The International Tactical Training Association (ITTA) is always on Mission to provide members with advanced tactical and technical programs of instruction formulated and directed by a core council who possess extensive Law Enforcement and Military experience. We seek to transform, keep you ahead of the curve, and one step ahead. Semper in ViaITTA retains a broad spectrum of instructors with Special Operations backgrounds and current post 9-11 operational and instructional experience. We are here to transform, keep you inside the loop and one step ahead with best practices, hard learned lessons, and disruptive technologies.
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Training Review: IRETC with 4TAC5, Chicago, IL, May 2018
In May of this year (2018), I travelled to Chicago to expand my skills in the field of Counter-custody and counter-kidnapping but attending the IRETC Instructor Certification with Karl from 4TAC5.
For the longest time I had been working towards attending the counter-custody instructor certification course with 4TAC5 – IRETC (International Restraint Escape Training Course). I had tried for months to connect with them and was planning to travel to their training base in England to attend it when I was referred to Aaron Cunningham of the ITTA (International Tactical Training Association) as they were going to be hosing IRETC in Chicago. As luck would have it this made things much more convenient and less expensive.
Upon arrival I made contact with Aaron and he picked me up from the airport. I treated him to breakfast for the courtesy. As I had only had communications with him through e-mail to that point it was good to finally put a face to the name and get to know him. After breakfast, Aaron and I took a little tour around Chicago (he showed me some of the sights and gave me some background to the respective history and current situations with specific neighbourhoods we were traversing) and then we did two more circles to the airport to pick up other attendees and finally to pick up our instructor, Karl, and make our way to the training facility and our lodgings.
There were 4 of us with Karl and Aaron. A small but diverse group of LEO/MIL personnel.
***I will not speak to the identities of the others in the training as they are currently operational with their respective security services, nor will I get into specifics of the training due to it’s nature. ***
Over that first evening we all had a chance to get to know one another and discuss the upcoming week of training. Admittedly, I was very excited to get the training started and build upon my existing skills.
The next day training started and we covered a LOT of ground. The content for day 1 was vaguely as follows:
Overview of material, counter-custody principles, kidnapping & hostage survival;
Detailed review of improvised restraints and manufactured restraints;
Improvised tools against restraints;
Mindset and tactics
I felt as if I’d been overloaded with information and it took me a while to process what I was learning. So much amazing stuff was coming to me – efficient and effective techniques and principles to put to use immediately. My hands and wrists were smashed and raw by the end of the day but it was well worth the pain to gain the knowledge and hands-on experience in a controlled environment where mistakes can be made and learning can occur. Very helpful when you get yourself in a pickle and need someone to cut you out so you can try again.
Day 2 was much the same in so far as having a firehose of info shot my way. After a great breakfast, we got fuelled up on coffee and a recap of the previous day’s material and dove right in.
Recap Day 1;
Tools, carry, concealment and deployment;
Handcuffs (various, identify, function, features)
More mindset and tactics;
Special tools (contents, function, use)
Anatomy of abduction and custody (phases, counter-intelligence, immediate actions)
Captivity & custody Exercise
Day 2 was a long day filled with more work, soreness and trial and error. However, the more exhaustively we practiced, the more confident I was with the little curve balls that were thrown our way and, with patience and focus, they could be overcome.
Day 2 dinner was another great time gelling with the group and expanding on the day’s lessons.
***BTW the food in Chicago was AWESOME!***
Day 3 was the Big Cahuna. Exercise after exercise after exercise, more scenarios and practice. Very involved to test our newly acquired skills and assure we’d assimilated the little tricks and remained focused on the task regardless of the negative stimulus applied. I found this culmination was a thorough test of my skills and my ability to apply them under stress and in unknown conditions.
As a finale to the week, Aaron arranged a tour of the Chicago Police Marine Unit (with associated boat ride and waterfront tour) and topped it off with a ride-along with the Chicago Police Aviation Unit aboard a CPD helicopter above downtown Chicago. And, as it was Tuesday, what better dinner to have than tacos? I guess you really haven’t lived till you’ve watch a White Sox game at Wrigley Field from a police helicopter. Karl and I had a blast. What a great night.
