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Monday, August 17, 2009

SPEAR System & PDR Summer Training Camp

Boarding the plane to Virginia Beach, I couldn't help reflecting on how different this trip to Blauer Tactical Headquarters was going to be. Not just because my fiance, Emily, was coming along (though that was quite a difference), but also because I was going to experience, for the first time, what an end-user course at BTS was like. Despite Emily's repeated questions, I couldn't really tell her what to expect from the course; I could guess at the drills that would be done, but I had no idea how the training would be structured, especially with well over 200 people in attendance (the largest PDR in history was 39 people)! So I did what I often advise my students to do--just go experience it.

The course opened up on Friday night with an informal meet & greet, where I was able to catch up with some of the other PDR Coaches who had made the camp, along with a few friends and students from past courses. Emily got her first introduction to many of the PDR staff, and survived unscathed both mentally and physically. After an hour or so of schmoozing, we grabbed some chairs and settled in to listen to a lecture from Crossfit founder Greg Glassman. Crossfit's methodologies and philosophies have generated a lot of controversy in the fitness community, and I found it very interesting to hear about the core philosophy and goals behind Crossfit from the man himself. Glassman also articulated some of the rationale behind the BTS/Crossfit alliance, which I found very eye-opening and informative. It gave both Emily and I a lot to think about as we headed back to the hotel room for some sleep before things got underway in earnest on Saturday.

And get underway they did! Saturday morning began with an optional Crossfit Workout of the Day (WOD, in Crossfit parlance). Never one to shy away from a tough workout, I jumped in, and convinced Emily to give a try as well. Brendan Gilliam and the rest of the Crossfit Obsession, along with PDR Coach and Crossfit One World owner Freddy Camacho helped get everyone organized and warmed up before jumping into the actual workout. (In 10 min, complete 1 400m run, followed by as many rounds as possible of 7 Thrusters and 7 Burpees). The workout, as you can see, was a cakewalk. I barely broke a sweat.


Actually, I thought my legs were going to fall off or explode somewhere in there. I blame the running, an activity I usually avoid diligently unless being chased. But it was an awesome, intense, workout, and I'm glad I participated. Em soldiered through it too, and while her legs may not have forgiven her yet, she seems to have otherwise enjoyed herself.

The WOD was followed (thankfully) by a presentation from Coach Blauer, overviewing the fundamental concepts of the PDR and SPEAR system. With some assistance from Coach Torres, Tony went over the basic physiology and concepts behind the SPEAR, and answered some very useful and insightful questions from the group. I was impressed that, in a crowd of almost 200 people, there were no jerks or tough guys out to prove their ego or challenge Coach Blauer to a death match; the questions ,when they came, were sincere and honest, and lead to some very neat discussion.

After Coach's talk, we separated out into three groups, based on experience level. Certified PDR and SPEAR coaches ended up in one group, where Coaches JT and Travis put us through our paces with some of the fundamental PDR drills taken to a more intense level. I got some good reps in with the deceptively strong Matt Munson, and a SPEAR Coach named Rich whose last name, unfortunately, I never caught. Emily went off with the group of people who had no experience with the PDR, under the watchful eye of PDR Team Director Tom Arcuri.

After that, we took a quick lunch break, before regrouping for an introduction the Weapons Protection concepts in the PDR. Even though I knew this was coming (it was on the flyer, after all), I was a bit surprised to see this. Coach Blauer has traditionally been very careful about sharing his weapons protection material, for understandable reasons. But open it up he did, again taking the time to answer questions and go over concepts in depth before getting into some more drills before the day ended. This time around, the groups were not as clearly defined, but Emily and I ended up practicing separately through a fluke of misunderstanding. There was some fantastic material in this block, including one disarm that I had never seen before. Apparently, the tool had been added after the last PDR Weapons Protection course in April. If you ever needed proof that the PDR system is growing and changing, here it was.

The drill session lasted the rest of the afternoon, when that day's training drew to a close with a presentation from Crossfit Endurance guru Brian McKenzie. Brian has a lot of interesting ideas for those athletes who participate in endurance sports, and while nothing he said convinced me to take up running again (sorry Brian, I just don't like it!), it was a thoughtful and informative presentation.

Exhausted, sore, and overloaded with information, Em and I retreated to the hotel, grabbed some dinner, and promptly returned to get some rest before the next day of training.

Sunday started off with a bang, but not the same way Saturday did. This time the bang was a talk by Kyle Maynard. If you don't know who Maynard is, go follow the link and read his story. It's far to long and impressive for me to adequately recount here. What impressed me the most about Kyle's talk was not, however, the inspirational quality of his message, but rather, how, for a person who has accomplished so much, he managed to stay approachable, funny, and very down to earth. Anyone who thinks they've had a hard day, or a hard life, ought to go check out Kyle's story before continuing.

Inspired, energized, or caffeinated , the attendees jumped back into the weapons protection material. Tony Torres coached the group through a somewhat less intense, but still heart pounding, ten-minute PDR circuit. Coach Blauer then reviewed some of the concepts from the previous day, before jumping into some new drills. This time Emily and I finally had a chance to train together, which allowed me to have the questionable pleasure of having my future wife SPEAR me, and try to stab me with a knife. Fortunately, the knife was a rubber one. Despite having zero (0) prior experience in any kind of martial art, Emily picked up the material quickly and easily; by the time our break came around, she was legitimately stopping me (the larger and stronger one by far) from hitting her with a knife. It was awesome.


I don't quite know what happened after the break, because that was when I was drafted by Coach Torres to help do some High Gear demonstrations. Jason Dury and I got paired up to do some short Ballistic Micro-Fights, both with and without weapons. I had the "pleasure" of getting to be the demo guy for the coaches chest guard, which mean that I got to SPEARed in the throat by Jason several times. Note to bad guys: do not fuck with Jason Dury. Note to self: that coaches protector works GREAT. Without it, I would not be typing this blog (or much of anything else) right now.

PDR Coaches Steve Wakefoose and Greg Profico also put on some great High Gear demos, including a nasty gun scenario.

The demos culminated in a two-on-one home invasion scenario put on by Aka, Carlo, and Eric that was just awesome to watch. The video is up on Facebook, and well worth watching.

And then, like that, it was over. Coach Blauer took a few more questions, and Emily and I made the rounds to say our good byes. I managed to snag a shower and change, and then it was off to the airport, and back home.

Every training experience I've had with Blauer Tactical Systems has been a fantastic one, and this camp was no different. I enjoyed every minute of it, and came away with a lot more knowledge, confidence, and skill than I started with. Emily, for her part, had a fantastic time as well, and is even talking about doing more PDR training. I don't think I can come up with a better recommendation than that.

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