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Training Review: Shivworks / SouthNarc – Armed Movement in Structures (AMIS)

Topic: Shooting, Pistol

Instructor/System: Shivworks is the one-man training operation run by Craig Douglas aka SouthNarc. Craig was a law enforcement officer in Mississippi for 21 years, including work with SWAT and undercover with narcotics — hence his original nom de guerre. Shivworks offers multiple classes around lone operator survival, perhaps most famously ECQC, his Extreme Close Quarters Combat class. Per Craig, the goal — of Shivworks, of tactical training — is that “you want the handgun skills of a USPA Grand Master, the empty hand skills of an MMA fighter, and the verbal agility of a stand-up comic.”

Content: The Shivworks Armed Movement in Structures (AMIS) class is a two-day course that addresses one task and starts from one assumption. The one task is how a solo operator, armed, can safely move through — “clear” — a structure with an unknown number of armed opponents inside. The starting assumption is that the task “sucks” and since there’s no perfect way to do it, you just try to make it “suck less.” As Craig puts it, “There is no safe way to engage an armed intruder in a structure without support.” This topic, more broadly dubbed “solo CQB” or some other similarly sexy moniker, often gets tacked onto other tactical this-or-that classes, typically being a few hours at most. Craig, bucking that trend, spends two long days on it.

The first day starts with principles. Structures are 360 degree environments: avenues of attack exist all around you, including above and below, lurking behind every visual barrier. Craig implores the students to think first about what you can’t see — all the places that aren’t “clear” because you haven’t peered into them yet. This principle is explored via a group exercise in something he calls “Diagram Hell” — a floorplan layout of a building with the students discussing how to move through it. What angles to use, where to linger, how fast to move, how to minimize exposure, why depth matters, where to be looking when moving, where to have your weapon oriented. This exercise typically results in a lot of hand-wringing and groaning as students begin to realize what Craig said at the beginning: there’s no safe way to do this.

After the first half-day, the class moves into practical exercises. The students apply what the principles discussed in Diagram Hell, now in an environment where each student makes their own decision above movement, angle, exposure, etc. This takes a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach, going from walking and discussing, to slow solo movement thinking about angles and exposure to identify stationary targets, etc, all the way up to full force-on-force with airsoft and, eventually, enemies stalking you within the structure, moving at full sprint, etc.

Throughout the practical work, Craig works to refine each students approach, adding layers of detail and complexity. This includes things like the angle of your hips when entering a corner-fed room and thinking about where you want to end up in the room post-entry to minimize new exposures once there. The course also includes a low-light portion that includes a very interesting use of light: not for you to see where you’re going, and not to blind the attacker with a high-lumen beam straight to where you think they’ll be. Craig’s use of light on room entry has more to do with drawing the eye and drawing vision, to causing momentary confusion during the entry. It’s difficult to describe but rather remarkable to experience. All of this — the use of the light, the hip-angle on entry — is in the setting of that very first assumption: this sucks and is always dangerous, so let’s work to try and make it suck less.

The class includes some attention to what to do when you encounter someone who you shouldn’t shoot, or what Craig calls, in a nod to situations evolving over time, a “Don’t Shoot Yet.” This includes how to control the person, how to clear them of weapons, how to keep them in a control position if needed, or how to move through the structure with them under the gun in front of you. We like very much that Craig’s approach here is nuanced and asks you to consider the ambiguity of situations, the moral grey areas of what happens at 2am in the dark. All too often, tactical training classes — both instructors and students — have a sort of hyperviolent bravado that leads to statements like, “If I see someone in MY house, I’m just going to kill them — BAM! Immediately!” That bravado misses the mark and sets students up not just for shooting the neighbor’s kid, but for a lifetime of pain if it turns out their behavior ran contrary to their actual deep-seated value systems or that of the community in which they live.

AMIS is an excellent class, giving thoughtful time and attention to something that normally gets glossed over. It’s predicated upon being alone (not in pairs or better) and armed with a pistol and a flashlight (not a plate carrier and lasers and multiple weapon platforms). In that sense, it’s much more practical and useful to the threat scenarios that are most people are likely to encounter. We found Craig’s approach thoughtful, measured, and nuanced. The practical exercises are eminently useful. We think AMIS has tremendous value and even a solid measure of repeatability for students who’ve already been through it once.

RMSR Recommended: Yes.

Pre-requisites: None, but it goes without saying that it’d be useful to have shooting figured out first. There’s nothing here about grip or stance and there are situations in the AMIS practical exercises where you’re going to have to confront compromising either or both of those. It’s probably best if you make that decision conscious of how and why, and how doing so will affect your shooting accuracy and speed.

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