AAR: Immediate Action Combatives, February 2017

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

Cecil Burch (left) at KR Training, demonstrating a technique for standing up.

If you step back and think about it for a moment, so much self-defense training starts from an ideal position. It doesn’t really matter the context, “ideal” is where a lot of training starts from. Gun classes are on the square range, sunny weather, solid ground, and we know what’s going to happen and what we need to do next. A lot of martial arts work starts with two people agreeing to square off in the air-conditioned dojo.

What’s worse? People work to deny they could find themselves starting from a shitty situation. That term, “situation awareness” and how it’s treated like this almighty god-ability that one must possess and emit constantly, always being in “condition yellow” with mah “head on a swivel”. That THEY never fail in their situational awareness, they are always aware of everything, and if anyone happens to show less than 110% ninja-fied situational awareness, they are looked down upon as a tactical failure and need to turn in their Operator’s Beard and Tatoos™. I’m sorry, but I sleep – I go into condition white. I have a job that often requires intense focus – so I’m condition white. I’m human and sometimes life distracts me – and I’m in condition white. I’m sure you’re better than me and this never happens to you, but then I’m thankful there are people like Cecil Burch who humbly acknowledge these things happen to us mere mortals and provide training to help us cope if we find ourselves starting from a shitty situation. If you are willing to acknowledge you are one who could find yourself in a bad situation, where your self-defense incident could possibly start from you in a deficit, and you want to know how you can work out of that hole, read on.

Cecil Burch

First, who is Cecil Burch?

You can read his full resumé on his Immediate Action Combatives website. But briefly:

  • Lifetime martial artist, including 23 years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Multiple gold, silver, and bronze medals in the BJJ Pan-Ams and American Nationals
  • Boxer
  • Firearms
  • A member of the Shivworks Collective

So… someone that might know a thing or two. Someone that may well be worth training with in this area. 🙂

But, what IS this area?

Immediate Action Combatives

The seminar work Cecil provides aims to contend with the “worst case scenario”: those times when you were caught off guard, or that old bastard Murphy laid down the law. Things like “the knockout game”, or maybe your self-defense incident started ideal, but then you slipped on some gravel and now you’re on the ground about to get boots to the head. What Cecil is aiming to do is provide you with a way to work to survive and overcome those situations so you can get back to a point where you can fight. As was constantly brought up over the weekend: Don’t lose — because if you aren’t losing, you still have a chance of winning; but if you lose, you can’t win.

There are actually two, 1-day seminars.

Immediate Action Pugilism was the first full-day seminar; this covered working from a standing position. Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu was the second full-day seminar; this covered working from the ground. The way the seminars were presented and structured, you certainly could take only one day or the other. While both seminars had common threads, they were distinct and did not depend upon the other. However I believe you will get the most out of it if you can take both seminars, either back-to-back, or eventually (as time and money permits).

Regardless of which seminar, they both have the same goal: to provide attendees who have limited training time and resources with solid survival and escape fundamentals geared toward the increasingly violent weapon based environments they may live, work and/or travel within. 

Think about that.

Limited time. I suspect most of us fall into that category.

Limited resources. I suspect most of us also fall into that category.

Increasingly violent and weapons based environments. You watch the news.

And for sure, the techniques are solid and survival-based. This is not going to make you into the next UFC star. You won’t become a great boxer, you won’t become a black-belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). But you will come out with a solid set of skills that will allow you to contend with “the suck”, survive, and improve your position such that you can then deploy whatever your preferred skillset might be (martial arts, knives, guns, running away, whatever). This coursework aims to address the realities almost one else in any area of the “self-defense industry” addresses.

I admit the classes weren’t quite what I expected, but I’m quite happy I took them as while they maybe weren’t what I wanted,  for sure they were what I needed.

My Experience

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I'm on far left, ground.

Immediate Action Jiu-Jitsu class at KR Training, Feb. 2017. I’m on far left, ground.

