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 The A.C.E program

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Number of posts : 9082
Registration date : 2007-06-27

PostSubject: The A.C.E program   Wed 11 Jul 2007, 14:59

This was a major event in our training calendar. It was a progression from the STRESS INNOCULATION PROGRAM, held last year.
We have two great reviews of the training, firstly from Nick Engelen.......

A.C.E. SEMINAR by Nick Engelen, of Belgium

The seminar was held in the Prescot Leisure centre in Prescot Merseyside on 8 May 2005. I had travelled to Liverpool the day before. I had spent the evening before eating and drinking with other attendees who were going to instruct us on the course. During the evening I had real trouble controlling my curiosity and not to ask about the program. After breakfast we all drove together to the venue, but not without getting the car of the famous Slackbladder having a breakdown. At the parking lot of the Leisure centre a bunch of fellow Combatives-practitioners were waiting, shivering in the cold, damp morning air. I saw a lot of familiar faces from previous courses and a few new ones. There were around 30 attendees and most were from England, one from Italy, one from Sweden, Wales another was from France, we even had someone from Scotland and I came from Belgium.
Inside the venue there was an air of excitement. Everybody started swapping books and kit, telling each other about experiences etc… I had a chat with the guys that weren’t in the hotel and at the scoff the night before, paid and had a chat with Den.
First Mark Gittings explained the name ‘ACE course’. ACE is short for ‘Accelerated Combative Experience’ but also the name of top-fighter pilots during the Second World War and the other wars. The Germans had lots of aces as they had many experience during the Spanish civil war. At the start of WW2 the allies were new to the game. Often the pilots were only taught to take off as many died during their first flight. Then they found out that if they were able to survive the first five missions the odds were that they would survive the war. They decided to give the pilots a chance to survive by letting them experience those first 5 missions in a safe environment by simulating those fights.
This course was about giving us the experience of those first five street fights in a safe environment.
The course was mainly hands-on so we got a light warm-up. We did lots of different exercises to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping.
Thereafter we went very quickly trough all the strikes under the excellent guidance of the young Brian. As we putted all our strength and commitment in every single strike we all were sweating and puffing by now. It was very hot inside so we needed lots of fluids.
After the strikes each instructor explained a different module.
James explained the fence. The fence is a way to control the situation in the seconds before it gets physical. We practised it first against one opponent but suddenly we all got caught by a second opponent. From the fence we moved on to pre-emptive striking. I had the honour to practise this with my friend Alan Becket and he pointed out were I could improve.
Simon Squires showed us the fend position. This is when all the situational control fails and the person attacks. I was surprised that such a simple concept could be so effective. Again we had the opportunity to practise against one opponent first and then against three. I got some hits to my head with that one.

[Si Squires on left, is the aggressor, as John Pardue fends]

Without aggression in the execution of the techniques they will fail. Some people are natural aggressive because of their nature, ethnical background and the line of work they do. Some people are more passive and they have to train to be able to switch on this aggression. As Den joked “…the best way to get women aggressive is to marry them”.
To train for aggression a few special drills were developed. These were explained by Giles.
After those arduous drills that covered me with bumps and bruises we had a break. During the break we had a briefing about two upcoming events.
After the break Peter Morgan started to explain about grappling and counter clinch work. His drills were fantastic. I had a very strong lad as partner and he tried real hard to squeeze my lunch back out. As a result the only target I could attack was below his belt. Sometimes you have to be mean.
Unfortunately even monkeys fall out of trees and sometimes even we can end up on the floor. Mika explained that you never choose to go to the floor in a real situation; you end up there by mistake. Your opponents will join in a boot party. So you better would get up on your feet again fast.

[Mika shows ground defence]
Mika showed us how to keep attackers at bay and use another one to escape the boot party and get back to your feet again.
Larry explained counter-grappling on the floor, where after we did various drills to practise the learned. On one of these particular drills I kicked someone in the nuts; it wasn’t on purpose….sorry mate.
Thereafter Den taught us how to act in a multiple assailant situation. Multiple assailant situations can be divided into two different types, simultaneous when they come one after the other or an all together at the same time. These drills taught us to handle the latter.
All the above drills culminated in two final drills. This was the combatives experience where it all was going about. We had a very hard anaerobic workout where after we were attacked by bulletmen. I think any onlooker would think it was an invasion of smurfs or something.
The drill started with sensory deprivation. We couldn’t see what was happening we could only hear the screams of the people that were performing the drills. We were taken inside two at the time. Everybody that went inside was told to close the eyes. The DS took two people inside where after there was a moment silence… then a whistle and a lot of noise and screams. Everyone was exited and nervous. We felt like being guided to a slaughter bank. I felt exited but wanted to postpone my fate by letting people first but I resisted it. Soon it was my turn…
I myself don’t remember a lot of what I did during these drills only that afterwards I was really exhausted. After each drill we were debriefed. I got lots of compliments for my performance. Knowing you survived these drills and performed well is a real confidence builder.
Most of the attendees drove to the Chung Ku Chinese restaurant on the docks. During diner we spoke about lots of things but most about our day and we all came to the same conclusion; it was a magnificent seminar. The food was great; the waitresses very nice (although they pretend to have never heard of Belgium) and the company very enjoyable. I had the opportunity to taste different kind of Chinese beers; they almost have as many kinds of beer as we Belgians do.
After diner I went back to the train station accompanied by Den and Giles. We got the ride from our kind French fellow combatives practitioner named Herve. At Lime street station we said our goodbyes to Den and went back to Manchester were I spend the night before flying back home.
It was a day worth remembering. We had a great teacher, great guest instructors and kind people to share it with. I would highly recommend this course to anyone; you won’t be disappointed.