The following day included a debrief, discussions, clean-up and certification presentations. My trip to the airport was bitter-sweet. I had made some new friends, learned and experienced some top-tier training and was leaving a very Toronto-like city (minus the 14 people who were shot while I was there).
I extend my sincerest thanks to Aaron Cunningham and the ITTA for hosting the training and for their wonderful hospitality. True professionals doing a great job.
To Karl of 4TAC5, thank you for your knowledge, patience and great sense of humour during the week.
To the Chicago Police Marine and Aviation units – thank you for your hospitality and for the amazing ride-alongs. Stay safe out there!
And to my fellow attendees, thank you for the laughs and lessons. Stay safe in your respective areas of operation and keep in touch.
For those of you who are in Canada looking for counter-custody and hostage survival training, keep your eyes peeled for our offerings for both civilians and military/law enforcement (restricted content) or contact us directly for private training solutions for your group.
For more information on mentioned training and entities, see below and feel free to contact us.
This course will teach Law Enforcement Personnel, Special Operations Forces, and Government employees and security professionals the principles of safe dial mechanics.
This course is basically two courses in one. Day 1you will learn everything you need to know to install, dial, open, change the combination, diagnose and troubleshoot UL Group 2 mechanical combination locks. By the end of the day you will be able to completely disassemble and reassemble most mechanical dials in use today. Some non-invasive covert methods will also be discussed.
Day 2we will teach you how to use the design flaws in mechanical combination locks to manipulate the wheels and components to obtain a locks combination while opening the locking mechanism. All mechanical locks have factory defects, known as tolerances, which allows them to be manipulated.
This is a non-invasive method for obtaining access to a safe as well as retrieve the combination. Since the techniques taught in this class are largely nondestructive, agencies will also benefit by having a decrease in costs and civil actions due to property damage.
The cost of the course is $510 CAD with a $200 deposit required to hold your place. If taken with Covert Entry Concepts, the cost is $1150 for both.
There may be an opportunity to purchase specialized equipment during this course. Details to follow in the logistics e-mail which will be sent out to attendees.
A logistics e-mail will be sent out to attendees separately prior to course.
DISCLAIMER:*Nothing in the course offering is intended to be used for unlawful purposes. Consult with your local laws prior to employing these techniques in the field. This is intended for lawful use ONLY. True North Tradecraft and its partners do not condone or advocate illegal activities.*
Covert Entry Concepts – Only Canadian Offering! This course will teach Law Enforcement Personnel, Special Operations Forces, and Government employees and security professionals the principles of lock bypassing and making covert entries into buildings or properties.
This class is entirely hands on. From the moment you enter the course you will have tools in your hand and are working to exploit various locking mechanisms. Students will learn to recognize the vulnerabilities in existing hardware, how they are attacked, or sometimes even bypassed entirely. You’ll walk away with the skills needed to compromise most of the locks used in North America today. Students will be much better positioned to provide service in a variety of tactical areas: check welfare calls, search and arrest warrant service, establishing sniper positions, sneak and peak operations, surveillance operations, fire safe opening, and breaking and entering investigations.
Since the techniques taught in this class are largely nondestructive, agencies will also benefit by having a decrease in civil actions due to property damage.
The cost of the course is $865 CAD with a $200 deposit required to hold your place. If taken with Safe Dial Mechanics, the cost is $1150 for both.
Sat May 12: 0800hrs -late (dinner and a appropriately-themed movie to end the evening)
Sun July 30: 0800hrs – 1700hrs
Included in the cost of the course is a comprehensive set of high quality tools that you can use on the job or practice at home to maintain the skills you’ll build in class. • High Quality 12 Piece Pick Set • Set of covert jigglers • Set of warded picks • Bump Hammer • Bump keys • An e-z decoder • Underdoor tool
***Team dinner scheduled and provided for Saturday night.***
DISCLAIMER:*Nothing in the course offering is intended to be used for unlawful purposes. Consult with your local laws prior to employing these techniques in the field. This is intended for lawful use ONLY. True North Tradecraft and its partners do not condone or advocate illegal activities.*
Over the weekend of 9-12 February, 2018, I travelled to Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA to train at District Combatives’ hosting of Ed Calderon (of Ed’s Manifesto), who was conducting a Mixed Skills module of training.
