A new approach for 2024 to bring our skillsets to you in a more accessible format.
Starting in early-2024, We will begin offering 1-day Seminars, covering our legacy curriculum in a new format and making both the price point and time commitment more accessible to those with busy schedules. They will be on Sundays, during the day.
Of course, we will still plan to have our weekend-long immersive workshops, as well as Mixed-Skills classes with trusted partner instructors. We also continue to be available to be hosted to deliver these seminars to private groups.
***NOTE: We still offer RESTRICTED-LEVEL CLASSES in COVERT ENTRY and COUNTER-CUSTODY to LE/MIL/GOV organizations. Email us at [email protected] for details.***
In the meantime, we will be offering Seminars on the following topics:
Situational & Behavioural Awareness – S.A.F.E. (Situational Awareness For Everyone)
Introduction to Personal Safety & Security
Disaster, Emergency Preparedness and Business Continuity
Travel Security (AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST)
Women’s Safety (Women-Only) (AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST)
Introduction to Counter-Custody, Self-Rescue & Restraint Escape – (Part 1 of 2)
Counter-Custody, Self-Rescue & Restraint Escape – (Part 2 of 2)
Introduction to Lock Picking (Pt 1 of 2)
Physical Security and Non-Destructive Entry Methods (Pt 2 of 2)
The Back-Up-Bag Protocol
***Stop The Bleed first aid classes (to be added to the above)***
And more to come!
These Seminars can be taken individually as a stand-alone or together in series towards building a wide-spectrum of skill sets. Depending on the subject matter, there will be differing ratios of theory and practical learning.
Soon, we will be listing the classes individually on our web store, with dates and seminar outlines, to sign up to.
A common question asked of me when discussing preparedness as a topic, is “what are important things to carry” or “what stuff should I prepare for a disaster”?
As an addition to my previous posts on Preparedness (see HERE) one often-overlooked or not thought-about part is how important one’s feet are in the overall picture of being prepared for a disaster.
One of the most important aspects of preparedness is mobility. Oftentimes, the best way to avoid a bad situation (especially if you have advance warning of it) is to not be there. However, there will be times when there is little or no warning and staying put then changes to moving out. Relying on a vehicle to get you where you need to go is convenient, but may not always get you all the way there. Vehicle breakdowns, blocked roads, extreme weather – all can contribute to the need to transition to a moving on foot. At that point, you are ultimately going to have to rely on your own feet and their ability to get you through.
Be sure to include at least one spare pair of quality socks into every kit and bag you have. If you have a family of four you need to plan for, the same applies. Buy a good pair of hiking socks which will provide cushion, wick moisture away, insulate, breathe and wash/dry easily for all members of your group. If you need to transition from mounted (in a vehicle) to dismounted (on-foot) to cover distance and terrain to your destination, being able to change your cocksure both supportive of foot care and help boost morale. There is a wonderful feeling one has when you are cold, wet, sore and exhausted but you change your socks for a dry, clean pair. OH! It makes a world of difference. Just ask anyone who’s done a lot of hiking or been in the military. Dry, clean socks are game-changers.
In addition to the above, invest in the best footwear you can – solidly built, broken-in and in good repair. Depending on the profile and expected terrain you may be traversing, you may be looking for something more suited to the wet and cold of the outdoors or the roughness of the urban environment. Either way, research what works for you and get something you can rely on. You should also consider packing some Advil, Moleskin and duct tape. And an extra pair of laces (made from 550 paracord wouldn’t hurt you either).
I recently had the opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes look at the making of some of my favourite socks, right here in Toronto! J.B. Fields makes an array of high-quality socks from premium materials. Living in a colder region, I have been partial to their Icelandic wool socks and hikers for their incredible warmth and versatility for some years now.
Full disclosure: I am NOT being paid for this endorsement nor have I been furnished with any consideration, I just really like their socks AND I like that they are an old, Canadian-based company making a quality product at an affordable price.
I reached out to JB Fields and connected with Sid, one of their employees, and set up a meet to go in and pick up some end-of-season deals at their factory store. Sid graciously offered to show me their factory and how the socks are made, along with the features that make them the quality they are. (SEE PHOTOS AT END OF POST)
There are three styles which I really love:
the Merino Wool Weekender: 96% Merino wool. VERY comfortable but not very resilient, so don’t get them for hiking of boot socks. But casual wear for comfort, yes!
Regardless if you go with JB Fields or other great sock manufacturers (such as Darn Tough or Smart Wool are both VERY good choices), just be sure to invest in a quality sock for supporting your mobility in an emergency for your preparations.
Having appropriate footwear (boots, or shoes), keeping your feet in good health (clean, dry, free of infection/fungus, nails trimmed, space to breathe in shoes, etc) and investing in quality socks will be a key foundational piece to build upon. Getting blisters, frostbite or other foot injuries can be crippling very quickly and ground you, thereby taking away your potion to move from a bad situation. Movement and mobility are life-giving and without hem, you are at the mercy of circumstance and other parties. Stay capable, maintain the capacity for mobility and invest in preparations BEFORE you need them.
