Class review, Modern Combative Systems SAS/IET

Modern Combative Systems
Spontaneous Attack Survival and Inverted Edge Tactics
November 7-8, 2009

A few months ago I joined George for a abbreviated, one-day version of his SAS/IET course. It was the first tactics class of any kind that I had taken and was a real eye opener. Like many men, I had carried a folding knife since I was a teen, but even with all the martial arts experience I gained, I never considered the folder as a primary defensive weapon.

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While the one-day SAS/IET class gave me a basic skill set for open hand and edge weapon defenses, the full two day course unleashed the full potential for not only the primary defensive folding knife, but the use of improvised self-defense weapons such as pens, kubutons and other striking implements.

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Saturday morning started out with a brief lecture on the use of force and combative fundamentals. I must point out that these two subjects are the basis of every MCS class I’ve taken so far. While it’s important to know how to defend yourself, it’s equally or even more important to understand why and when you should do so. Not all situations call for lethal force and George stresses situational awareness and avoidance.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve read a post on a gun board that said something like “I’d just shoot them,” but that attitude is so far from reality it’s unfathomable. Not only is that kind of attitude immoral, but could lead to the loss of a person’s right to defend themselves at the very least and, quite possibly, a very lengthy jail sentence. A perfect example is a story told by one of our fellow classmates, who has been to several MCS classes. He described a recent situation where he was approached on the street by someone who could be taken as a possible threat. Our classmate issued a verbal command for the subject to continue on his way and when he didn’t, our classmate used a “panic push” technique to create space between himself and the threat. No shots were fired, no one died, no one was really injured, but the quick action by our classmate inspired the subject to leave his criminal ideas behind and accelerate out of the area. After telling the subject to leave him alone, our classmate could very well argued the point that the subject, by continuing to approach him, posed a reasonable threat and he (the good guy) felt at jeopardy. But the subject didn’t actually threaten our classmate so lethal force wasn’t an option. After using the panic push, had the subject continued as a threat, our classmate would very well have been in a situation where escalated force would have been necessary.

While all the hands-on training is fun and practical, the information shared by George on the “why’s and when’s” is worth the cost of the class itself.

It’s obvious, while listening to George’s lectures on the use of force and combative fundamentals, that the MCS isn’t some off-the-cuff idea. George has done an incredible amount of research and points out facts that should be obvious, but when overlooked, could mean the difference in surviving a violent attack. The idea that 93% of people are right handed and that a right handed person usually steps back with their right foot during a preparatory movement (as in to draw a weapon) is a key to realizing an attack is forthcoming and gives the defender the chance to react before the attack actually happens. Lots of instructors teach their way of drawing the gun, striking with hands and feet or making a cut with a blade, but George is the first instructor that ever taught me how to recognize an impending violent situation. This includes the several martial arts instructors I’ve had over the years. They all teach what to do when attacked, but at that point, the defender is behind the eight-ball so to speak.

Saturday afternoon found our group going hands-on, learning how to avoid being punched or stabbed and open hand responses to such threats. One thing that George continually stresses is the idea that spontaneous attack survival is really just a bridge or a transition depending on the situation. If you’re in a bar and a drunk takes a swing at you, SAS is a bridge that allow the defender space to retreat or diffuse the situation. If the defender is being mugged at knife-point in a parking lot, SAS is a transition from an open-hand defense to an edged weapon or firearm. It doesn’t matter how fast a person can get their firearm clear of leather and put rounds on a target, at arms-length distances a perp with a knife is going to cut you before you can draw and fire. Being able to advert such an attack is much more important than what firearm you are carrying, what score you shoot during an IPSC match or how much money you spent on a custom knife.

Sunday’s class started out with a brief history of how the MCS inverted edge technique came into existence. George doesn’t lay claim to inventing the technique but he has certainly perfected it and, more importantly, inverted edge knife tactics are the perfect complement to spontaneous attack survival. The most important thing to know about the MCS system is that no matter what the weapon, open hand, a striking implement, edged weapon or firearm, the same basic techniques are used. When the preverbal KaKa hits the fan a human fails back on the basic fight or flight stimulus. One thing that happens in fright is that our hands move from our waist to our chest, into almost a fetal position, and that movement is the building block of everything George teaches. Unlike other schools and instructors that teach a unique technique for every form of attack, the same basic movement is used in all of the MCS tactics so that the defender can easily bridge or transition depending on the severity of the circumstances.

Since it was such a nice day, George moved the class outside and we paired up and began running through different scenarios. We started defending against the attack with open hand, then moved on to deploying the folding knife. Since I spend a lot of time in schools and other “weapon free” victim zones because of my job, I have taken to carrying a Surefire flashlight and a stainless steel pen everywhere I go. After working with the folder for a time, I switched to using a plain old Zebra 701 pen as my primary defensive tool. Gripping the pen, or flashlight, in the same hammer-fist grip we used to employ a knife in IET, I was able to use the pen or flashlight as a very practical striking implement. Others in the class also experimented using some of the new “non-weapon” items available on the market. I quickly realized that almost any object, from a pencil to hairbrush could be used as a defensive tool using the exact same techniques that George taught us with the inverted knife.

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The day culminated with a “knife into the fight” drill where the defender has to avoid or mitigate an attack, deploy his folding knife, and make at least one show-ending cut. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as the drill starts with a 30 second long cardio workout with the attacker starting to pummel the defender during the last 10 seconds. George decided to be the attacker during this class and needless to say, the MCS alumni were getting some strong shots to the head before we could deploy and defend. I lost control of my folder during George’s onslaught and had to quickly revert to SAS techniques after George kicked my training knife across the floor. I took a couple good hits to the head but was able to quickly get outside his attack and direct his body in the direction of the edge of an open door. Had this been a real defensive situation, I could possibly have been seriously hurt, but the idea of panic pushing the attacker into the edge of an extremely hard, non-movable object brings a smile to my face.

Overall, I cannot stress enough how easy and practical the Modern Combative System is. The techniques don’t rely on strength or size, a child could just as easily use SAS techniques as a Delta Force trained operator and I am starting to teach all three of my children the basic open-hand defensive techniques. The world is not getting any safer and I strongly recommend everyone to take the MCS Spontaneous Attack Survival class at the very least.

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