The trip down to DC from Toronto was relatively uneventful. I got in early on Friday and spent the day sightseeing and getting the lay of the land in and around the area where we would be training. I wasn’t sure as to what the training would entail, so with a map from the hotel front desk and my trusty feet, I learned the area around the training location and did some touristy things.
I ended Friday night at a small pizza place which made amazing slices and helped myself to three and a “Mexican Coke” (produced in Mexico, in glass bottles, using sugar, not corn syrup) to top it off.
Saturday morning was smooth. I found my way easily to the training venue in the drizzle. When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by Ben from District Combatives and handed a pile of liability waivers. I was delighted to see a couple of familiar faces from previous training I had attended in the US and immediately took to catching up. I even met a few others whom I’d only known as Instagram followers but quickly bridged to friends. As the only Canadian in the room of almost 30, I felt humbled by the warmth and hospitality with which I was welcomed. At the front, Ed held quiet court with a few people I didn’t recognize. I took a seat and continued catching up with old friends and new.
When the room was packed and the time was right, Ben made introductions and we were immediately passed over to Ed who jumped right in. Throughout the first day ,we covered:
awareness and movement principles,
custody work, and;
a homework assignment to make improvised weapons.
I’m being deliberately vague with the above as if I get into greater detail, I’ll be writing all night and also because it’s better to experience it first-hand for yourself.
There were several takeaways from the day, not the least of which were that I need to do more yoga, focus on Endemics and “always have an escape plan”. Sound advice for anyone.
The evening went well with food and drink around the corner and making new friends and sharing stories. I especially felt humbled that I spent a fair amount of time speaking with Ed himself about the various Mexican mythologies and esoteric symbologies used by criminal groups. Combining the entire evening’s discussions made for an educational, eye-opening and, at times, hilarious time. Let’s just not rehash the saga of Jaramillo…
Entering the training location on Day 2 we were greeted at the door by metal detector and pat-down to see if we had absorbed and followed the previous days lessons and completed our homework. The resulting “found” and “not found” tables displaying weapons of various varieties was quite interesting.
We debriefed and had a chuckle over some stuff (the legendary banana shank and, we even had Tactikey represented!) and then moved right into improvised weapons & Shankology. We covered:
knife work (inside and outside),
urban movement fundamentals and;
various hood rat shit.
By the time we ended on Sunday afternoon, I felt overloaded with new information and lessons learned. So much had been fed to us that it would take me weeks to digest it all.
On a side note, I had come from Toronto (snowy and -10C) to Washington (drizzle and +10C) and was contacted by Air Canada that my flight was cancelled and I had been re-booked to the following morning. This threw off my plans back home, but I made the most of it and spent the evening out for dinner again with Ed, Ben and several others from the course. Many chicken wings and drinks later, we broke off and headed out.
My time over the weekend both training with Ed and Ben as well as socializing with them made me happy to have attended and to get to know them.
Ben was very welcoming and Ed was a wealth of information and selfless in his sharing of knowledge. So much so that I invited him to come to Toronto this year and to put on a similar seminar. It would be an honour if he can make it work with his schedule.
***IF/WHEN WE HAVE A DATE, WE WILL POST IT IMMEDIATELY HERE ON THE BLOG AND ON OUR SOCIAL MEDIA*** (Give us a follow so you don’t miss out!)
I am very happy to have gone and would recommend attending a seminar from Ed if you are able. The training was excellent and the information covered was wide and relevant. If you live in the Washington, DC area, do check out Ben and DC Combatives as the types of violence mitigation methodologies he teaches are grounded in reality and effective. If he was in Toronto, I’d certainly train there.
Thank you to both Ed Calderon and Ben Drader for having me as the lone Canadian at the training seminar.
For further information about the topics and training seminars covered here, see the links below:
Every foray outside one’s home brings with it the possibility of adventure and danger. This excursion was no different.
Our journey took us from the Southern end of the Bruce Trail (in Queenston Heights Park) to just north of Hamilton, Ontario.