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.
If you plan well, you have better chances of travelling well. It’s that simple.
Every time I travel, whether it’s for an overnight or for a sustained travel period, I got through several pre-travel stages of planning. I have found that this both allows for maximum comfort and enjoyment while travelling and mitigates any fuck-ups while away and on one’s own (or with your family without the security net of home).
Once it’s been determined what the circumstances of travel will be (destination, duration, dates of travel, airline, time of travel and reasons for travel) I begin systematic long-distance reconnaissance of my trip in an attempt to learn everything I can about my time away from my home base.
Destination: I first identify where I am flying in to (on a map) and where I will be staying and/or working. I ensure I have a solid understanding of the geography and routes in and out of those specific points, and mark them on a map. I will also identify my lodgings, airports, homeland allied embassies or consulates, nearby hospitals/clinics, police stations and possible hazards (like power plants, military bases, volcanos, etc). When I’ve oriented myself according to prominent features, I’ll have a general understanding of where important points are.
Dates of Travel: What I bring and how I will travel is dependent not only on the purpose of travel, but also the climate and weather of my home base and destination. If it’s winter at home but warmer at my destination, may need to pack a different spread of clothes (winter and warmer) and have to wear while travelling and while away. If both areas are similar, then a single and consistent set of clothes works.
Duration: I usually do everything I can to travel with carry-on only. Checked luggage slows you down (having to wait for your bags to be off-loaded) as well as making it more cumbersome to move about. Pack light, in a 2-3 tiered system while travelling, like an EDC (Every Day Carry) set-up (more on this in a bit). If you are travelling for an extended period of time, pack accordingly, but consider ditching most toiletries and possible consumables at home and buying what you need for your stay once you arrive in-country. That way you will be better prepared with locally acquired supplies and you won’t over pack.
Packing: Like I mentioned in the previous point, I try to travel light and buy consumables (like regular toiletries, additional supplies, maybe even tools) locally when I arrive. I also believe in packing light and smart, the latter allowing you to maximize a few wardrobe pieces across many days and environments. I prefer clothes I can wash by hand in a hotel sink and have it ready the following morning to go. This includes socks and underwear. Buying some quality pieces of versatile clothing is key in your planning cycle. Also, packing light allows you to augment your clothing with locally procured clothes to better blend in with the local populace. This is especially important if you are trying to keep a lower profile while in a foreign land. As an additional to my packing, I try and pack in the following way to support a level of preparedness should some unforeseen issue arise so that I can have a better chance of dealing with it.
This list includes a tiered approach to carriage of what I am taking with me.
(NOTE: This is a recommended list and is not definitive. Pack according to your own requirements, but aim to pack light and with room to spare for souvenirs or other goodies you acquire on your travels.)
On my person ( and in my pockets and otherwise on me AT ALL TIMES include (but aren’t limited to):
Credit cards and CASH (cash is KING – be sure to have US dollars and try to get local currency you’ll be travelling in as soon as possible.)
Charged cell phone with charging cable and adapter plug.
Small EDC flashlight
Small Bic lighter
Small key ring with house key, Tactikey, 1-2 key tools and small lock pick keychain, encrypted USB key (with .
Wallet & decoy wallet (with minimal cash, used for visible purchases at shops for snacks, taxis, etc.
Hat (type dependent on weather)
Small, TSA-approved multi-tool (no knife).
Other items of use (depending on climate & other circumstances).
Bottle of water (empty while going through security, refilled in sterile area)
Photocopies of all my documents and credit cards, emergency contact info for friends and family back home and consular resources while in-country, general map of the area I’ll be staying in (detailing safe zones and escape routes) and copy of my plane tickets.
Sunglasses (and back-up pair of glasses or contacts if you wear them)
Several pens (both Bic and Zebra brands – none of that Tactical pen stuff) and a notepad
True North Tradecraft stickers, patches and business cards (to spread the Good Word).
Pack of gum
Sweater with waterproof shell jacket (either worn by me or in my backpack (next tier).
Pants and appropriate belt
The above items will support me if forced to deplane ANYWHERE and should be able to affect a return to safety. Of course, everything depends on the situation, but having those as a minimum greatly increases my odds of making it to a better place.
As a second tier, that which should go in my “personal item” (i.e. my small backpack), I load the following. (Note, this tier is what I will grab if I have the opportunity and will have to live out of it. It has next-level important stuff. With these items, I can travel for a long time.
Laptop (plus charger, cables, adapter, USB drives, etc)
Change of socks, underwear and extra t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt (or both, if needed).
Copies of all documents and information (just like the set I have on me.
Back-up tools including everything I already have on my person.
Some snacks for the trip
Pens, notebook (double-up as on my person)
Local map, guidebook/phrasebook (if needed).
Books to read (1-2)
First-aid kit (including medications and tourniquet if possible)
Minimalist toiletries (toothbrush, mini toothpaste, mini deodorant, mini hand sanitizer, package of wet wipes, etc.)