The classes were held February 18 (Pugilism) and 19 (Jiu-Jitsu) 2017 at my home-range of KR Training. This is the first time Cecil has come to our facility, and honestly I’m disappointed the classes were not sold out. Mainly because I think skills like this are so important for people to possess. But I’m still glad Cecil came down, and honestly on a selfish note, the smaller class was a benefit to me because there was certainly more personal time and attention given, and the class was able to move at a faster pace. That said, I’d rather see sold-out classes in the future – so be sure you attend next time he’s here. 🙂

What was my motivation for taking this class?

In early 2016, my 2017 training goals were to further my gun skills. I’ve made USPSA “B” class, and I want to get to “A” class (still do). And some other things along those lines. But then, in Fall 2017 I took a new job that has potential for me to travel – and those travels could take me to places where I can’t carry a gun, or knives, or pepper spray, or anything other than my hands and my wits. I knew I needed to change my training goals. It’s been many years since I did any serious empty-hand martial arts work, and the moment I saw Karl was bringing in Cecil Burch I signed up for the class. I knew of Cecil and knew training with him should not be missed.

That’s the notable thing: I wanted to take these classes because I wanted an opportunity to train with Cecil Burch. It didn’t really matter what he was teaching, I wanted to learn from him. Oh sure, I read the class description and it seemed in line with my goals; if the class was about needlepoint, I wouldn’t have signed up (even if it was Cecil). But I admit what I expected from the classes compared to what I got from the classes was different.

For example, I expected the standing class to be about “fighting from a standing position”. So I expected we’d cover more about strikes, punching, elbows, some footwork, defense – basically a balance of offense and defense. But as well – and I can only articulate it this way post-mortem – that it would all start from that ideal self-defense situation. I did not expect the class would be about starting from the worst-case scenario, and how to survive and dig out of that hole.

But I’ll tell you straight up, I’m deeply appreciative of what the class did provide me with. I’d actually say it’s more important, because most of us likely get enough of the other stuff, and not enough of what Cecil provides.

Overview of the days

Classes ran from about 9 AM to about 5 PM. We worked the standing seminar outside because the weather was nice and working outside gave us a lot of room to work. We did the ground seminar inside on mats because of rain.

Class size was modest, and the students ran a decent cross-section. We had young, old, and middle-aged. We had some people quite fit, and others not so much. All male (ladies, don’t be afraid – it’d be arguable that you’d benefit even more from such training, especially the ground seminar). Some had a depth of martial arts experience, others were n00bs. Cecil’s curriculum allows you to come at whatever level and fitness you might be, and work at the level you are able. Oh sure, you will be pushed – if you aren’t, how will you get better? But you are always in control and able to keep things at a manageable pace.

Cecil would start each seminar with a small lecture to explain where he was coming from, to frame the work. Then we would pair up and begin to work. He took an incremental approach to the material. Introduce a small concept, work it for a few reps. Then another concept, work it for a few reps. Then another, and a few reps. Then go back and work again, this time incorporating all that we’ve learned so far. Then let’s do it all again, but this time we’ll up the pressure a little bit. Then take a break. Then lather, rinse, repeat. It wasn’t that robotic, but it was methodical and incremental. I appreciated this because it made the material easier to digest, plus by the end of the day you got a LOT of reps on the initial material, which winds up being much of the core/foundations. That is, if there’s anything worth remembering, it’s what you get at the beginning and that gets (re)iterated throughout.

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is more metal than you. 🤘

Cecil is an excellent teacher. It’s easy to find good teachers, it’s easy to find people that know material, but it’s rare to find someone that’s both a good teacher and knows  the material AND that can convey the material well. It’s evident he’s put a lot of thought, study, and refinement into the material and presentation of these seminars. It’s difficult to find a simple set of skills that people can pick up on quickly and then retain with minimal practice (vs. someone that studies a martial art exclusively, going to the dojo 3+ times a week). Then to be able to convey it in a manner where you can pick up on the concept, retain it, apply it, build upon it – yet accept that there will be a lot of information by the nature of the program so you have to keep everything as tight and controlled as possible to avoid information overload? That’s tough! I think Cecil did a fine job, and it’s a tough job too. For sure by the end of the day your knowledge cup is at the brim and just starting to overflow. I felt Cecil was able to read the class/students well and know when to move forward and when to pull back.

