AAR - Bill Rapier - American Tactical Shooting Instruction: INTEGRATED COMBATIVES COURSE
Where: East Bridgewater, MA
When: August 13-14, 2016
Reviewer's training background: Numerous Mil, LE and Civilian shooting and tactics schools, 20 years combined striking and grappling arts training
Class cost: $500
Round count: 600
Equipment used: Glock G19 Gen 4 (stock), Speer Lawman 9mm 124gr., Galco Kingtuk IWB holster, Benchmade training dagger
Mix of students: There were 14 students in the class, most of whom I would categorize as at least intermediate shooters, if not advanced, and about half were LEO. Several of the students had BJJ, Muay Thai, and/or Sayoc Kali experience, and at least one set of cauliflower ears was in attendance.
Instructor: Bill Rapier recently retired from the U.S. Navy where he spent the last 14 years of his enlistment as a member of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU). Bill is also a black belt in BJJ under Gustavo Machado (Virginia Beach) has been training with Sayoc Kali since 2006, and has trained in western and Thai boxing as well. Bill is a humble guy and will tell you just about nothing regarding what he and his teammates did for our country. What he does talk about is what works, why it works, and how to make it work for you.
Regardless, what we can expect from someone with Bill Rapier's background is that the government has invested millions to make them both highly capable warriors and highly capable teachers, and that proved to be a realistic expectation, as I would rank Bill’s class as one of the most useful in terms of practical application.
I came to be in this class because: (1) I had heard good things about Kyle Defoor, but could not get into any of his classes because they were all booked a year in advance. I then discovered that Bill and Kyle were teammates in the Navy, had taught classes together, and that, like Kyle, Bill was highly respected within the special warfare community as both an instructor and an operator (2) I had also been trying to link up with a SouthNarc class, which seemed to share some commonality with Bill’s Integrated Combatives course, and (3) I’ve been somewhat obsessed over the last year with identifying the simplest, most effective defense against knife attacks, and Bill’s integration of firearms with empty-hand combatives and Sayoc Kali, seemed a logical means to that end.
This link is to someone else's review of Bill's Responsible Armed Citizen course, and although a different course, I'm posting it because it includes pictures and more detail, and that class seemed to cover many of the same topics that we did in Integrated Combatives, with the difference being that they spent more time on the shooting techniques and we spent more on the combative aspects: http://www.vdmsr.com/2016/06/aar-res...zen-amtac.html
We went through Bill's versions of the basics, including stance, scanning, press check, grip, malfunction drills, ready position, and movement, but the difference between how they were taught in his class comes down to two factors: (1) Bill Rapier spent literally years testing, validating and evolving much of the class material in combat and non-permissive environments, and (2) this class is about fighting with a gun, a knife, and hands, knees, feet, elbows, etc., all in the same scenario, sometimes at the same time—so while all the individual techniques taught may be similar to what you have done before, the magic happened in how they’d been customized to fit the instructor’s combat experience, and how they were blended together to form a whole system greater than the sum of its parts.
This was not a shooting course per se: We did shoot 600 carefully-aimed rounds over two days, but we didn’t spend much time correcting bad habits, perfecting our grips, etc. You can still get all the value of the class if your marksmanship is lacking, just don’t expect Bill to resolve that in this class, as most of the time is dedicated to new skills, not ones you should already have. To get the most out of Integrated Combatives I recommend showing up with a solid grasp of the fundamentals, which in practical terms equates to being able to keep most of your rounds in a 3” circle at 5-7 yards, rapid-fire, drawing from concealment.
On Day One Bill reviewed the basics of combat shooting with emphasis on the techniques he has found to be the most effective, or has adapted to be so. For example, I used to shoot with an aggressive stance for recoil management, but have become more and more upright over time as I’ve shifted most of my shooting from carbine to pistol, have become more adept at recoil management, and have been shooting a lot of USPSA matches, which reward a stance that allows you to switch directions quickly.
