Giving Violence a Chance at Craig Douglas’s Edged Weapons Overview Course

The last time Craig Douglas came to North Carolina (in Spring 2019), he guest lectured in my Sociology of Guns seminar at Wake Forest University, then taught his Extreme Close Quarters Concepts ECQC) course nearby. As close readers of this blog know, I fell into and failed out of that course pretty spectacularly.

I did not enroll in the Edged Weapons Overview (EWO) course Douglas taught at Ryan Hoover’s Fit to Fight Republic gym in Charlotte last weekend, but I did not want to miss the opportunity to observe some.

EWO has much in common with ECQC. The major difference is the weapon that is being deployed and defended against. In both cases, maintaining or creating space between oneself and attackers is vital. As a self-defense tool, Douglas tells the class, “Knives are actually better at making space than guns. Guns are better at holding space.”

Craig Douglas and Assistant Instructor Scott Oates, EWO, Charlotte, November 2020. Photo by David Yamane

Observing the course reminded me of a serious limitation I find in academic studies of gun culture: they see violence only as negative. But what shines through in Craig Douglas’s courses — and in most of the training courses I have observed — is that violence can be virtuous (as I argued on the Psychology Today blog not long after taking ECQC).

I had to smile, therefore, when on Sunday a student showed up in a “give violence a chance” t-shirt.

Student in Edged Weapons Overview course suggest giving violence a chance. Photo by David Yamane

The EWO course I observed had 18 students, including a number of trainers, affiliates, and students of Fit to Fight. This included Eli Knight, a second degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu who developed the groundfighting program used by Fit to Fight (and who was a fellow student in the earlier ECQC course).

Craig Douglas demonstrating a technique on Eli Knight. Photo by David Yamane

Among the 20 attendees were 5 women, several of whom were trainers at Fit to Fight. The training was not gender segregated, as the photos here demonstrate.

The training was also physically more intensive than ECQC, which was itself physically intensive. The course drew mostly people with some martial arts background (it seemed), which helped. A lot of gun people I know (including yours truly) would have struggled to complete the course. We are not, as the gym says, fit to fight.

Students in Edged Weapons Overview course, November 2020. Photo by David Yamane

As with ECQC, the training days end with “evolutions.” According to Douglas, “evolutions” are meant to “validate the day’s learning.” Students take many of the techniques they have been practicing and pressure test them in an unscripted, non-consensual and competitive “fight” to see what they can and can’t do.

Craig Douglas supervising end-of-day “evolution” in EWO course, November 2020. Photo by David Yamane

Here is one place that Douglas’s talent for teaching this material really shines through. He has to make appropriate pairings in the evolutions. He has to supervise the evolutions, letting them go on long enough that the students learn something but not so long that someone gets hurt. And he has to draw some lessons from them.

In this part of his courses more than any others, Craig Douglas stands at the center of a controlled storm of his own creation.

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