*Note, due to personal circumstances beyond our control, we were forced to delay the completion of our trip and return home. We are, however, going to complete the rest in shorter blocks to ensure that our responsibilities at home are maintained in our absences.*
During our time on the trail, I managed to field test several items of kit (to be reviewed in separate posts) and streamline my hiking kit for better efficacy and efficiency. I found that several things I had planned out, thought I might need, or were “essentials”, were not.
Depending on the context and profile of your outdoor adventure, your needs will change.
Here is a list of things that added weight, added bulk or were otherwise not needed given the profile of where we were going:
small forest axe
expanded first-aid kit
water purification filter
second dry bag
This stuff, though individually very useful in the right circumstance, became a hinderance. It added unnecessary weight and made it difficult to move swiftly along the trail. It also had the added unpleasantness of adding soreness to feet, shoulders and knees without any added benefit. The other tools and clothing that I had more than covered for the loss of the above-listed items. After ditching this stuff (at our accommodations at the end of day one) things got much better and our progress improved greatly.
The trail itself was well marked and maintained (for the most part) and allowed for unimpeded movement. The weather was warm and clear. The terrain a never-ending series of up-and-down, so the quads and hams got a good workout every day. Hydration was maintained through the 3-litre bladder I filled-up every morning and I found that I never even got through the entire thing despite drinking almost-continuously through the day. It especially helped to have lunch and “hydrate” at a local winery along the way, just off the trail.
The topography of the Niagara Escarpment and the Niagara Region in general is beautiful and rugged. The views from the tops of the cliffs were open for miles – all the way to lake miles below. As strange as it was to be completely enveloped in the woods and still hearing cars sometime, the peace and calm from such immersion was restorative and calming. Even my evenings were great. Staying at various accommodations along the way made for a recovery treat!
So, with all the positives that came along during this trek, there were also some negatives as well. As mentioned previously, the overage in clothing and equipment made for a more difficult first day. Also, the topography of the area and higher elevations reduced our daily distance from 30km per day average to 20-25km per day. Despite the reduced trail coverage, we still made good progress. The weather held, the bugs were barely there, and we made good use of water and breaks to not fatigue ourselves too much.
We saw a whole host of animals, interesting natural and man-made things and got a feel for some of the history and landscape in a rich area so close to home which we’d hardly get to explore had we not gone and done this. I’m very happy I had.
While walking along, I would think about how our context will change as we make our way farther north and farther away from civilization. Those sandals still won’t have a place, but the axe and possibly more first-aid components due to a greater removal from access to emergency medical care. As we continue this journey piecemeal, I’ll be constantly re-evaluating my set-up. With that in mind, to anyone thinking about traversing the Bruce Trail I would humbly suggest that you invest in the Bruce Trail Guidebook. It’s very well laid-out, full of detailed topographical maps and chock-full of useful information. Well worth the $40. Also, ensure you have your compass and separate topographical map of the area. There were a few times where I had to shoot a bearing off a distant tree across an open field with no markings to ensure I crossed to the next trail marker and not on a side trail (or worse, off the path all together).
As we left the trail to get back home, one of the last things I saw on the trail gave me inspiration for not only continuing, but also for life in general. “Keep Going” it said. I guess that’s really it in the end. Don’t give up. Hustle and persevere and go for it.
Later this month, I will be hiking the Southern half of the Bruce Trail (Queenston to Collingwood) covering ~450km in about 2 weeks.
To that end, I have been making lists, assembling gear, organizing and planning things through to ensure the fewest amount of screw-ups on the trail.
Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance. The 7 Ps.
Planning in this context is simply Risk Management. The basic principles of risk management are the identification of things that are possible (hazards), how devastating they would be if they happened (impact) and the probability of those things happening. The combination of those two (what is possible to happen, combined with their likelihood of happening) equals the level of RISK. When you have looked at your situation through risk-coloured glasses, you will be better equipped to gauge your level of RISK to a certain situation and plan accordingly.
Im my planning process for this particular adventure I have taken several things into account for my planning process:
Access to re-supply (food & water)
Shelter & sleeping
Access to coffee (VERY important!)