By Nick Engelen

Here's another review...

Many of my better days begin with a mishap of some kind, and the day of the ACE course was no exception. The Mk II Slackmobile stubbornly refused to start and I was obliged to frantically flag down other students as they drove toward the training hall. Some odd looks from passers by were observed as six huge guys climbed into a small van with large, misshapen bags under each arm. It looked like a gang war was in progress.
I didn’t have the time to set fire to my car, so I abandoned it to a cold and lonely day in the carpark and vowed to return to abuse it later that evening.

The seminar started with the course overview – the ACE principle. Not only does the word ACE look and sound really cool, its origins, meaning and context are all appropriate for the day. Its origins go back to the first fighter pilots and the beginning of the aerial dogfight era. As flying a fighter aeroplane is so far removed from any other activity a normal person may encounter, it takes time to acquire the skill-sets necessary to become a fighter pilot. Due to lack of any structured training for combat flying, many pilots on their first real mission, fresh from training, were shot out of the sky by the more experienced pilots. The fatality rate for the first five missions a pilot flew was astonishingly high. After the fifth mission, the pilot typically had all the necessary experience to competently fly a plane in combat and the survival rate improved dramatically thereon. The modern military factors this into training and the first five combat missions any pilot flies in the modern day will be inside a simulator. All the mistakes are punished via digital means, rather than by AMRAAM.
Fighting, like flying a plane, is another skill set that falls outside of our normal lifestyle. As with combat flying, mistakes are harshly punished, so it would be prudent to make our mistakes in training, rather than outside the chip shop. The advent of padded assailant training has made high-intensity-high-fidelity training a possibility, and with this in mind, the Accelerated Combatives Experience program was born.

Making mistakes is the cornerstone of this program. You will be pressured and tested and your performance will be evaluated. Then you’ll be tested again. And again. And again. The person who makes no mistakes will not learn anything, so whether you’re a beginner to Combatives or a hardened gutterfighter makes no difference. The ACE program is a tune up for the pros and a revelation for the newbie. Be warned that it is advisable to have some kind of exposure to Combatives beyond reading “Get Tough” a couple of times before you turn up. I’ve been through the experience of padded assailant training with no training background to call on and my performance was soul-destroyingly poor. As few as ten hours instruction (two seminars or a few weeks of daily practice on a heavy bag) on basic combative techniques will go a long way to giving you a script to work from when the going gets tough. You have been warned.

The pace of the seminar is hard and fast. The ‘Hard Skills Review’ was the single quickest review I have ever seen, clocking in at less than an hour. We then went on to several topics not covered quite so often, such as groundfighting, clinchwork and the fend. Suitably warmed up and ready to hit things really hard, we moved onto more dynamic drills that emphasise awareness, movement and goal-oriented (get to your feet, get out of the crowd etc). Although well short of a padded assailant scenario, these drills are excellent preparation for the mayhem and confusion of the final ordeal. When drills start to use groups of five or six instead of two or three, the man in the middle is forced to work harder, achieve more and stay cool in the midst of it all. As a progression, it works well. Just as children learn to crawl, walk then run, we move from sterile pad work to dynamic padwork then onward to movement drills and the like. The ACE program isn’t about learning to swim by diving off the cruise liner into open ocean, it is a process by which we wade from the shallows to the deep water, one step at a time.

[Mika and Larry work on a drill]

These dynamic drills are rather a lot of fun. I got to be the most abusive, rude and obnoxious dude in the room (no change, there) as I verbally prepared the student for the drill before biffing them with a stick. I should apologise to the poor guy whose eye I very nearly ruptured with an ill-placed stick to the mush. Whoops.

As we neared the end of the day, the grand finale of a succession of padded assailant drills loomed large. Every student had the dubious pleasure of taking on the padded assailant several times in rapid succession. A word here must be said about the efforts of our men inside the padded suits. Si Squires and John Pardoe perform at a level of near superhuman effort and endurance to fight 33 guys several times each. We saw guys exhausted after two minutes of fighting, where John and Si fought for over an hour each. My dictionary of superlative adjectives is not thick enough to adequately describe my admiration and respect for those two men. Top drawer guys.

As each student went through the mill of the simulated fight, they would usually be dragged off the padded guys and taken to a quiet corner where they could be debriefed on their performance. They’d then do it all again (after a short time to rest) and be reviewed once more. Without exception, each and every student’s performance improved dramatically with every progression made. Guys who walked in barely able to perform under pressure were being turned into creatures of bestial fury before our very eyes. No matter where on the road they started, everyone was a lot further down the path at the end of training than they were at the beginning.

It was commented frequently at the end of the course that men walked out of training a different person to the one who walked in that morning. Horizons were pushed, boundaries trampled and new territory discovered. The Accelerated Combatives Experience was indeed, ace!
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