Plus, he’s a really nice guy, humble, friendly, focused. 🙂

One thing I appreciated about Cecil? Minimal “war stories”. There are some instructors that love to tell stories. While it’s always entertaining, it often causes class to drag and sometimes you wonder if the instructor is here to teach or brag/reminisce. I think it was Greg Hamilton from Insights Training that made a sound point: that stories are good and really should only be used if they contribute to the curriculum and will help the students learn and retain the information. Cecil told only a few stories (within formal class time), and when he did those stories were relevant and worked well to reinforce the lesson. I appreciated that; it goes back to my comment about Cecil’s focus.

Another aside about Cecil. One of the students/helpers in class was a gentleman who is an excellent shooter. After Saturday’s class Cecil asked me if they could go out and shoot for a bit, because he said that even 15 minutes of instruction from this guy would be a boon. This spoke volumes to me. That despite being a top instructor himself, he was still seeking ways to continue to improve himself. He may be the teacher, but he’s still a student. I dig people like that.

Back to class…

We would work and build, work and build, work and build. Everyone was able to work at their pace, and all students were good training partners helping each other to learn and not pushing just to push hard. By the end of the day, we were going at a pretty decent clip and pressure-level, putting it all together. Yes, pressure-testing is important.

I liked something Cecil did to add “pressure”. Let’s say you’re playing the “good guy” and your partner is “the bad guy”. Your partner is to ask you open-ended questions, or at least questions that make you think. For example, “do you like ice cream?” isn’t a good question. But something like “what are your 3 least favorite flavors of ice cream?” is a good one. Something that makes you have to think a little bit, to put a little cognitive load and distraction upon you. Then your partner should see the moment the wheels start turning and attack, and now you have to defend. Is this really all that much pressure? Of course not. But you’d be amazed at how it adds more than enough load and really messes with your ability to perform. I thought it was a fantastic teaching aid.

While the stand-up class didn’t have a “graduation” exercise, the ground class did. Basically you and your partner, middle of the mat, in front of everyone. Your partner could use any approach to attack you (ground work, punches, weapons), and it was your job to survive, defend, escape, and get at least to a neutral position. It brought everything together and was a great way to cap off the weekend.

My Experience

First, I’ll be straight with you: training like this isn’t always the most fun. I found myself a little anxious, a little nervous, a little intimidated. I have an ego, just like you, and I don’t relish getting my ass handed to me all weekend long. But that’s part of why I do things like this. I have weaknesses, and they will never become strengths unless I work on them. It’s not always fun to address your weaknesses, let alone admit you have them, but it’s important to be honest with yourself and work to improve. It’s important to put the ego in the backseat and make yourself better. Think about it: when do you want to address your weaknesses? In a seminar with a kind and knowledgable instructor like Cecil Burch, where you will make many mistakes but you will learn and be able to not repeat those mistakes? Or when you get jumped in a parking lot, and that gang member shows you no quarter for all the mistakes you make?

I’d rather get my ass handed to me and my ego destroyed in an environment where I can learn and become better, stronger.


I think my wife summed it up pretty well. You see, I came home pretty bruised and banged up, but that stands to reason for something like this. So her reaction?

Looks like Cecil Burch took you to school then wrote a lifetime of lesson plans all over you. Come to think of it, I don’t know that you’ve ever come home looking quite so educated

I LOL’d. 🙂

And that’s compared to my prior martial arts days, and even a round with Southnarc.

The thing that I fear in writing that is it’s going to scare people off from taking the class.  I’m mixed on that.

Part of me is fine with it, because it’s a bit of a filter so that the people who will come to the class will take the class seriously, know what to expect, willing to work hard.

But part of me wants to put it this way: yes, it’s hard. Yes it was physical (tho in part, that’s because I was willing to work at a very physical level; again, Cecil structures the seminars to allow you to work at your level). But I look at it this way: do you really think that someone intent on beating your head in is going to be an easy situation? Use the pressure today to learn how to work under pressure, so your first time isn’t when your life is on the line, y’know? It allows you to learn how to work under pressure, so you can have grace under pressure. It serves as inoculation.