Weather & environmental factors
Possible hazards on trail during hike
Likelihood of encountering said hazards
Possible impact of hazards if encountered
Volume of gear
Weight of gear
Emergency considerations and procedures (personal safety & survival -gear and immediate actions)
Now, the premise of this hike wasn’t mine initially. My darling wife wanted to cross-off “Hiking the Bruce Trail, End-to-End” off her bucket list for her upcoming birthday. The first half this year, the second, next Fall. Who wouldn’t jump at that?
For me, I am not only looking forward to the hike itself with my wife, but also of taking the opportunity to field-test some of my newer gear and review some things recently acquired. I’m also keen to tighten up my lightweight backpacking game and sharpen my level of fitness too. The one thing we will be taking out of the hiking equation is camping. As we traverse the Southern half of the Bruce Trail, our accommodations plan will be Bed & Breakfasts and Air BnB along the way.
This does two things: keeps me alive and married, and, allows for a level of serendipity every day. This is meant to be a fun time, not overly gruelling. She likes to hike in style, and who am I to argue on her birthday?
So aside from the up-scale hike camping we will be doing, we are still aiming for a pace of 32-45km per day. I have assembled the following set-up for the trip. I will be breaking it all down over the coming weeks and months, as I can, to discuss it all in further detail.
As we make our way along, I will post reviews of gear and trip reports when I can and when I have connectivity.
Stay tuned for more posts leading up to my departure.
On the weekend of 28-29-30 July, 2017, True North Tradecraft hosted the first-ever offering of The CORE Group’s Covert Entry Concepts course in Toronto. We had 9 students, an excellent venue, great food and of course, fantastic training. (To read my review of the course I attended in Maryland, click here.)
Friday evening saw the group meet up, make introductions and immerse themselves in Street Thief, a mockumentary based on a thief. Though not “real”, it did accurately illustrate how an actual thief does what they do, ideas for protecting against such things and using the same methodologies in conducting security assessments and Red Team-type attacks. That, coupled with some yummy pizza (no Hawaiian, you’re welcome Rob) made for a good evening.
Starting bright and early on Saturday morning, we hit the ground running getting into the principles of physical security, locking mechanisms and the basics of attacking them. This was framed within the construct of proper evaluation and approach vectors for attack and assessment.
Thanks to The Lucky Penny for providing scrumptious snacks and endless coffee to get us started and keep us going.
The entire day was fast and furious. We hit on a vast breadth of topics and brought it all to practice very quickly. The students were introduced to various locks and their corresponding pick and bypass tools.
Wafer locks, pin & tumbler, dead bolts, combination locks, padlocks, warded locks, etc. The pace was fast but students picked-up the skills quickly and began to progress through to more difficult locks. After everyone felt they were getting the hang of it, we moved right into impressioning and key casting.
Saturday had some tasty lunch too…
The rest of the day was spent discussing elevators and their uses in Red Team operations and physical security, safes and other miscellaneous related content.
We finished off the evening as a group at a fantastic nearby Mexican restaurant where the food was excellent and the tequila and mojitos flowed.
Sunday, though rough for some more than others, continued the same high tempo. We dove right into more elevator stuff and more impressioning challenges.
One challenge was who could impression a key properly before anyone else.
The second was the T-Rex Challenge. Picking a lock while a electronic muscle stimulator is hooked-up to one’s forearms. It’s a laugh for all.
That winners of each challenge got some stuff from our friends at Delta 2 Alpha Design (The Lolly and The Mark, and stickers, each.)
After we all stopped laughing and got feeling back in our arms, we carried on to lock bypassing, familiarization with various tools and techniques associated with it and giving them a trial run.
We then transitioned to removing/replacing tamper-evident seals. A very delicate operation to say the least, this portion of the day was slow-going and painstakingly irritating when impatience wrecked it all. That said, it was very interesting in its method and application. We also discussed security posturing, use, strength and limitations of seals and tamper-evident devices along with best practices.
To round out the weekend, we finished on a high note with restraint escapes. Dealing in escaping unlawful custody while restrained by handcuffs, nylon zip ties, duct tape and cord. The more you know, the better prepared you will be.
