all again.

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