Some of the course material wasn’t new to me because of my prior study with Southnarc. But it was like Craig presents you a few things but then has to move along because there’s so much more he has to teach. Whereas it felt like Cecil’s classes took those few things and really expanded upon them: an in-depth exploration and study of a few concepts. I came out understanding them better, and having more skill in applying them. One student said that Cecil’s classes are a good pairing with ECQC, basically if you have Cecil’s skills you’ll likely do better in ECQC. That’s what we call a clue.

I did find the amount of information good and well-presented by Cecil, but for sure by the end of each day I was at my limit. In fact, around 2-3 PM on Sunday I was totally brain fried. Cecil would demonstrate something new, then I’d get down in position to try it and totally have no idea what I was supposed to do: I couldn’t brain any more. This is my own fault. The reduced calorie diet was not conducive to the weekend. My diet works for my general level of activity, but the 2 days of more intensive physical work was of course a much greater level of activity. I was hoping to keep at my normal diet level, but alas I could tell on Sunday it wasn’t working. I had a couple foot cramps, and then my abdominal muscles started to cramp right after I did my turn in the graduation exercise (and continued to cramp on and off until I went to bed). I gassed out a couple times Sunday afternoon. So this is pretty simple: nourish yourself well, and well in advance of class. If you’re on a restricted calorie diet, unless there’s medical reasons (and if there are, you should take that into consideration in terms of participating in the classes), then I’d say break the diet a couple of days beforehand, get your glycogen stores topped off, eat well throughout the classes (fast carbs, water, electrolytes). You can resume the diet after class.

As for my performance. You win some, you learn some. Heck, I learned many. 🙂 Cecil said I did a good job in class, so I’ll leave it at that.

I will say that the class reinforced some things about “being big and strong”. Namely, it’s a pretty nice advantage. I’m in good shape. My resting heart rate is in the low 50’s. And while I don’t consider myself all that strong, I’m certainly stronger than many. And I’m heavy – which one fellow student explicitly said was an interesting situation for him because with me and my weight fully on his chest restricting his breathing, that was tough and a bit of a panic for him. He said he was thankful for it tho, because he was able to learn about that now, in the safe confines of schooling, than letting the first time be “for reals”. Nevertheless, it’s evident being bigger/strong(er) remains an advantage. There were guys in class who were way more technically sound, and what helped me work against them was being bigger and stronger. Of course, they were able to whup me pretty good in the end, because they had greater skill. There’s much to consider here.

For sure, I still have a ways to go. If I have another opportunity to take these classes, I certainly will. The repetition and reinforcement will be good, and I’m certain I’ll get more out of it the second time around.

One bit of feedback for Cecil: be a little clearer on equipment requirements. Clothing was listed as “loose, comfortable, but durable”. I’d like that to be expanded to address coverings. For example, on both days I wore my typical gym clothing of a no-sleeve shirt and gym shorts. Very comfortable, loose, durable. While it worked well for the stand-up work (apart from me being stupid and forgetting sunscreen), it was terrible for the ground work. I lost a bunch of skin off my knees, and they became pretty raw and tender. Knee pads might have helped, but I suspect they would have just rode down my legs. Just having longer pants probably would have been a help. I’m not sure how to phrase it, especially since I’m sure it varies based upon facility amenities. But that’s the one thing that I wish I had done differently as it would have saved me a little pain.

But hey, it’s just a little pain. Shake it off.


It was a long and tiring weekend, but I learned a great deal. I am thankful that Cecil teaches these classes. I am thankful he came down to my home turf to teach them. I am thankful for the solid group of students in class, who were all there to learn and help each other learn. I am thankful for the cooperative weather, and for Snow’s BBQ lunch. 🙂 I am thankful for my generally good health and fitness, so it enables me to learn and participate at the level I desire. And I’m thankful to have gotten to know Cecil. He’s a great guy, and I truly look forward to seeing him again. I hope he’s able to come back again, and I hope to see you there.

2 thoughts on “AAR: Immediate Action Combatives, February 2017

  1. Pingback: Cecil Burch – Immediate Action combatives AAR – Notes from KR

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