One of the most important parts of the learning was the manner in which it was delivered. Rob’s easy-going and humorous nature, coupled with his expansive knowledge and professionalism made for a relaxed yet powerful learning environment. He is an exemplary instructor and trainer and is so giving of himself and his knowledge. That and he couldn’t get over how no one carried guns. Yay Canada. It all makes a huge positive difference.
As with all experiences of this kind, there was so much more we covered and were exposed to that it simply wouldn’t do it justice to speak to here. There is only so much you can read about or learn from on YouTube before you hit a wall. Well-delivered, quality, in-person training has no substitute. I recommend this training to anyone interested in these skills. In the end, an excellent group made an excellent class. Congratulations to all.
We are excited about how everything went that we are already planning our next offering. Keep tuned to the Blog (and Instagram and Facebook) for more details.
Thank you to Rob and to all others who helped make this happen and make it great (See below) and thank you to all who attended.
(*all images courtesy of Kennedy Tactical Concepts – I had my hands full) (*for more information on KTC and training, click here).
This is part 2 in a series documenting my involvement in the Kennedy Tactical Concepts Masterclass. Part 1 is available here.
Session 2 with TJ was on Wednesday July 26th at the Night Owl on College St., Toronto. (The usual spot).
Again, the environment was pleasantly realistic as we headed to the basement level of the Night Owl. We even had a band setting up while going through the techniques.
This week’s topics of practice were as follows:
Combative Control Positions/positioning;
Combative Control Transitions and;
Takedowns (in combination with #1 & 2).
As with the previous format, TJ began with introductions, an overview of what we would be covering for the night, a warm-up, and then we got right into it.
The realistic environment makes for a better appreciation of the realities you would be facing. A bar, stools, a stage, musical instruments, concrete walls and of course, a dirty cement floor. Though the Combative Control Positions and Transitions were not striking per se, they were very dependent on speed, agility and technique. After an hour of practicing and building upon each technique, we moved on to takedowns.
Starting slowly at first, we quickly moved to full-speed with follow-throughs. The result was fluid takedowns with a high degree of comfort in executing the movements. We also worked on improvising all the techniques of the night against larger and smaller opponents as we were all of differing heights.
Solid training. The next day I was sore as hell, but at least I wasn’t bleeding on a bar floor. I’ll be at the next one. Stay tuned and Stay Crafty.
I want to talk about a new option for Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area (and sometimes abroad).
Kennedy Tactical Concepts is a newly opened self-defence school operated in Toronto by TJ Kennedy. TJ has spent years honing his craft in real-world environments, training and working around the globe. Read more about him here. TJ is an invested and knowledgeable instructor who is not only humble and down-to-earth, but pays attention to his students’ learning needs.
I first met TJ during his first drop-in Masterclass at The Night Owl bar on College Street in Toronto. I figured that it was both local and very reasonably priced for a few hours of instruction. About five minutes in, I knew I’d made the right investment.
We immediately began working in the alley behind the bar. Very real-world with everything we were doing. After a while, we moved down to the basement of the bar and kept going. We worked on:
Clinch tactics from elbow & collar tie;
takedowns from a clinch…all from his Urban Defensive Tactics program;
some prone controls and rollovers from or Urban Force Options program.
This may seem like a short list, but for a few hours in an alley and bar basement, I was worked through. All solid techniques well-instructed and executed. No mats, just asphalt and barroom floor. Effective and reality-based. We also discussed the context of these techniques in self-defence in Canada and specifically in Ontario respecting self-defence and the use-of-force by security and bouncers. An important point of his philosophy to note is that they do not advocate violence or seeking conflict, but rather giving you the tools to identify, avoid and prepare for threats should you encounter them.
One thing I did catch as we discussed and practiced throwing each other around on a dirty floor was that this was NOT a traditional take on martial arts. This was simple, effective and hard-hitting self-defence based on real-world applications from such as Rory Miller and others.
As I left the evening sore and exhausted, I felt good about having met TJ and did some training. I felt good about his knowledge and skill, his high degree of professionalism and of course, he’s Canadian.
If you’re looking for something outside of a McDojo where you pay for your next belt and jump through hoops, check out Kennedy Tactical Concepts and add some real-world techniques to your arsenal. Be prepared.