Practical Security Applications

The latest course at MITAGS-PMI offers self-defense and de-escalation skills.

Dave Whittrock teaching the framing technique to students with fellow instructor Nate Davis

Published May 5, 2015 1:21 PM by Chris Georges

It is 39 degrees at the gun range in Marriotsville, Maryland, and it’s a little chilly for this Floridian. But I am excited to learn about how to use various firearms. I have joined the other students taking the five-day, 35-hour Practical Security Applications course (SEC-APPS) at MITAGS.

The gun range is only a forty-minute drive from the MITAGS campus, and we are in the second day of the program. The objective today is to learn the proper use of a firearm in a hostile situation, whether onboard a ship or in a TWIC card area such as a terminal or dock. In fact, in order to register for the class the student must have a current Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC).  

The course is not all gunplay as Dave Wittrock, a 30-year police officer, tactical team member, LE/ Military trainer, and Blauer Tactical Systems certified Personal Defense Readiness Coach, explains personal defensive strategies and de-escalation techniques such as verbal “choice speech” and nonverbal “nonviolent postures”. “Make your everyday stance your fighting stance, and your fighting stance your everyday stance,” a quote from legendary swordsman Miyamoto Musashi which Dave uses in the classroom presentation portion of the class, to emphasize the point of changing your posture to meet the scenario and the circumstances you find yourself in to avoid the confrontation if possible.

To drive this point home, he demonstrates how to simply convert what the body wants to do naturally (startle flinch response) and our tendency to push away danger, to stop the initial ambush of a potential attacker. By keeping the angle of the elbow greater than 90 degrees you recruit more muscles into the technique and gain more strength.  By placing his arms outside 90-degrees, Nathan Davis, another instructor, was kept at bay regardless of how much effort he used during a full force demo in front of the class. “I can’t believe how simple this is,” exclaimed a student after being acknowledged for picking up this defensive technique quickly.

During the last 25 years of working for the police force, Wittrock also taught at the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois, and ran his own training facility in Northwest Illinois ensuring that hundreds of students each year were trained in firearms and personal defense tactics. After retiring, he completed two deployments in Afghanistan and trained Afghan Border Patrol officers on how to use firearms, vehicle tactics and enforcement procedures.

On the fourth day we moved into hand-to-hand self-defense techniques, which is part of the Practical Security Applications course, from Sean Riley, who is a 6th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, a 1st Degree Black Belt in Arnis, 1st Degree Black Belt in Ju-Jitsu, 1st degree black belt in Aikido, International Instructor of the Samurai Arts and part of Jackson’s MMA Association. He has taught for more than 20 years to all skill-levels and ages, including professional fighters, tournament champions, police and military personnel.

Riley elaborates on how one can assess conversations that have the potential to lead to harmful situations and decide a tactical plan of attack.  In it, he picks up on Dave’s concept of body language and how nonviolent postures are difference-makers in a confrontation and how, if necessary, to disarm a hostile attacker equipped with a gun or knife.

After a quick discussion on classroom safety, Riley demonstrated defense of a haymaker punch, bear hug, and wrist escapes.  Several exercises later, there was an air of confidence instilled in the class.  As the confidence built in each attendee, Riley increased the threat of the attacks.  Before long, we were learning how to defend a knife attack and disarming techniques.  Once again as confidence grew, Riley introduced gun disarms which included small arms to an AK-47. 

Although, I was unable to stay for the last day the planned schedule was for the attendee to utilize all of the various skills they had been demonstrating all week.  In speaking with the instructors, it was clear that the scenarios they had prepared for the group were very realistic scenarios of what could happen aboard a ship, walking on the street, or in a parking lot going to your vehicle.  The instructors kept the class grounded by concluding that, while an armed attacker may deliver a minor injury, seafarers can escape a dangerous situation largely unscathed and disarm their attackers with proper application of the techniques learned in this course and proper practice after the course. For further information, click here