A couple of carabiners (climbing quality), a length of paracord, a padlock
With the backpack, and what I have on me, I have moved myself into the zone of “minimalist backpacker” and should be able, with augmented goods procured locally, to sustain myself until I either depart or until I can get help.
Lastly, my carry-on luggage. Stored in the over-head bin, this should round out whatever I need for a comfortable vacation or trip just about anywhere. As it stands now, the list below is what I will likely pack for my next trip.
A rubber door wedge (for securing a hotel room)
Mouse trap (seek out Ed Calderon for more info on this)
2 x underwear
long-sleeved travel shirt & t-shirt
Toiletry kit (expanding on what I have in backpack – Polysporin, sun block, aloe gel, pain meds, Immodium, Gravol, wet wipes, etc)
Extra First Aid Kit supplies
Hank of paracord
2 more carabiners (climbing quality)
Mask, snorkel, fins
GoPro camera and accessories (cables, charger, SD cards, wall adapter, small power bar).
Additional book to read
Tradecraft tools (dependent on circumstances)
Folding & reusable shopping bag (fits in pocket when out walking).
Another copy of documents and emergency contact info, plane tickets, maps and local information
Additional cash, hidden away somewhere.
Air travel-friendly multi-tool
Any other item I think is specifically needed for the trip (clothing, supply, tool, etc).
With the above list of items, and pre-planning taken care of, I feel pretty secure with myself. Adding to this all, maintaining vigilance and situational awareness wherever you go if of paramount importance.
It’s important to ensure that you maintain situational awareness at all times. To read a bit more about this check out the Primer blog post here.
Before I travel, I try to learn all that I can about the area where I will be. I study things like currency, demographics, history, local customs, geography, political and social issues to be aware of, crime and attitudes towards tourists & foreigners. I also try to read up on things like transportation (what’s legit versus scam), local news stories and how to identify legitimate authorities. If I am able, I Google Maps/Earth my accommodations and nearby areas so I can landmark in my mind what it looks like where I should be.
Customs & Immigration agency website for Canada ( CBSA – Canada Border Services Agency ) and for the country (or countries) you’ll be visiting. This will inform you on border-related laws, requirements, processes and exemptions.
Trip Advisor (Access reviews, tips and local information for destinations around the world.)
If flying, be sure to have access to both the website of your airline and the airport you are travelling to & from to ensure accurate scheduling information.
Wikipedia – If you want to know something about your destination, read about it here.
Google is your friend. Use it to learn as much as you can.
Before you go, ensure you leave copies of all your important documents, passports, travel itineraries, destination addresses and contact info with someone you trust and whom can support you in a return home should something happen.
I have often been asked why do I study physical security, locks, lock picking, etc? It’s usually followed by accusations of either teaching others to be criminals or being a criminal myself. The only thing criminal about me is the wage I get paid by my employer for the crap I have to deal with. Aside from that, I find it fun, fascinating and I happen to be pretty decent at it.
Several of the negative interactions have, sadly, been with police officers who mention the points above and question the legalities of tool ownership. When I offer to them how it would save time, money and headache if they could do a welfare check without destroying a window or door, they suddenly have a different perspective. It’s a useful skill. Period. And if it is used within the proper LEGAL parameters, a very useful one too. It can even be fun, as there are hobbyist groups – such as The Open Organization Of Lockpickers aka TOOOL (https://toool.us ) – who look at all aspects of locks and even hold international competitions. On an extreme scale in a time of crisis, what you may need to save a life, either your own or someone else, may be on the other side of a lock. In such extreme circumstances I’d sooner have the option to access said item than not.
I have used my skills in a variety of situations (all legally, of course) to help people into their locked cars (while running with keys inside), being locked out of their houses, freeing their bikes, opening various padlocks and even rescuing stuff from desks, safes, etc. Those looking to go into law enforcement, security, military, intelligence, investigations (public or private), architecture, locksmithing, transportation or even property management can all gain from learning more about their physical security. Even to better secure your home or business from potential break-ins.
Like so many other skill sets and abilities, it is the user who wields that knowledge for good or evil. Knowledge of martial sciences can be applied to harm or defend from harm. Medical knowledge can be used to again, harm or heal. Criminals don’t care for the integrity of your front door lock or back window if they are going to rob you. Locksmiths, law enforcement, security testers and even hobbyists do. For various reasons, non-destructive bypass of security is a useful tool for even the average home or business owner so that they can make sound decisions for their own safety and to identify the gaps in their security picture.
Through my years of Government and Security work, the more I learn about the weaknesses in security and physical security specifically, the more effective I have grown to become at evaluating my own personal security picture and that of those who have engaged my services for the same.
If your home or business is protected by bottom-budget hardware and little-to-no planning, you might want to think about taking the step to invest in some education and training and up your security game.
If you’re in the Toronto area in May and wish to take a full-spectrum learning opportunity, come join us for Covert Entry Concepts and even add-on the Safe Dial Mechanics. It’ll open your eyes to the world around you.
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.*