Bill on the other hand, emphasized an aggressive, forward leaning, wider than your hips, fighter’s stance--digging the toes into the ground both for traction as well as to activate key muscles needed for explosive movement in any direction. Many of us have used or still use a similar stance, the difference is that Bill is not advocating it for recoil management, he’s doing it because it’s the shooting platform that most lends itself to transitioning to blade work and/or smashing with elbows and knees. As such, his stance has a few modifications specifically to achieve that purpose and is the same regardless of weapon or empty-hand. Now I just need to force myself to adopt the same stance when I’m training for and shooting matches, even if it costs me points.
Bill Rapier demonstrating edged weapon technique
The first half of Day Two was spent learning how to safely coordinate guns, edged weapons and empty hands on the live-fire range, while integrating the handgun manipulation, scanning, and stance modifications we’d learned the day before. Lunch was taken onsite to maximize training time, and included an excellent mindset lecture on par with what you would expect from a guy whose life depended on his mindset for years, day in and day out.
After lunch we practiced knife patterns, and then knee and elbow strikes on thai pads, before transitioning to grappling combinations, all of which were presented and practiced within the paradigm of integrating everything with the carry and deployment of a handgun.
Rapier observes students drilling. These two guys were friends and training partners before the class, so unless you come to one of Bill's classes with a similar "friend" you will NOT get elevated and body slammed.
The final evolution of the class was a one-student-at-a-time stress course that combined combatives with a live course of fire. Each student was first armed with a SIRT laser training pistol and a training dagger and started by having sunscreen lotion poured in their hands to compromise grip. We were then faced away from the training area so we could not see Bill as he launched a surprise bear hug attack from behind, in which we were lifted off our feet and had to break free to neutralize him with our training dagger.
We were then immediately set upon by two other assailants, and had to utilize strikes and grappling techniques to create space to draw and fire our SIRT training pistol. We then transitioned directly to a live-fire course that required linear and parallel movement while shooting, strong-hand & other-strong-hand around barricades, and making two 30-yard hits on an 8” steel plate, all to the sounds of our own labored breathing and the catcalls and insults of our classmates. Once the plate had been struck twice, the final piece was to sprint to a fallen comrade and properly apply a tourniquet (Bill prefers the R.A.T.S. Rapid Application Tourniquet System, and after using them in the class I ordered four for myself and family).
Bill ran through the evolution first to show us what to expect. His time was 55 seconds and stood as the fastest. The slowest time in the class was almost three times that, and I managed it in 97 seconds. Although not the fastest, I’m sure that I led the class in cheating--as before the evolution I had covered both arms in sand so I could wipe the lotion off my palms, I stood in a way that allowed me to see Bill’s shadow coming as he attempted the surprise bear hug, and I kicked one of the "assailants" in the spleen when he was expecting grappling. Pride in duplicity aside, the final evolution was a good test and a reminder of the complexity and physicality of dealing with multiple threats under pressure.
Integrated Combatives' final exercise: Front kicks were not taught in the class but old habits die hard. Note the training dagger in the student's right hand. After stabbing the immediate threat in the carotid artery, the student will then move to the left and around and behind Threat #1, while drawing a SIRT training pistol concealed at 3 o'clock, to engage Threat #2 approaching on the right.
In summary: This was an excellent course that increased my capabilities and has motivated me to get in better shape, get more edged weapons training, and conduct more realistic training in general. Based on my experience in this class, and Bill’s background and skill as an instructor, I predict that his courses will be booked at least a year in advance by this time next year.
Bill's class schedule: http://www.amtacshooting.com/courses/upcoming
Bill’s favorite IWB holster: http://www.blackpointtactical.com/
Great AAR, thank for posting. The integration of H2H and shooting is the biggest weakness in the current training paradigm of most places IMO. There are shooting schools with specialty seminars on occasion and H2H schools where you never shoot. Very few combine them (southnarc being the first I ever heard of). Good to see another option.