AAR: Basic Combatives with Kelly McCann

You probably know the name, maybe you have seen the DVDs, or clips of his instruction on Youtube.  Kelly McCann is certainly synonymous with modern combatives.  I will admit that I have always wanted to train with him.  McCann is a noted combatives teacher, as well as a firearms instructor who proved a true innovator with contact distance shooting techniques.  He also teaches impact weapons, edged weapons, and most things to do with fighting.  I have always been especially interested in training with him in hand-to-hand skills and I finally had the opportunity to do so this past weekend. 

McCann offered a two-day Basic Combatives course at his sports gym location in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and I signed up for it and attended.  I will not bother going into detail about Kelly’s credentials, if not familiar with him, look him up.  I have never met him prior to this weekend, and while he certainly comes off as a consummate professional in his videos, he is a fantastic guy in person; professional, very humorous, and truly welcoming to his students.  He has a bar in his gym and after putting in hard work all day he tends the bar, serving you your request, while answering any of your pressing combatives or firearms related questions.  How can you beat that?

Having always wanted to experience his teaching and curriculum for myself, the Basic Combatives course seemed like the right place to start.  I am not an experienced fighter and I make no claim to be.  I have not thrown down in any serious capacity since high school, so I have not been punched in the face in over twenty years.  I have done a lot of firearms training and some limited hand to hand work that have been grappling oriented affairs, so getting punched in the face has not been part of the curriculum.  Combatives, as taught by McCann, is a physical affair that involves a lot of striking. 

This is intense training.  However, it is controlled with McCann and his assistant instructors keeping a close eye.  Nobody dies.  You will catch a few bruises, though, but that is mandatory for the learning experience.  As Kelly explains it, you must pressure test it or it is nothing more than an amorphous theory.    The fun outweighs the punishment, though, and I think putting yourself through the experience is exceedingly valuable for a better understanding of violence. 

So, what do you learn?  The first-day morning briefing is worth the price of admission alone as Kelly explains the principles of his system, and he also talks extensively about the use of violence, within context, and within the law.  This is out of the norm for “Tier 1” guys who teach any kind of fighting classes to civilians.  Often, such instructors offer the skillset but do not put it in any sort of context.  Kelly addresses important legal aspects of self defense law that must govern your behavior in applying violence; unless you want to spend the rest of your days in prison.  Proportionality of response is discussed.  This demonstrates a responsibility towards the well-being of students that few instructors show. 

In the mind of many people my age who grew up watching his videos, McCann is synonymous with fighting.  However, as an instructor, he emphasizes the physical and legal hazards of entering into conflict and he urges avoidance whenever possible.  This demonstrates that he is entirely in tune with the realities that govern his civilian students, a quality that is completely lost on many such instructors. 

What did we actually learn?  Obviously, you need to experience it to understand.  My summary would be: no-nonsense, gross motor skill, maximum-effectiveness through explosive violence.  A good initial overview of combative movement was taught as the base to build upon.  The need to move efficiently became more and more apparent as we spent time sparing against partners.  A lot of work was done on striking, and then implementing those strikes into the possible sequences of an encounter.  Skills were demoed, often by Kelly or one of the assistant instructors, then the skills were practiced with partners as the instructors walked around and made corrections.  The afternoon of day two was spend entirely on ground fighting and this provided a useful block of knowledge as it began with techniques to avoid being taken to the ground, and how to fight from the ground if you find yourself there.

So, I will not go into more detail as such can’t be done well anyway in written format; you need to take such a class to get the experience.  It is this experience, though, that I wish more in the concealed carry community would embrace.  I would submit that three considerable benefits are obtained through taking vigorous combatives training like this:    

First, and obviously, a basics combatives class like this one teaches you the core elements of movement, striking, and attacking a human being to defend yourself with bare hands. 

Second, if you are like most citizens, myself included, you live a lifestyle and work a profession that does not put you in violent encounters very often, if ever.  Such a class can place you in an environment where you can experience the strength and aggression that gets as close as possible to human violence without the overt danger in doing so. 

Third, and perhaps most important, only a demanding and intense training experience like this, that pressure tests the application of the skill, can teach you about yourself.  While you leave the class with some new and excellent skills to work on, you also leave with a better appreciation of how unpredictable and dangerous interpersonal violence is.  If you have a brain, this class will emphasize the importance of avoidance as you will realize that you don’t want this out on the street.  Such training makes you safer not only by imparting skill, but by offering a better understanding of what such confrontation looks like.  If it is messy in a gym while under the eye of top instructors, how messy would it be in an ally, pressed against a dumpster, by some crackhead?  This is an exceedingly important takeaway from the training.  

For anyone who does not actively train in combatives, and most of us don’t, this class is a good exposure to something that you will be uncomfortable with.  This is the reason that most will never do such training, but it the reason that I urge you to do it.  The concealed carry community is entirely gun focused, but only a small fraction of violent encounters every year are those that justify the deployment of a firearm.  Most assaults are simple assaults where a weapon is not used and there is not enough disparity of force to justify a lethal response.  You should have some hand skills, you are more likely to need it than you are to need your gun.  Seek out hand to hand defensive training, and there is none better than what McCann offers.

I will say that, after meeting him, Kelly lives up to his reputation as an instructor, but he also leaves a new legacy in the mind of his students as an instructor who wants you to be more dangerous, and, above all, safer.  His investment in the personal security of those that he teaches is immediately apparent.  His staff is also excellent, and his assistant instructors demo many of the techniques and they constantly work with the participants to offer personal coaching and instruction during the whole process.  A more dedicated group of practitioners and teachers you will not find.

If you are serious about your own personal protection, get to Fredricksburg, Virginia, and train with Kelly McCann.  You will not regret it, and it will make you better.

The best way to see what McCann is offering, including his open enrollment classes, is by going to his business site: WWW.KEMBATIVZ.COM

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